Alien Isolation: Safe Haven Review (PC)

Alien Isolation was one of my favorite games of 2014, and perhaps my favorite survival horror game of all time. Despite its meaty 20-something hour campaign, The Creative Assembly have been good about releasing a steady stream of DLC to extend the game’s shelf life. This latest one, Safe Haven, is the third of five planned DLC releases, and takes a different approach to the formula laid down by Isolation’s Survivor Mode maps.

Unlike the first two DLC packs, Corporate Lockdown and Trauma, Safe Haven’s sole new map, Salvage,┬áis essentially a similar experience to Metro: Last Light’s Kshatriya level, in which the player ventures out from a home base to collect artifacts in a large level that becomes increasingly accessible through shortcuts that unlock the further the player proceeds.

Salvage takes place in a single level roughly the size of three Survivor Mode maps put together, with you assuming the role of Hughes, a character briefly encountered in the story campaign. You begin the map in a safe room, and use the room’s computer to select between one of two missions. This is essentially Safe Haven’s gameplay; you set out to accomplish a variety of missions, and once each one is completed you return to the safe room to collect supply rewards and select the next of two tasks.

Unlike the typical Survivor Mode map, Salvage’s structure allows you to familiarize yourself with the sprawling level more, given that you’ll be making repeated trips throughout it in a single playthrough. In keeping with Isolation’s level design, there are plenty of rooms and airducts to explore and there is usually more than one way to access an area. This is important, as Salvage throws almost every enemy in the game at you throughout its ten missions. Individual missions feature either androids, humans, the xenomorph, or some combination of the three. However, my playthrough of Salvage featured the xenomorph too prominently, with androids and humans showing up infrequently. This contrasted with the level’s overwhelming generosity with shotgun shells, revolver bullets and boltgun bolts; past the first few missions, I never had any reason to use anything other than anti-xenomorph equipment.

Needless to say, only experienced Isolation players will be able to withstand all ten missions, as they all need to be finished in one sitting in order for you to upload your final score to the leaderboards. You can save your game at the safe room so that you don’t have to start all over again should you die, but if you exit the mission you will lose all progress. Given the intensity of Isolation’s gameplay, this can prove to be a bit much for most players to stomach, but careful resource management and subterfuge can make the later levels easier to deal with. The safe room, a first for Alien Isolation, allows you to catch your breath without fear of the xenomorph popping up in your face, and this is a welcome element that helps to somewhat offset the prolonged experience.

My main gripe with Salvage is that the map is essentially split into two different sections, as opposed to being one large area. Depending on which choice of mission you select, you will find yourself playing in one half of the map without ever having access to the other until you return to the safe room and select a new mission that takes place there. I’m not quite sure what the rationale was behind this, as having a larger map to explore and evade your enemies in would certainly have been better appreciated.

There’s also a clear emphasis on accomplishing the level as quickly as possible, as more points are awarded the less time you spend wandering around the place. There’s no real penalty for taking your time, though, assuming that you’re content with having an uncompetitive leaderboard score. At any rate, getting through the entire map brought a level of satisfaction and accomplishment that I hadn’t felt since I last played Dark Souls II.

Lastly, Safe Haven comes with a new Endurance Mode, which has you playing every single survivor mode map in random order. You’ll accumulate more equipment as a result, but death will send you back to the very first level. As a result, this mode is best attempted only if you’re feeling particularly masochistic.

The Final Verdict

In short, Safe Haven, more than any other DLC released thus far, is strictly intended for hardcore Isolation players eager to find more ways to challenge themselves. This comes on the back a recent update that adds Nightmare difficulty to the main campaign, so it behooves one to wonder what else CA have in store to further up the ante. Either way, it’s a worthy addition to an already great game, but only if you’re already fairly proficient with it and looking for more of a challenge.

+More challenging gameplay

+Hub-based structure allows for more methodical pacing

-Map is partitioned into two halves

8/10

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