May 16, 2022

The Survivalists – Xbox Series X Review

A dream holiday? Or a nightmare staycation? Well, you can be the judge with our Survivalists review

Published by: Team17

Developed by: Team17

Time Spent Playing: Ten (10) hours+

If I were ever left stranded on a deserted and/or a tropical island, I’d think two things;

  1. “Why did I bother leaving North Wales? Nothing like this ever happens there”, and
  2. “What in the blue Hell am I going to do now?”

So, I’m probably not the best person you’d want in a stranded (dare I ever say, Lost) type scenario.

Heck, I’m going to level with you all; I’ve never even seen Lost. I know, I dodged a bullet there!

So, when the powers that be (namely our Senior Editor in charge of Reviews) bestowed upon me the ability to see how I’d actually fare, I thought I’d at least humour it.

And so, I tried my hands at The Survivalists. Sufficient to say, I was glad to be back on dry, familiar land.

The GPS is Definitely Not Going to Work Here

First and foremost, yes, this game is set in the same universe as The Escapists. You can see that from the similar art style on display. That, and the fact that Team17 made the dang thing.

But how does this sense of familiarity breed into The Survivalists?

Well, from the getgo, you are left to – basically – your own devices. There is a tutorial, but it won’t always be clear and concise on how/what you’re supposed to do.

So, you wander off, deeper into your island that you find yourself on. Oh, yeah. In case you hadn’t deduced yet from A) the title, and/or B) the references I dropped in the intro to this review, The Survivalists takes place on a remote island. It isn’t deserted, as you’ll soon discover. But it isn’t exactly like Misters Star, Bucks, and McDonald’s have landed here yet. So, you’ll have to live the native/castaway life.

There’s a number of trees and bushes you’ll quickly find that you can gain some valuable items from – namely wood, berries, and various fruit. Each of which you can use to craft the usual things you’d expect – weapons, tools, food, and shelter.

And you’ll need to do a lot of looting in the early game whilst you get to grips with what you need. But not too much looting. You only have a certain amount of inventory slots available to carry everything. So, the typical survival-genre trope comes into play; do you keep items A, B, and C whilst sacrificing D to make room for E*? Or, keep what you have until you can dump them all in some chests?

The Travel Agent Didn’t Tell Me About This!

Yes, The Survivalists does provide the player with a number of places to store your finds, from chests to…corpses (hey, we don’t judge. Need’s must, after all). But these places also only have a select amount of space for you to hold items in.

It all sounds fairly mundane if you’re even remotely familiar with the genre. In which case, you’ll know what to expect. The Survivalists doesn’t exactly challenge the norm here.

Another trope it uses is the durability of items. Say you’ve just found a shabby shovel. You can use it, but, after a few uses, it will break. As you progress, you’ll find better and stronger items to use. Of course, you can craft these items at the appropriate stage and with the necessary resources. This will, obviously, eat up your resources, so the aforementioned items A, B, and C might be more necessary than you initially thought.

Of course, again, this is nothing new to the genre. Heck, there are non-survival games that do a similar thing as well just to add depth. So, you’d think it would be something The Survivalists does well, right? Well…

Now, this may be a capability aspect having played it on a console. Or it may even be a personal thing in not being the biggest survival game fan out there. But the whole crafting system (and even equipment system) just seemed rather haphazard to me. It’s like I was given the option to do 100 things to do but could only do two at any one time. The inventory was often muddled and confusing to me. And the crafting was just as unclear.

Again, this could have been because I was playing on console; a platform notoriously unsuited for FPS and large inventory management. It’s simply because you’re expecting a controller to be able to do the same amount of work a keyboard can do. Something is going to get lost in translation.

Shoulda Taken That Left Turn at Alberquerque

Now, don’t get me wrong. If this were in the right hands, they could fathom how to handle all of this and not have an issue. Alas, it isn’t them who is reviewing this, it’s me.

