I’ve been playing a lot of open world exploration games lately.
Firewatch did well because of its gorgeous graphics and its intriguing storyline; Rust is very popular with a lot of YouTubers who like building huge bases from the ground up and attacking each other; and The Forest has a little bit of a horror vibe because you have to fight off an island of terrifying locals. What makes all of these exploration games so addicting, and why do we keep coming back? Each one is different in its own way, but because of the open world element, there seems to always be something new to discover even after you’ve sunk numerous hours of game time.
Phoning Home, from developer Ion Lands, is an open world exploration game where you play as a small robot named Ion. When Ion’s ship crashes on a strange world, it’s up to you to take control of Ion and explore this new and mysterious land in order to fix your ship’s communication in order to contact your home planet. So far, so E.T. The catch is that the world around you is much more dangerous than it may first appear and the materials on the planet are quite foreign. It isn’t an easy endeavour but hopefully, with enough research and time, you can help get Ion home.
The gameplay for Phoning Home initially feels a bit convoluted, but it’s easy enough to get to grips with after spending some time with the game. First, you have to master Ion’s controls which involve flying upwards using a built-in jetpack. The other main control is your melee which doesn’t do much until you get further into the game and begin to encounter enemies. Ion’s main job is to collect as many materials as he can carry in order to craft components to help him during his exploration. For example, if you find enough ingredients you can craft “hull upgrades” which enable Ion to take more damage. You can also craft fuel to help Ion be able to fly and essential make jumping around on bumpy terrain easier.
By far, the best part of Phoning Home is exploring the vast world around you. Of course this can sometimes lead to Ion’s demise – but how else will the little robot learn that you don’t want to mess with pterodactyls? There’s tons to explore and do around the world but your main objective is always trying to find materials to fix your ship. As you progress, it becomes ever more obvious that there is something ‘off’ about the planet –but you’re not quite sure what it is. Where did these materials come from and how are they growing all over the planet? Unravelling the game’s mystery and discovering new life forms and plant life is what most people love about open world exploration – and Phoning Home is no exception.
When it comes to the technical details developer Ion Lands has really put together something special with Phoning Home. Its graphics, soundtrack, and voice acting are all very well done, and the further you get into the game the more it becomes obvious that a lot of love and attention was put into every last detail. The world in which Phoning Home is based is gorgeously designed; each organism you come across is new and different – some glow, some shine, and together, it is all incredibly beautiful.
Unfortunately, there are a fair number of bugs in the game – but I’m hopeful these will be fixed in upcoming patches. For instance, occasionally when I go to pick something something up it disappears without being added to my inventory. It happened quite a few times during my playthrough, and when it was with items/materials I needed for a specific task, it quickly became an annoyance. Additionally, there were a few places where I would try to jump from solid ground to solid ground and instead of landing I would fall through the world. My recommendation is to save early and often to avoid any of these issues becoming game-breaking.
Despite these glitches however, Phoning Home is a really enjoyable experience and it is definitely one of the more memorable open world exploration games that I’ve played. Playing as a silent protagonist has its perks; the lack of dialogue allows you to better appreciate the huge world around you and enjoy the little moments. I highly recommend picking up Phoning Home if you like exploring new worlds, crafting technology, and adorable robots.