The hunger games


Af­ter over two and a half years in full devel­op­ment, Day Z still doesn’t have a fixed re­lease date. The process has been far from straight­for­ward, ad­mit­tedly, but the genre it gave rise to also has prob­lems fin­ish­ing. Sur­vival is a strug­gle, and sur­vival games need that strug­gle to be ever­last­ing. To the dev, a well-stocked in­ven­tory can be as dam­ag­ing as a game-break­ing bug; to the player, a ruck­sack full of beans and bul­lets is the only mea­sure of progress. With ten­sion like that, where does sur­vival go from here? This month’s Hype crop yields a range of an­swers to that dif­fi­cult ques­tion.

The Long Dark (p42) may have caught your eye with its bright aes­thetic – a game full of colour and beauty in a space built on grit and grime – but it runs counter to con­ven­tion in more ways than that. When The Long Dark ex­its Early Ac­cess, it will sport a full nar­ra­tive, its de­vel­oper telling a story in a genre usu­ally founded on let­ting play­ers pen their own. Else­where, de­vel­op­ers are fid­dling with the me­chan­i­cal tem­plate. While Sur­var­ium (p50) will, in time, be a full-on sur­vival sim, its cur­rent beta is a mul­ti­player death­match. It’s not ex­actly COD, but it’s still a sub­stan­tial change of pace for a genre brought to life by an Arma mod and which has typ­i­cally got play­ers more in­vested in the con­tents of other peo­ple’s cup­boards than their own ar­mouries. The Hunter: Pri­mal (p48), mean­while, strips away the ubiq­ui­tous hunger and thirst me­ters, re­moves the genre-stan­dard lum­ber­ing un­dead and stalk­ing preda­tors, and re­places them with big, an­gry dinosaurs.

It seems un­likely that any of th­ese ap­proaches will repli­cate Day Z’s suc­cess, but it is equally hard to imag­ine the fi­nal ver­sion of Dean Hall’s cre­ation match­ing the mod that started it all. More than any other genre, the sur­vival game is made for Early Ac­cess, giv­ing play­ers a world, a threat and some tools, and promis­ing an endgame down the line. Sooner or later, some­one is go­ing to have to es­tab­lish what form that will take.

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