There’s nothing quite like a good survival game. The blank state as you start from nothing, the constant anxiety as your vitals continually drop and the ever-present threats that surround you combine to create an experience that is unlike any other in gaming. The latest survival game to enter the arena is The Survivalists, a 2D top-down survival game set in the same universe as prison-escape simulator The Escapists. It’s another good survival game that is fun to play, even if it won’t set the world on fire.
Awakening on a deserted island and nothing in your pockets, you’re immediately tasked with ensuring your immediate survival in The Survivalists and then earn enough gold to buy a key and make your way to another island. That isn’t particularly hard to do in the early game, as The Survivalists eschews the brutal difficulty of many other survival games. Instead, the focus of the game is more on exploration and automation, as the general vague threat of starvation hangs over you. There are no complex systems of starvation, hydration and exposure to deal with, as the game slims its survival system to just starvation and a health bar. It’s a simplicity that is somewhat refreshing, given the focus on complexity that comes with many survival games, but it will definitely be a turn off for those that prefer those more complex systems. The one real point of frustration with that simplicity is your inventory being a single bar, which causes plenty of issues and retreading as you collect resources and quickly fill it up.
Similarly, the game’s crafting system is simplified in comparison to other survival games. Instead of super complex menus and hundreds of different items to make, The Survivalists focuses in on a smaller array of items. You initially begin with only a single building and resource to create, with your repertoire expanding as you unlock more recipes on a grid by crafting the adjacent items. This keeps the game focused as you progress, instead of leaving you wallowing with thirty different types of wall, ceiling and floor to construct. The one issue is that this forces you to craft items you might not want in order to unlock everything, but it’s a relatively minor problem.
Simplicity really is a continuing theme with The Survivalists, as the game’s combat is simple to the point where it becomes largely disengaging. While you can craft and find a range of different weapons in the game, the way combat works doesn’t really change. A dodge roll here, a simple combo chain here, a shot from a bow on occasion and you’ve basically got the general gist of combat. I found myself relatively disengaged with the game’s combat, especially given most enemies are relatively easy to dispatch.
What all of this simplicity and relatively chill difficulty does is create a generally casual vibe to the game, where exploration and creativity is allowed to flourish. Instead of worrying about immediate starvation constantly, you’re able to spend time exploring the island you’re on and building a base of operations. There’s tombs and dungeons to explore, with treasures to find and sell, totems to appease which will then give you rewards for your offerings and plenty of space to build your base. Building involves dropping blueprints of the ground, which are then filled and built, allowing you to clearly plan your base ahead of time.
Where The Survalists begins to set itself apart from some other survival games is through its use of automation. This comes in the form of Monkeys, which you can effectively recruit to your cause and command to do your bidding. This comes in the form of mimicry. You perform the action you want a monkey to take and it then begins repeating that over and over. As you recruit more monkeys, this increases the complexity of chains you can automate. Get one monkey smashing rocks, another collecting the resources from them and placing them in a storage box, another crafting hand axes and then giving those back to the original monkey. You can even train monkeys to support you in battle, which quickly makes combat trivial. It’s an interesting system that can get as deep as you want, assuming you want to spend the time performing actions for the monkeys to mimic.
Overall, The Survivalists is a relatively chill and uncomplicated survival game. The difficulty level is quite low, with the game instead focussing on exploration, building and crafting as the main drawcards. It doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, but it also doesn’t do anything particularly poorly. If you’ve been interested in survival games in the past but were turned off by high difficulty levels and complexity of systems, this is the game for you.
The Survivalists was reviewed on an Xbox One X with a review copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on Nintendo Switch, PC and PlayStation 4. For more information, check the official website.
- A chill survival experience - Great tutorials for those new to the game - Monkey automation is interesting to play with
- Simplicity will be a turn off for some - Tiny inventory space