How To Survive 2 is a third-person, action/adventure with a new and improved crafting system, randomized environments and more quests than ever before. It is set in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse and several years after the events of the first game. This indie title is a triumphant example of video game development done right. Developed by EKO Software and published by 505 Games, it is a shining beacon of developers listening to their fans, learning and then striving to achieve greatness. With that being said, there is still a long way to go before the title of ‘great’ can be bestowed upon it. EKO Software has realised the mistakes of the past and attempted to amend them. Even though, the improvements are relatively successful, peeling back the layers reveals a few poor game mechanics and designs that need to be ironed out in order to compete in today’s market.
The game is currently in the Early Access stage and is available on Steam for £10.99.
As of now (20.6.16), there is a 70% discount on How To Survive 2 due to the recent ‘SWAT Forces‘ update that went live this week. The discount will last until June 23.
The story starts several years after the first game, as a new protagonist fights for his life against the hordes of flesh-eating zombies. The main goal of the player is to create, upgrade and defend your base camp. Aswell as, level up the main character. The beloved Kovac makes a return to guide players and acts as the main quest giver for the story. Most of the quests given can be referred to as ‘fetch quests’. The player will have to obtain a certain amount of item A and B and then return for all the splendorous rewards that follow.
While the freedom that is given is something that players will love, the quests do get rather boring and tedious at times. Often, a routine will be established and will rarely get broken. There is not much else in the way of storyline however, there is no deep narrative or any tearjerking revelations. The main aim of the title is to survive, as the title name suggests, builld your base and kill zombies with fantastically gory results.
Players can wander the open world forests and find other survivors that are also quest givers. A little backstory will be offered by these characters, in terms of the dialogue relating to the quest that is being given. But, nothing extraordinarily deep will be uncovered, which is a bit of a letdown in terms of storyline. What this game does not disappoint on however, is the sheer amount of content and gameplay options available to the player.
It may come as a surprise, but, the gameplay mechanics implemented are one of the most superior that has been seen in an indie game. The crafting system, in particular, is extremely deep and focused as well as being relatively easy to use. Within the base, workstations can be created such as an Armoury to create weapons and bullets or a Foundry which allows the creation of different armour sets, that are then used to protect and customize the main protagonist.
A variety of weapons and armours can be made, starting with the simple baseball bat with nails combo, to the more elaborate and correctly named Bone Breaker, which is a sort of improvised sledgehammer that does exactly what is promised. These are only a few of the melee weapons that can be created in order to bring death to the undead legions. Ranged weapons can also be added into the mix, ranging from crossbows to pistols and assault rifles as well as much more. The amount of weaponry that is available to the player is quite astounding and makes for very, very fun gameplay. All of these workstations can be upgraded, to allow even more items to be made.
There is a lot of possibilities when it comes to crafting and players will spend hours gathering resources needed to make whatever they want. It doesn’t feel like a grind, it feels like a necessary step to further along the survival of the character. More importantly, is that it is fun and doesn’t get boring. Throughout its entirety, the base camp will randomly become surrounded and attacked by multiple enemies. An indicator will pop up on screen, alerting the player. It is then up to the protagonist to travel to and defend the camp, or precious workstations and storage areas can be rendered completely useless.
New to How To Survive 2 is multiplayer, players can invite up to 16 other characters to access the base camp and together they can help contribute and build a much bigger, and better camp using teamwork. Up to four players can fight through enemies and take up quests, which adds intensity to the battles but also increases difficulty and the number of enemies appearing at once, co-op actions and strategies have also been implemented to ensure a fun experience and an ever-lasting sense of accomplishment.
As players taken on quests and kill enemies, they are rewarded with experience points which can be used to upgrade the character, obtain new skills or craft new items. Experience points are used for everything, and will need to be acquired in huge numbers to be able to upgrade everything. The character’s level and the main camp’s level work in conjunction with each other, one cannot be leveled up without the other, which sort of forces camp management into play. Passive skills can also be purchased with experience points, allowing the player to deal more damage with a certain weapon type or improve health or stamina. The skills are many in number and provide bonuses that leave the player better off. These abilities feel like they are useful and will definitely help with the fight against the undead.
