After concocting what many consider the most difficult game of 2014, Alien: Isolation developers The Creative Assembly are back at it with Safe Haven. The latest Alien: Isolation DLC is not just another set of challenge maps, as were the first two post-launch packs. Safe Haven introduces the “Salvage Mode,” and it’s just as punishing as the main game.
Here’s how it works: you have two real-life hours to complete ten different tasks, returning to your safe room after completing each one. If you die at any point, you start back at the first task, in true Alien: Isolation fashion. Before diving right in, there are a few things you need to know.
1. You play as Hughes, the Station’s Communications Manager at Sevastopol. The important thing to know about Hughes, if you should chose to play the DLC as intended, is that he has no innate way to distract or ward off the Alien. You start equipped with a shotgun, a bolt gun, a motion tracker, and blueprints for the EMP and Flashbang. You don’t start with any crafting parts, nor are there any in the safe room to start. If you’re up to the challenge, play Hughes; if not, start with Amanda or a character with a distraction at least.
2. Each level actually lets you choose between two tasks, and some characters are better fit for one over the other. For example, since Hughes is equipped with a bolt gun, he can better complete levels that involve Androids. Regardless, you’ll be spending a lot of time pondering which level to choose looking at the screen below. After using the terminal to choose which task to undertake, the time starts, and it doesn’t stop until you either complete all ten levels or die. The tasks also offer different rewards upon completion, which show up in the safe house in between each level.
3. Much like regular survival mode, your score drops with every second you take completing the task. This inclines the player to want to move quickly through each level. Take your time though, every item you pick up, from scraps to flamethrower fuel gives you permanent points. Items will sometimes appear in the safe house in between levels that give you points also. Since Hughes doesn’t have any distracting items, taking a moment to search for a flare could prove to be a worthwhile investment.
4. You can only save in the safe house by spending 2500 points. Though this may take away from your bragging rights on the leaderboards, it may prove to be worth it when you die at level 10. This protects you from losing progress on death, but if you leave the challenge, you will still lose all your progress. If you can make it through all ten levels without needing to save, good on you. Otherwise, you should be able to sustain saving once every two levels without too much of a score punishment. But if you thought the save system in Isolation was unfair or punishing (casuals), The Creative Assembly clearly is fine without your business.
5. There is no map, so keep an eye on that objective marker on your motion scanner. Better yet, keep a mental set of directions so you can retrace your steps quickly and avoid being detected by the motion tracker’s beeping. Many of the areas offer little support for hiding and sneaking around, but the Gemini Secondary Systems (one of only two areas to choose from) has a great network of small nooks to crawl through (pictured above) to avoid the Alien. I chose most of my missions based solely on this very aspect.
6. The Alien will not be present for every task. Some tasks that require you to kill thugs or androids will not feature an appearance by the Alien, even while in loud combat such as gunfire. While this means throwing a noisemaker into a group of thugs will not attract your Xenomorph friend to do your dirty work, it also means that you can fire off a few rounds from a shotgun and not have to worry about any interference. It might be best, though, to chose android missions over thug missions. Androids are easier to kill and have poor range. You also get a stun baton after the first android level.
7. After completing level five, you get a flamethrower. The Creative Assembly gods smile down upon you yet. Scavenging will then give double the bonus, with permanent points in addition to potentially finding flamethrower fuel. The first five levels are very tough without the crutch from the main campaign, but don’t expect it to get that much easier. Like the other Alien: Isolation DLC, the Xenomorph is hyper-present, and doesn’t take those extended smoke breaks it did in story mode. Stay vigilant and have a quick draw with the flamethrower once you get it.
8. Expect Curveballs. Alien: Isolation DLC was in danger of falling into formula, but “Safe Haven” is the change-of-pace pack. For example, level five asks you to disable the cameras, but makes you abort the mission halfway through. To make matters worse, the way you came is sealed off, so you have to find another path. There goes all those directions you memorized. Stay on your toes, and watch that objective indicator, because it can change at any moment.