This year’s E3 saw Microsoft storm the show with some big announcements for the coming year and beyond. There were so many games that a few were actually announced after the show, during the daily Inside Xbox stream. One of those games was Vigor from Day-Z creator Bohemia Interactive. From the off it left everyone a little confused.

I, like most people, considered Vigor to be another battle royale game in a similar vein to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. I couldn’t have been more wrong as whilst it is a multiplayer survival game, you don’t find yourself taking on dozens of players in a fight to be the last man standing. No, Vigor has a far more subtle, nuanced style of gameplay in mind.

Opening up with a short tutorial level, it does a fairly good job of introducing you to the core of the game, allowing you the freedom to get a feel for the mechanics – which are admittedly a little clunky right now.

For the game preview version of Vigor, maps run on a rotating basis with two of the current five maps open for play. These have good variety in both size and aesthetic. We aren’t looking at PUBG levels of size here though; the game supports 8-16 players, so it will be pretty easy to become accustomed with these maps in time. The maps all feel pretty generic with no landscape features standing out, but they could well be purposely designed that way to ensure players aren’t congregating around specific areas; abandoned cars litter the pathways around the empty buildings, all surrounded by dense wildland. It does a suitable job of making the game feel like the empty post-apocalyptic wasteland that it is.

The aim of the game is not to head out and become the last man standing. Vigor is about gathering supplies to craft new weapons and fortifying your shelter, thus making your survival task easier. Supplies can be found just about anywhere – cabinets, cars, trucks, sheds, there are tons of places to look. More interestingly however is that the game doesn’t keep these static and that means supplies won’t be in the same place every match. This forces exploration and therefore increases risk.

Encounters with other players are suitably tense, often at times overwhelmingly so, offering up choice as killing another player will only reward you with whatever they have collected. I sometimes found myself avoiding unnecessary conflict and this is down to the simple fact that if you are killed you lose everything you have collected in that match, ensuring that the cost of death is incredibly high, forcing you to think very hard before tackling another player. If a firefight does ensue, you’ll find that Vigor is a fairly strategic if very clunky affair. Running out in to the open is almost certainly going to get you killed, and therefore use of cover and flanking are great options to have. Even so the weapons can feel ungainly and difficult at times, often leading to unnecessary deaths.

During each match an air drop will arrive at some point. These contain rare items and materials that can be of great benefit, but they come with a whole new set of risks. Firstly because of the way maps are designed, drops will see players congregate and therefore the chances of death are much higher, and secondly once you have collected the supplies from the drop you pop up on every player’s map, giving them an indicator as to where you are. It’s an interesting mechanic as it forces you to observe and plan. How many avenues are there to the drop? Do I have enough ammo? What’s my exit strategy?

It is this exiting that becomes the most tense experience though, with exit points dotted around the edges. You can leave at any point in the match by heading to one, but they are often run as choke points and can easily be used to ambush other players. It can sting to be so close to the exit and find yourself killed by a waiting player. That is the essence of Vigor though, it is all about surviving and doing whatever you can to survive, and it does a great job of offering such a wide array of options even in this early Preview stage.

Supplies gathered in matches can be used in your shelter, an open environment that acts as a hub for the game. Here you can craft new gear and weapons as well as fortifying your shelter. All of this is in the name of making survival easier; the more you gather the easier matches will become. Craft yourself some new gear to stand out for instance and players may be less likely to take you on. In this early stage the shelter is the area in need of most work as areas and options are currently unavailable, but these will open in time, hopefully allowning the shelter to be fleshed out.

Vigor does suffer from a couple of issues that need to be addressed before launch. As it stands, matchmaking is painfully slow with matches taking upwards of three minutes to start. Gathering supplies is also inconsistent and clunky, with the button prompt for collecting items very picky in regards to positioning, forcing you to get in exactly the right spot before you can collect the items.

Overall though Vigor is shaping up to be a genuinely unique experience and one that does its best to shy away from the big battle royale games currently storming the gaming world. With a little bit of work it will offer up a deep strategic game that can be full of tension. It is for that reason that this is definitely one to watch out for.

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