Two years ago, a group of Polish AAA industry veterans launched a new studio in Wrocław with big ambitions of making next-gen, “AA+” games. Now, Far From Home is ready to unveil its debut project: a sci-fi survival game about climate disaster called Forever Skies.
Originally code-named “Project Oxygen,” Forever Skies is a first-person, action/survival game that takes place on a ruined Earth years after a massive climate disaster renders it uninhabitable. It’s expected to launch on PC in early access later this year, with a next-gen console release to follow.
With the announcement, Far From Home shared a teaser trailer for Forever Skies that gives an idea of what players will experience in the post-apocalyptic world. You play as a scientist who returns to Earth in an airship that serves as your base while you explore the ruins in search of a cure for the disease ravaging the remaining population of survivors, who await in orbit. Because toxic clouds have taken over Earth’s ground level, you’ll spend a lot of time either in your airship or at the tops of tall buildings originally built to escape the increasingly dangerous surface level. There’s crafting, base building, planting, research and, eventually, combat with whatever it is lurking beneath the deadly cloud layer — an element that Far From Home wants to keep mysterious for now.
That’s most of what we know about Forever Skies’s gameplay from the reveal, but there’s plenty to be gleaned from the team itself — a group of 23 individuals with credits on titles such as Dead Island, The Medium, the Dying Light series, Chernobylite, and Divinity: Original Sin. While Far From Home is a new, untested, independent studio, it’s staffed with veterans, has a unique funding source that’s free from publisher restrictions, and aims for a “AA+” game with high production values and technical heft, all while maintaining a relatively small team size. Speaking to IGN, Far From Home CEO Andrzej Blumenfeld acknowledges that this means they do have to start from scratch to win the interest and trust of an audience, but Far From Home feels prepared for the challenge thanks in part to its place in the blossoming Polish development scene.
“It’s been a tremendous ride,” he says. “New studios spring to life almost every week. The number of game dev companies in Poland has exceeded 450! They are being started up in every imaginable setup: from literally one-man armies, to small teams just graduating from universities, to talented groups burgeoning from large organizations, all the way to midsize companies backed by VC. Momentum is very strong.”
The studio’s Polish roots didn’t just impact its funding model and development DNA — it’s a part of Forever Skies’ message and themes as well. Blumenfeld is candid that Forever Skies is a game explicitly about the harms of climate change. He says that the “ongoing indifference” in society despite observed changes to the climate from scientists has puzzled the team for some time, so with Forever Skies they wanted to visualize what the future might hold if humanity’s current course is not changed.
What’s more, Far From Home doesn’t want to stop at a visualization. Blumenfeld is adamant that the studio isn’t just neutrally presenting possibilities. It’s explicitly trying to join the climate discussion on the side of those concerned about the issue and the world’s response to it.
“The actual inspiration for how to arrange the game’s world into a thick layer of toxic dust and the skies above has been drawn from various comments of scientists on air quality in Cracow, Poland,” he continues. “This beautiful, historic city is known for its pollution, regularly competing head-to-head with places such as Beijing, Delhi or Lahore. Apparently, to access breathable air, residents should elevate above 100m…This idea that due to gravity accumulating an increasing amount of particles and toxic gases close to the ground, humanity will have to escape to towers, has been instrumental in designing the game’s premise.”
Forever Skies First Reveal Screenshots
Climate change isn’t the only issue Far From Home has had to grapple seriously with in the making of Forever Skies. When the studio first started work on the game, COVID-19 didn’t exist yet — but the studio’s ideas for the player to research viruses and even infect themselves to get stronger were already in motion. Far From Home hasn’t scrapped the system, but the dev team has had to rethink how it was presented.
“In Forever Skies falling ill and recovering is an integral part of the survival loop,” Blumenfeld says. “On one hand it is unavoidable, resulting with symptoms impacting breath rate, tolerance to foods or causing dehydration. But on the other hand, in some cases it is required to extract pathogens for developing, and later testing of vaccines. We wanted to show how interaction with microbes is an absolutely central part of the human body’s functioning, and how thin a line is between being healthy and sick. In Forever Skies games will have open doors to experimentation, and to deciding whether to use the modified viruses as weapons, or perhaps self-infect to boost life functions and the body’s performance.
“Naturally, as the global pandemic evolved, the paradigm was shifting among media and societies. We had to adjust several times to the growing scientific evidence regarding COVID-19, as well as adopt terminology in which the developments were portrayed. At some point we also risked being interpreted as promoting the anti-vax option by mere coincidence! This all needed a few adjustments, which were advised by a renowned virologist who supports us in terms of staying true to science.”
Forever Skies does not yet have a release date, but will come to early access on Steam sometime later this year, followed by an eventual next-gen console release. Blumenfeld says there are no plans to bring it to prior-gen consoles, not even via a port, and will instead focus on making a truly next-gen title. “The last two years of development solidified our standpoint that among consoles, next-gen is the only gen,” he continues. “We also believe that it’s high time for devs to commit [i]n the name of quality and progress.”
As for PC early access, Blumenfeld says Forever Skies will begin as a single-player experience, with Far From Home planning to add co-op mode later. The intention, Blumenfeld says, is to have the early access release be largely representative of the full experience, serving as a fine-tuning for the final game including balancing, bug fixes, and adding features that players feel are missing.
At this moment in development, he adds, Forever Skies has about 30 hours of single-player gameplay, and it’s expected to grow even more in the coming months of development and whatever follows in early access. “We plan to emerge from Early Access armed with co-op mode, co-designed and tested with the community,” Blumenfeld assures.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.