Lethal Company Review

Lethal Company: A Hilariously Terrifying New Angle on Survival Horror

Lethal Company is just one of those games. This multiplayer survival horror beast made by lone developer Zeekerss exploded onto the scene and quickly overtook the internet. The hype surrounding this impressive Indie title has been overwhelming, to say the least, and tons of new players have been diving in each day.

Multiplayer titles like this have the intrinsic benefit of encouraging more people to get the game just to play with their friends, and the multiplayer survival horror genre isn’t exactly small. With that in mind, how does Lethal Company hold up as a single-player experience? Is it worth the buzz, or is this just a passing fad? Does it do anything new and exciting with the genre, or are you better off sticking with higher-budget titles? We’ll answer these questions and much more in this review.

Story and Concept

Sigurds first log

The concept of Lethal Company is as follows: You are a new employee joining the titular “Company,” an extremely shady organization that hires out desperate workers to harvest scrap. The catch is you’ll be collecting this scrap from abandoned complexes on inhospitable moons. To survive and meet the company-mandated profit quota, you’ll have to survive hazardous environmental conditions, highly aggressive wildlife, and nameless horrors lurking in the darkness of the facilities. 

Lethal Company is a non-linear experience, and the story of your character is inconsequential to the overall lore. You won’t be changing or interacting with the background story of Lethal Company in any meaningful way, but there is some backstory to be discovered through context and the sparse text logs scattered around the moons. 

Lethal Company takes place in a post-apocalyptic retro-future where many of the industrialized moons in the system have been abandoned for unknown reasons. Players cannot travel to populated planets or moons, and it is unknown if such locations exist within the game’s universe.

Reading the hoarding bugs data entry

The in-game text logs follow a previous crew working for the company several hundred years prior. An individual by the name of Sigurd left behind the logs of his experiences and wrote the bestiary entries for each of the game’s monsters, both of which can provide a bit of worldbuilding but not much of a narrative overall. 

Graphics

A desolate desert moon in Lethal Company

Graphically, Lethal Company is pretty simple. However, that isn’t to say its visuals aren’t effective or that they detract from the experience. Lethal Company is experienced through a first-person perspective and viewed through the visor of your character’s hazard suit, which means there are some faded cracks and other visual artifacts constantly in view. Additionally, objects, monsters, and the world around you all have a somewhat pixelated and unfocused appearance, especially when viewed from a distance.

These effects can be pretty jarring for players accustomed to more refined graphics and can make reading text signs and monitors somewhat difficult. It’s unclear whether these filter effects are in place to help conceal unrefined textures or were simply a stylistic choice to make the game feel more immersive. Though the effects we mentioned might make it a bit more difficult to see, it’s hard to deny the overall impact the chosen style has on the game. The dark, dingy corners of facility interiors are extremely unsettling, and the unclear form of some distant monster approaching through the darkness is enough to set even veteran horror gamers on edge.

Inside an abandoned facility

The in-game environments are where the game’s indie roots are the most obvious. Assets are heavily reused, and moons with similar landscapes are not easily distinguished from one another by players who haven’t spent a lot of time there. The repetition of assets inside facilities and the general emptiness of interiors overall are the main points counting against the game’s overall atmosphere. Then again, this title utilizes procedural generation for facility interiors, and the identical-looking corridors make it easier to get lost, so who’s to say this isn’t intentional? Though details like these can take a bit away from the look of the game, they aren’t really the type of issues we’d count heavily against an indie game, especially one made by one dev.

Player and scrap models are all sufficiently detailed but don’t especially stick out. The models for the game’s many monsters, however, are an entirely different story. Not only are the designs for these creepy creatures highly original, but they’re also absolutely horrifying to suddenly meet in a dark corridor. Yet, at the same time, they’re some of the goofiest-looking monsters we’ve ever run away screaming from.

Dont try to pet the wildlife in Lethal Company

It’s clear that some of these monsters took inspiration from other sci-fi horror media, such as the SCP universe, but the unique ways in which those concepts were developed into dynamic and interactable monsters are what truly make the various threats of this title stand out. One of the greatest achievements in sci-fi horror media is to get your audience to cry out in terror, “What on earth is that thing!” and Lethal Company pulls that feat off effortlessly time and time again.

Sound and Atmosphere

Exploring the dark corridors of a facility

Lethal Company incorporates very little music overall. There are only a few ambient background music tracks in the game, and though their presence breaks up the silence, they aren’t especially notable. The in-game boombox players can purchase adds a few more songs to listen to as they search through darkened facilities, but these are also quite limited and pretty simple.

Music aside, the sound design in this title is one of the most impressive we have seen from the genre at any level of development. Some of the sound effects themselves aren’t anything to write home about, and we recognize several of them from use in other indie titles. The way sound is incorporated into the gameplay experience is where the real genius behind Lethal Company’s atmosphere lies.

