A young survivalist’s adventure has caught themself in a terrible thunderstorm out in the open seas and in the aftermath, they’re washed ashore on a deserted island with nothing but a few resources and the land to live off of. In The Survivalists, you’ll hunt, gather, craft and even train monkeys in order to thrive off of what could otherwise be the castaway’s death sentence. After the commercial success of the first two entries in The Escapists series, a new setting and a brighter coat of paint may be just what it needs to stay relevant.
I certainly have a soft spot for castaway survival games. There’s something satisfying about being stranded with nothing but what the island has to offer, gathering resources and crafting to better survive and explore further uncharted land. However, one issue that I keep running into with games such as this is inventory management and the frustration that comes with crafting. The Survivalists does not improve on these aspects as I often found myself having to shuffle inventory around just to simply craft a simple object. Doing this resulted in a significant portion of my playtime swapping out items from my inventory to one of my many storage chests in order to fulfil a simple action. It makes sense in a real-life context however for a cartoonised video game, a more streamlined process could have made the game much more intuitive and enjoyable.
A big part of The Survivalists is finding, befriended and training monkeys. These energetic helpers will do all of the work that you don’t want to do, such as crafting items and building structures that would otherwise cost you time and stamina. You can also have your monkeys aid you in combat and this becomes a must as you explore further into cavernous dungeons. The frustrating end of this is that if their item/weapon breaks on them, they will no longer be able to assist. The tool durability system is understandable along with the crafting mechanic, similar to that of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, but the difference is that you need to make sure that you are well prepared before venturing out past your safe haven home otherwise you’ll die.
Playing The Survivalists online with friends is absolutely the best way to experience it. Not only does it make the game simpler when you can delegate tasks and share the load, but it’s also just a whole lot of fun this way. This is the reason why co-op adventure games have become so popular; they bring people together and make an enjoyable experience something to share.
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The world and the islands burst with materials to collect. With the game’s requirement to have you live off of the land, you are always made aware of having to forage (or hunt) for food and ensuring that you have all that you need before venturing outward. This makes the game require a much more strategically cautious approach than one would initially expect. You don’t want to sail out on your new raft as soon as you build it as you can easily find yourself without hope if you’re not prepared enough. Also, without the help of your monkey friends, the world may seem intimidating, which is why you’ll need to be conscious not to bite off more than you can chew.
Story / Personality
The plot doesn’t take much liberty on the castaway theme; you’re shipwrecked, you float in on a bunch of logs and immediately have to live off of the land. The plot (or rather, lack thereof) progresses in the sense that you create your own narrative, taking out hostile orc-like enemies, delving into ancient dungeons and being one with the land. As you sail to distant islands, you’ll come across new nuances and tid-bits, such as an old diary entry or an intricate visual detail. From a personality standpoint, it’s light-hearted and funny, but never laugh-out-loud funny. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and knows when to poke fun at itself.
Graphics / Art Direction
If you’ve ever played The Escapists, you’ll know what to expect here. The Survivalists is made in the same engine and whilst sharper with brighter colours, it can still come across as clunky and outdated. There’s a lot of personality to be mentioned in its visual presentation and it fits the bill well, often coupled with a wink and a nod to the series’ past.
Music / Sound Design
The opening theme music carries its tropical deserted island theme with a pinch of comedic bop. When you start playing, The Survivalists opts to place a lot of the audio focus on the natural sounds of birds chirping and monkeys ooking. There are certainly audio cues and it will ramp up in intensity appropriately when entering combat or dangerous territory, which is all you can ask for from a functioning standpoint, really.
Final Score: 73%
Is The Survivalists a fun game? Absolutely! Is it void of frustration? Absolutely not! Inventory management still remains a key frustration in castaway games and building off of the same model that was The Escapists would always come with its fair share of clunky UI. Will that all being said, exploring the islands, befriending helper monkeys and discovering secrets is a whole lot of fun, especially when sharing the experience with friends and family.
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