I’ve a love-hate relationship with survival games. I am going to get deep into them for an excellent lengthy whereas earlier than abruptly realizing I’m sick of chopping down trees. After which I am going to go chilly on the style for some time. Finally, I am going to keep in mind how a lot I like survival and get drawn again in once more, even when it means sharpening an ax and clearing yet one more forest.
Fortunately, 2021 turned out to be a standout yr for survival video games, and I received sucked right into a bunch of them. Even chopping down timber did not trouble me this yr, from Valheim’s ultra-dangerous falling timbers to all of the pine timber ablaze from lightning strikes in Icarus. And a giant purpose survival video games had an important yr was as a result of so a lot of them had fascinating twists on acquainted survival programs.
In February we received Valheim, the open-world Viking journey that swept up tens of millions of gamers who shortly received busy constructing forts and conquering the Norse afterlife. Regardless of launching in Early Entry, Valheim felt startlingly full and secure, a powerful achievement for the small workforce (5 individuals!) at Iron Gate Studios. And Valheim is interesting even for gamers who do not sometimes go for survival video games or who discover sure survival programs a drag. As Fraser wrote a pair weeks after Valheim launched, it is extra forgiving than many survival video games whereas nonetheless being a harmful and difficult expertise.
I’ve harped on this earlier than, however a part of Valheim’s genius was its twists to widespread survival programs. It retains meals and cooking an especially necessary a part of success and turns your abdomen into a list the place you may combine and match meals that present varied advantages. It’s good to cook dinner and eat, since that is the way you increase your base well being, your therapeutic charge, and your stamina. With an empty abdomen, you merely cannot struggle, run, or dodge for lengthy, or take up a lot harm.
On the identical time, you will not ever starve to dying and even expertise a debuff in the event you do not eat. You may at all times retain your beginning quantity of base well being and stamina, even with out consuming. That retains meals a massively necessary a part of Valheim with out punishing gamers for ignoring it whereas they’re simply hanging out at dwelling or operating round within the largely secure Meadows biomes.
One other tweak of the standard survival guidelines: Repairing weapons, gear, ships, and constructing elements do not require additional assets. Often in a survival recreation, if you wish to restore an ax fabricated from iron and wooden, you may want some spare iron or wooden. In Valheim, all you want is a hammer or the right workbench. Weapon and equipment degradation continues to be a factor, and you continue to have to be cautious your axes and bows do not break whilst you’re out slaying monsters removed from dwelling. However when you’re at a workbench, you may shortly restore your gear with out having to do any tedious useful resource gathering. Valheim retains the significance of those survival programs intact with out making them a drag.
One other enjoyable twist on survival in 2021 was the session-based survival recreation. Tribes of Midgard launched in July, and whereas it additionally featured Vikings, co-op, and large magic timber, it is nothing like Valheim. The survival programs in Tribes of Midgard are fairly streamlined—it’s good to collect assets, craft gadgets and weapons, improve your base, and shield your self from harsh parts in sure biomes, however it’s extra of an action-RPG, and the classes are brief however frenzied (there’s additionally a particular survival mode the place classes can final for much longer). And Icarus, from Dean Corridor and RocketWerkz, arrived in December with one other tackle session-based survival. Gamers land on an alien planet and spend wherever from a number of days to a couple weeks finishing missions earlier than blasting again off.
I used to be a bit skeptical of Icarus as a result of everytime you blast off and depart the planet behind, you lose the whole lot you labored for: all of the instruments and weapons you crafted, the assets you gathered, and the bottom you constructed. But it surely seems it’s not a drag in any respect. Because of the development system, I used to be capable of buff my character’s survival abilities so gathering assets occurs a lot faster and I would like much less meals, water, and oxygen to outlive, so I can get gadgets crafted and a brand new base constructed far more shortly and simply on every mission.
And to counter the followers’ considerations about not having the ability to construct everlasting bases like they do in additional conventional survival video games, Icarus shipped with particular outpost maps the place gamers might construct with no deadlines and no worry of dropping their fort after they depart. Between missions I drop right down to my peaceable little map and do a little bit of constructing and crafting. It is a soothing respite between the damaging missions.
One in all my favourite survival video games of the yr is Dice Legacy, which actually seems to be nothing in any respect like a survival recreation. It is a city-builder, a colony-management recreation, a roguelite, and a survival recreation all mashed up into one. You roll cube, however these cube are additionally your residents—they’ll freeze in winter, undergo accidents, and age and die. You may must feed them, maintain them heat, and even maintain them completely happy, or they’re going to activate you. You may set them to work gathering assets, combating enemies, or researching new tech, and you may even flip them into tremendous cube with highly effective talents. Cube Legacy is a extremely uncommon mixture of genres, and it is an pleasurable shock.
And so far as ongoing survival video games, I received into Rust towards the top of the yr, which continues to impress me with how a lot it is grown and adjusted because it first appeared again in 2013. I needn’t blow its horn—Rust has been within the Steam high 10 for ages and elevated its participant base much more this yr, and it continues to get new options like underwater labs, underground rail networks, army bases, quest-giving NPCs, and a bunch extra. There are additionally plans for a system the place gamers can sail off the edge of the map on one server and arrive on one other.
It is nice to see so many new twists on survival programs in 2021, and I am hopeful 2022 will proceed the pattern. There are numerous survival video games to sit up for: Ark 2 is due out this yr, Sons of the Forest (the follow-up to The Forest) is coming in Could, and Dying Mild 2, Stalker 2, area station sim Ixion, and extra are additionally in our close to future. Hopefully, the subsequent batch of survival video games will ship as many modifications to the components as we noticed in 2021.