The Survivalists review
Getting shipwrecked doesn’t sound like much fun, but what about when you have little monkey friends to help out? The Survivalists should be fun, but it really isn’t. In The Survivalists, we wash up on the shore of an island and have to survive. Find resources to craft tools and, most importantly, a bed. Then get out and explore and find some monkey friends to keep you company!
The story is pretty lacking, though it is a sandbox game so that can be forgiven. It would be nice if there were some kind of backstory to everything, though. Why is this island full of monkeys (and orcs), and why are some of them locked in cages? After five hours in the game, I’m still not sure.
When I was about three hours in I was getting a bit bored and unsure of what to do next. I ended up finding some useful videos on YouTube to give me some direction, which helped immensely. If you own the game and are finding yourself stuck, or you want to check out some gameplay, I’d recommend Boomstick Gaming’s Starter Guide for some help.
The gameplay is the cause of most issues in The Survivalists. The monkeys in the game aren’t just cute companions, you can also train them to help you out with tasks, such as crafting, gathering snd fighting. It sounds cute gaining trust with them and training them how to help, but it’s far more robotic than that, and they become your slave monkeys instead. It wouldn’t be so bad if they remembered the tasks you assigned them, but if you change their assigned task, you can’t easily ask them to go back to a previous one. You need to ‘train’ them to do it again. It feels so tedious.
After watching Boomstick Gaming’s video, I realised I could craft a raft, and sail about finding new islands. Awesome, I thought! Let’s go on an adventure. Once I finally got my raft, I found it so slow. Not only that, but you’d need to stop the raft if you wanted to do anything else like check the map or eat some food. And then hope not to get attacked by a shark.
In my playthrough, I had issues finding metal ingots which held up a lot of my crafting. After spending hours trying to find them, I found them within 30 seconds on the next island I discovered. They were everywhere, but due to not having much storage space, I couldn’t take them all with me. Oh, and there was a huge lion attacking a monkey which didn’t help.
The islands in The Survivalists are procedurally generated, so you never know what you’re going to get. Apparently, that also means you might not have all the resources you need on your starter island. It makes learning a new game quite difficult.
Art and sound design
The key art is excellent. The structures in the game have a nice level of details, and the game world is quite interesting. I especially enjoyed the beaches. That being said, there are a lot of items you can craft in The Survivalists, but you can’t rotate any of them. It seems like an obvious choice to have, especially in a game with tables and chairs. It makes you not want to craft the items if you can’t make them look nice when you play them.
I didn’t think about the sound design much, with the soundtrack just existing in the background, but I have been listening to it on YouTube while writing this and it is quite good. It has an adventurous feel, with some hints of mystery. One song I did notice while playing is the sailing song, which is upbeat and great. Perfect for setting sail to the unknown. Comments on YouTube compare it to Hyper Light Drifter, but as I haven’t played it, I can’t confirm for sure.
The sound effects were something I noticed but not for good reasons. I found the sound effects annoying more than anything, though they were used well as indicators I needed to do something.
I really wanted to enjoy The Survivalists, but clunky controls got in the way. It feels like it should have been an early access release, rather than a full release. The devs are still working on it and making changes, but there would need to be a huge change to make me want to give it another try. One of those things would be difficulty levels. In sandbox games, I like to explore and build and have fun. In The Survivalists, you can do that, but then a bunch of orcs attack and ruin all your hard work. I know some people will enjoy this and will have mega armies for monkeys at their disposal, but that isn’t for me.
If, after all this, you’re still interested in taking a look and want the thrill of orcs, lions and sharks, then I’d definitely wait until more patches are released, and it goes on sale.
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Platforms: PC (Steam & Humble), Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PS4