The open-world offered is, unfortunately, not as seamless as one would expect. The main forest area at the beginning is open and in terms of size quite big. The rest of the areas are surprisingly small and closed off. The player will begin a quest, then be teleported to the quests starting area. The maps are small but are densely packed, especially if the difficulty is increased for the quest. Items are randomly littered throughout the game environment. These items, mostly have something to do with the crafting element of the title, but, the main character will also find food items that decrease the hunger meter, to allow players to regenerate stamina more effectively.
During any mission, a tactical mindset needs to be employed. This title, is packed full of zombies, and they are sensitive to sound, that means firing a weapon should be a last resort. This really ramps up the tension and overall playstyles will need to be changed on the fly to suit the situation. One minute the protagonist is slowly picking off zombies one by one, then all of a sudden too much noise was made and a horde comes running towards the character. Suddenly, players are fighting for their lives, running away and desperately trying not to be overrun by the different types of infected that are on offer. When coming up against the different enemy types, playstyles will need to be dramatically changed to overcome the stacking odds. These infected have special abilities such as ranged attacks or an explosion radius that activates if the player ventures too closely. Characters will need to pay attention, however because these infected are randomly chosen and placed throughout each map, so a keen eye is needed in order to identify and deal with the upcoming threat.
The main design flaw that needs to be addressed, however, is the fixed camera. This indie title is a mix between a top down and 3D game. The camera stays fixed in one position and follows the character. But, when a building blocks the view of the player, it will disappear in a 10-yard radius of the character. Which in itself looks quite ugly, but this hinders the ability to thoroughly search through a building as walls and doors will start to disappear to ensure the protagonist can be seen, its makes the whole ordeal pretty confusing and will often lead to death if enemies are in the vicinity. It’s not a big problem, but it is noticeable enough to cause concern.
The UI for How To Survive 2 is pretty standard. The health and stamina bars are located in the top left of the screen with the currently equipped item and remaining ammo located directly beneath. Useable items that are in the inventory are placed in the bottom right of the screen. This enables the player to quickly scroll between items and use them, instead of opening the inventory page and selecting the appropriate item.
The title features popup menus that appear when selecting the option to craft or level up. Identical in nature, to most games out there. In terms of crafting, the name and description of the item are displayed along with the resources that are required to craft the said item. The UI is simplistic and doesn’t wander from the beaten path in terms of originality. It seems EKO Software decided to stick to the basics and instead focus on sound gameplay and content rather than fancy UI systems.
Graphics and sound
The visual representation of How To Survive 2 is a mix of comic book style art and realistic high-detailed environments. The game is bright and full of color, from the lush green density of the forests, to the red blood-stained streets of Louisiania, wading through dark, abandoned properties in search of supplies with only the flashlight as a guide, all while avoiding the very real threat of the infected. This indie title captures the mood and atmosphere of the game spectacularly, and gives an all real feeling of desperation mixed tension that grabs hold and won’t let go.
The sound design is where the game excels and lacks at the same time. For starters, the music is noticeabely bare in-game. The game lets the environments sounds act as the background music. Birds will be chirping through the forest and wind will howl past. The game world feels alive and vibrant. But, that is only in the forest, when in the cities there are no birds chirping or any other type of sound other than when swinging or firing a weapon. The only music that plays is when a horde of enemies is closing in and even then it could never happen during a quest. No music or background sounds does add to the isolation felt when traveling the streets of Louisiana especially at night. But, it does seem lazy of the developers not to include varying music to strengthen the core atmosphere.
How To Survive 2 breathes new life into an already overdone genre by adding new features and gameplay mechanics into the mix. With the deep crafting system and character customization, to the overall freedom and camp management. These are things that have been vastly improved from the first game. However, the lack of storyline and the camera situation as well as the apparent lack of ingame music hold this title back from being up with the best. It is a great game, that with time could be considered one of the greatest indie titles out there in terms of content. With the game being in an Early Access state these problems have a hope of being remedied. EKO Software has a history of listening to their fans, so there is no doubt that with time and perseverence this game will be taken as a genuine contender for the spot of the best indie video game to date, due to the fun that will be had and the vast many features that accompany.
|+ Gorgeous graphics||– Ugly camera system|
|+ Deep crafting and customization options||– Lack of in-game music|
|+ Fun multiplayer||– Sometimes tedious quests|
|+ Atmospheric gameplay||– Lack of in depth storyline|