An exclusive hands-on with the multiplayer survival game
we saw an opportunity to take a bigger share of the credit for our unified goal
There are some intimidating enemy factions in Scavengers, a strange hybrid that’s part-survival game, partcompetitive shooter and partcooperative exploration game. There’s the Scourge, an alien horde that sprouts from the ground, and the Outlanders, a band of rogues hardened by an eternal winter. Neither is as powerful as a bear.
It’s a single bear that finds our lowly group; four survivors shot down from a space station to explore an Earth claimed by decades of catastrophic climate change. It’s a single bear that chases us until we run into another group of players in a shootout with an Outlander camp. As the final blizzard moves in and the extraction point is marked 500 meters away, it’s that single bear that leaves us for easier prey and cleans up a camp of both NPCs and live players while we scoop up some of their spoils and sprint to the space van.
I’d like to say we did it on purpose, but it was a happy accident, the result of overlapping AIs set free in a massive world and set alight with poor human judgement. It’s the kind of fun mess typically reserved for singleplayer open world games, but now a mess we made and experienced together.
As one of the first people to play Scavengers outside of Midwinter Entertainment, even in its very early state, you don’t need to squint too hard to see what the team is aiming for. Think of it like a match-based survival game where you, in a team of four, explore a massive, randomly generated winter wasteland scrounging for supplies, working towards a common goal with the other couple dozen players scattered about.
We could’ve, maybe should’ve, helped Team Bear Food. We wouldn’t have collected enough shards without their help, but in a stressful moment we saw an opportunity to take a bigger share of the credit for our unified goal and run. The team that makes it out with the most shards is declared the winner and given a larger helping of rewards. And the fewer people that make it out alive, the more you and your pals get. So can you blame us?
But if you take an adversarial approach, chances are you won’t have the manpower to gather enough resources before the final storm moves in and forces you to head back to space. The tension between choosing whether to help or hinder strangers is at the heart of Scavengers, and the stresses of surviving a perilous environment make it much more than a decision influenced by whether you’re in the mood for competition or cooperation.
As the former creative director and studio head of the Halo series at 343 Industries, Josh Holmes knows how thrilling first-person combat is made. But as a founder and CEO of Midwinter, his goals for Scavengers are more nuanced than ever, even with a much smaller team.
“Our mission as a studio is the creation of togetherness, which is that feeling that you get when you work together to overcome big obstacles and accomplish great things,” Holmes tells me.
Halo5’ s Warzone mode is the most obvious point of comparison, and one Holmes invokes often. For the unfamiliar, it’s a 24-player mode in which taking out AI enemies is as important as keeping enemy players at bay. It’s possible to finish a match without bothering with other players. Coordination matters the most, and Holmes is carrying the same ideas into Scavengers’ help-or-hinder ethos.
Characters are divided into classes and each come with unique abilities and weapons that you can improve over the course of a match with enough salvage found in abandoned settlements and on enemy corpses. I tried out a character that
Characters have slightly exaggerated, expressive features.