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The Survivalists Review

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Fast Facts

The Survivalists

Developer: Team 17
Publisher: Team 17
Website: https://www.team17.com/games/the-survivalists-2/
Genre(s): Adventure, Survival, Exploration, Indie
Platform: PC (Also available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and Playstation)
Age Rating: PEGI 17
Release Date: 09/10/2020
Price: £21.99

A code was provided for review purposes

What one item would you take with you to a desert island? It’s a question frequently asked and one with many answers. Some say they would bring their mobile phone or their favourite book. But in The Survivalists, the question is as irrelevant as these items would be on a remote island. You will start the game stranded, starving and scared on a beach with no connection to civilization; you know, just like in real life. In this sense, The Survivalists is fairly realistic in its setting. However, the morbidity of being stranded on a desert island is whisked away by a cool breeze, sun-soaked beaches, and a wealth of resources to help you survive in the middle of paradise.

Trapped in Paradise

The premise of The Survivalists is simple, you are stranded on a remote island and must survive if you are to ever make it back home. Like its simple premise, the game itself is very much the same. You’ll be required to set out in search of materials to help you survive the island, allowing you to build yourself some shelter, and craft tools to help you find new ways to improve your situation. As such, The Survivalists on a surface level doesn’t feel too distinct from other titles in the survival genre. That being said, it wasn’t long before I was hooked.

What it lacks in substance it makes up for in character. Its somewhat modern-retro art style is beautifully simple, with cutesy 2D character sprites and a vivacious colour palette that make the world feel lively and uplifting. Alongside its charming visuals is a remarkable 8-bit soundtrack that is guaranteed to bring positive vibes to your playthrough. Both come together to create a vibrant world, where nature thrives in almost every corner of the game’s gorgeous sandbox; whether it be on its golden shores or crystal blue seas. It’s the perfect tropical paradise and one that’s an absolute joy to look at and play in. However, you’ll quickly notice that something isn’t quite right and that you may be in more danger than you think.

Meeting the Natives

While the landscape itself is very kind, the locals won’t be so accommodating. Within the first couple of days, you’ll encounter the main enemies of the game, Orcs. To see something other than the undead as foes in a survival game is refreshing, especially given the interesting substitute. However, I can’t say you’ll find them to be all that tough, which may be off-putting to players looking for a challenge. Despite the constant alerts to get to safety, being raided by a group of these vagabonds isn’t exactly the world-ending event it’s hyped up to be. In my experience they come mostly in groups of three, meaning that I was often able to dispatch them all very quickly; and that’s when I was severely underprepared. If you can gather some monkeys and arm them with scimitars, raids will hardly cross your mind.

The character charges an Orc who's aiming an arrow at them.
Duck!

You will find more of a challenge as you travel to new islands, where deadly wildlife such as boars, wolves, and tigers roam in abundance. These creatures pack a far greater punch than that of the Orcs, so you will want to be careful when travelling in search of new lands. Other dangers, such as poison spitting emus and carnivorous plants will add to the overall challenge you’ll face; but generally, it’s pretty easy to manage. By utilising the game’s taming mechanic, you can tame a lot of these animals and even use them to fight their former comrades. Combat never feels like a significant part of The Survivalists, feeling more like a feature implemented out of necessity, but at least it adds a little more variety to the gameplay.

Castaway Crafter

I was quite surprised by the variety of crafting options at my disposal. It’s nothing too special, but the familiarity of working your way up from primitive tools is always nice when trying out a new survival game. At first, I struggled to find how to unlock new things to craft and build, but after a little while, I quickly found my bearings and soon had numerous blueprints available to me. Finding the materials to build things can be a bit confusing, however, it is never too strenuous or stressful and resources can be easily gathered in bulk when you know where to look. This did quickly become a problem for someone like me who likes to keep things organised, but with chests overflowing with materials, I can hardly complain.

On a smaller note, I really appreciate how friendly the crafting menus are, and how easy it is to understand. Blueprint icons are appropriately sized, the UI is neatly structured, and branches connecting certain items are helpful in deciphering what new things you can unlock by crafting the items in that branch. To survival game rookies, ways to make better items might not be as straightforward as they are to pros, but the beauty of this game is that there is no real rush to get the best items straight away.

On-screen is the blueprints menu featuring the layout of and several items listed in the menu.
Look at all those blueprints!

