REVIEW: Survival Games: Season 1

Given XBLIG’s recent plight, its various brushes with death, and the lack of new games worthy of a look, it’s been rare to come across a release that you can truly be excited about. Survival Games Season 1 ($1.00) is certainly unassuming at first glance, easy to pass off as another Minecraft clone. However, I can say— unequivocally— that this is one of the better games to hit the indie marketplace in 2014.

Survival Games comes across as Minecraft meets Hunger Games meets Stephen King’s Under The Dome1 meets a first-person shooter2. Yes, that’s a mouthful. It’s also a cocktail of awesome, a mashup of different styles and scenes that work rather well together. The scope of this game is impressive by any standard, but especially so for an indie. Developer 2.0 Studios has experience building crafters on the service, but they’ve truly created something great here that everyone should play. When it all runs smooth, that is.

Survival Games Season 1 - Screen

To start with, Survival Games is not a ‘block world crafter’. Despite its appearance, despite any inferred comparisons, you are not building square worlds of your own design here. Survival Games is a first-person shooter first and foremost, specializing in online PvP battles for up to sixteen players3 across a large and random landscape. All that said, it’s not the FPS components themselves that thrill, but rather the ancillary parts that join together and compliment it. While your main objective is to eliminate other players and be the last player standing (YOLO is the theme here, almost roguelike), there is more to the matter of surviving than just, well… surviving.

As the title implies, your survival depends on a multi-pronged approach. Other players aren’t your only concern. You’ve also got to manage your hunger and sleep levels, as well as a stamina meter directly tied to your actions. Things like running, jumping, and attacking all use stamina, forcing you to strike a balance and constantly look for ways to improve your lot. Survival Games is nothing if not accommodating… to an extent. You’ll have to hunt animals for food, look for berries / mushrooms in the environments, even take a nap when your energy runs low (and the coast is clear, natch). Customizable perks can mitigate some of this, or give you an advantage in other instances. A playable tutorial acquaints you with the basics, and a few matches in, you’re already (mostly) a pro.

Foraging for food applies to your weaponry and equipment as well. The randomly-drawn world contains scattered loot chests, holding a number of swords, guns, grenades, and armor, among dozens of other useful (and sometimes not-so-useful) items. You can equip new clothing to your character, playing dress up and giving a boost to certain stats, or go the ‘hypochondriac’ route and carry around a stockpile of food and / or healing items in your backpack.

All of these items are coded according to quality, including rare and epic weapons / equipment. You can draw a Ghillie suit from one, say, or a pirate outfit and eye patch from another. Night-vision goggles will give you an edge at night, as do torches, and there’s even a Harry Potter-style map that fills in as you walk and tracks other players in real-time4. While exploration and improvisation are key, combat is inevitable. To that end, the game has a ‘sudden death’ option, speeding up the fight as the dome slowly closes in on you (pro tip: don’t mess with the dome) and the other combatants.

Survival Games Season 1 - Screen2

The resulting gameplay is incredibly dynamic, allowing for a number of clever events’ and firefights. Just take this montage of moments I’ve had with the game so far— 1. Finding a hidden weapons cache behind a waterfall, Zelda-style. 2. Setting up a bear trap just inside the house I was sleeping in, killing my would-be intruder. 3. Lighting a campfire in an open field at night, then hiding in the woods and waiting for players to show up and ambush them. 4. Being killed by the very same wildcat I was hunting just a moment prior to my death. 5. C4 on a castle bridge = awesome escape from other players.

Of course, all of this requires a community to be effective, and Survival Games has the beginnings of one. As host, you can tweak a number of game factors, including starting loadouts, map size, player counts, and modifiers to the hunger / sleep component. On the flip side, this amount of choice, as well as its ambitious design, comes with some serious drawbacks. I was routinely dropped from matches (particularly those with more players), the game crashed on me a few times, and there’s noticeable lag that can pop up at any time. These issues will undoubtedly be settled in future updates, but it’s worth noting the game is far from perfect in its current form.

