I had quite a bit of trepidation as I sat down to play The Survivalists. On one hand I love games like Stardew Valley and Graveyard Keeper. On the other hand I really have no time sinks like Ark: Survival Evolved. So it would be interesting to see where my thoughts on the Survivalists ended up.
The trailer instantly had my attention. The jaunty music and pixelated graphics said this was a game I was going to enjoy. The fact that The Survivalists was developed by Team 17 ( a legendary developer from my childhood) really didn’t hurt matters either.
The Survivalists, like the best games, has an incredibly simple storyline. Your ship was sailing through a storm, possibly may be passed through a green portal and woke up on a beach without a single item to your name.
You must explore the islands and discover their secrets. Will you succumb to the dangers of the island? Will you end up eaten by a tiger or killed by a goblin? Can you uncover the secrets of the islands vaults and labyrinths? Can you find a way to escape?
The Survivalists looks like a nice little game on the surface but after just an hour of playing, you realise there is a fair bit of content here. After about 10 hours of playing you realise there is a hell of a lot more than you first thought.
Right at the beginning of the game, our main focus is surviving. How do you survive on an island with absolutely nothing in your inventory? Collecting a couple of pebbles from the beach allows you to craft a simple hand axe…20 hours later I had 2 metal wall enclosed camps capable of making anything in the game. Oh, and they were connected by a teleporter!
Crafting is simple, quick and easy. The layout of crafting recipes means it is incredibly easy to see what you need to do to unlock new recipes. Simply make the item and the squares it is attached via a white line will unlock. It is really that easy.
Crafting takes place over five different areas. Handcrafted, Buildings, Cooking, Forge and Crafting Table. Hand Crafted is the simple items that are all you can make at the very beginning meaning you are restricted to weapons such as weapon and bone clubs. The build menu is self-explanatory. This is where you will build the structures of your camp such as campfires, forge, beds etc.
There is no permadeath in The survivalists but if you do die you will drop everything you were carrying. This means that while you can run back to the spot you died and recover all your worldly belongings you better remember where it was that you died because the game won’t show you on the map.
The crafting table is where you make more complicated items such as bedding and sails, wooden planks and tools. Finally, the campfire is probably the most important part of crafting.
It really doesn’t matter if you have a shiny golden sword or flimsy one. if you have no food you are going to starve to death. It is that simple. Sleep isn’t really an issue in The Survivlialsts ( there are bonuses that I will come back to later) but you can quite happily and constantly work through the day and night cycles of the Island.
However, your hunger will decrease over time and once you get to the point of starving you will start losing health. Also, if you have lost health in combat eating will replenish health. No matter what you are doing in-game and where you are going it is incredibly important that you are stocked up with plenty of food. This is gonna sound stupid but eating really is the key to survival.
Probably the second most important thing in The Survivalists is a bed. The better the bed you make the better the health and stamina bonuses you receive. From a simple bed that only gives you a nights sleep and does nothing for you to a gold bed the refreshes you so much you awake with 50% more health and 100% more stamina.
While these bonuses can be incredibly helpful. A bed is the ONLY place in The Survivalists that you can save the game. There is no autosave. There are no save points. Quite simply go to sleep and save your game. Forget to do that and turn the game off and you have just lost all your progress!
Also, a little friendly tip. DON’T GO TO SLEEP HUNGRY you will not receive any benefits and you will possibly wake up starving and close to death!
Combat in The Survivalists is incredibly simple. Have a weapon? Great! Press Y to use it. don’t have a weapon? Sucks to be you cos you can’t even through a punch! All you can do is run for the hills! or the beach. Or the jungle depending on whereabouts you are.
Weapons and tools degrade with use and can’t be repaired so more often than not it is wise to carry at least two weapons with you. You may find weapons while exploring but whether you know how to use it effectively is another matter.
Yeah, I know I said that simply pressing Y uses your weapon (as long as you have it equipped) but the different weapons act differently. Swords are the easiest to use as they pressing Y will swing and hit its target, Spears simply jab directly in the direction you are facing and can be extremely effective whilst bow and arrows are slightly more difficult as you can either press Y to fire in the direction you are facing or hold Y and aim. While aiming is more accurate it does take a couple of seconds more which could be the difference when a tiger is coming at you full speed with its jaws open.
An Army of Monkeys!
Yep, you read that header correctly. Probably the most unique part of The Survivalists is the use of monkeys. Whilst on your adventures you may find a monkey in a cage. Smash the cage up and the monkey will now join you. Alternatively, you will encounter monkeys in the wild and for a bowl of monkey meal, they will join you.
Now you have your Lil monkey helpers what can you do with them? I hear you shout. Your initial instinct will be to equip your monkey with a weapon and teach it to fight. While this is incredibly effective, at one point I had 13 monkeys following me and 8 of them geared up to fight. Battles were over in mere seconds, There is so much more.
You can have monkeys craft equipment, gather resources. basically, if you can do it then you can teach a monkey to do it.
My biggest tip for your monkeys is to build a large chest and have a monkey carry it. This will instantly put an end to any inventory woes you have while exploring.
As I mentioned above, the use of monkeys is probably the most unique aspect of The Survivalists and it is implemented so well it is not only a highlight but a selling point as well!
As you explore the island you will come across vaults and labyrinths. These are procedurally generated dungeon maps that hold great rewards in the forms of chests, monkeys and a certain something that maybe instrumental in you escaping back to civilisation.
The dungeons have a few puzzles in them which at the beginning are quite devious but once you have completed the first two labyrinths the rest becomes quite easy.
They make a nice change of pace from the rest of the game and while the vaults may not seem that impressive to start with they become incredibly important later on.
There is a lot more I could talk about in regards to The Survivalists but I would be skirting close to spoiler territory and this review has gone on long enough already.
I thoroughly enjoyed every second of my time with The Survivalists. I completed the game in around 30 hours but to be fair I did rush through the last half of the game.
I feel a somewhat sense of regret for rushing like I did as I would have loved to have spent a lot more time exploring, building and quite simply living a pretty decent life on the island.
The Survivalists is a wonderful gem of a game. It is without a doubt a bit of a time sink but in the most wonderful way. You can pop on for 15 mins to just gather some metal and build that new bed and suddenly the sun is coming up and you are due in work in a couple of hours.