Abiotic Factor, a 6-player survival game where you're scientists in a paranormal lab, is rising up Steam's top-sellers chart

Scientists in a lab
(Image credit: Deep Field Games)

Gordon Freeman is a nerd who cuts a heroic profile, but in Abiotic Factor you're just a nerd: a regular, lab-coat-wearing new employee in a Black Mesa-like science facility that's undergoing an unspecified security situation. Your job, at least for starters, is to avoid dying.

Out in early access on Steam today, Abiotic Factor's premise seems to be striking a chord with co-op survival crafting fans: It hasn't hit Steam's top concurrents chart at the time of writing, but it has jumped to seventh place in Steam's US top-sellers list just a few hours after launch.

I like how much Abiotic Factor commits to the '90s parody corporate scientist theme: its character creator features 19 ties, 12 kinds of glasses, and 11 snazzy belts. And how refreshing it is to play a co-op survival crafting game that doesn't immediately ask you to punch down a tree! The rough equivalent in Abiotic Factor is bashing an old beige computer case to bits and harvesting its power supply. 

About an hour into the game, I've set up a base of operations in an employee break room on one of the underground facility's office levels, where I was deposited against my will due to whatever security protocol the unscrupulous management has activated. You're doing essentially the same thing you do in other survival games—collecting resources and crafting increasingly complex things with them—but starting as a nerd MacGyver instead of a Stone Age hunter gatherer puts some surprise back into the formula. I just figured out how to craft test tubes, and I am curious and slightly nervous to find out what they're for.

My goal, at the moment, is to evacuate the office sector via the manufacturing sector. I haven't explored much, but I am anxious about signage that points toward "animal pens." So far I've mostly only had to fight off jumpy little headcrab-like alien things, which I've been awkwardly waving a knife at or catching in nets and stomping on. Another danger is radiation, and I'll also need sleep, food, and hydration, and to make time to use the toilet—in the game, I mean. It's not something my character has had to do yet, but it's one of the bio meters.

I've got a screwdriver and I'm not afraid to use it. (Image credit: Deep Field Games)

I want to recruit some other nerds before I play more: Abiotic Factor supports up to six-player co-op, and should run fine on just about any gaming-capable PC, since it aims for an old-school look. It does a nice job of merging simple Half-Life 1-style models with modern level design, lighting, and UI, though, and the sectors aren't all the same underground science facility-looking places. I'm still in the offices, but the Steam page promises portals to some not-very-office-like worlds, which reminds me a bit of Control.

Abiotic Factor only has a few dozen Steam user reviews as I write—it just launched a few hours ago—but they've averaged to a "Very Positive" rating so far. Its early access period is planned to last 8 to 12 months, during which the developer will release new sectors and features, but what's there now is already "a massive, multi-sector adventure," the studio says. 

The attractive price may help Abiotic Factor gain a sizable audience during its early access period: its regular early access price will be $25, but it's on sale for $20 for the launch. You can find it on Steam

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.