A game with a premise as inherently fascinating as that of AWAY: The Survival Series is bound to pique curiosity, and it certainly has done that. Taking the form of a playable nature documentary where you play as a glider, control various other animals, and explore beautiful environments while avoiding dangerous predators, Breaking Walls’ upcoming game certainly seems to be shaping up to be quite unique. Ahead of its launch, we recently reached out to the developers with some of our questions about AWAY: The Survival Series. Below, you can read our conversation with community manager Sage Minard.
"We are all nature lovers and found ourselves drawn to the experience of playing as an animal. The idea of experiencing the world from a completely different perspective, with unique abilities and goals, was something we were very intrigued by."
AWAY: The Survival Series caught quite a bit of attention when it was first announced, thanks to its inherently fascinating premise. How did the idea for that premise come about, and what was the process of iterating on it during development like?
We are all nature lovers and found ourselves drawn to the experience of playing as an animal. The idea of experiencing the world from a completely different perspective, with unique abilities and goals, was something we were very intrigued by. Nature documentaries helped focus our vision into a more story-driven game as opposed to pure survival – as well as giving us our iconic narrator.
AWAY changed quite a bit over development. Our first game was a short VR experience where you played as a bearded vulture fleeing a forest fire. From there, we pivoted into a short PC game. The plan was to create a series of short games that each featured a different animal, providing a wide range of animal experiences. A sugar glider was chosen as the first protagonist because of its small size and its incredible range of abilities—between running, climbing, jumping, and gliding, a sugar glider has a lot of options for getting around! As we became more invested in our sugar glider and his story, our short introductory game became longer and more involved…now, years later, we have a stand-alone game with the ability to play as other animals in some missions!
How much diversity can players expect from the various environments we will find ourselves in throughout the game?
AWAY takes place in what’s likely one of the most diverse square kilometers of land around. Our sugar glider will be traversing swamps, caverns, forests, and more on his journey—all of which fit into a unified ecosystem with unique animals and insects. We took inspiration from real-world environments to create a realistic portrayal of ecosystems after massive climate change. Maybe you’ll recognize some plant species.
How did the idea of the narrator come about? What does the narrator add to the experience in terms of storytelling?
One of the main inspirations for AWAY was nature documentaries. Nothing is more iconic in the genre than the dignified narrator! The narrator also acts as a way to help guide the player, providing insight both into the sugar glider’s current situation and occasionally commenting on the bigger picture. As narrators are usually associated with educational content, we made every effort to ensure our narrator makes the world of AWAY feel more real—like it’s a living island being studied somewhere in our world.
Our narrator also holds power over the emotional beats in our game. One of the things we struggled with was creating a story-based game with realistic animals. Real animals don’t talk! Which made story-telling challenging. Then we remembered our nature documentary inspiration! We shifted to relying on a mix between environmental storytelling and the words of our trusty narrator to fill in the gaps.
"While our glider is very fierce for his species, there are several predators out there that there’s no possible way for him to take on."
How extensive is the amount of optional content on offer in the game? How tied to the main story are AWAY’s side quests?
There are some elements of environmental storytelling that will tell you a lot about the lore and world of AWAY. Humans are mysteriously missing and the sidequests help you learn just what happened to the planet.
At release, sidequests won’t be a big part of the game, but we intend to add more in updates after launch as there has been a lot of player interest!
What can you tell us about the stealth and combat mechanics in AWAY? Does the game lean more heavily in one’s favour than the other?
While our glider is very fierce for his species, there are several predators out there that there’s no possible way for him to take on – wolves, crocodiles, and foxes are simply too large and deal too much damage to face! That said, our little glider isn’t afraid to fight when he absolutely needs to!
There is a decent balance between scurrying through the treetops and facing your foes head-on, but it also depends on the player – for example, you can hunt down your prey, or instead scavenge for berries and edible roots!
Traversal and exploration should be quite interesting in AWAY, purely on the basis of what you’re playing as, if nothing else. Can you talk to us about what sort of traversal and movements mechanics and options the game makes use of?
Great question! You’ll be able to walk, run, climb, and glide across the world of AWAY. Depending on where you want to go, you can sprint along the ground, or pick a good tree and climb into the canopy to get a good glide started. Just keep an eye on your stamina!
We also have a fast-travel system implemented in the game as a series of tunnels and caverns that run underneath the island. This allows the sugar glider to explore multiple different biomes without having to walk the whole way. It takes a long time to go a significant distance when you’re only a couple of inches tall!
With so many different animals and creatures throughout the world being playable, how did you maintain a certain minimum level of quality on all the content while ensuring that the scope of the project wasn’t sacrificed?
We never lost sight of the main character being our intrepid sugar glider. The idea for other playable animals came about seriously after his groundwork was already laid in place. By keeping the scope of the other playable animals manageable, we were able to polish the sugar glider’s journey while working on multiple animals.
"We never lost sight of the main character being our intrepid sugar glider. The idea for other playable animals came about seriously after his groundwork was already laid in place. By keeping the scope of the other playable animals manageable, we were able to polish the sugar glider’s journey while working on multiple animals."
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of the game be?
Approximately 5-10 hours long, depending on how much you choose to explore and do side missions!
Can you talk about why AWAY is a PlayStation console exclusive?
AWAY: The Survival Series is not exclusive to PlayStation. It will be launching on PC on Steam, PS4 and PS5 (regionally for PlayStation Europe and Americas) on September 28.
It will also be localized to English, French, German, Italian, Spanish. Portuguese, and Russian at launch. That’s a lot for a small indie team like us! We would have loved to release on all platforms at launch but didn’t want to do so at the cost of the health of our team.
We have plans to launch on Xbox One in the upcoming months. PlayStation Asia and Japan will be launching in the new year. But we are considering other platforms as well.
Will AWAY: The Survival Series eventually launch for the Switch?
That answer is—maybe! We’re not dismissing it, but AWAY would require serious optimization to be enjoyable on the Switch, and it’s not something we have enough bandwidth for at the moment.