Online hiccups and other issues aside, Survival Games Season 1 is the best reason in a long time to come back to XBLIG. While its options and game modes may ultimately be finite, its more unique elements and random outcomes promise almost limitless possibilities. Fun is a constant. If you have a dollar, a few friends, and a bit of patience, you owe it to yourself to spend it here.

  1. The book, anyway. It’s 1,000 pages long, but an excellent read. I can’t vouch for the ongoing TV series. 
  2. I’m sure there’s plenty of mods / tweaks for Minecraft on PC that do this already, but it’s a console first, as far as I know. Yes, Avatar Survival Games did the Hunger Games first, but nowhere near the size and scale that’s on display here. 
  3. I regularly found games with five to six players, even a few that ran up to ten(!). By XBLIG standards, this is good. 
  4. Mischief managed. 

31 thoughts on “REVIEW: Survival Games: Season 1”

    1. @jordan: Agreed. Certainly one of the most unexpected, in terms of fun and depth. Nice to see Devs support their game (and the XBLIG service at large) after release.

      @ImTheMetalLord: Still no games, eh? Maybe the casual group has moved on, and it’s only groups of friends that jump on. I thought it would’ve had staying power, but XBLIG is so fickle, you need to jump on the new release stuff right away.

  1. I just bought this game about 25 mins ago. Took a long time to download a 70mb file that would normally download in an instant. Then when I tried to start the game the first time it froze my system and I had to turn off my console by pushing the button on the console. Then when my system booted back up I tried to play the game again…this time it took me offline…did an update then signed me back in and the blue “Indie game” screen showed up and then it signed me out again and I waited and waited then I came here. Now that I took a few mins to type this I’m going to go check to see where my system is at. Froze or still sitting on the black screen where I left it.

    OK it was still on a black screen and when I tried to go back to the home screen my system froze again. I must admit I’m not very happy about now over 30 mins I’m not able to play this game. I’ll update this later after I reboot my system again.

    1. OK…after that final reboot then I tried a different game to see if it was my system and that game worked so I came to this game and it worked..but there isn’t anyone playing it right now. 😦

    2. Man, that sounds like quite the ordeal you had. 😉

      Been awhile since I’ve had similar issues, but I know what you’re talking about. I still don’t know what causes the occasional stutters / freezes during certain indie games for me, but I feel it’s at least partially related to having so many indie games on the hard drive / cache issue. I’m always hovering at near-capacity too, so that might something to do with it as well. At least you figured out / got lucky with your situation…

      … just to find nobody online! 😀

      I went to check the 2.0 forums just now, and people are still actively posting on there. Could have just been the wrong time of day to jump on. I’m hoping that’s it, instead of people abandoning the game already. That’s the risk with XBLIGs of course, which is why it’s risky to put all one’s eggs in the online basket. Survival Games has a better chance than most, though, and they seem committed to pumping out updates and additional games.

    3. Should be worldwide (seemed like I was playing with a lot of UK folks in my games), but the timing could be an issue after the initial community of players moves on. I know I hosted a match a couple of times, and waited for people to file in, so you might try that route. Even a match with four players can be a tense experience, not knowing who or what to expect. Just hope you don’t get some asshole that kills you right at the start while you’re searching the initial treasure chests, otherwise you’re in for a long wait (or better off quitting).

    4. I’ve repeatedly run into issues with my Xbox and XBLIG games signing me out; Xbox support says it is that too much of my memory is taken up with indie games.

      I don’t think I even need to comment about the level of support XBLIG must have received if that is a known problem for Xbox. Their solution was to delete unused games!

      But this game is worth it. I’ve played around with it a few hours and although there is a lengthy tutorial and the controls can be a bit fidgety, it is worth it. Scads of fun that I don’t think any game outside of Minecraft itself has really worked like.

