Review – Estranged: The Departure (Switch)

I am always impressed with one-man projects. Making games with a team is already hard as hell, so I can only imagine how demanding and exhausting it must be for a single developer to plan, design, build and test their own creation with little to no external help. This is the case with Estranged: The Departure. Originally released last year for Steam, earning some respectable reviews, this game was developed by just one person, Alan Edwardes, over a six year span during his spare time. The game is now available on Switch, so let’s see if it made a smooth transition to Nintendo’s portable system.

Estranged: The Departure Graphics

All things considered, this is a pretty good looking game for Switch standards. Too bad the framerate isn’t as smooth.

Estranged: The Departure is a story-driven, first-person survival horror game about a fisherman who wakes up in a mysterious, albeit surprisingly industrialized island after a shipwreck. He quickly finds out things have gone completely off the rails due to some initially unknown circumstances. It won’t take long until you meet your first enemy and realize that, instead of a simple story-heavy adventure, you’re dealing with zombies and conspiracies.

For the most part, Estranged: The Departure plays like a traditional first-person adventure game with puzzle elements. It works better than another solo dev project I’ve recently reviewed, In Rays of the Light, because most its puzzles are actually inventive and its story. While not the most inventive in the world, it is told in a decent way, with good pacing and occasional set pieces to grab your attention. Some of its puzzles are a nuisance, however, especially when they rely on the game’s subpar physics.

Estranged: The Departure Zombie

Let’s just say these zombies aren’t very intelligent…

The controls are a bit janky when you’re just exploring the environment or interacting with a puzzle, but you can get used to them after a while. It’s far from being the ideal control scheme and the overreliance on physics-based puzzles as if this game thinks it’s Half-Life 2 are a nuisance. But given how these sections are usually slow-paced and devoid of danger, you might be able to forgive them after a while. Now, when it comes to its combat sections, be it during the main campaign or the bizarre, CoD Zombies-inspired “arcade mode”, Estranged: The Departure fails miserably. This entire section of the game felt like an afterthought, as if combat was added in the last minute to shake things up a bit.

Don’t expect a long game. Remember, Estranged is a solo project developed during a single person’s spare time over the last few years. Considering its run time and the fact it features bonus modes, such as the aforementioned arcade mode, as well as a shooting range, I’m amazed with how cheap it is. It goes for just five bucks, or even less depending on which eShop is your main storefront, which is money well spent, even if the game features its fair share of technical issues.

Estranged features a horde mode. I’m still asking myself why.

Its visuals are actually impressive, considering the poor hardware we’re talking about. Textures are rich, environments are varied and, for the most part, well designed. Some sections even feature impressive lighting effects. Other areas, however, are the complete opposite, being completely shrouded in nonsensical darkness to the point you can’t see a damn thing in front of you. You do have a flashlight at your disposal, but unlike most survival horror games, its battery is finite, though nowhere near as egregious as in Outlast 2. The framerate is admittedly unstable, though.

One thing I wasn’t expecting from a solo project like Estranged: The Departure is a decent sound department. With the exception of the poor voice acting (I’m pretty sure the developer just enlisted some friends and told them to read a few lines), the sound effects and occasional soundtrack are actually quite good. Weapons are loud, zombies growl in an intimidating way, and chase sections are accompanied by music loops that do improve the overall tense atmosphere.

Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?

Estranged: The Departure is hindered by a truckload of technical issues, namely in its controls and framerate, but considering the hardware we’re talking about and the fact it was developed by a single person, it’s a game worth praising at the end of the day. Its story is a bit predictable and its combat sections are beyond bland, but all in all, you’re paying just five bucks for a surprisingly hardy first-person horror game that actually demands a bit from the Switch’s hardware. I have nothing but respect for the game and its developer, even if it’s far from perfect.


Graphics: 7.5

It runs poorly, but considering the hardware limitations, it does look quite impressive at times. Textures are rich and the environments are well-modeled. The lighting is a mixed bag: it looks good in some areas, while it’s beyond irritating with how dark it is in others.

Gameplay: 5.5

The controls are a bit janky when exploring, but you can get used to them after a while. Puzzle solving is a mixed bag: some puzzles are inventive, others are a borefest. The shooting mechanics feel clunky and half-baked.

Sound: 7.0

While the voice acting isn’t exactly very good, the occasional bits of music and sound effects are pretty decent.

Fun Factor: 6.5

It’s a game full of good intentions, offering a staggering amount of bang for your buck. It’s hindered by a myriad of technical issues, but it’s enjoyable.

Final Verdict: 6.5

Estranged: The Departure is available now on PC and Switch

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Estranged: The Departure was provided by the publisher.