Alien: Isolation's Newest DLC Will Test Your Patience As Well As Skills

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I was never good at making it through any stretch of Alien: Isolation without dying. While playing alongside developer Creative Assembly's creative lead Al Hope, I might have also embarrassed myself.

With score-chasing comes anxiety, and adding a score-chasing component to Isolation's Survivor mode--via the new Salvage sub-mode--is both a brilliant and masochistic idea. I watched Hope wander through large hallways, ducking behind crates and other objects, waiting for too long to make sure the alien wasn't near. Not two steps later, we heard the shuffling and banging signaling our enemy's presence in the air ducts. And then the xenomorph was screaming in my face and I was screaming in Hope's face and it was back to square one, the score reset to zero.

Salvage, and all of its accompanying stress, is part of the next batch of downloadable content for Alien: Isolation, titled Safe Haven. It will not only push your extraterrestrial survival skills to the limit, but it's also an exercise in patience.

The DLC will introduce two new game modes: Salvage and Marathon. In Salvage, players are plunked down into a large map--larger than the typical areas we've seen in so far in Alien: Isolation--and force them to complete mission after mission within a two-hour time limit under increasingly challenging circumstances. Players will begin each mission in a safe room, a section aboard the Sevastopol station in which the roaming xenomorph can't harm you. Missions will range from setting out to operate machinery aboard the station or collecting materials from a hard-to-reach area.

Completing each mission will reward you with goods to use during the mode, and with another mission more difficult than the last. The more missions you complete, the harder the enemies will be in each mission, and the more difficult it will be to stay out of the alien's path. You can also choose to bank the points and stuff you earn at any time, ending the challenge, or you can take a risk and go after one more mission.

You'll have to weigh the reward you'll potentially get for the risk you're going to take: are more pipe bombs and another set of blueprints worth creeping through a dozen yards of hallway in full sight of the alien?

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To me, the blueprints were a tempting prize. I wanted to build new things, discover new ways of navigating the hellhole of the Sevastopol and defending myself against its creepy inhabitants. So I chose to venture with Hope back into the empty hallways--empty save for my fear and the rising nausea that comes with knowing your enemy could maybe be, you know, right behind you right now--and eventually, again, to doom.

Additionally, Safe Haven adds a new playable character: Hughes, the Sevastopol's communications manager. As Hughes in Salvage mode, you'll work to restore communications within the station and, as a result of completing all tasks, free him from confinement in the only safe area. You can also play Safe Haven as Amanda Ripley, but the loadouts between the two characters differ.

It's in this way that Salvage mode tests your patience or, more accurately, your faith in your own abilities against the xenomorph menace. It's a nail-biting, nerve-wracking affair: Why be content with this score when you can just set out and do one more mission? Then after that, what's preventing you from doing another? You're unstoppable, unbeatable... and just when you get too cocky, the xenomorph chomps your face off.

According to Al Hope, these modes were designed with more ambitious players in mind, those who completed Isolation without breaking (much) of a sweat and who are looking for new ways to take themselves to task and search out new xenomorph scares. Salvage mode, on the surface, looks like you're traveling just from A to B on mini-quests, but when there are synthetics and a xenomorph with no respect for personal space on the loose, this provides some difficulty.

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It keeps you coming back for more, in the worst, best, and cruelest way. And Marathon mode piggybacks on this, creating another challenge with the potential to be an endless affair--or an endless nightmare. In Marathon mode, you play all of your existing modes and maps in one straight sequence, attempting to survive them all in one go. This is truly punishing, but an interesting way to test your mettle against the xenomorph.

"We wanted to a provide a stripped-back experience that focuses on the moment-to-moment gameplay," Hope said.

Alien: Isolation's Safe Haven DLC will launch tomorrow, January 13.

Alexa Ray Corriea on Google+

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