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.

Mak­ing camp

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.

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