previews\ Oct 16, 2013 at 7:30 pm

How to Survive Preview: Fend for yourself on a deserted zombie island


I had the opportunity to check out the intriguing zombie game How to Survive earlier this year at E3. Unfortunately, conflicting appointments cut my time short, and I was forced to end my demo session a tad prematurely. So when 505 Games returned to Los Angeles to show off the game, I made sure to spend a nice chunk of time playing. For just over one hour, I got to check out and play a decent part of the campaign mode.

As established in my E3 impressions, How to Survive is primarily about fending for yourself in the wild. Like its title suggests, the survival aspect is the main component here, though zombies play a big role as well. These undead enemies are more than just a backdrop, and they pose a significant threat to your character's well-being. It's always best to be stocked up with the appropriate gear and weapons, because while one or two zombies may be easy pickings, an onslaught of enemies will most definitely cause you grief.

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Having survival gear on you at all times is a must. Along the way, you can pick up seemingly countless items. A lot of the time, these may just seem like trivial trash items (what am I supposed to do with a freakin' stick?!), but you can always use what you collect to upgrade certain items or build complete weapons (oh!). It's not uncommon to pick up random rags and herbs, and while you can certainly use the latter to heal yourself, you'll find that combining the two creates an even more effective health item.

It's best to try and conserve your base items so you can combine them later on with other pick-ups, but there are moments — namely when you're getting attacked by hordes of zombies — when you have no choice but to use a precious herb to regain a tiny bit of health. That's why it's so important that you pick everything up along the way. You just never know when something might come in handy, or when a specific crafting combination will be able to give you a much-needed edge, whether you're creating a health item, a gun, or a knife.

A bit of guesswork comes into play at times, so it's up to you to figure out what to put together. Thankfully, nothing is ever wasted, because you can't combine random items. Everything you put together can be turned into something. So while you may create an item you didn't want, you won't exactly waste the ingredients on a useless non-item. There are instances where you can select “uncombine” to take things apart, and most of the time, it works out. There are items, however, that can't be taken apart, such as knives you crafted out of bones.

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Crafting guns is a bit more nuanced. You can find all the parts for a pistol, put them together, and have a decent weapon at your disposal. Later on, you may come across rifle parts, but you may still require one specific item to complete the gun. You can then take apart your pistol and use the necessary part to complete your rifle. As far as these weapons are concerned, you're not stuck with one gun or another, which is great news considering there are 36 in total. Additionally, there are no complete guns in How to Survive, and every weapon is crafted from scratch.

Something I found really interesting was that you can drop items in certain spots without worrying about them disappearing. So if you leave a gun tucked away somewhere because you ran out of inventory space, you can always return to it later and pick it up right where you left it. That said, it's best to leave it in a spot you'll remember easily (like a bunker), because the game doesn't leave a mark on your map for your item, and you may forget exactly where you left it, forcing you to do unnecessary, time-consuming searching.

You need to constantly take into consideration different attributes. Your character's health, hunger, thirst, and fatigue are all major components of How to Survive, and you won't be able to make it far if you're falling short in any one area. Using health items, eating roots or meat, drinking water from a well, and going to sleep in a bunker all help keep the respective attributes high. Failing to do so can make it tough to fight enemies, defend yourself, or run away, essentially making you a deliciously slow zombie treat.

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How to Survive features two small islands and two large islands. Across these locales, you'll have to help different NPCs out by exploring the environments, collecting items, and meeting other survivors. The first island acts as a tutorial of sorts, teaching you how to craft, introducing you to different enemy types, and getting you acquainted with your own abilities. Later on, you're pretty much let loose into the open world and forced to fend for yourself.

How to Survive is set to launch next week (just in time for Halloween), so it's not too far off. The game will feature roughly eight hours of gameplay in its campaign, which supports local and online co-op for two players (though the Wii U version only supports local co-op). Eight challenges make up the extras, and these will task you with completing shorter objectives. The game will land on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, Wii U eShop, and Steam.

Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.

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David Sanchez David Sanchez is the most honest man on the internet. You can trust him because he speaks in the third person.
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