Another area of gripe that stems down from the previous point is the combat system. The islands you find yourself on is inhabited by indigenous fauna, from bats to bucks to sharks. Each one of them can eff you up!

But, it’s the tribes folk that are going to really be a nuisance for you. You’ll be strolling along, looking for your next tree to cut down, when you’ll stumble into a pack of green-skinned ogre-looking creatures. And they are not friendly. They’ll charge you with spears or shoot at you with bows. And they are relentless. An unprepared explorer can quickly find themselves overwhelmed.

Yes, you can fight back. But, at the early stages of the game especially, you’ll be in for a tough time. As mentioned above, you’ll be limited to what you can find and/or craft. If your gear is useless, you’ll have a bigger fight on your hands. Because you’ll have to factor in durability with your own health and stamina.

So, in that case, you’ll probably be best off trying to just run away. Hey, discretion is the best part of valour! Or, at least it is for a short while. See, The Survivalists also has this “raid” mode as part of the gameplay. And, no, this isn’t like those types of raids you’re thinking of. It doesn’t always occur, but you’ll know when it does. Basically, during the night, there is a chance that a number of tribes folk will actively hunt you down. This can be quite daunting.

I thought I was safe when it first happened to me. I had nicely set up a somewhat decent – if not rudimentary – little base around the carcass of an aeroplane. There were walls, there was a bed, there was a little crafting/cooking area. It was lovely. And I thought I would be safe there. How wrong I was. The cheating, cheeky bar-stools broke down some of my walls and savagely beat me up. I was lucky I was close to a tomb (more on that in a second).

?Vacation, All I Ever Wanted. Vacation, Had to Get Away?  

Yes, I made it out with my life, my ego and body: bruised. I had to run like a coward into a nearby tomb, because, for whatever reason, the tribes folk didn’t follow me into there. Maybe it was past their bedtime or something.

So, these tombs are pretty much what you’d expect; they are sunken places where you could find some precious loot. Or you might just find a couple of hobgoblin-looking guys who want to eat you. Luck of the draw, really. It’s easy to find the tombs; they’re denoted by an open, wooden grave with a golden light glowing out of it. Walk into the light and you’re in there. But, expect a few traps if you plan on being the next Cara Loft or Dathan Nake.

Similar to the tombs are the caves. You’ll find rewards if you’re able to get through them. But, you’ll have to get through them first. Some, you’ll find yourself in darkness, being mobbed by some bats, Zubat-style. Others, you’ll find nothing. Again, luck of the draw.

Thankfully, you won’t be on your own through this exotic torture fest. The Survivalists best (and worst) feature are the monkeys that you can befriend and train. Get enough of them, train them properly, and you won’t have to do a thing. However, it is a long process to get them to do anything worthwhile. And the game recommends having one monkey specialise in each activity, so, have one who is good at crafting, for example.

This is great, and the way they learn is really clever, too. It’s literally a game of “monkey see, monkey do”. In other words, you get your primate-mate to watch you do some cooking/crafting/logging/combat, etc. After they’ve watched you do it enough, and, presuming you equipped them with the right equipment, they’ll do it themselves. This can save you so much time. But it can also cost you so much time, as well.

Next Time, I’m Going to Spring for the Travel Insurance

You may have noticed I added that the monkeys were the game’s worst feature (as well as its best). And they are. Whilst they are helpful, they require constant supervision. Have they got enough resources? Do they know how to clear this type of tree yet? Will their equipment survive long enough for me to not get eaten by Chief Grunty? Chances are, they won’t. And you’ll have to recall them (or worse still, go up to them) and get them to follow you away from mischief, or give them a new item. Oh, and they can only hold one item that you give them. So you can’t have him being a digger and a logger, for instance.

Arguably, it’s a great idea. And, presumably, you could have the monkeys do your bidding with enough dedication to them and to the game. But I simply don’t have that. The game is stunning for what it is; the typical look of The Escapists games. There’s a simplistic cartoon aesthetic that doesn’t try too hard, yet is still able to fill out a landscape and make it look full.