Facing down a blind monster in Lethal Company

This title utilizes proximity-based audio for both players and threats. That means you can hear your friends calling for help off in the distance, you can hear whatever that monster is waiting behind that door, you can hear the creak of something crawling its way out of a vent somewhere behind you, and you can hear the thudding footsteps of the giant chasing you through the fog. The spatial audio in Lethal Company is spectacularly immersive and artfully utilized to put players on edge and support the overall gameplay by offering meaningful and fun ways for players to communicate.

Gameplay

Finding a monster in a doorway

The core gameplay loop for Lethal Company is a simple one, but it’s also one of the reasons the game has been so widely popular. The goal of the game is to land on desolate moons, enter abandoned facilities, find random junk, and get out alive with that junk so you can sell it for profit. The game also incorporates roguelike elements, and players will be required to meet increasingly difficult quotas until they eventually fail, are fired, lose everything, and have to start again.

Collecting junk in and of itself is an extremely satisfying goal. Hearing the satisfying clink and clank as you scoop up and drop scrap tickles that part of the brain that makes us want to pick up shiny rocks. The sense of accomplishment from looking at all that junk piled up on the floor of your ship is a simple but highly addictive feeling that makes you want to see just how much you can get before something goes wrong.

An impressive pile of hard-earned loot in Lethal Company

The player can spend the money they earn on tools, ship upgrades, decorations, and new suits. Some of these tools include flashlights, stun grenades, ladders, jetpacks, weapons, and walkie-talkies. None of these items will be carried over between runs, though. Once you’re fired, you lose everything, so meta-progression elements are limited only to your bestiary and your own survival skills. Some players might be put off by this, and many will subsequently ignore customization items altogether since they’ll only be around until you fail to meet the quota.

The moment-to-moment gameplay of Lethal Company is a mix between exploration, stealth, and creative problem-solving. Encounters with monsters are rarely resolved with open combat, and engaging in combat is typically a bad idea unless you are especially well-armed and know what you’re doing. Avoiding death by monsters, environmental hazards, and weather conditions instead requires the knowledge and skill to deal with specific threats.

Using a teammate as spider bait in Lethal Company

For example, some monsters might remain completely still when viewed, while others might become hostile if a player looks at them for too long. Some enemies might be scared off by loud noises, while others might hunt solely by sound. The meta-progression that comes with learning how to survive makes dying a learning experience and creates a fun dynamic between veteran and new players. Knowledgeable players might try to trick newer players into hilarious deaths or do their darndest to keep their friends from suffering the fates that taught them what they know.  

Much of this title’s fun comes from the interactions experienced in multiplayer. Guiding others, trying to trick them into dying in funny ways, working together to meet quota, and the general goofy shenanigans that come from multiplayer games like this are what make the desperate dives and horrifying monster encounters worthwhile. Even players who have perished get a front-row seat from which to watch their unaware companions die in even more comical fashions. There are certainly some good scares and interesting encounters to be had in single-player, but this title thrives on player interaction, and we can’t say we would recommend purchasing this one purely as a solo experience.

Replay value

Not the bees!

Lethal Company boasts some fantastic replay value, especially for those with a group to play with or who enjoy jumping into random lobbies. There are around eight different moons to land on and explore, each with varying environmental hazards and weather effects to deal with. The interior layout of facilities is procedurally generated each time you land, so you’ll probably never see the exact same map twice (though the relatively limited assets might make it seem that way.)

Monsters and threats are randomized, too, with mines, turrets, and more lively entities changing between runs and sometimes depending on what moon you’ve landed on. That is just the current base game, too; there are new updates coming out all the time and a vibrant modding community that lets players add new content and change up their experience.

The greatest returning draw for players will likely be their different experiences and interactions with other players. Sometimes, you might be the first to die and have to watch your friends try to recover your body. Other times, you might be the last employee standing and must make a desperate run for the ship to avoid a team wipe. Regardless of what happens, it’s a lot more enjoyable with friends.

Final thoughts on Lethal Company

Company members pointing at each other

Lethal Company may not compare to higher-budget titles in terms of graphics or polish, but this game has incredible charm and undeniable personality that make it stand out as a crowd favorite. The combination of addictive gameplay, unique threats, hilarious player interactions, and the masterful use of audio all come together into something we haven’t seen before.

Lethal Company is one of those rare gems that doesn’t need impressive graphics, flashy gimmicks, or high-profile IPs to back it up. This relatively simple game holds an incredible depth that is well worth the small price tag for players to experience with their friends.

Aaron Van Dyck's avatar

About Aaron Van Dyck

Aaron Van Dyck is a thriller novelist with a passion for survival games and exploration. He started writing at the age of 13 and has always been drawn to the sense of self-reliance and freedom found in open worlds. An avid urban explorer and RPG enthusiast, he enjoys dungeon crawling and has a particular love for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Far Cry 5, and Cataclysm: DDA. He's also a fan of shooters and action games with immersive stories and unique monsters to encounter.

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