    5. @andregurov: I’ve never contacted Support personally, but I know someone mentioned that somewhere. I’ve tried to be good about erasing old XBLIG demos / games I’m no longer going to play, but it’s turned into a year-end cleanup, and I haven’t done it recently… :/

      No surprise from me on the solution they gave you. I’m shocked they could even begin to troubleshoot XBLIG, given the sad situation that was. I believe it was literally down to one guy that handled everything related to XNA, and even he’s been shuffled off elsewhere. Back in July / August, when XBLIG went down for those few weeks, I remember seeing those posts on their forums, with Devs pooling together their problems for another Dev to try and pass along the issues to someone within the company that he knew. If that’s not a indicator of where XBLIG / XNA sits with the company, I don’t know what is.

      But, back on the topic of Survival Games, the Devs just sent me over a forum link with all the changes / improvements in the first patch. Sounds like it’s already live, so you should get the update the next time you log in:

      They said the next update after that will add some new items (!), so I’m curious for that one. Might wait for that and hope to find some games then. 🙂

    6. I’m still not able to find a match…I’ve tried 2 more times. I guess I need to be more patient maybe. This is why I don’t normally buy multiplayer XBLIG.

    7. Yeah, you may have to wait a bit more. That’s not fun, but I’ve occasionally set up a match in XBLIG, then wandered away from the game for fifteen minutes or so. It doesn’t always work, but one or two people eventually pop in. When that happens, I usually send them a message really quick, saying ‘I’m waiting for other players, don’t leave, be patient’, etc. Things you gotta do, I guess…. 🙂

      I always wanted to try and set up ‘game nights’ for certain XBLIGs, to see if we could get a crew of people together, but this review game of mine has me constantly shifting focus to new titles. It’s literally done with one and on to the next. Especially this past week, with a few different Dev requests coming in. Things have been picking up again, which is good news for all.

    8. That would be a great idea and I see why you yourself couldn’t necessarily be there but maybe since there is at least a handful of us that regular this site we could get something like that going. Like maybe if you made a new blog page with that idea and we could run with it. Like maybe we could figure out a night for it….let day of the week and a certain time and then vote for the game we are going to play. Like bowling night but for us video nerds….maybe twice a week so that way if you can’t make one maybe you can make the other and some may be able to attend both. Personally my time/days are limited especially at night but I know there are those across the pond. DUDE make it happen. LOL

    9. Hey, you guys want to organize something in the comments section / Twitter / whatever, I’ll be more than happy to promote the thing as much as I can. Put out a tweet the day of, as a reminder, see what happens. Odds are, though, like you said, that there’ll be a lot of conflicting schedules. Not to mention, this is probably the worst time of year for it, with the Holidays and all the new AAA releases. 😀

  2. I won’t lie Tim, you got me interested. Guess survival games are the new zombies. You know, everything that swallows, sucks, and have no brains tend to be liked by people, just like zombies and strippers (I hope they not read this comment). I read the review and play a bit of the demo, the lan thing not the tuturial, althoug it was by myself I can see the appeal. But… my only friends and have seen them naked and I have to pay them to be around me. so here’s my question: How is the online community so far in this game? The only online game that got me hooked counting indies and AAA was the deatmathes in GTA Online. You know how much I value a dollar, and between that hamburguer that rise my blood pressure, that stripper that lower my self steem after i leave the place because I”m lonely and a Indie Game is a tough choice. Btw I voted for Shipwreck, I wanted to go with Survivalist but I dont know, that top down Zelda charm can’t be beaten.
    As they say, is not which boob you grab is for how long you hold it, this can be a good game but without a online community that keep it alive, it not worth it for me.

    1. Survival games might be the ‘It’ thing right now, but I get the feeling that zombies will always be the ‘new’ zombies. Everybody loves zombies… well, until you play half a dozen games with them in it.

      The tutorial doesn’t give players much to go on as far as the total experience, but the community IS there for the moment. Too early to tell if they will still be around a month from now. I will say this: the fact that there was anyone playing an XBLIG online is a good sign. The last three or four online games that I reviewed, I never once found another player to match up with. Survival Games is on the right track. Hopefully reviews like this and word of mouth get people interested enough to try it out, see how long they hold onto that boob… 😀

      Also, thanks for the vote! Shipwreck is a good choice. Hell, they’re all great choices on that list. Not as many good games this year as there were last year, but the ones we did get were pretty great.

