In the new zombie survival game from publisher 505 Games and developed by EKO Software, players must traverse a chain of islands infested with the living dead while scavenging for various tools needed to create the many weapon and gear combinations found within How to Survive. Above all else, gamers are tasked with learning how to stay alive after becoming stranded on the zombie-filled island archipelago.
A zombie outbreak is defined by its cast of characters
How to Survive features three different playable characters, each with their own skill tree. While many of these skills are shared between characters, such as the ability to craft incendiary arrows, each survivor has specific abilities unique to them. One survivor, for example, is the only character capable of crafting crossbows, while another gains more experience from monsters that are defeated at night.
Gamers can play each survivor through the game’s story mode or in a variety of challenges that tax gamers to escape the islands by surviving through different rule sets. One challenge is filled with an army of bloated zombies who explode when killed; while another has players cut a path to victory with chainsaws. All game modes feature co-op play, however, online co-op is only available for the challenge modes. Oddly enough, local co-op is the only option available to players wanting to experience the game’s story campaign together.
All levels and skills gained on a character in the game’s story mode also transfers to the different challenge modes, so it’s advised to take a look at the campaign first.
Building a better survival guide, one tool at a time
As players venture back and forth between the four islands that make up How to Survive, they will find a variety of different items strewn about the landscape. Most of these items are useless at first glance, but become powerful when properly combined with other scavenged goods. Nothing can be done with a flexible branch on its own for example, but combine it with a spool of string and survivors now have a make-shift bow.
This system can get much more complex. Later in the game, players can use a motorcycle engine in conjunction with a chain, gas can, and any handle to build their own chainsaw. Instruments of zombie destruction aren’t the only things that can be built however. In addition to making their own arsenal and armor, gamers can also brew concoctions to sustain their life like homemade soda created by using a hand compressor on a bottle of water that has been combined with nuts found on the islands.
The undead aren’t the only killers
While the reanimated corpses of the deceased are the most overt obstacle that stands between players and their continued survival, there are other dangers that must be taken into consideration in order to live. These threats come from basic human needs that each be dealt with each in their own way. In How to Survive, players have constantly depleting gauges which represent hunger, thirst, and tiredness. Each basic need must be kept from fully depleting to avoid becoming weak and, eventually, dead.
For food, survivors can eat roots found throughout the game to receive a small amount of sustenance, but the best way to fight off hunter comes from eating cooked meat. To acquire this, the islands have game animals whose meat can be obtained through hunting or fishing. The meat, however, can’t be eaten raw and must be cooked at campsites before consuming.
Likewise, water isn’t necessarily drinkable from any source. Only pre-determined well sites contain safe water. Besides drinking directly from the source, players can also take some water with them by filling up any empty bottles or jerry cans that they may have discovered.
As for sleep, only certain pre-built fortifications are safe enough to keep the undead out so that the survivors may rest. However, when first discovered, each of these locations has become overrun by zombies and must be cleared of their undead infestation before they are secure enough to sleep within.
Standing out in a sea of the undead
While there have been several games that have recently released that fall into the growing zombie survival genre, How to Survive manages to do enough differently to earn its place among the crowd. The game’s strong emphasis on crafting and juggling basic human needs helps distinguish itself from other titles. Additionally, the story campaign features a tale that manages to contain a few plot twists despite its simplicity. One area where How to Survive shines is the game’s strange brand of humor which is helped along by the title’s decent voice acting. In all, How to Survive is recommended to any fans of either the undead or survival simulators. Those who enjoy intricate crafting or top-down gaming should also give it a look.
- Robust crafting system
- Unique sense of humor
- Lacks online co-op for the story mode
- There are a few camera issues created by map design which can cause poor visibility
An early copy of How to Survive was provided on Xbox Live for the purposes of this review.