There are some crafting recipes that I feel require way too much of one material, especially when it comes to building. Trying to make a small house had me venturing out numerous times to fetch materials, and by the time I actually got around to building, any ounce of motivation to do so was gone. The same goes for crafting items, as the process for making them increasingly felt unnecessarily dull and sluggish the further I progressed. The game’s crafting system is designed in a simple and accommodating manner that makes it feel incredibly user friendly, but actually doing the work feels like a slog and could definitely use a bit of refining.

Adventure Calling

Another great feature of The Survivalists is how it encourages exploration. While being stranded in the game’s tropical archipelago might not be all that bad, the end goal of the game is to eventually escape; but doing so won’t be so easy. Surrounding the procedurally generated map is a dark and violent storm with mysterious origins. As such, trying to sail through it with a little wooden raft won’t get you far. Thankfully, somewhere in the world lies a broken Galleon, that, once repaired, should be able to sail through with ease. However to find it and the resources needed, you must venture out into the open sea in search of new islands harbouring what you need to get back home.

I was surprised to find that there’s actually a lot of mystery surrounding the game’s tropical sandbox, most notably in the various human remains found across the islands. Numerous cultures ranging from the ancient Romans to the Norse Vikings had ended up stranded where you are now and evidently had little success getting out. I even came across a wrecked fishing boat and the remnants of a plane crash. It doesn’t bode well for your own chances at escaping, but it’s a cool little touch to the world that makes exploration that much more enjoyable.

The player is standing in front of an Aztec looking temple, who's door is closed.
Now, how do I get in there?

You’ll also have the opportunity to partake in some light spelunking as there are several vaults and labyrinths for you to delve through should you be up to the challenge. These areas are laden with foes eager to smite you down, yet should you survive, you’ll be rewarded by any number of treasures; and maybe even a little something to help you escape the island. There’s a solid variety of activities and interesting secrets available to you during your stay on the island, so get out there and explore; while you still can.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Now onto my favourite aspect of The Survivalists. By far the greatest and most unique feature of the game is its monkeys. Monkeys in The Survivalists are far more than just cute little banana eaters, as they serve as efficient little helpers on your survival journey. Thanks to the game’s ‘monkey mimic’ system, monkey’s will learn to do certain tasks based on what you do in front of them. This allows monkeys to do almost any job you can do, and better. Want to gather wood? chop down a tree, give a monkey an axe, and watch him cull an entire forest; need to collect materials? pick something up, store it in a chest, and watch as your primate pal gathers up anything you left lying around.

I can’t think of any other game that lets you assemble your own monkey labour force, and what’s more impressive is how scarily efficient they are at completing tasks. The longer a monkey works at one task, the better they get at it thanks to the levelling system tied to each individual monkey. There truly are no limits to what these little rascals can do, and it only gets better the more monkeys you recruit.

The player is standing next to a workbench and his monkey companions are gathered around him watching intently.
I hope you guys are taking notes…

You’ll find monkeys all over the place, often trapped in cages by those frightened of their remarkable talents. With the right number of monkeys, you’ll have assembled your own construction crew, kitchen staff, or primate militia; whichever you require most. No matter what you need, these little firecrackers can do it, and do it to a high standard. Above all else, what The Survivalists’ monkeys show is that utopia is a reality, a reality that can only be achieved with monkeys. These hardworking primates can work wonders with primitive tools such as axes and shovels, so just imagine what we could achieve if chimps were forklift certified or given degrees in architectural design. Monkeys wouldn’t just work wonders, they’d work miracles.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m absolutely infatuated with the way The Survivalists utilises something as simple as monkeys. The developers could’ve easily just added them as another tameable animal, but instead, they recognised the overwhelming potential within these powerful primates. Monkeys are a key gameplay mechanic that not only add a ton of fun to the overall experience but also help negate the inherent monotony that comes with most survival games. The speed at which you accomplish a goal is practically halved with their help, and for more advanced players with more monkeys, you won’t need to work another day in your life. For solo players, it offers a great substitute in the absence of co-op and lends a unique sense of liveliness to a playthrough. If you’re going to play this game for anything it should be these busy little chimps, who help alleviate the stress of survival with their productive capability and furry charm.

Summary

There are several elements of The Survivalists that make it feel unique, but it’s the culmination of all these elements that make the overall gameplay experience something truly distinct in an oversaturated genre. While many survival games trend towards providing players with a challenge, The Survivalists stands out as a casual survival experience tailored around providing fun and feeling accommodating to all players. It may be lacking in several aspects, but its clever mechanics and vibrant world make this a survival game you’ll not want to miss. It’s very much a small fish in a big pond, but one that makes for a worthy catch nonetheless.

Rapid Reviews Rating

3.5 out of 5

3.5

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