I’ve a love-hate relationship with survival video games. I am going to get deep into them for a great lengthy whereas earlier than abruptly realizing I’m sick of chopping down bushes. 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 one more forest.
Fortunately, 2021 turned out to be a standout yr for survival video games, and I obtained sucked right into a bunch of them. Even chopping down bushes did not trouble me this yr, from Valheim’s ultra-dangerous falling timbers to all of the pine bushes ablaze from lightning strikes in Icarus. And an enormous purpose survival video games had an awesome yr was as a result of so a lot of them had attention-grabbing twists on acquainted survival programs.
In February we obtained Valheim, the open-world Viking journey that swept up tens of millions of gamers who shortly obtained busy constructing forts and conquering the Norse afterlife. Regardless of launching in Early Entry, Valheim felt startlingly full and secure, a formidable achievement for the small crew (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 a particularly vital a part of success and turns your abdomen into a list the place you possibly can combine and match meals that present numerous advantages. You have to prepare dinner and eat, since that is the way you enhance your base well being, your therapeutic fee, and your stamina. With an empty abdomen, you merely cannot struggle, run, or dodge for lengthy, or soak up a lot harm.
On the similar time, you will not ever starve to loss of life and even expertise a debuff should you do not eat. You may all the time retain your beginning quantity of base well being and stamina, even with out consuming. That retains meals a massively vital a part of Valheim with out punishing gamers for ignoring it whereas they’re simply hanging out at dwelling or working round within the principally protected Meadows biomes.
One other tweak of the standard survival guidelines: Repairing weapons, gear, ships, and constructing components do not require additional assets. Normally in a survival sport, if you wish to restore an ax made from iron and wooden, you may want some spare iron or wooden. In Valheim, all you want is a hammer or the proper workbench. Weapon and kit degradation continues to be a factor, and you continue to have to be cautious your axes and bows do not break when you’re out slaying monsters removed from dwelling. However when you’re at a workbench, you possibly can 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 sport. Tribes of Midgard launched in July, and whereas it additionally featured Vikings, co-op, and massive magic bushes, 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 defend your self from harsh parts in sure biomes, however it’s extra of an action-RPG, and the periods are quick however frenzied (there’s additionally a particular survival mode the place periods 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 just a few 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 every little thing you labored for: all of the instruments and weapons you crafted, the assets you gathered, and the bottom you constructed. Nevertheless it seems it is not a drag in any respect. Because of the development system, I used to be in a position to buff my character’s survival expertise so gathering assets occurs a lot faster and I want much less meals, water, and oxygen to outlive, so I will get gadgets crafted and a brand new base constructed way more shortly and simply on every mission.
And to counter the followers’ issues about not with 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 shedding 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 among my favourite survival video games of the yr is Cube Legacy, which actually seems nothing in any respect like a survival sport. It is a city-builder, a colony-management sport, a roguelite, and a survival sport all mashed up into one. You roll cube, however these cube are additionally your residents—they will freeze in winter, endure accidents, and age and die. You may have to feed them, hold them heat, and even hold them comfortable, or they’re going to activate you. You’ll be able to set them to work gathering assets, combating enemies, or researching new tech, and you’ll even flip them into tremendous cube with highly effective talents. Cube Legacy is a very uncommon mixture of genres, and it is an fulfilling shock.
And so far as ongoing survival video games, I obtained into Rust towards the tip 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 need not 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 sting 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 a whole lot of 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 Gentle 2, Stalker 2, area station sim Ixion, and extra are additionally in our close to future. Hopefully, the following batch of survival video games will ship as many adjustments to the components as we noticed in 2021.