It’s admirable that the small team at Brytenwalda got anywhere near Bethesda’s work on Fallout 3 in their new RPG, Beyond Mankind: The Awakening. Unfortunately, reminding the player of a decade-old classic is about the best praise that applies to this buggy, unpolished experience, which is ultimately dragged down by its flaws in spite of its appealing ambition.
Beyond Mankind spends a lot of time upfront explaining a story of intrigue set on a ruined Earth. The player is a clone bred for war and injected with the memories of a different soldier, letting the story jump from exposition-heavy cutscenes to combat missions set in modern times. Themes weave through both narratives, introducing a few unique twists that pop out amongst a pile of well-worn cliches that feel straight out of Mass Effect or Halo. It’s all a bit uneven, especially in a few scenarios early on that introduce themselves and then immediately implode in service of getting things rolling. There are plenty of extra narrative beats hidden as collectibles off the main path, but Beyond Mankind makes exploration feel like both a waste of time and a chore.
One of Beyond Mankind‘s most egregious decisions is the way that new areas constantly empty out the player’s inventory. It feels like a way to ensure players can never steamroll through enemy forces, but it’s not a fun solution to that problem, limiting cool weapons and other items to short periods of usefulness before they’re discarded. Beyond that issue, there are several areas laced with hazards like poison gas and land mines that are hard to see the first time through. This worked in games like Fallout that have relatively quick loading times, but Beyond Mankind can have players sitting on their hands for minutes on end through two separate loading screens whenever they kick the bucket. Also, there’s no trace of autosaving, so jamming on the quick save button every few seconds is highly recommended.
It’s unclear why the load times take so long considering Beyond Mankind‘s lack of technical demands. The game obviously takes inspiration from Fallout when it comes to gameplay, but it also looks and feels like a game from the same Xbox 360 era that featured Bethesda’s classic. Character models lack detail, corridors can be blank grey hallways, and stiff, lifeless animations are frequent. In one example that pops up constantly, it can be near-impossible to position the cursor over some items both in the world and on the cluttered inventory screen. This is especially true when playing with a gamepad, to the point where having a keyboard and mouse on standby feels like a requirement.
To Beyond Mankind‘s credit, there is a lot of variety in the locations, enemies, and items players find throughout this world, but that ambition comes at a technical cost that makes Beyond Mankind feel instantly dated. That feeling stretches out to Beyond Mankind‘s combat, which feels generic at best. There are at least two instances in the campaign where enemies will materialize in an otherwise empty hallway the instant players pick up a mission-specific item. This sets up another death trap that leaves players staring at never-ending loading screens with a sense of frustration rather than fun. Even when the enemies don’t crawl out of a DOOM 3 monster closet, the guns and melee options illicit no real reactions other than stock sound effects and an eventual ragdoll animation.
On the RPG side of things, there’s no real sense of progression to building a character. The perks that are available when leveling up are simple stat boosts and nothing more. There are promises of dialogue options and varying relationships with NPCs, but most characters never really stick around all that long and meaningful speech checks are few and far between. These systems feel like window dressing to get players in a Fallout type of mood, but they just don’t have a significant effect on the experience.
Beyond Mankind: The Awakening has few redeeming qualities. The story is nothing new, the gameplay has pacing issues, and the presentation is generations out of date. There are plenty of indie games out there that showcase innovative gameplay and moving storytelling for a relatively small fee, and with the bar that high, Beyond Mankind: The Awakening fails to even make the jump to try to meet it.
Beyond Mankind: The Awakening is available now on PC. Screen Rant received a digital copy for the purposes of this review.