How to Survive E3 Preview: Top Down ARPG Meets Zombie Survival Sim
Zombies, the filthy buggers, are swarming the Los Angeles Convention Center this week, with the undead featured in a number of upcoming releases. One in particular that I hadn’t even heard of prior to the show surprised me, and I think it’s worth becoming at least a blip on your gaming radar. It’s called How to Survive, it’s a top down ARPG/survival sim mash-up from 505 Games, and I can’t wait to play it again.
You know the drill: a mysterious virus has decimated the world’s population, killing just about everyone before bringing back them back again to hunt down the living. In How to Survive, the story opens with the player escaping to a four-island chain off the coast of Colombia. Yep, you made it to the harbor, found a boat, and motored your way out to sea. You did it! Unfortunately, escaping to an island turns out to be a zombie survival pipe dream. Not long after I stepped off my boat, I was greeted by a welcoming party of flesh-hungry shamblers.
The ARPG staples are all here. There are three characters to select from, two guys and a gal, one is strong and slow, one is faster but not as tough, and the third is quick but fairly weak. For my hands-on demo, I went with the quick young lady who happens to bear a striking resemblance to the rebooted Lara Croft. There’s a basic melee attack to fend off zombies as well as a strong attack that needs to be charged up, and I was quickly chopping away at the recently deceased with my starting weapon, a machete. Once the small beach was cleared of threats, I discovered what makes How to Survive more than just Diablo in the post-apocalypse: loot is stuff you need to keep your character alive.
Along with your health bar, players also have hunger, thirst, and tiredness bars, and each have to stay above zero unless you want your next meal to be braaaaains. Similar to, though not nearly as simulation-like as DayZ or, say, Project Zomboid, you’ll have to scavenge for food and water to survive and find hard-to-reach safe zones where you can rest your weary head. These meters also have an impact on your character’s overall performance. Get too tired, thirsty, or hungry, and you’ll become increasingly slower in your movements and attacks. That’s not good when running away is often your best option.
The second big feature that really differentiates How to Survive is crafting. Zombies will all have some items on them that you can pick up after you’ve sent them back to their graves, but you’ll mainly find items you need by searching the island. Once you find a few items, the crafting kicks in, and you can begin combining eggs, flour, and water to make a zombie killing cake, if you catch my meaning.
For example, I was able to combine a particular stick I found with some string to create a basic bow. More smaller sticks were transformed by combining my knife and some bird feathers to become arrows. Now I could start softening up zombies from afar. Oh, and those bird feathers? The island has a few different animals roaming around, and I was able to take out an ostrich to get its delicious meat (hunger bar!) as well as the feathers I would use for my arrows. Developer EKO Studios told me that there will be a total of 32 different weapons players will be able to cobble together, from a basic bow all the way up to (courtesy of a slew of different mechanical parts) machine guns and beyond, and each weapon will have variations. For example, a few different parts can be combined and added to your basic bow to create a much more powerful compound bow.