How To Survive (A Game, Not A Guide)

In January, I went through a phase where I wanted to play some survival-type games. Perhaps I was inspired by the news that H1Z1 rushed itself out the door too soon came to Steam Early Access. I already had TUG and Don’t Starve, but they never really grabbed me. (I keep hoping TUG will improve.) I have a bunch of these kinds of games on my Steam wishlist, but as I’m sure you know, 99% of them are still Early Access (including TUG), so I tried to find something else.

I settled on How To Survive because it was cheap at $15, had mostly good reviews, and had achieved the near-impossible task of actually being finished.

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How To Survive’s basic gameplay involves finding things to eat and drink, killing zombies, and finding and clearing out shelters to sleep in before you get tired. At night, you have to tread carefully because of these weird Gollum-like creatures that stalk you, but run away if you point a flashlight at them. And along the way you pick up pieces and parts that combine together to make bows and armor and guns and gadgets that help you. And there’s a simple leveling progression system so you gain experience points for completing quests and select skills from a tree now and then.

It’s a fun, quirky game that’s reminiscent of a real-time Fallout. Especially in the way some zombies blow up. If you shoot one of the fat zombies, they explode into gruesome chunks and leave a huge red smear on the ground. (And damage you if you’re standing too close.) And there is a pretty funny Survival Guide (Kovac’s Rules!) that pops up now and then to explain the game mechanics.

(Possibly a mildly spoiler-ish video below, as finding a new Rule is a fun carrot in the game.)

And there are talking monkeys.

You’ll run across headstones all over the place that show where other players in other games have died (including yourself!). It’s a bit like Dark Souls in that way. You never actually see those other players, but you can get a pretty good idea of where the dangerous parts of the map are from the number of graves.

Staring at my own grave.
Staring at my own grave.

It was a leap of faith for me to buy a game with a Diablo-style isometric-ish kind of view, because they aren’t my favorite. I’ve grown to dislike that viewpoint over the years for one simple reason: I hate that I can’t see what’s beyond the edges of the screen. I should be able to see over there. I mean, my guy is standing right there. It’s like a stone’s throw away. I can see that he can see past the edge of the screen, so why can’t I see there?? Left-click-drag, left-click-drag. Nothing!

And it’s always something really dangerous that’s just off the edge of the screen, too. You’d think my guy could warn me about that. Just a simple chat bubble would be nice. “Get ready,” or “Don’t make me go over there!”

Other than that, the biggest negative in the game that I’ve seen so far is the same drawback that almost every game with an inventory has: Not enough inventory space. If I’m supposed to gather things and combine them together to make stuff, I want to gather everything. But even after making a couple of pouches, eventually you’ll start running out of space and have to drop something to pick up the thing you want, and that’s a painful chore.

So far I’ve played about five hours, which I figure is close to the break-even point on a $15 purchase, when you consider an HD movie rental is $5 or $6. And I can see myself playing it now and then in the future, at least until I finish the “campaign.” After that I think there are “challenges” to complete where they drop you somewhere on a map and ask you to survive. All-in-all, How To Survive is a surprisingly fun diversion.

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