Last year, I previewed a demo for Survival: Fountain of Youth, a single-player open world survival game developed by Odinsoft. While Survival held promise, it did have some irksome gameplay elements that resulted in a frustrating demo experience. I hoped these would have been ironed out by release. I was wrong. Survival has been released into Early Access, which is probably for the best as it still has gameplay issues which should really be addressed before a full release.
What sets Survival apart from other games within the survival genre is its story and exploration elements. We’re not just thrown into the wilderness and left to our own devices; there’s actually a path to follow and an evolving story which consists of more than just an objective to escape the situation. Set in the 16th century, we play as a crew member of Juan Ponce de Leon’s expedition to find the Fountain of Youth. Survival begins with an intro equipped with a narration and frozen frames using the game’s graphics rather than paintings.
After a brief introduction to the combat system, a storm hits and the ship begins to sink. We are given the quick-thinking choice of taking two items (the number depends on the difficulty setting you have selected) from the captain’s chest. I opted for the rucksack and bag of medicine. I liked this addition as it plays with the common question of “if you were marooned on a desert island, what items would you want to have with you?”
After selecting your items, you then jump out of the window and into the see. In the morning, you wake up washed up on the beach of a Caribbean island. Upon exploring the island, we discover that the ship’s Captain survived the event and resumed his mission of searching for the fountain of youth. We must follow the Captain’s tracks while also looking for other survivors, which mainly consists of following clues to the Captain’s whereabouts from island to island.
Like most survival games, we must learn to live in the wilderness in order to succeed in Survival. Sleep, food and water is a must as well as avoiding disease, attacks from wild animals, and effects from extreme weathers. We can gather resources and craft tools, shelter and boats to aid us in this journey. One addition which wasn’t in the demo is the ability to scrap debris, however this mechanic doesn’t work very well as you’ll encounter a huge chunk of wood which will only provide two sticks when scrapped.
Although we begin on the Island of Hope, Survival’s setting is actually a selection of islands with different biomes which we can travel to as the story progresses. I really hate this trope in survival games. My reason for this is similar to why I disliked Retreat to Enen so much and that’s because it prevents you from being able to continue working on the same base throughout the duration of the game. It basically takes away any motivation I had for taking the time to build a great shelter because I knew I would just be leaving the area once I had reached the next point in the story.
One thing about the gameplay that Survival does well are the exploration aspects. We’re not just wandering around the wilderness; you’ll come across ruins from ancient civilizations to adventure into and there are also plenty of collectibles to gather and research which can improve our stats. Unfortunately, this part of Survival is discouraged by the lack of valuable loot from making these treks. Again, I had little motivation to climb to the top of the tallest mountain when all I’ll get out of it are some rocks, a water source, and a torch.
There are over 30 animal species in Survival, which would have been great if they were in just one map. But, because they are spread out across several maps, there’s only actually about five in each. This draws us to another annoying part in Survival and that’s the frustrating enemies, of which there are too many of. On the Island of Hope, your main opponents will be wolves, boars, stupid squirrel things which dart around your legs, and hawks which will keep swooping down on you. While the wolves are spread out evenly in certain areas of the map, the rest of these animal species are hugely overpopulated – to the point where you can’t walk a few feet without being chased by growling or squawking.
This also prohibits you from crafting, sleeping or building while wandering the map too as you can’t do either of these things while ‘an animal is hunting you’ – which will mostly consist of you shouting in frustration “what animal?” as you look around the empty, open space surrounding you.
Crafting costs time with certain tasks taking much longer than others. This makes sense as daylight is a valuable resource, so it adds a risk to building. However, a lot of the timings for certain activities really don’t make sense. For example, it costs 30 minutes to attempt to light a fire once with a Firestarter (attempts can also be failed too, so you could end up spending hours just trying to light your fire). On top of this, it’s pretty much pointless trying to travel at night, so most of the gameplay will take place during the day, but needing to spend time on crafting or repairing items significantly shortens this and makes the days feel far too short for completing what you set out to do.
Crafting can also be a massive headache, mainly for the various sequences required to craft one basic thing. You’ll want to build a boat, but first you need to build around three workbenches/machines and various tools, and that’s not counting the resource gathering which also requires specific tools. On top of this, everything has durability, even the boat! So you’ll be going back and fourth needing to repair your hammer and even after all that effort, you then need to spend further resources fixing the boat if the durability has been reduced. I also found that the durability of an item shortens over time, to the point where my basic axe was being broken just from retrieving a single stick from a tree. This is utterly frustrating and really drags down the crafting process. Even our backpack loses durability! How?! What are we doing with it?
As mentioned before, there are skills which you can level up in Survival as well as perks to unlock such as your thirst or hunger building slower. Skills can be improved by simply performing relevant tasks as well as reading books.
Survival doesn’t impress visually, though I wouldn’t expect anything amazing from an indie open world game. This doesn’t excuse the horrendous framerate drops which happen randomly though. On top of this, the weather effects also don’t look great as cloudy or stormy weather will reduce the lighting so significantly that it’s easy to mistake it as turning to night, so you start to travel back to your camp. I also thought that the cutscenes rendered from the game’s graphics just look awful – animations or simply drawings would have been far better.
Much like the visuals, the audio in Survival isn’t well put together. Although it has a voice over, the narrator’s voice acting is pretty bad and sounds as though the speaker is forcefully putting on a deeper voice to sound more pirate-like. The audio editing is also a mess, with the narration sounding much quieter than the game’s sound effects, so after each cutscene your speakers/headphones will suddenly start blaring with the gameplay sounds after you turned the volume up to hear the narrator better. The noises that enemies make are also very repetitive and get annoying quickly. On top of this, there doesn’t seem to be a draw distance with enemy noises, so they sound much closer than they actually are which can be really jarring. I also noticed bad grammar in quite a lot of the descriptions and other text which threw me off quite a few times as I ended up needing to re-read the sentence to understand what they were saying.
In conclusion, Survival: Fountain of Youth holds a lot of promise in its Early Access state, though there is a lot of fixing to do to make the gameplay actually enjoyable.
Jess reviewed Survival: Fountain of Youth on PC in Early Access.