  3. Looks very fun.
    But there is one thing…
    THE LAGS!!!!
    Why does every fuck**g survival indie games have to lag that much?
    ApocZ and now this 😦
    I don’t care about graphics but fluidity needs to be there, and this game freeze at like each 5 secondes… If they patch it up with good connections and no freaking lags I will buy it.

    1. You ran into the ‘tutorial freezes’ as well, I see. 🙂 Could be more widespread than I first thought. I suspect it’s because, in part, ‘indie developer’, but also there’s not enough people around to properly playtest certain things. If a game is an absolute mess, I can’t get behind it, but Survival Games has working parts. It’s not all swell, as I mentioned, but the good news is, the Devs seem committed to fixing any and all problems.

    2. Hey we put out a large patch last week that fixes the lag spikes. Making a game this large is quite difficult and a lot of the lag was caused by having games with 10 or more people playing which we don’t have the ability to test until it goes up on xbox live.

      There is another new patch going up next week that adds lots of new things!

    3. @Daniel: Understandable. It’s similar to the AAA Devs in that way; you can’t properly test what’s going to happen until your game is out there in the wild. The good news is, you guys are fixing the issues (thumbs up).

  4. I told the creator about the pauses in the tutorial during the approval process, but apparently they weren’t able to remove them. Probably some kind of loading of assets on the fly.

    1. Ah, so you ran into them too? Strange how that hits certain players and not others, or the pauses are more extreme in some cases. In a lesser game, it’d stand out more, but here, I wrote it off to launch issues. More of a concern would be the freeze-ups / dropped games in multiplayer, but it seems like they’re working on those currently.

  5. Hey … I just realized this 2.0 Studios is the same 2.0 Studios that released Cell on XBLIG. That game – although a very simple idea – had a fantastic soundtrack coupled with engaging and surprisingly tactical gameplay. I’m glad to see they have diversified their portfolio well and continue to put out good games.

    1. I saw the same. They’ve got some chops when it comes to building different game types, particularly the Minecraft vibe they’ve carried into this one. They’ve been the ‘silent assassin’, slipping all these games past without some of us noticing.

  6. Sounds very impressive. In fact I did the “I’ll pass” without giving it a chance like you said at the beginning. Not because I thought it was a builder but because just by looking at the cover art I thought “been there done that”. However it sounds like it would be worth a go. I may pick it up just to check it out. Thanks Tim.

    1. You’re welcome! I was pretty surprised myself. Even though the screenshots have those descriptive captions, some may still not be sure what to expect. Surprised the developer didn’t put together a trailer / videos for the game, or maybe they just haven’t gotten around to it yet. From what I saw during my very light research, seems like the game was in development for awhile. Even some early footage might help sell the game a little more.

  7. …Unfortunately there were some bugs while I played the demo’s tutorial. Basically when pulling levers, nothing happened. Then I pulled the one with “Hostile animals”. I got killed by an invisible (literally) animal.
    Maybe it was just bad luck. I’ll try to start it again, sooner or later. It’s pretty interesting as you put it.

    1. @AxelMill98: I know that part you’re talking about, but I didn’t have any problems there. What I did have trouble with was some terrible pauses during the tutorial ‘messages’ that popped up. It regularly froze for five seconds or so each time. Funny thing is, this usually happens in XBLIGs for me. It’s hard to know what’s broken, but then I saw a gameplay video of another person going through the tutorial, and they had no problems with freezing / pauses at all. Could be you hit a rough patch like me, or there’s some other issues. A game this big is bound to have them, though. The developer has a forum for this sort of thing, if you want to add it to their list of things to fix / check out:

      @andregurov: I supposed I’ve been ruined by the internet; every time I see that somewhere, my mind automatically reads it as: ’10 / 10; would fap again.’ Damn internet. 😀

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