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‘One Hour One Life’ Review – No One Gets Out Alive

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On the surface it’s easy to assume that One Hour One Life ($2.99), aside from its aesthetic, is just another survival game amidst the flood consistently being released across all video game platforms. While One Hour One Life at its core is a more mechanically deep version of Don’t Starve, you will find yourself playing for player interaction and the hard decisions you are forced to make on the fly. One Hour One Life isn’t a survival simulation per se, more of a human origin simulation where every action you take could be the beginning or the snowballing end to a blooming civilization’s attempt at growth.

Prior to the journey beginning, One Hour One Life nudges you through a required tutorial that gives you the base knowledge of how to exist and interact with the world. You’ll spawn in as a young adult female, fully capable of doing the required tasks at hand. Only in time are you ready to take on the world: carving a rock against another larger rock to create your first harvesting tool up to your first axe, a godsend in creating your first fire. Even as the fully capable human you are onboarded with, you will die
before the tutorials completion. Multiple times. You see, death isn’t a potential outcome: it’s a guarantee. Upon each death you are given a graph showing the family tree, further emphasizing that one wrong move could be over in a minute. As you finally find ground as to what you think One Hour One Life is, everything you know is thrown out the window.

One Hour One Life is a 100% online permadeath game where all characters on the server are actually players. Post-tutorial, with no choice as to climate or location, you are born as a one year old child to a mother (“Eve") who is your only option to survive — especially with an almost non-existent health pool. Your only form of verbal communication is frustrating but realistic single text letters. Good luck. It’s worth noting: to balance out population, you have a small chance to be “born" as a young adult character if babies outnumber sustainable mothers on your server.

At this moment, the first domino tumbles and regardless of the outcome, you have left a mark on the environment. Your birth alone is an almost immediate strain on resources. At birth, you may have a great mother: one who names you, focuses solely on you and keeps you alive to become a contributing member of society. At the age of three you can begin to use tools, accomplish small tasks and help your family survive. This world is a harsh one, that seemingly only intends to kill you, and odds typically are not in your favor.

Maybe your mother is near death and breastfeeding will lead to an early death, requiring her to make a moral decision with each passing minute. Maybe you’ll spawn with a mother that has two children already, knowing it’s too much and you’re ultimately left unnamed and to die. One could only hope to be born to a mother of an “advanced" village, with thick mud walls protecting the farm. The more common outcome, sadly, is to a mother barely sustaining herself in the woods desperately searching for previous fallen townships to find anything for her next meal.

In One Hour One Life, you age a year per minute with each year opening more and more possibility to you. If you make it to age 60, you’ll die of old age, which is very uncommon. In my time played, I’ve had the opportunity to experience the death of an elder — leaving such an impact on the village, every resident left to mourn the fallen elder. Ultimately I was ignored and died of starvation.

It’s not uncommon for the first hour or so that you play that you’ll be lucky to see the age of 6 or 7. Even at age 3, you’re barely able to say a three letter word like “Mom" much less find berries or food for yourself. You have no role, no job — but with any semi-organized group that you are lucky enough to spawn into, hopefully someone will be at base delegating tasks. In the event that no one is, the best thing you can do is try to assist around the farm, gathering berries or making food baskets for the elders.

While survival and sustenance are typical player motivation, nothing is stopping you from being a monster. From murder and thievery to destroying as much of a resource that you possibly can — you are left to your own motivation and imagination. For instance, I was forced to leave an encampment and stumbled upon a large village where I was told “I wasn’t welcome" and even though I was starving, I was instructed not to steal from their farm. As a kneejerk response, I hid silently on the edges, only appearing to gather and chow down some of their carrots only to survive. After a few years, I was found and killed. It was only after the fact, the realization hit about the extent I likely hurt their progress. Many future children died because of my attempt at retaliation.

Only through experience will you begin to have a birth “build order." There are some quality of life items (i.e. a marker to guide you home), but it’s best to experience and grow through osmosis just by playing. I would recommend staying away from wikis and learning purely by trial and error. It leads to a more exciting experience even at the expense of those around you. The developer trickles out new tech on an almost weekly basis, with new tech seemingly relying on when the player base achieves milestones. It’s a slow process of advancement but one with no end in sight. It’s hinted at through the trailer that, one day in the far future, you’ll be capable of building modern housing with modern appliances. For right now, in the world of One Hour One Life, mud walls are a luxury.

The aesthetic of One Hour One Life might turn some off but due to the nature of choices, might make you feel less evil. I’ve experienced a birth in the middle of the woods, to a mother who gave her life just to keep me sustained. I aged to the point where I also spawned a child. I couldn’t sustain them in the long run and as a wolf appeared I opted to drop the child to aid my escape. Shortly thereafter, karma caught up as I died of starvation mere steps from an abandoned encampment. While these actions might make me sound evil, it’s the tough choices that will sit with you long after you play.

One Hour One Life is niche and has a high barrier to entry, an experience that will likely make you lose faith in humanity but gain it back on your next life. The biggest downfall of One Hour One Life rests solely on its current controls that, while not horrible, are just inaccurate enough that I charged up my Apple Pencil to assist in the precise actions of crafting and assumably can be adjusted and fixed in future builds of this growing game. If you even have the slightest inkling to play, do it. I’ve spent a good amount of time between the PC version and mobile version of One Hour One Life and am glad to know that even with my time spent, I’ve barely scratched the surface as to what this game will ultimately become.

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