No way are we going out in that
With the world plunged into eternal winter following an asteroid strike, there’s no hope for Jacob and his small band of survivors. Until, that is, they find a strange little robot drone that triggers a message: In 30 days, help is coming.
As the timer ticks down, so the group’s health, stamina, and morale depletes. Holed up in a half-buried church, they watch as the fire burns out and their meagre supplies dwindle to nothing. The only way to ensure the rescuers aren’t just collecting corpses is for Jacob to venture out alone into the frozen wasteland and find sustenance in the ruined old world.
It takes a hardy soul to survive out there, and Jacob is so tough he doesn’t even bother wearing trousers to protect him from the waist-deep snow. An overcoat and a pair of walking boots will do him fine. Hard as nails he may be, but his quest for survival is constantly undermined by the four helpless simpletons back home, who won’t even remember to feed themselves unless he takes food and water from the store and distributes it among their individually named ration crates. It’s like leaving food out for the cat before you go away for a weekend (and yes, they come straight over and eat it all as soon as you put it on the floor).
They do have some abilities but it requires a lot of leveling up before they’ll do anything on their own. So for the first few hours army veteran Blane can only talk about how good he is at hunting, and homemaker Wendy can’t quite recall the recipes and remedies she spent her entire life collecting. Maggie’s skill as a mechanic doesn’t amount to anything unless you bring her the countless bits of junk she needs for crafting, while hacker Christophe will eventually learn how to upgrade your robot buddy.
Until you’re almost at the end of the upgrade path they’ll happily let the fire go out and freeze to death if you’re not there to manually add fuel. And despite the church being positively lined with flammable material, you have to trek miles to lug back planks and old clothing to burn. Maybe that’s what happened to Jacob’s trousers.
House of fools
Any time Jacob isn’t at home you just have to cross your fingers and pray that the hopeless housemates don’t do anything fatally stupid. At the start of our play-through they kept getting beaten up by lone raiders, so we left them a rifle in the hope that maybe one of them might defend the place. It made no difference, so we unlocked the Negotiator perk, which sounded like it could save all those extra trips for medicine and bandages. However, next time a scavenger came calling, the morons ‘negotiated’ a settlement that involved
handing over half of our food, plus the rifle and all the bullets, in exchange for not getting punched in the face. Shooting them all would surely improve Jacob’s chances, but alas it was not an option.
Each member of the feckless four has a series of missions that will unlock new abilities and give you something other than endless supply runs to do, but there isn’t time to finish them all before the 30 days are up. A tourist information pamphlet serves as a rudimentary map, but most of the points of interest are buried under the snow anyway. Some buildings can be entered through their protruding roofs, and in places the snow has inexplicably formed huge underground caverns, preserving entire streets where wolves guard some of the more useful salvage. There’s plenty to explore, if you can manage your time.
The game does a fantastic job of looking oppressively cold. As the weather worsens, the screen becomes obscured by ice, and Jacob looks like he’s having a really miserable time struggling through the snow. At night you only get a limited viewing range by torchlight, which also looks excellent, although you’re basically just pressing in the general direction of an area and traveling blind, no matter what the time of day.
It’s technically a bit ropey, though. The framerate lurches from shuddering inconsistency, at best, to a stuttering slideshow whenever it’s loading something. Menus respond slowly, key information always seems to be buried several pages away, and we blame the poorly designed, laggy controls for making us throw away an item we needed for a quest while we were trying to pick it up. Seriously, when you search a closet, desk, or storage container there’s an option to permanently discard the things you
“While it’s lacking in polish, there’s a certain shabby charm about it”
find rather than pick them up. What use is that?
While it’s somewhat lacking in polish and the daily routine soon becomes repetitive, there’s a certain shabby charm about it. It reminds us very much of State Of Decay, without the zombies or the shooting, and finding a new loot-stuffed building is always a thrill, albeit one that’s dampened by the constant nagging worry about getting home in time to feed the kids. Next time there’s an ice age, we’re going it alone.
far left This is as about as scenic as it ever gets above ground.
LEFT Lights do shine through the stygian gloom.
above With all those stats to worry about, no wonder Jacob has no time for trousers.