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The Survivalists Review

Forget society; find yourself an island and some monkey pals

Shipwrecked on an undisclosed location, The Survivalists is the epitome of the word where you have to fend for yourself against the harsh realities of starvation, clean water, cannibals and training monkeys.

A survival title for individuals or co-op multiplayer, the latest from Team17 is game that has been developed in-house and is perhaps comparable with The Escapists – especially when you consider the crafting elements.

However, despite being a big Team17 fan, I wasn’t too fussed on the latter – a review will follow at some stage. The crafting element was over-complicated from my experience and the gameplay a little monotonous. Utterly different to The Survivalists.

The Survivalists Review – PlayStation 4

If I were stranded on a desert island with only one game to choose, I’d like the opportunity to take my pick, not that I could decide on the ultimate go-to title. However, if presented with The Survivalists, I wouldn’t complain as it’s so engaging, time would be just hearsay.

From a character customisation reminiscent to The Escapists, and while we’re comparing the two, the visuals are on par. However, I’d argue that The Survivalists has better graphics and a much more luring environment, the game throws you straight into survival.

The Survivalists - Create
Loveable rogue. Source: Screen capture

Picking up the remnants from your shipwreck; a few materials and some food, your immediate task is to find a place to sleep. Located in arguably the best area on the island, you acquire the materials for a bed that will serve as your save point, but be aware that you shouldn’t go to sleep on an empty stomach.

Food plays such an essential role in the game as run out, and you’ll collapse, or take a hit or two from the natives, and the same thing will happen. Fortunately, The Survivalists is incredibly forgiving, and once you ‘die’, you’ll return to your camp but can go back and pick up your stuff. Pending that you can reach it again.

Stockpile

It’s highly recommended to stock up on your food, whether that be the basics of berries and coconuts or a more lavish recipe involving bats or a vegan-based diet. Whatever you make, you can stock up in your craftable storage boxes, and it’ll keep no matter what. Fresh food daily, pending you, make it in advance.

In any game where crafting is the focal point, you’ll soon get used to the tools and structures you need to build and maintain for optimal chances of survival. At the beginning of The Survivalists you start with combining pebbles to make a blunt instrument reminiscent of the apes in 2001: A Space Odyssey but later can build sturdier tools like pickaxes, shovels and axes.

Each item has a durability rating, so once it reaches zero, you need to make a new one, so it’s good to carry supplies with you, but you don’t have endless depths in your loincloth, despite what you tell the girls. You’ll need an extra hand or two in the form of monkeys.

Quite possibly, the best conceivable companion in a shipwrecked environment is a monkey. Besides loving the primate, my children are chimpanzees so that you could appreciate my connection. Said monkeys will follow you around for company, but more importantly, your unpaid workers.

Monkey Business

The Survivalists - Hunter
The Hunter (alas, an early trophy). Source: Screen capture

This could be the most significant selling point for The Survivalists, but also the most frustrating as these chimps’ AI is a little erratic. You can pull up a command wheel and get any money in your entourage to mimic your action, then repeat, saving you the hassle.

For example, in mimic mode, you throw them a banana then they watch you as you craft a table or chip away at rocks. Once they get it, an idea cloud will appear, and as long as you give them the tool they need to do the job, they’ll snatch it and do their own thing.

Automation in The Survivalists can be an absolute godsend as the more items you unlock from a visual ‘skill tree’, the more remote the materials are and the longer to build. Pending you source the materials and supply them, the monkey will do the job freeing your time to pursue other interests – a new language perhaps, filling in a sudoku, or building a raft, acquiring a telescope and venturing off to another island.

You can essentially set up a monkey production line having some build, while the others collate the materials. The two key issues are getting to select the correct monkey without interrupting the others, then for them to ‘get’ the instruction. On top of that, once their tool runs out, you need to make another or get another monkey to make one.

I’m An Impatient Gamer, Get Me Outta Here!

Exploration is encouraged in The Survivalists, and pending your primate chain gang are doing their thing, you can explore your islands and others. You could interact with the locals, which usually starts with a game of catch; they fire arrows at you, and you have to catch them with your knee. There are also friendly and hostile animals that you can hunt or use traps to salvage their bits.

Another highlight would be the unique items you can find in human remains or secret tombs. For the first couple of hours of the game, I built up a fortress of hay, then wood, but before I could finish the latter, I’d learned the stone wall recipe, so that was the game for me and I loved it. When I ventured out, however, I found numerous goodies such as a gold sword, shield and a vendor that sells unique goods for a ridiculous price.

The Survivalists - You do it
Monkey see, monkey do it. Source: Screen capture

That investment in a base paid off as you’ll on occasion get raided by the locals, and they’ll knock your walls down (not so much stone, heh heh). Your monkeys can be trained to attack, but they lack the initiative, so I had set bone pits all around my home, which served as the perfect defence. Sure, it took an age to build, but I wasn’t going anywhere, and I could pinch the bow and arrow sets, fruit and gold they left in their demise.

Getting the hang of the monkeys was a bit of an oversight for me at first as I felt it was too complicated and wanted to do myself. However, once I dedicated all three minutes to learning how to, the automation process made the game even better. I’ve easily put in some solid sessions into The Survivalists. While it naturally has some flaws, the sheer escapism and joy of crafting items without going in blind reminded me of Forager, a similar title I also fell in love with.

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