Survivalist (PC) Review
Not so much?
In Survivalist, you play as Joe Wheeler, a hedge fund manager who spent the past year locked away in a survival bunker, ever since civilization collapsed… somehow. That part isn’t really explained. It’s the apocalypse. There’s zombies now. Of course there’s zombies. Survivalist bills itself as a “story-driven survival game,” but unless you’ve been living […]
In Survivalist, you play as Joe Wheeler, a hedge fund manager who spent the past year locked away in a survival bunker, ever since civilization collapsed… somehow. That part isn’t really explained. It’s the apocalypse. There’s zombies now. Of course there’s zombies.
Survivalist bills itself as a “story-driven survival game,” but unless you’ve been living in a bunker for even longer than Joe has, you’ve definitely seen other post-apocalyptic games, books and movies use all these plot devices and character types before, and chances are they did it better. It feels like Survivalist is just going through the motions of what happens in these stories, adding nothing new or interesting.
The dialogue is stiff and utilitarian, and the people you’ll meet don’t leave much of an impression. The character models themselves look pretty generic, and everyone’s clothes seem far too clean considering they’re living out in a desert after the end of the world.
But what Survivalist lacks in story, it makes up for with gameplay. Scavenging items and managing your supplies will definitely keep you busy, not to mention dealing with the infected and looters.
It’s a combination RTS/RPG, and fans of Fallout will certainly find a lot of this familiar. The focus on building your own community and keeping yourself alive sets this one apart, though.
You’ll need to collect weapons, ammo, food, water, medicine, building supplies, and plenty of other items. Every character has a very low carry weight limit, though, making inventory management a chore. You can find backpacks to increase your limit, but those are rare, and even then it’s a pain trying to sort out everything you’ll need. A simple wooden plank, which you’ll of course need plenty of if you’re going to build anything, is heavier than most character’s entire starting weight limit.
Combat is fast-paced and fairly deep. Zombies charge at you full-speed, usually with little warning, so you always have to be on your toes while exploring the massive desert. By moving the mouse while you’re locked on, you can aim at different parts of the body – shoot the legs to slow them down, or aim for the head to get critical hits. It takes a few seconds to line up shots accurately, which will be necessary if you want to conserve ammo.
Also, if you’re playing with a mouse and keyboard, you’ll probably want to rebind your controls right away. The default settings have you awkwardly using the arrow keys to move, and pressing Enter to kick away zombies when they tackle you. Before I changed my controls to a more traditional WASD layout, I was getting bitten constantly just because I couldn’t reach the key in time.
Fighting humans is considerably harder. Everyone seems to have the reflexes of a western gunslinger. I couldn’t even threaten to rob an old lady without her whipping out a pistol and killing me on the spot.
That does encourage you to be civil with everyone you meet, and you’ll be rewarded. You can trade or sell items with just about everyone you meet, and they all keep track of your actions to determine their opinion of you. Certain NPCs can also be persuaded to join your band of survivors.
As your community grows, you can use “Command Mode” to send your party members off on their own, allowing you to multitask.
Every time someone gets attacked when they’re off on their own, you’ll get an alert interrupting whatever your active character is doing. Whether you’re trying to talk to an NPC about details of a quest, or fighting for your life against zombies, the top half of the screen is periodically bombarded with text boxes telling you “I’m in trouble!” followed a few seconds later by “Got him!” So, good to know that was nothing to worry about.
Your party member’s AI is generally good enough that they can complete their tasks on their own,but if the alert system was less intrusive, I’d be more willing to take advantage of what should be a really cool and useful feature. I generally preferred to keep my party together, mostly just to have strength in numbers. For more tedious tasks, like hauling building materials back to your base, the Command Mode is a godsend.
Survivalist doesn’t really do anything you haven’t seen before, but it’s a pretty impressive indie effort. Despite the lackluster storytelling, there’s plenty to explore and do in a massive open world, and you can’t find a much better deal for the price. You can find Survivalist on Desura.