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This Miyazaki-inspired survival game lets you heal the environment

Person flying on green glider toward floating island in cloudy sky
Astrolabe Interactive
Summer Gaming Marathon Feature Image
This story is part of our Summer Gaming Marathon series.

Aloft gets its name from its floating archipelago, where you (and up to eight friends) are the only people left in an otherwise abandoned world. Like BitCraft, which I previewed during this year’s  Game Developers Conference, it focuses on an interactive environment where players have to give in order to get. However, Aloft adds to the world-building with “healing,” which will rebuild and nurture cursed islands. At Summer Game Fest, I attended a hands-off preview where I spoke with developers about their inspirations and watched them fight evil mushrooms to save the environment.

After 30 minutes, Aloft gave the impression of a survival game with a solid gameplay loop of cleansing hundreds of islands, designing your own home, and discovering new pieces of the world’s mysterious history. As players glide between islands, they might find a few with dark auras that indicate infestation. There, they fight against monsters using weapons like axes and bows. Often, the core infestation manifests as a thick root that spawns hostile fungi-inspired enemies. Once players defeat them and rid the island of the cursed root, the dark aura disappears and it becomes lush again.

Person petting sheep and lambs kneeling in grass on island with wooden house in the background
Astrolobe Interactive

But the job doesn’t stop there. Players have to further nourish the island by completing tasks on a checklist for each particular one. The UI notes different things players can do to improve the health of the island, like planting trees or introducing wildlife to the ecosystem. Some islands might grow blueberries. Those can then be used to start growing them on another island. Some might also find materials for building and animals that can be raised for resources like milk or wool. These features encourage players to explore every island, even if they might not stay there for long. Some islands may even hide ruins that tell its story.

The developers drew inspiration from many sources, but mainly Hayao Miyazaki films that focused on nature and the impact of war. For example, Princess Mononoke is about a wolf-raised girl and a cursed prince tackling the spiritual consequences of destroying nature for the sake of greed. “[It’s] less about like the Second World War or the threat of a atomic bomb. It’s more about the ecology, and climate change, that kind of stuff,” an on-site developer told Digital Trends. “We wanted to make a game where the player would be an active force to be able to transform the environment in a positive way, and so that’s how you can help these islands.”

Aloft steering home base like a ship through the sky
Astrolobe Interactive

Another part of the game heavily encourages players to build. When players discover civilizations, they can use items like sketchbooks to copy furniture designs there and build them. Similarly, friends that visit can copy any designs players have in their home. Once they choose an island as a base, they can even add propeller-like attachments that let them steer it like ship. But there’s a catch that ties back in with the theme of environmental salvation: Players need to make sure they don’t destroy the island’s ecosystem in the process, or it will start to lose health again until it becomes infected.

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Aloft seems like a sturdy survival game with a distinct identity rooted in saving the environment and reviving civilization. I’m curious to see how the progression feels after a couple of hours instead of just 30 minutes, but that’ll have to wait until after launch (or, at least, after the now-available demo).

Aloft is coming to PC in late 2024. Its demo is available on Steam.

Jess Reyes
Jessica Reyes is a freelance writer who specializes in anime-centric and trending topics. Her work can be found in Looper…
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