Love or hate survival games, they always have an aura of intrigue surrounding them; unique in the fact that every playthrough can be a totally different experience. With a vast array of survival games on the market it can be difficult to distinguish which title will be super taxing of your own life, and which of those will be great to play in short bursts. Games such as ARK: Survival Evolved demand such large quantities of your time as performing simple tasks such as gathering wood and meat can be a mammoth marathon of hours of gameplay.
The Wild Eight enters the fray as the latest survival game in the genre and is an intense action-adventure set in the frozen wilderness of Alaska. Just reading the storyline made me think of the fantastic TV series, Lost. There is always a sense of fascination with a plane crash, especially when there are survivors involved, which is the case here with The Wild Eight.
The Wild Eight instantly gave me vibes of other titles I have played and enjoyed, such as Don’t Starve and The Long Dark. Developed by Fntastic and published by HypeTrain Digital, the game landed (not crashed!) on Microsoft Windows at the tail end of 2019 with the PlayStation 4 arriving just over a year later in 2020. With a successful Kickstarter campaign which hit its $50,000 target within 11 days, it’s fantastic to see it is delving into further platforms and allowing everyone the opportunity to experience this project.
The Wild Eight is a casual and simple entry to the survival genre, particularly if you’re a newcomer to the scene, but still presents enough of a challenge to the veterans of the survivalists out there. Boasting bright and vivid polygonal visuals with a top-down view, it places you at a different perspective compared to many other survival games. The fact that it is procedurally generated also places the replayability at a highly likely outcome. I’ll be completely honest and state that personally I find the majority of survival games a real chore. Having played many recently, such as Stranded Deep amongst others, I find the grind and the micromanagement of everything tedious; sometimes overwhelming to wrap my head around. For the casual gamers amongst us, spending lengthy periods of time learning how to even absorb the simple factors, like creating an axe or spear, can be mind-numbing.
What I love about The Wild Eight is probably the easiest introduction to a survival game I’ve played – it’s super accessible to everyone. It will hold your hand a little at the start and show you the basics, but I have been impressed at how simplistic the menus are and how neat and tidy they appear. Simply observing the different items you can craft displays what you actually need to go and forage before you can build that item. Negotiating the miles of snowy terrain and built up areas will allow you to loot and locate plenty of materials in your bid to try and survive for as long as possible.
There are only three elements that you need to keep your beady eye on in your bid for survival – health, food and temperature. Temperature is what I found the most important with The Wild Eight, as obviously in the Alaskan environment it’s going to be colder than a rainy Tuesday in the UK. They have ensured that the balance is right here, as without too many elements it is just a case of ensuring you have enough food, materials to build fires, and shelter and weapons to slay any beasts lurking in the Alaskan world. I enjoyed that it isn’t such a challenge to prepare for the inevitable and has never been a case of spending hours grinding materials to craft.
The challenge however rears its head if you haven’t put the groundwork in for when the sun goes down. It is here where you’ll be faced with night-time storms that will push you into desperation to seek shelter and warmth. This is when you’ll notice the status bars of your elements depleting fairly rapidly. This becomes easier to manage once you have died of hypothermia a few times and begin to understand what to expect. Death in the easy and normal setting in The Wild Eight ensures that you can respawn with all the skills you have developed to that stage completely intact – you can even go and discover your frozen corpse and collect the materials that were left behind in the blizzard. Hardcore survival experts may find this a downside to the experience, but I welcomed it with open arms as you could pretty much pick up from where you left off.
The only frustration I found with the early game is discovering wolves and enemies across the map. If you’re not equipped to deal with them you have no chance of taking them on: seemingly decking a wolf in the face with your bare fists just pisses them off even more and you’ll be torn to shreds, turning that snow claret in no time at all. This is after some rampant music builds as they spend time chasing you. On the plus side however it teaches you when it is best to engage, and paces you in building up your character before having another crack with a weapon the next time.
I have been pleasantly surprised with the size of the map here in The Wild Eight which consists of many grids. Each time you pass through a grid you uncover and discover that area, and every time you start a new game they are randomly scattered meaning that the grids are never in the same order. This adds longevity and replayability if you wanted a new experience every time. It isn’t just survival we are experiencing either, as you’ll come across laboratories, bunkers and the need to follow power lines in an attempt to find a way to escape the bitter cold and lack of food out there. It is satisfying uncovering all of the grids and finding something genuinely interesting every time you progress further on foot. You can gain more pleasing moments as you grow your character with more experience, all as your shelter becomes more of a haven of warmth rather than a sheet flapping across some twigs.
Whilst everything is simplistic and easy to manage, that same feel doesn’t fold out to the control system; it is a little fiddly and clunky and I can’t help but think this hasn’t been adapted from the PC port very well. It isn’t game-breaking stuff but can be a minor headache when trying to change items to attack a wolf or whip out some shelter mid-blizzard. This is frustrating when seconds count and the controls can cause you to die – something that will happen. This is one area of The Wild Eight which could be worked on and improved, but we have to understand this has come from a small team which has fabricated such an intense, aesthetically pleasing experience here with some real replay value and longevity. The only other criticism I would pluck out is found in the combat; it can often feel rigid and unpredictable, especially if the enemy is aggressive.
Overall The Wild Eight on Xbox has done exceptionally well to grab my attention as I am generally not the greatest fan of survival games. Its accessibility draws you in almost immediately and its rich and detailed world will engage you with some genuinely satisfying exploration and survival elements. Whilst there could be some work done with the combat and control system, The Wild Eight performs well enough in all other aspects and presents you with more than enough gameplay to keep you entertained for hours. For its price point it is worth the plunge for sure, as there is something for everyone here – as indie titles go this is amongst the top end of the scale in terms of quality and quantity. Don’t freeze on your decision here: if you love survival games give The Wild Eight a blast, and if you’re a newcomer you’re in for a real treat.