It’s cold… very cold… you open your eyes slowly to discover that you’re lying face down in the snow. Slowly, you get up to see the scene of destruction surrounding you. The plane that you were on is smashed and broken, burning in the snow. There’s no one else here, you’re all alone, and you’re starting to freeze…
Always a cheerful start to a game! This is the Wild Eight, developed by 8 Points, and it is a survival co-op adventure. Co-op? But I thought you just said you were alone? Yes… well… that’s because this game is a very early alpha and the multiplayer mode isn’t in yet – OK?
“The game tells the story of eight people whose everyday lives are forever changed after a horrific plane crash. They now find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere, deep in the forests of Alaska.”
What we have here is a game in which the player must survive the harsh frozen woods. You collect rocks, chop down trees, build shelters and, crucially, fire. Then you need to worry about food. Initially you can scavenge some supplies from the wreckage of your plane, but these don’t last long. You need to find berries and mushrooms that can be cooked to sustain you while you research additional recipes that allow you to build better equipment to trap and hunt animals for meat and bones.
So far then, the Wild Eight is following the well-trodden path of the stereotypical survival genre – but here is where it gets interesting: The Wild Eight is procedurally generated. The next time you play it’s completely different – as I discovered when I started again to find a massive chasm just south of the crash zone! The game creates the map uniquely in a kind of tile-based layout, a bit like a chess board, with each tile bringing different items and quest opportunities.
Hang on, quest opportunities? Why yes, this is where the Wild Eight differs again from the usual collect-craft-research-repeat gameplay style that so dominates this genre – there are objectives! Things to do! Places to go and tasks to actually accomplish in order to progress through the story.
At the moment, the Wild Eight is more of a playable demo. There’s not a lot of content yet, but the basics are in. The player needs to watch his status bars carefully – if any of them reach zero, it’s game over. There’s no respawn here – you have to start again. Health, stamina, hunger and heat must all be carefully maintained to avoid death, but the two that drop the fastest are hunger and heat, which can be a bit of problem if you’re out hunting or scavenging for materials when you get caught in a blizzard!
Graphically, this game is beautifully presented in a 3D top-down (with a rotatable camera) polygon style. Think of a really good version of Another World, with amazing lighting effects, and you might be on the right sort of track – or just look at the screenshots… yeah… maybe that’s a better idea…
Anyway, however you want to describe it – the game looks really good. The day-night cycle adds a lot to the immersion, as does the howling winds and eerie moans that initially caught me off-guard. The ambient music is subtle and haunting, and when coupled with the other sound effects, make you want to turn the fire on and wrap yourself up in a warm blanket.
There are, of course, a few issues with the graphics – sometimes areas don’t quite marry up with the neighbouring tiles, and once I had a tile not load at all – which was fun when I fell through the massive void into a never ending free-fall to oblivion. Some recipes seem costly to research and then craft for little gain. And it’s often difficult to throw things anywhere near where you want them to go. But like I say, this is all completely expected in an early alpha such as this, and I’m sure all the aforementioned issues will get addressed as the game development progresses.
All in all, I rather like the Wild Eight. The polygonal style, the fancy lighting, the awesome level generation, and the objectives mean that this game could be quite tasty when it’s finished. I’m looking forward to seeing other styles of area being added – I wandered around for hours and only found snow, lakes and rocks – and I cannot wait to actually enjoy the storyline. The Wild Eight is one to watch.