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Corpse of Discovery review: Musing the passage of time at 15 frames per second

Hayden Dingman | Sept. 15, 2015
Photographs and memories.

Corpse of Discovery

It's lonely out in space. "Oh, Elton John, how right you are," I thought to myself as I slowly trudged across the uninhabited planet Tellurus, my space boots kicking up space dust. White cliffs soared into the air. Strange blue mushroom-trees sprouted from stretches of barren white sand. This was a thoroughly alien world. The proverbial final frontier.

Somewhere out there was a cache of rare metals to send back to Earth. Somewhere there were parts to fix my landing craft. Somewhere there was a way for me to get home. I just had to find it.

At fifteen frames per second. 

Time in a bottle

Corpse of Discovery is a first-person adventure game, or—if you're feeling derogatory—a "walking simulator" in the vein of Dear Esther or Gone Home. There's little in the way of challenge here. It's mainly "Go here, receive story, go to next place."

Corpse of Discovery

And that's fine with me! Unlike some people, I don't have anything in particular against this sort of game/experience. If you do, well, don't play Corpse of Discovery.

The title is a play on the Corps of Discovery, the official Army unit of the Lewis and Clark expedition in the 1800s. Here, the Corps of Discovery name has been resurrected and applied to a division handling far-flung space expeditions.

You were a member of one of these spacefaring expeditions, sent to the distant planet of Tellurus to look for…anything, really. Intelligent life, mysterious radio signals, rare metals—it's all on the table. Accomplish your mission and you can return home, retire, and live out the rest of your life with your wife and kids.

Corpse of Discovery

Everything went wrong though. Your shuttle crashed to the surface of Tellurus and there's no telling whether anyone is coming to your rescue. Nevertheless, you set out to explore the barren planet you're on and finish your mission. Hopefully accomplishing the mission will incentivize someone to rescue you. Hopefully.

There are some pretty obvious parallels here to recent sci-fi touchstones The Martian, Moon, and Interstellar: Isolation, introspection, the inexorable passage of time, the realization that even if you make it back home everything will be different. Corpse of Discovery even straight-up drops a none-too-subtle Interstellar reference partway through.

In fact, "none-too-subtle" is maybe the best way to describe Corpse of Discovery. I'm a sucker for the themes on display in Corpse of Discovery, but to say the game is heavy-handed is a bit of an understatement. At one point I clicked on the treadmill in my home base and the text literally said "This treadmill is like a metaphor for something, but who cares." That's too obvious to even be read tongue-in-cheek.


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