How to Survive: review

  • Format: PC, PS3, 360, Wii U (coming later w/o online play)
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: 505 Games
  • Developer: Eko Software
  • Players: 1-2 local and online co-op
  • Site: http://howtosurvivethegame.com/home.php/

Finally, a zombie game where you can escape the zombies for good! Yes, a game with Zombies that is about surviving and escaping; definitively escaping that is. So none of the “we’re going to escape for a minute then have more to deal with later on”, that most similar games have. It’s a nice alternative to the end of the world scenario but how does it stand up to other zombie games?

It utilises a lot of the standard practises of its action RPG brethren: from the isometric view to the way you fight, it’s all pretty similar in setup and if you’re familiar with ARPGs then you know where you stand – in swarms of enemies as you slowly pick away at their numbers. Thankfully it lets you hit multiple enemies at once in melee, so it’s more action based and a little more forgiving than some games in the genre. There are a few issues with aiming for ranged weapons due to the way you have to track targets for critical hits, but generally you won’t have trouble just unloading round after round of scrounged ammunition.

What sets How to Survive apart from standard zombie games is that surviving isn’t just avoiding being eaten; you will have to eat, drink and sleep like a normal human being; otherwise you will slowly cripple your aim, stamina and strength. You can top each bar up by eating, drinking, or sleeping in one of the safe areas. With the exception of sleeping (which you can only do when you are tired), each is easy to keep under control and is easily catered to because of the abundance of water, juicy fruit or edible goods that lie strewn about the islands.

How to Survive lets you play as one of three character archetypes (two if you play in co-op), these being average, powerful and speedy. They have backgrounds as well but its importance is void by never again being used outside of passing references in their individual skill trees. It’s not going to make a huge amount of difference either way with which you choose but it helps skew things to your gameplay preferences more than their specific bonus skills do.

Zombies come in a variety of different forms but none are particularly different from other games save for the zombie animals you come across a little later on. During the night there are creatures that come out, which you can keep at bay with a torch but they’re relatively easy to deal with and don’t ramp up in difficulty later on.

You do also have your fat explosive zombies that can’t be hit in close quarters else they’ll explode; something that is ever frustrating when you only have melee weapons. It feels a little cheap that there isn’t a counter to them aside from ranged weaponry, especially since they knock you down and deal a large chunk of damage to your health. It’s a bigger problem in the challenges since you start without weapons and have to quickly find and build counters for them.

The other special enemies are quite boring as well unfortunately; the giant brutish zombies are very infrequent and previously mentioned night creatures never increase in power or numbers; so you’re left with armoured zombies being the main issue towards the end. Wearing either helmets, body armour or both, armoured zombies deflect hits until you set them on fire, make them explode or remove the helmets and hit/shoot them in the head.

Another draw of the game is crafting weapons; for the most part it works well, everything you need to make weapons should be somewhere on the island – be it hidden or out in the open – but it all takes precious inventory space. Making complex weaponry or even just combining resources for better food can mean dumping things on the ground later in the game only to reposition everything again once it’s all combined. It’s a little fiddly when you have quest items because you’ll (understandably) want to do without dropping them every time you want to heal up or combine food etc.

While not especially tricky, the difficulty does ramp up in challenges as you have to start from scratch with all your weapons. However, any armour and levels you’ve racked up across all the game modes will carry over so you aren’t really going to be too hard pressed to begin with an edge after a few hours of playtime. The Story mode is very relaxed to begin with and ramps up at a fair pace so it scales reasonably well with your skill tree unlocks and weapon availability.

You can also pair up either locally or online for both Story and Challenge modes. So if you find yourself wanting to play with a friend or even a stranger then you can – but even online you will find yourself trapped on the same screen. It makes you stick together a fair bit more than you’ll probably want to, considering hordes of zombies can swamp you easily; especially when they have armour and won’t die easily. The other problem is that if you dislike talking and go in with chat disabled, then you’ll find it difficult to communicate orders especially as certain objectives can only be completed when the person with the item interacts with it.

It’s a game that takes the tried and tested survive against the zombies premise that we’ll all seen a fair few times already but adds some elements that are both fun and interesting. Unfortunately the scale of the game is possibly what limits it so heavily; all the ideas culminate to being good but never great. It feels like it isn’t comfortable going further with the ideas it has; instead opting to play it safe and keep elements quite basic.

critical score 7

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I've done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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