The Pale Beyond review

by on February 23, 2023
Reviewed On
Release Date

February 24, 2023


The idea of video games focusing on survival really appeals to me, but all too often they involve punching trees in a janky open world. A survival game to me should be about tough decisions that mean the difference between life and death, and so often that just isn’t the case. Fortunately games like this do exist. I’ve put countless hours into surviving in the snowy environments of The Long Dark, and now another chilly survival game has stolen my heart in the form of The Pale Beyond.

After discovering an advert looking for crew members for a dangerous expedition (with low wages and a slim chance of survival) our protagonist Robin Shaw heads over for an interview with Captain Hunt. This salty old veteran reveals that the voyage he’s planning is a rescue mission going after a long lost ship deep in the icy ocean. After a bit of a grilling which decides the background of your character, he agrees to take you on as his first mate and asks you to meet him at the dock in a month’s time.

The Pale Beyond review

One of your first tasks when aboard The Temperance when you set sail is to get yourself acquainted with the crew. There are over twenty people who have signed up for this frosty suicide mission, all with a variety of backgrounds and expertise. Hunt hired a bunch of sailors that have worked with him before, alongside a team of scientists provided by the voyage’s mysterious benefactor, a team of scouts headed by famous explorer Kurt Darling, a journalist, a doctor and a handler for the sled dogs. Depending on what your background is, these characters will greet you accordingly. The crusty old sailors will like it if you were born on the waves like them, whereas the disciplined leader of the science team will appreciate a military man heading up the expedition. These details are important, because you’ll need the support of the crew if you want to succeed.

Your main task each week on the waves is to listen to the requests of the crew. A variety of the people on your boat will be waiting outside of the captain’s cabin to talk to you, all with problems for you to solve. For example as it gets darker towards the winter the crew ask for fuel for their lanterns, which will have to be taken from your stockpile for the furnace that heats everyone. Or when a sailor is found to have a stash of biscuits his mum baked, you need to decide if he should be allowed to keep them or share them out with the hungry crew. The option you choose will have an effect on the rations, fuel, morale and personal relationships you have with the crew, and if any of these drop too low your journey is as good as ever.

Once you’ve made these decisions you’ll need to assign jobs to everyone for the week. Scouts can be sent to explore the ice for animals to hunt, scientists can research medication for sailors feeling under the weather and anyone with low morale can be sent for an interview with the journalist. Alongside the more specialised tasks there are some jobs anyone can do (like gathering coal for the furnace or preparing canned goods for the chef) but there’s never quite enough bodies to do everything.

A screenshot of The Pale Beyond

There’s one final decision you need to make at the end of the week, and it’s a biggie. You need to decide how much of your coal and rations you’re willing to use over the next seven days. Using enough supplies will keep everyone happy and healthy, but you can also add extra rations and heat to boost morale or (more likely) reduce rations and fuel to save up for a rainy day. It won’t take long for the cruel icy environment to take its toll on the crew, and you’ll have malnourished, injured and frostbitten crew members who won’t survive long without medical attention.

Outside of this basic loop of desperate survival, huge events will happen in the story that affect how you and the crew are coping. There will be voting on who should lead the group, dangerous situations and potential game overs around every corner, and every decision you make could lead to ruin. It’s a bleak existence for the people onboard The Temperance, but fortunately you can travel back in time on the decision tree and change your mind on your choices if they lead to ruin.

Because The Pale Beyond forces you to engage with and get to know the characters, the tough times are made all the more heart breaking. One moment that really stood out in my playthrough was when I decided to gather extra supplies instead of continuing on with the voyage, and the ship ended up sinking and killing everyone on board. All these sailors I’d built a connection with popped up on the screen with a text box stating “Dead” one after the other, as the credits rolled in the background.

A screenshot of The Pale Beyond

One of the few genuinely nice aspects of The Pale Beyond is the art style. The characters have a hand-drawn quality and are full of personality, and in a game full of misery it’s at least nice to have some visual appeal. The sled dogs especially are just adorable, and even feature in some of the very few genuinely jovial moments of the game.

If there’s any issue to be had with The Pale Beyond, it’s in the overall misery. This is anything but a light-hearted tale, detailing the trials and tribulations of people trying to cope on the brink of death. It’s relentlessly oppressive, and if you aren’t up for that then this isn’t the game for you. It’s also incredibly difficult (with no difficulty options to choose from) and I had to restart multiple times when the going got tough. Nobody said Arctic survival was easy.

The Pale Beyond is a bleak and oppressive survival game that really gives a feel of how tough the mission into the ice truly is. It isn’t for the faint of heart, but when you finally get the hang of balancing the resources and keeping everyone happy and healthy there are few better feelings. If you’re looking for a cosy gaming experience you won’t find it here, but if life and death choices are more your style then this is the game for you.


A bleak survival experience
Successfully balancing your resources is very satisfying
A lovely art style
A fantastic setting for a survival game


Very very bleak
A difficult game with no difficulty options to help tone it down

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

The Pale Beyond is bleak and miserable in all the right ways, with a fantastic setting for a survival game.