Survival games are all about eking out little victories: as Shinji Mikami noted, “Beyond the hardship lies accomplishment.” Yet the returns rarely correspond to the effort. It’s the carrot of another goal that keeps you hooked, making you forget you’re still chasing two of this and three of that to make one of the other. Impact Winter looks for ways to remedy this problem. The promise that help is arriving in 30 days sets you a clear – if somewhat distant – target to work towards, and you can even bring it closer. Being part of a group means you don’t just have something to fight for, but someone. And borrowing Resident Evil 4’ s wondrous inventory-management system is never a bad idea.
As Jacob, leader of a small band of survivors holed up in a church, you set out each day into a desolate, snowbound world, the result of a devastating meteor strike. Your job is to turn trash into treasure, filling your rucksack with items scavenged from snow caves, empty houses and abandoned cars, before bringing them back to base so NPC friends can craft items to stave off starvation, dehydration and even depression. Whiskey, as you may know, is a real morale-booster.
A hovering robot buddy, Ako-Light, absorbs data from everything you do, from discovering new places to successfully crafting items. This helps boost your radio signal to reduce the rescue timer by a few hours, while unlocking new roles that Jacob can assign to his colleagues, each with pros and cons. Some of these are logical: it makes sense that a Negotiator might pacify intruders so they don’t injure anyone when breaking in, though they’ll leave with more of your supplies. But immunity from flu making one more likely to create rifts within the group is rather harder to accept.
Moments like this mean it’s hard to ever see your allies as real people, more a series of gauges that regularly need topping up. “Some of the team love particular recipes and assigning them to the right person will boost Morale,” chirrups Wendy, the group’s cook. This is a human being you’re meant to care about. Not that you’ll spend enough time with fellow survivors to form an attachment anyway – you’ll only see them briefly when you return to drop off your latest haul.
Sluggish menus, clumsy controls and an intrusive, atmosphere-scuppering soundtrack mar each excursion, while excessive weather effects will have you straining to see as you awkwardly bump up against objects to find out if they can be ransacked. It’s telling that your main reward for doing well in Impact Winter is hastening the endgame; like Jacob, the thought of spending a full month in this gloomy little world is enough to have you reaching for the Scotch.
The interface is a mess. Some objects – but not all – are outlined to show you can search them. You can only quit some menus with B. To exit one screen you have to press start; for another only the back button will work