Do you ever find yourself wondering how you would cope during the Apocalypse? There are an endless number of quizzes doing the rounds on social media that calculate just how long you would survive the end of the world. Did your score suggest you would thrive in the new world or that you would literally die within 5 minutes of something completely embarrassing, and you feel that the score is a bunch of crap and you would totally kick-ass? If only there were a way to test you survival skills that didn’t involve you hatching some sort of James Bond villain-esque plan to end the world just to prove this quiz score wrong. Well, thankfully, there are numerous survival games to test you inner Bear Grylls available to buy without melting the polar ice caps with a laser from your base on the moon. Survival games are one of the most popular genres in gaming these days, with survival titles often sitting proudly high up on the most popular list on Steam. Developers Mojo Bones will be hoping that their latest title sits proudly amongst its brethren and survives the harsh environment that is a video game player’s attention and doesn’t embarrassingly die within 5 minutes.
Impact Winter is set during a, well, an impact winter. A rather large asteroid has crashed into Earth (and just where the hell was Bruce Willis during this?!!!) and has created a new Ice Age on Earth. You play as Jacob Solomon who seems to be the self-elected leader of a small group of survivors that has taken shelter from the cold in an abandoned Church. The times ahead are looking bleak as surviving in this harsh new world is getting harder and harder, but good news has arrived. Ako-Light, your robot sidekick, has picked up a distress signal which announces that help is on the way, and they will be with you in 30 days. Survive for 30 more days? Easy, right? Well, no it isn’t, and the problem is that the main difficulties are not intentional…
You will spend the vast majority of your time exploring The Void, the winter wasteland that was once your hometown of Nelson. You will need to collect and craft various items and complete missions that will keep everyone alive. Exploring The Void is both enjoyable and tedious. Mojo Bones have done a great job creating a winter wasteland for you to explore. Buildings are buried under an endless amount of snow, the freezing wind will slow you down as you battle to walk against it, and when a storm is in full effect, you literally cannot see more than a couple of feet in front of you. Unfortunately, what makes exploring The Void enjoyable for a short while is also its biggest downfall, it gets boring…extremely boring. There is no option to fast travel to previously discovered locations, so you will often find yourself marching to and from various locations numerous times. This, of course, is nothing new in the video game world, but when repetitive exploration is a fundamental gameplay mechanic, then the world you are exploring needs to be engaging and, well, interesting. Exploring a snow-covered wasteland will get tiresome quickly and, unfortunately, that is the case in Impact Winter, and that isn’t the only big problem with the game.
Thankfully, I have a controller that works with my PC, because if I had to use the keyboard and mouse to explore The Void, I would have given up after an hour. The PC controls are dreadful. Using the mouse to drag Jacob around is painstakingly frustrating, especially as he seems to get stuck a lot of the time. Even when using a controller, trying to execute a button command will often take several button presses for Jacob to actually do what you want him to do. Loading times are also a big issue as it takes an age to load The Void when exiting a building. I first thought the game had crashed as the loading screen hints suddenly stopped, but no, this is just what happens every time you exit a building. The camera is also just fixed above Jacob, so if he goes behind a wall and gets stuck again, it is a real chore to get him back into camera view.
When you are not out battling the elements of The Void, you will be exploring the various buildings and ice caves (sunken streets) you can gain access to. While inside these buildings, which will range from a normal residence to an office block, you will just hoard as many goodies as you can. Cans of beans, wire mesh, denim jeans, fuses, tools, bottles, blankets, you name it, everything you find in Impact Winter has a purpose. The difficulty will come in trying to prioritise what you take first. You only have a set number of inventory slots available in Jacob’s backpack, so you will have to make some tough decisions sometimes. Filling your bag with ingredients for Wendy to cook much-needed meals or filling up on materials Maggie needs to repair the furnace keeping all of you warm? While scavenging through these buildings, there is an option to quick move items you come across into your inventory, but I would strongly advise you do not. Good inventory management can help elevate some of the difficult choices with which you will be faced.
Impact Winter does a great job at truly making you feel like every decision you make really has life or death consequences. “Just go back,” I hear you saying, well, that would be fine if you were the only person out there exploring. Items you leave behind might not be there when you return. You really do have to think seriously about what you want to prioritise. This is made easier by having Jacob and the group’s stats available so you can see who is starving, who needs water, etc.
Impact Winter isn’t just about picking up everything that isn’t nailed down. You will need to manage things back at the Church to make sure all of your group members survive the next 30 days. The four human members of your group are all skilled in a particular survival aspect and will craft items necessary to keep yourself and the team alive. Christophe is the tech wiz, and he will be there to upgrade Ako-Light. Blane is the Ray Mears of the group and will craft all manner of survival tools. Maggie will help improve the various utilities in the Church to keep everyone alive, and last but not least, Wendy is the group cook. Each member will have tasks and missions for you to complete that will result in making it easier to stay alive. Wendy, for example, will create more sustainable meals to keep everyone hunger-free for a longer period of time.
Again, prioritising these missions is a must, and some will have to wait. When you complete a mission, you will knock some time off the 30 day clock. This can also be achieved by exploring The Void and discovering new locations, which will also earn you levelling up points. Once you level up, new roles for your group will become available that will add positive and negative effects. These range from boosting everyone’s morale to working faster while also having a higher rate of injuries, which in turn will require you to gather the needed medical supplies to treat these injuries. Keeping everyone fed, hydrated and warm is, of course, the most important task. Ako-Light will alert you if a member of the group is particularly suffering and requires your immediate attention, which always seemed to happen when I was furthest away from the Church.
Developer: Mojo Bones
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Release Date: 23rd May