If you ever wanted to unleash your inner Jennifer Lawrence (and I’m talking ‘Katniss Everdeen’ Jennifer Lawrence here, not ballroom dancing Jennifer Lawrence), Avatar Hunger Games… er, Avatar Survival Games ($1.00) is a pretty good outlet for releasing that whole pent-up, ‘down with totalitarian regimes’ rage. No regimes come crumbling down here, but it does break with the ‘indie FPS status quo’ to offer a tense and unique take on multiplayer deathmatch.
The inspiration is plainly obvious, though the style accommodates for the ‘survival’ aspect rather well. And while it’s long been a cheap shortcut for developers to avoid designing characters, the fact that you use your avatar identity here actually helps to personalize the fight and make it more visceral. Allowing for up to eight players, in a Battle Royale, ‘winner takes all’ scenario, matches start off with the requisite scramble to the weapon stocks on the opposite side of the field.
This random assortment means not every combatant is created equal. Though there’s enough in play that everyone will be armed after the initial dash, the weapons vary in range and effectiveness. Swords and axes naturally make for devastating melee tools, provided you are close enough, while bows, blowguns (with poison darts), crossbows and others grant you some invaluable space from which to attack, with limited ammunition. Both have their logical advantages and disadvantages, and it’s this trade-off, the posturing and the dancing, that escalates the fight.
Some tactics and planning are essential as well. Though you’re certainly welcome to come out swinging / slinging, you only have one life to live per round. The questions is raised. Do you risk an immediate assault, or hold back and let the others thin the herd? Either style is possible. The map is huge, with plenty of cover and underground space. Supporting items, like mines and traps, further tweak the battlefield, making each step potentially more treacherous than the last, depending on how you play.
Players can rank up via kills, and the one critique I have comes with its wacky, wonky system for doing so, that shows some players with higher XP totals but lower skill levels. A few have even complained of progress being suddenly reset. There are no unlocks by gaining levels, however, and it doesn’t seem to have any other effect or purpose, except to make for a confusing situation on the online leaderboards and tarnishing individual bragging rights (the real crime, some would say). Minus that and some online hiccups, it’s a generally fun experience.
With the huge success of the Hunger Games books and accompanying films, it’s strange that the action side of the property hasn’t been used to greater effect in videogame form (cheesy Facebook / Mobile iterations don’t count). Given how well it translates to a competitive FPS in Avatar Survival Games, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the idea expanded upon by a bigger publisher at some point. For now, though, this indie homage is more than up to the task.