Monday, September 28, 2015



Well,… back from vacation and we are literally "surviving" again. This time we find ourselves waking up on the beach of a ridiculously vast island - I guess - "called" Savage Lands...

Almost completely naked we spot some basic tools scattered on the beach and that’s it. Seriously, that’s the story, that’s the plot, that’s what this game – similar to many other games of the survival genre – builds upon: a naked and nameless dude on the beach.

As you know, or might have guessed, I am not the biggest fan of this type of games but occasionally I like to try them out as well. In this case the game actually caught my and all my friends' attention for our annual Barn-LAN, due to the fact that it can also be played cooperatively. Anyway, after spending some time on the island alone and together with friends, here are my thoughts about it:

Savage Lands (web) is a decent, modern survival game from Signal Studious and DigitalDNA Games. Nothing special but also nothing that has to hide on Steam. Actually offering several gameplay elements, in my opinion the game's focus still clearly lies on crafting and - as most others in the everlasting shadow of Minecraft - it simply fails to deliver, so (early access) far. Although the game allows you to place a few buildings, the gear as well as weapons are vast in numbers and basically it is fun to craft, the game lacks completely in making it fun to gather the resources for the crafting.

As in almost all other similar games the collecting of resources or rather crafting materials becomes a necessity and more of a burden instead of something fun to do with the certain adventurous characteristic. Unfortunately the environment in Savage Lands is way too big (even for 4 players!) and even worse offers almost no diversity at all. - Seriously, the whole island looks the same... everywhere and regardless of playing one minute ore 15 hours. Sorry, you know I am not that much of a graphic-fanatic but we are talking about immersion here, and I honestly think a game that is making me run around in the wilderness for hours and hours just to find some rocks to craft something should make this very wilderness as special, diverse and beautiful as possible. If I walk for miles and miles, at some point I just want to see something different. - And yes, three big towers and some abandoned houses aren't enough. Why is there no water on the island for example? I don't know about the final plans of the developers but for now (early access) the whole island (except the items) is static... so, if it stays that way, I dearly suggest to add some rivers to the island. That's not too much work, it's not only something to look at but also a good chance to add some more basic resources like fishes and also a renewable stone and/or ore source. Oh, and it would also be a great option to help the player find his way on this big and confusing island. - Btw.: Don't ever craft the compass in this game... such a waste.

Like I said, crafting is no fun if getting the materials isn't. Also balancing was still an issue with the game at the time I played it and not only the balancing of enemy health, enemy damage, enemy numbers, player health, hunger, item durability and coldness... unfortunately also the crafting system showed serious imbalance and ultimately closed the above described loop of burden when it comes to gathering resources.


So, besides constantly running out of resources just to maintain a certain level of gear and being forced to drift further and further away from your bases which in turn loops back to you getting killed and your gear getting more broken than ever and having to head out further in order to get the materials to repair it,... what else is there in Savage Lands? - Well, there are some enemies to kill! - Not that many, but with about 5 or 6 different types of enemies this game actually ranks among the better independent survival games, honestly. But yeah... fighting the enemies not only becomes boring but also pretty frustrating since you have no chance to block and basically no chance to run away, which is the main reason for your gear getting broken and the constant need for new materials to repair them (yep, back in the loop). Oh, and there is also one big dragon flying around the island constantly burning your ass... erm.. gear, I meant "gear". Good news is, that allegedly it can finally be killed in the current version of the game.

Honestly, Savage Lands isn't that bad of a game. I would still recommend it anytime and without hesitation to everyone who likes this type of survival game and who has a good idea of what to expect from an independent game like this. One of the more outstanding things about Savage Lands surely is the multiplayer or rather cooperative capability which is something most related games always miss. I spent about 20 hours on that island and I did pretty much everything there was to. Some people might say that's a lot of time, others might say that's nothing. I honestly don't know... and while I feel and think the game didn't offer me that much after the first few hours of playing, I still got caught in the loop of my own ambition and probably got enough time out, justifying this purchase.

Most of the issues I had with the game could be completely different already, or when the game is finished. I doubt that there will be much more graphical and environmental improvement but I am sure at least the unbalanced game elements will be resolved. Also, as much as I love to use my own imagination, I would really appreciate a little bit of story, lore and purpose to the whole game and its characters. I believe the developers still have a long way to go. But who knows, in the end we might still get a survival clone that with its mature approach without the usual zombie infestations can stand firm in the shadow of Minecraft and the thousand unnamed clones after all.

Play more! Collect more!