Harsh Review - Savage Lands
Oh man it feels so wrong doing a harsh review of this game. It's still in early access, so giving it a harsh review is probably the equivalent of beating a small child. I promise I won't be too harsh. After all, the game is actually surprisingly enjoyable.
So first up let's get out of the way what makes Savage Lands different to other survival games. Before even starting the game, I realized that the character creation was pretty lacking, with very few options and the ones that were available were pretty shit. I settled with my bright pink neanderthal with a mohawk and jumped in to the world. You start out next to a charred skeleton, some starting gear and a book which you can read and learn a bit of the back story to the area of the game. I have mixed feelings about these books. I feel like the guy who designed this feature is one of those people who reads the quest giver text in MMO's. Seriously who the fuck does that? It is kinda dull to stop and read a lot of text, especially if you are freezing your ass off and slowly dying of hunger. But there are some certain situations in the game that make this kinda cool - I'll explain more on that later. You quickly learn that you are on a snow covered island where you need to hunt for food, keep warm and ideally build shelters and better armor and weapons to progress to new areas of the island. I do like the idea of progression, with enemies further in the game getting tougher and requiring you to fully explore each crafting tier before moving on or potentially getting your head beaten in by a Silver Surfer or mini Maokai. But it does make it a tiny bit grind-ish by forcing you to collect a large number of materials to make the required gear. This is made even worse if you are playing co-op or in a group as the mining nodes have set locations and respawn times, so you may end up fighting each other for them or having to wait. We did find one solution to quickly get some crafting materials early in the game. You can build houses and shelters to keep yourself warm and your items safe and there are a few little pre-generated unfinished villages around the map. One creative way to keep yourself warm is that you can actually set these half-built houses on fire! Not only that but after they burn down they spew out precious resources that you can then re-use to make armor or new houses.
As with most survival games, you get thrown in to the game with very little explanation of what to do. Luckily the intro to the game has been very carefully set up. There is a small town within view that you can head over to and easily figure out that these buildings are incomplete and you need to craft nails and wooden boards to finish them off. The wooden boards are easily - make axe, cut trees, get wood, make boards. The nails took us a bit longer to figure out.. You can click on the item in the crafting window and it tells you what items you need to craft it. You need tin to make nails, you need a smelter to make tin from tin ore and coal.. but where the fuck do you get tin ore and coal! We eventually noticed some ore deposits around the place, where you can get tin, coal, etc. But we had no idea how to mine them! Turns out, the tool required for mining is a Hammer. Why the fuck a hammer.. c'mon. I think there are two things to do to help new players here; Firstly, the text on the item that says "Used for Mining" is the same color as the rest of the flavor text and blends in. Perhaps making it a different colour would help new players spot what it's used for. Secondly, don't make it a fucking hammer! What's wrong with pickaxe?
Shortly after settling down in our shitty village, we were filled with a sense of dread after hearing loud roars in the distance and after looking up seeing a big fucking dragon breathing fire on a tower. Now i've read other people's accounts and apparently the dragon has come and laid waste to them all, but even after shooting arrows at him in an attempt to piss him off he still hasn't paid us a visit. I have always been one to take on a challenge, so the big ass dragon is kinda a cool feature. It makes me want to get better gear and slay that fucker. Behind the village is a little cotton farm which you can harvest to make bandages. I think its explosive cotton because the sound effect when you harvest it sounds like small explosions. Luckily there is enough cotton to make a comfortable number of bandages for two people, but tough shit if you are playing in a larger group. Again, you may need to turn your volume down or risk becoming permanently deaf as crafting the bandages sounds like metal banging together inside your ear drum. Food on the starting island quickly runs out, forcing you to move on to the next main island where you are met with a sharp increase in the level of challenge the game offers. You are soon surrounded by tasty antelope and rabbits that you can eat, but also giant blue cats and skeletons that can eat you. The AI is a bit frustrating here because if you stand still you can see that all of the enemies are slowly gravitating towards you.. eventually getting close enough to sprint at you and wreck your day. Luckily they attack slowly, because if they hit you you're fucked. You can only take one or two hits because most likely you skipped the tin and copper tier armor because there is just not enough ores on the starting island to make them!
We eventually stumbled upon a little town that was completely built! It made us wonder why the fuck we built up the shitty town when we could have just lived here. We grabbed all of our loot from the old place and moved in, even though it felt a little too good to be true. We noticed that there was one of those books that we never read in the town so we decided to read it. It explained that the previous villagers had all evacuated because the town was haunted and that something still lingered. Well, shit. Sure enough, that night the town filled up with ghost skeletons that wanted to put their cold bony fingers in our butt holes. Fuck it, too late, we settled. We have just accepted the fact that we have to brawl skeletons each night. After gathering up enough food to survive and ores to make bronze armor, we went for a wander. We found giant trees that wanted to eat us, green lumberjacks, Gollum, Shrek and a really cool teleporting doorway! It looked like you were going in to some ruins but when you went through you were actually on the other side of the map in another ruins. It's actually a pretty awesome feature! All of these cool little finds makes me want to explore the game even more.
Apart from the pretty buggy AI, teleporting enemies, characters glitching through the floor, getting stuck on terrain, terrible sound effects, character animation being really shit.. the game actually has some very solid game play. I think it does have a fair way to go but looking back at other games like Minecraft and Rust that looked shitty, but actually had solid game play.. Those games have come a long way and are now really awesome. I think that with a bit of attention this game could definitely be one to look out for. If you want to jump on the bandwagon early then you can grab it at an awesome price right now on the Humble Bundle website. Definitely advise checking it out if you have the time to play as it does take a little bit of time to get in to.