Fans of The Escapists (one and/or two), will click with it well. But it might not grab those of you who enjoy your polygons to be a bit more…three-dimensional.

Owing to the visual aesthetics presented in The Survivalists, you might not expect much of a dialogue going on. And you’d be right. Beyond the grunts of the tribes folk and “ooh-ahh-ahh’s” of the monkeys, don’t expect Mass Effect branching dialogue options. Or…any dialogue, for that matter. It makes the whole “I’m lost on a deserted island with no hope of getting off” thing much more foreboding when you can’t speak to/with anyone.

Conversely, the music is, quintessentially, a work of art. From sounds that make you feel like you’re actually on holiday, to a score that is just… “mwah” *French kiss*. Seriously, as…meh as the rest of the game is (for me, personally), one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in a short while. Granted, it’s not going to be remembered past my review. But, for days when I’m in my car, awaiting my next courier job to “ding”, and it’s pissing down with rain outside, I might just slip this bad boy on and disassociate to the Caribbean.

Or, at least, the Caribbean of the UK; Torquay.

Closing Thoughts…

I’ve spent a good deal of this review dumping on The Survivalists. And, in all honesty, that probably isn’t fair. At its heart, it’s a good game that you can easily get lost in. There are plenty of elements to the game that fans of The Escapists and/or survival games can enjoy.

Admittedly, I barely touched on any of those things that you [presuming you fall under the category of “I like The Escapists and/or survival games”] would enjoy from this game. However, as it was from my own perspective, I had to address the points that were relevant to me (and, hopefully, to some of you as well).

It’s a difficult game to ultimately rip to pieces completely. On one hand, I wasn’t a fan of the complexities of the menus and sub-menus. On the other hand, however, Team17 has put a lot of additional post-launch content into the game. There’s plenty of stuff to satiate even the most deprived and needy gamer’s…needs. And, by the looks of things, it is, generally, well praised and well-received by players.

It’s a difficult game to recommend. You need to have a dedication and appreciation of survival games. You need to have a good grasp of a large menu>sub-menu management. In case you missed it, I do not have a good menu management skillset.

The monkeys are also annoyingly cute, and cutely annoying. Stupid monkeys.

In regards to being a survivalist’s (no italics) dream, this one misses the boat. You’d be better off splurging for Green Hell if you’re into your survival games. That one does everything The Survivalists does (bar the trainable monkeys) but…better. Or worse, depending on how you feel about being lost and abandoned in a doomed tropical jungle infested with tribes folk. Plus, it’s in glorious three dimensions.

Ultimately, I score The Survivalists a 4.5/10. It isn’t atrocious by any stretch of the imagination. However, unless you have the time for a proper timesink, or you live for survival games, it probably won’t be your next purchase. Of course, if you do enjoy this type of game, I’m sure you’ll love it. For me, though, I really struggled to find enough enjoyment in it to break the five out of ten mark. Sorry, Team17. I usually love the things you do!

YouTube player

The Survivalists is currently available on Steam, Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch (where, as of the time of press, is currently available for 50% off).


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The Survivalists Review
  • 4.5/10
    Overall - 4.5/10
4.5/10

Summary

The Survivalists is a good game, if you enjoy survival games. Or have a decent mind when it comes to inventory management. If you don’t, you may struggle to find enough enjoyment in it for it to hold your interest long enough to complete it. Depending on how much time you have to invest/how “into” survival games you are, The Survivalists could last you anywhere from 24 to 60+ hours.

Pros

+ Amazing soundtrack

+ Visually pleasant and inoffensive

+ Enough content to keep you going for hours

 

Cons

– Menu management can be quite confusing

– Difficulty spikes hit from the get-go

– Resource management is annoyingly restrictive

– Doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from other entries in the genre

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