Detached Review

In space, no one can hear your disappointment. Detached showed a whole lot of promise as a PSVR-enabled first person survival adventure in a deep space. Armed with nothing but a jet pack, some special equipment, and a suit separating you from the vacuum of space, you’re expected to conduct rescue and repair operations after space pirates leaves your two person cargo vessel dead in the water. The experience of putting power reactors, communication arrays, and computer systems back online is great because of the methodical processes that might seem mundane were it not for the agency created by the need to top off your suit’s oxygen and fuel tanks. Not only that, Detached simulates a realistic zero gravity environment. 

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At first, I thought Detached was about to give me the experience I wanted after playing through The Station. In my review of it, I expressed a desire to play a video game where the goal was simply to explore a space station and take care of regular, day-to-day operations, maintenance, and repair. Kind of like House Flipper, only in deep space. The first level begins after your salvage operation is waylaid by a crude band of opportunists looking to get in on your score by destroying your ship, the Big Zoe. The attempt to get back home begins with a search inside an abandoned space colony that exists in a state of disrepair. In order to access the escape pods stationed in an emergency bay, you’ll have to bring several other stations back online through neat environmental puzzles. The colony level doubles as an extended tutorial to get familiar with the controls because moving around in Zero-G isn’t as easy as other games make it seem. It also gives you plenty of opportunities to learn your suit’s higher functions, including a shield to reduce damage, jet boost, and powered rockets.

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Detached offers the player a lot of good will in the first stage. And by the start of the second, I was ready for even more elaborate space-based house cleaning. Unfortunately, things go from “hey, this is cool!” to “oh, god, this is so boring” in no time. That’s because all of the nifty work you did previously gets tossed in the bin in favor of boring as nails Easter egg hunt. This is such a let down given the entire second stage is set amongst the wreckage of the Big Zoe, which would have been so cool to explore in great detail. Instead of venturing inside to reactive life support or bring power back online, you have to scour the entire debris-ridden area for batteries. Not even the presence of an enemy drone ship that patrols the area looking for you can’t save this part of the game from banality. To make things worse, because there are more things in this stage that can actually kill you, death reveals a troublesome checkpoint system. If you die during the process of restoring several power relays, you have to start all over from the beginning and find the batteries again. In the same stage is a timed sequence where a nuclear meltdown has to be prevented by activating three panels in three minutes. Fail here, and you’re forced to restart about five minutes before the start of that sequence. Oh, there’s even a forced race sequence that’s anthetical to the rest of the game. The fun I had got sucked out faster than light through a black hole. And things don’t get a chance to be better after that because the game only has three levels and an epilogue to play in. There’s an added multiplayer mode but because I felt so burned from the lack of creativity extended to the rest of the campaign, I really didn’t care anymore.

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I couldn’t be more disappointed with Detached if I tried. For the first forty minutes or so, I thought it had nowhere to go but up. I even put together a Spotify playlist from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey for background music to maximize the effect being a lonely astronaut charged with getting things back in working order. Then to spend the next half hour flying around in search of batteries to turn on computers made me think that the developers ran out of ideas. And it wasn’t just the game design that made Detached look cool from the start. The graphics are amazing and the feeling of immersion is spectacular. You really get the feeling of being in space! At the risk of getting motion sickness, I turned off the Eagle Eye settings so as to get the full effect of floating around. By all accounts, this is the sort of game I should be shouting about from the rooftops - and I really want to! As someone who loves science fiction and anything set in space, I wanted this to be a game I could go back to whenever I need to de-stress or experience simulated loss of gravity since I doubt I will get to go into space in my lifetime. But here I sit, wishing Detached did more to stay consistent.

While searching through the game’s Steam forums for assistance, I discovered that this has been available for PCs since 2017 and any community behind it has been mostly absent and the developers chiming in to offer vague walkthroughs, technical assistance, and announcing the PSVR version and a non-VR edition. For all its cool factor and pitch perfect virtual reality immersion, the lack of any substantial and compelling gameplay for most of the game make Detached hard to recommend at its full price. Wait for a sale.

Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.