Thick snow covers the landscape, temperatures are plummeting, and a huge asteroid has wiped out much of life as we know it, devastating the planet we are on. To make things worse, supplies are now limited. At present, five survivors are still alive within the confines of an abandoned church and they are looking to you to help them survive. Without serious help the end of their life, and yours, is just around the corner. Then out of nowhere a small robot known only as Ako-Light springs to life and broadcasts a weak yet mysterious transmission – in 30 days time help will arrive, and you and your group of survivors will be taken to safety. Will you be able to survive the cold, harsh wintry conditions to make the most of the precious resources to ensure everyone makes it out alive, or will you be the latest victim of the apocalypse?
That’s the situation at hand in Impact Winter.
Throughout Impact Winter, you take on the role of Jacob, apparent leader of the survivors and it’s your job to leave church on a daily basis and head out into the harsh and hazard-filled conditions to look for resources that will aid in your group’s survival chances. To help you out and lift the burden, the survivors left at the church can be tasked with different jobs to ensure things continue whilst you are outside in the ‘void’ – the name given to the cold, dark and lonely outdoors.
Each of the survivors have their own unique skills that ensure they are each a valuable member of your team. Wendy is an old-lady, but with her age comes many years of perfecting meals and because of this, she is best served as the group cook… she is also a veterinary nurse with a strong knowledge of medicine. Blane is another older character and as a former teacher, he comes with plenty of knowledge that can be called upon should you need it from time to time – and you will. Maggie is the young and active DIY specialist and mechanic within the group and Christophe is the technologically adept individual whose skills can be used to look after Ako-Light and provide upgrades for your little robot companion as you begin to make progress.
Ako-Light is the final member of the team – albeit a seriously advanced robotic one – and this little upgradeable robot will be doing all your heavy-lifting for any items that you wish to bring back. He also provides you with eyes in the dark via a bright light and a radar that scans the immediate vicinity. It’s fair to say this little thing is an important bit of kit.
As you play the role of the team leader, giving out orders to others within the team is a necessity if you hope to make it to the end of the 30 days. Every role given out will have an impact on your chances of survival and keeping your team alive, and it can also impact on the happiness of individuals… another of the important aspects within the game.
Each character, including you, has many different needs to fill, all reminiscent of The Sims games. These include overall health, energy, temperature, hunger, thirst and morale, and if you want to keep your chances of survival up, then looking after and fulfilling every individual need is a must. If not, then well, it won’t be long before you find deaths within the group or individuals deciding to leave and trying their luck out in the post-apocalyptic tundra on their own. Those unhappy individuals who decide to stay won’t perform their assigned roles well either and will be leaving you with extra work to do within the day.
A big part of maintaining these needs comes down to the items you find out in the wasteland and how you use and ration them. Rationing items is vital, but you can’t just go throwing all your items at the first person who needs them, and you’ll need to assess needs to see who is most in need of which items.
There is all sorts of junk out there too and it’s up to you to note the things you need before heading out into the void as you won’t be able to carry them all back. That is all thanks to your limited Resident Evil-style inventory space, so planning a trek for specific items is by far the best way to work.
Items you’ll need will be varied, with wood needed to maintain campfire heat, which is collected via broken chair legs and similar items, whilst ingredients for recipes are needed to ensure Wendy can make different meals – with each character having favourite meals that impact on happiness. Further items, such as phones and laptops are important to be broken down for equipment that Christophe can use to upgrade Ako-Light and there are many general items needed for day-to-day survival, including those that Maggie can use to craft weapons for you to use against the other dangers of the void.
After collecting the items you need, it will still take time before most of them can be crafted into useful items. For example, cooking doesn’t yield an immediate result and it will take Wendy a little time and energy before she’ll have your next hot dinner ready. Maggie meanwhile will need to put those DIY skills to use and bring you that next weapon to keep you safe. It’ll take even longer if they aren’t happy or have needs that aren’t being met.
One thing that becomes a bit of a problem is asking others to craft items. This means that precious time is taken away from the roles originally assigned and this in turn sees necessary chores then not being done. It’s all a bit of a vicious circle.
There are many roles within Impact Winter that can be given to the survivors and whilst your list of available ones starts out relatively small, levelling up will open up the option to unlock an extensive list of new roles, although only one can be chosen with each level-up.
To level up though, you’ll need to earn RP (Rescue Points) and this is done via general exploration, making discoveries, crafting new items and helping strangers that you meet on your travels. As you level up, the rescue timer counting down the 30 days will decrease, meaning the more you progress and help others, the quicker you will get to your thirty-day mark and secure rescue. It isn’t a must to aid others and it is possible to make it to the end without helping a soul, but doing it that way is simply asking for trouble – not to mention making things much harder.
But how do all these elements tie together?
Well one thing that stands out above anything else within Impact Winter is just how well the team over at Mojo Bones have created a real sense of urgency within the environment. Each journey brings a level of uneasiness and fresh dangers, and with harsh conditions battling away at you every step of the way, survivors depending on you, needs to meet and resources required, there is never a moment’s rest. This sees you watching the rescue timer intently with a genuine hope that you can make it through with everyone alive. It’s rare to see a game that can provoke such feelings.
Whilst the survival genre is one that often sees countless new releases arriving throughout the year, it’s rare to see a game that can set the tone right or make the experience feel complete or unique. Impact Winter is however a game that ticks all the right boxes and with gameplay that engages the player from the very first moments to the very last, this is one adventure that deserves plenty of praise.
As for the negatives, and well, it’s hard to point one out. There will be those who find complaint with the lack of fast-travel, but for me, running to and from every location is part of the exploration and something I found enjoyable. But that said, one thing that be great would have to be the option to save anywhere rather than being forced to run back to the church and sleep every time.
That is however only a minor niggle in an otherwise splendid game and if you’re after an engaging survival title, taking the price as a factor, it’ll be hard to find one better than Impact Winter.