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Play Signalis, one of the best survival horror games, before it leaves Game Pass this month

Nearly a year since it was released, Signalis remains an unforgettable experience

Elster, the android protagonist of Signalis, reels from a would that removes half of her arm, against a backdrop of crimson red Image: rose-engine/Humble Games
Toussaint Egan is a curation editor, out to highlight the best movies, TV, anime, comics, and games. He has been writing professionally for over 8 years.

A lot of great games have been added to Game Pass this month, with more titles still on the way. This year’s Dead Space remake, Cities: Skylines 2, and Frog Detective: The Entire Mystery number among the most notable additions in October, with the meditative rock climbing game Jusant and more set to arrive next week. Unfortunately, that also means that some of the older titles on Game Pass are set to leave the service at the end of the month, including one of the best horror games of the 2020s so far.

The debut release from developers Barbara Wittmann and Yuri Stern (aka rose-engine), Signalis is a third-person survival horror game set in a dystopian future at the farthest fringes of colonized space. The game centers on Elster, an android who awakens from cryo-sleep aboard a scout shuttle that crashes on an unknown planet.

With her human partner Ariane inexplicably missing, Elster treks out into the frozen wasteland of the planet in search of answers. Following a bizarre interlude of mysterious events, Elster finds herself in a subterranean mining facility, now abandoned in the wake of some lethal pathogen of unknown origin. As she plunges deeper into the compound, Elster is faced with an onslaught of horrors and threats that test not only the limits of her resolve, but her very concept of reality.

Inspired by classic survival horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, Signalis plays like a throwback to the genre at its peak, hewing close to the tried-and-tested design philosophies of those games while still establishing its own unique tone and universe. The puzzles run the gamut from ingenious to dumbfounding, with the difficulty curve ramping up sharply in the latter half of the game. The combat is as satisfying as it is challenging, pitting Elster against an array of shambling monsters and formidable living weapons that test both the player’s aim and their judgment while conserving their finite supply of ammo and health items.

The most impressive aspect of Signalis, however, is the game’s story, something I will try very hard to describe without giving away its many surprises. The game nimbly deals with themes of grief, perseverance, and the mutability of time and space. The latter of these ideas is pertinent to the recurring motifs of Eugen Bracht’s The Shore of Oblivion and Arnold Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead, two paintings known for having multiple iterations that appear repeatedly — both as images and interactive environments — throughout the course of the game. It’s a tangled narrative that’s spawned multiple interpretations among fans of the game, inspiring a level of passionate speculation that games of its ilk haven’t quite sparked since… well, the original Silent Hill games released on PlayStation and PS2.

If you haven’t played Signalis yet, I strongly urge you to make the time to do so. The game takes about nine hours to complete, with even more playtime if you feel compelled to dive deeper into the rabbit hole to unearth its various hidden collectibles and secret endings. If you’re looking for a remarkable horror gaming experience with legitimate staying power, make this game a priority.

Signalis leaves Game Pass on Oct. 31.