Hot off the success of Payday 2, 505 Games brings us How to Survive, a top-down shooter game that blends RPG, survival, and crafting elements with fast paced zombie killing action developed by Eko Software. In How to Survive, players will find themselves foraging for food, searching for water, finding safe shelter, and scavenging for supplies in hopes of escaping an archipelago that has become overrun with the living dead. The game includes a bunch of different elements that could make for a really compelling experience had they been fully developed and better executed.

How to Survive has a story mode and a challenge mode, each one of these modes can be played by yourself or with friends via local and online co-op. In each mode, players have three different characters to choose from, with each one having their own set of perks and skills to level up. There is the athletic female who has low HP but high endurance, a heavy-set guy who has lots of HP and stronger melee but low endurance, and the average male who has medium endurance and HP but can aim his ranged weapons quicker than the other two. Each character skill tree is based on their physique and specialty.

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How to Survive’s campaign is focused on escaping the archipelago. It starts off by dropping your character on the shore of one of the island. You find yourself stranded without a clue about what is happening on the island(s). It is not long until you meet someone who has been bitten by zombie and are given your first fetch quest of the game. Every mission in the game is geared towards advancing the overarching objective of escaping the island.

The campaign essentially breaks down into a series of fetch quests for the player with a bunch of surviving in between them. Every character you meet has you running from island to island collecting various things that they need in order for them to help you. Even the side quests, which are given out by a talking monkey, are just more fetch quests. Your character is also mute. Not that your character is not speaking, because they do, and you will know they do because the other characters will respond to things you “said”. It is just that there were no voice actors for the playable characters. As a result, all of your lines are either inferred or read silently if you are alone.

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As you travel around collecting things, you run into Kovac, a survival guide author who has left pages of his guide around the island for you to pick up. Kovac is self-described as a man who is addicted to surviving. When you first run into him, he wants to help by giving you a place to gather some resources and providing some survival training. Kovac even offers to let you use his shelters he has built around the islands as safe places to get some rest. Kovac’s survival guide, and his character, provides a much-needed comic relief to that atmosphere to the game. His narrations are hysterical and his dialogue is entertaining.

Towards the end of the campaign, How to Survive’s story felt extremely rush and unfinished. There was almost no character development, there was never any origin story for the zombies except for some radioactive barrels that were scattered around the islands, and the plot had little development until the very end. There was not much of a trace for a story anywhere in the game. Even the standard collectible notes or clues that normally give insight to a story were missing.

How to Survive’s emphasis is on gameplay. There are many different elements built into the game that will either delight, or enrage players. There is the crafting system, survival elements that require you to search for food and shelter, the action gameplay elements, night and day time system, and even an EXP based leveling system. Each one of these elements work together to  try to give players a unique survival horror experience, which is why it is such a shame that they were not developed a bit more.

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How to Survive employs a very complex and intricate crafting system. There are blueprint pages scattered all around the islands; however, you do not need to find them as you can immediately create anything in the game, as long as you have the right pieces for it. The blueprint pages are just there to let you know what you can make if you have not discovered it for yourself. The monkey quests will also expand your crafting imagination as they will ask for some of the strangest items and it is up to you to figure out how to make whatever it is they are asking for.

While the crafting system is very strong, it is hindered by the relatively weak zombies and overabundance of supplies found in the game. This is the basic problem found with most games that employ similar crafting systems. Players will ask: “Why would I want to spend time making some outlandish weapon when the rifle and axe I’m currently using already kill everything in one hit?” If you just want to explore the crafting system and see what all you can make, you will not be disappointed as this is the game’s strongest feature and has a great deal of depth to it. This is especially true when it comes to crafting food items.

Zombies in the game remain easy to kill. As the game progresses, hoards will become slightly larger, and the basic zombies will have some upgrades, such as armored plating, but this is nothing a simple headshot or two cannot get around. There is also little variety of zombie types in the game. You have your standard slow shambling zombies, your large exploding zombies, and a huge “boss” zombie that shows up a few times in the game. Later in the game some of the wildlife will become zombified and often be more of a threat than the original zombies. During night-time, a special kind of creature comes out. It’s supposed to be a strong and aggressive creature that is supposed to encourage players to find shelter at night, however, all you need to do is shine a light on it and it will either run away or freeze in terror from the light. Earlier in the game, this creature is more of a threat, but as the game progresses, they are just as easy to pick off as the other zombies.

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In addition to dealing with the zombie hoards, players will have to keep themselves fed, hydrated, and rested. If your character is too tired or thirsty, their performance sees a very noticeable drop. This encourages players to do whatever they can to keep themselves taken care of. There is a wide variety of plants and other consumable items that can be found on the island, and that only gets more detailed when you start utilizing the crafting system. Players will find that they can make a variety of food and beverages that can not only keep their food and hydration levels up, but also enhance their performance for short durations. It is also interesting to see just how far you have to go to make an empty bottle and some exotic fruits become a glass of sparkling lemonade.

Challenge mode is where the gameplay really shines. There are several different challenges that players can complete if they choose to do so. Each challenge is different, difficult, and rewarding. In each challenge players are dropped into a random scenario with a set objective to accomplish. These challenges fully utilize the game’s crafting and survival systems as players will need to quickly scavenge for supplies and make some makeshift weapons in order to complete the objective. As an added incentive, players will be able to take the EXP they gain in the challenges and bring it over to their character in the campaign.

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The art and sound design in How to Survive is very generic. Zombies grunt, the music tries to be ominous, and guns go bang. There is nothing bad about any of this, there is just nothing very memorable either. The exception to this is Kovac’s survival guide. The guide brings a different approach in its art and sound that will engage players on a different level.

Eko Software delivers a title that does nothing wrong, but nothing exceptional either. It has many elements that could make it a great experience, but instead they fizzle out after a few hours of gameplay. While I did enjoy my time with How to Survive, and exploring its many different features, I found myself wanting more out of it. It is an enjoyable experience, and players who are looking for a quick action based survival horror game will enjoy this game. However, the hardcore veterans of the genre may not be impressed with this title.

3.5 out of 5 Stashes

Pros:
Cons:
+ Very well done crafting system

+ Lots of things to do

+ Kovac

 

- Does not specialize in anything

- Poor story

- Lack of tough enemies

About The Author

Editor-and-Chief

Blane Humphries began his gaming adventures in the mid 90's. While he had played several different games growing up, he credits Westwood's Command and Conquer: Tiberian Sun for shaping him into the gamer he is today. Blane has a degree in Public Relations from Georgia Southern University and enjoys creating media campaigns for game studios and games industry media.