How to Survive
Seriously, I’m in zombie apocalypse heaven! First “Project Zomboid”, now this…I think I may have to look into cloning myself just so that I can keep up with all of these games. As you may have guessed, “How to Survive” is all about surviving in a world filled with zombies. Whereas games like “Dead Island” and “Left 4 Dead” feature a first person viewpoint, “How to Survive” keeps things at a top-down perspective. It’s sort of like “Smash TV” or “Diablo”, but with an intricate and in-depth crafting system along with a few other goodies.
The main menu allows the player to fly solo, brave the apocalypse with a friend via local or online co-op, and adjust the game options. A gamepad will be needed for local co-op. There’s also a leaderboard and achievements section, for those of you who enjoy the bragging rights. While there is no extensive tutorial of sorts in this menu, the story mode (which I’ll touch on in a minute) starts you off slowly and allows you time to get used to the gameplay mechanics. Necessary player needs like food and water aren’t even addressed until after the first tutorial island, for example.
First, it’s worth noting that there are three different characters to choose from, each with their own unique talent trees and abilities. Kenji, for example, has a fairly high precision stat while everything else is about average. Abby is quick, has a lot of stamina, and is fairly accurate, but has a low health pool. Jack is the opposite of Abby in that he favors strength and health, but doesn’t have a lot of stamina or accuracy. As you play with these characters, you’ll level up and earn skill points which you can then take with you to the next game. You can even earn XP by answering quiz questions in the loading screens…how cool is that?
When it comes time to actually start playing, you’ll have two different modes to choose from: story and challenge. Challenges are a bit shorter in length and for the most part task you with getting from “Point A” to “Point B” without dying. They make for great co-op sessions for when you only have an hour or so to burn. Story mode, as the name implies, is a bit more extensive and designed for those who are interested in sticking it out over the long haul. It’s worth noting that online co-op only supports the challenge mode. If you want a partner for story mode, you’ll need to grab one offline*. Challenge mode can also be played offline solo or with a friend, if you wish.
The game features a day and night cycle, with zombie behaviors being affected accordingly. Most of your time will be spent looking for food, water, and items during the day while hunkering down at night in order to get some sleep (assuming you’re tired). Yes, you read that right…you’ll be tasked with keeping your character fed and alert through various means. Think “The Sims”, but on a smaller scale. You can also craft herbs and the like to keep your health from falling to zero, which is obviously a good thing. “Survival Guide Video Chapters” are scattered about to give you tips on how to keep that from happening. I have to say, they are pretty amusing to watch.
Combat is satisfying, not to mention a bit nerve-wracking. Zombies can be slow, but they can also run at you at full speed. Players have the option to use a variety of melee and ranged weapons, with both requiring you to aim your shots for maximum effect. You could spam the fire button, but the shots won’t be as accurate and won’t damage your target nearly as much. Weapons in the game can either be crafted or found and it can be fun to play around with different combinations to see what works best. Customization is definitely not a problem in this game, allowing players to combine items to their heart’s content so that they can craft the ultimate weapon.
Along those lines, the biggest hook as far as I’m concerned is the crafting system. It’s fairly simple, but also pretty in-depth. Most of the items in game have a sort of symmetry, allowing you to recycle one thing for another in some fashion. Herbs can be combined with a piece of fabric, for example, to create a healing poultice. The interface is also fairly easy to understand, giving you both health and stamina indicators so that you know where you stand at all times. Objectives can be tracked on the map so that you’re not getting lost…something that I’m grateful for. My sense of direction is simply abysmal at times.
While I didn’t cover everything the game has to offer, I can safely vouch that it is easily worth the price tag. As a bonus, you can grab the game for thirty percent off on Steam if you purchase by October 31, 2013. “How to Survive”, from a parental standpoint, isn’t for kids. The game features blood, gore, and some pretty harsh language. As a mature adult however, I thoroughly enjoyed playing the game and have no regrets picking this up. Some things could stand to be improved I feel, like the visibility of loot and the limited number of respecs you’ve been given. Saving happens automatically after completing missions, rather than the player being able to do it manually. It’s also not the most in-depth zombie survival sim out there (flashlights don’t require batteries, etc.), but in the grand scheme of things, it does more than enough to keep you busy for a good, long while.
Final Verdict: 8/10
*Editor’s Note: 505 Games made an announcement on 10/23/13 that they intend to add online co-op support for story mode, which will take about a month to implement.
You can learn more about and purchase “How to Survive” by visiting the following websites:
You can view video play sessions here: