Mist Survival has a lot going for it. Lovingly created by a single developer, who continues to produce updates and respond to player feedback, this survival game is one to keep your eyes on. Having what you’d expect from a survival game, while trying to put on its own twist, Mist Survival is shaping to be a good title. Yet with some bugs and areas that need polishing, it’s not one I can recommend in its current Early Access state.

Mist Survival is developed and published by Dimension 32 Entertainment, and predominately worked on by one person, Rati Wattanakornprasit. This singleplayer title wastes no time dropping you into its world, and visually, it doesn’t disappoint. It’s graphically impressive, having you start out in a beautiful, apocalypse-torn forest aesthetic, complemented by the surrounding mountains. Too often, games with a post-apocalyptic theme overlook the design of nature, but not here.

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For a game that hasn’t seen a full release yet, the graphics are very impressive. Just ignore my sprained ankle.

The premise of Mist Survival is simple: Three years ago, a mysterious mist took over, leaving the survivors to run amok in a zombie-filled world. It’s this mist that infected everyone, leaving only a handful of survivors who are also immune to its effects. The mist brings out these infected zombies in hoards to go after any survivors out in the open. Besides the zombies, everything you’d expect from a survival game is here. You begin in the most basic of settlements, with little food, water and no mattress to rest your head on. Whenever you come across a new settlement, an icon appears and you can make that your base. In the base, you can fortify it, hoard your much needed items and build also some furniture. You can drop down and sleep anywhere, but sleeping on the ground in any old hut you find will make you more likely to wake up, making it harder to keep on top of fatigue. You can also come recruit NPCs to your base to help you build it up and of course, defend it when the titular mist sets in.

Oh, and if you thought Season 8 of Game of Thrones was too dark, you’ve got another thing coming here. Mist Survival’s nights are realistically pitch black, not the blue Instagram filter most games call dark. It’s a great and immersive touch – just make sure you keep an eye on the time. On top of that, you’ve also got your stats to worry about. Hit points, hunger, thirst, fatigue, strength and temperature are all kept track of in the corner of the screen, and they can’t be ignored. For example, when I narrowly survived my encounter with a zombie, I was left wounded. I’d also been aimlessly wondering around the forest, and had found myself dehydrated. This meant I had no stamina to run, and my next encounter with the undead proved to be my last.

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I had to run in here and spam the screenshot button just to show you the zombies. You’re welcome.

So, you spend most of your time finding food, water, and materials. Sounds boring, right? It was… until the mist set in. After about half an hour of playing, I was beginning to get bored. The tiresome task of flinging spears into a bear (which was helpfully clipped into a tree) was broken up by a screech. Before I could get my bearings, it was too late—a zombie was right up in my face. In my panic, I tried to bash the bastard with a hammer, to no avail. I was dead. This mist appears randomly, and completely shakes up whatever you’re doing. When it gets foggy, you better remember where your base is and have it properly defended. You better be stocked up and not need a grocery shop anytime soon, or you’ll have to brave the zombies without food. The mist event elevates the game from being a repetitive slog of scavenging and crafting, to something that makes you use your head.

The infected still roam the wasteland outside of the mist event, but they stick to their own areas, such as abandoned sheds or motel rooms. However, when the fog rolls in, they roam free, meaning nowhere is safe. Of course, it also clouds your vision, helping the zombies get the jump on you and making it much harder to retrace your steps as you make a beeline back to safety. It’s this that sets the game apart from the rest of its competitors, and where the most fun can be had.

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Poor guy never stood a chance, glued to that tree…

Having a difficultly curve this early on might seem harsh, but it works well. By having a hoard of zombies bombard me, I was being punished for not healing my limbs, setting off without enough ammo and wandering around without any care for where my hut is. There’s nothing that encourages you to take Mist Survival a bit more seriously than the undead breathing down your neck. From then on, I went out better equipped, and with an escape route in mind, infinitely more engaged than I had been before.

With that in mind, that’s how you can tell developeris on the right track. He knows how to make this game, even if it isn’t quite there yet. So what is Mist Survival missing in its current state? Not surprising for a Steam Early Access game, it needs a lot of polishing. That bear from earlier which was clipped into a tree was still there after three reloads.  Mist Survival also desperately needs more variety in places to explore. As nice as the woods look, it also got dull, with many copy-and-pasted environments, and vast areas of nothing. I also became frustrated by the inaccessible buildings and RVs I came across because after a while of scavenging, I really wanted more things to look at, and places to loot.

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The settlement building certainly gets the job done, but I wasn’t very motivated to try it out.

I also encountered a bug where hitting the pause button would open two menus, only letting me close one. This meant scrapping any progress I’d made so far. Although this happened twice, it was early on. I can only imagine how frustrating this would get later in the game. Furthermore, Mist Survival is very much “survival for the sake of survival.” With no goal to strive towards, it was hard to motivate myself to play for as long as I did. The mist mechanic makes it easier, since it mixes up whatever task you were doing at the time, but that isn’t enough to break up the gameplay right now. What would help is quests, goals and more areas to explore; perhaps some caves or big, abandoned buildings. This could also allow for some Fallout-esque environmental story telling, which would suit the post-apocalyptic tone nicely.

For the price, this is one to get if you’re a big survival nut and want to be part of the conversation in molding this game. If you have a lot of love for the genre, this is a good opportunity to get in the active community and help fill this game with stuff to do at launch, and with the care already put into it, it’s fair to say the developer will listen.  But for those who aren’t as passionate, you’re likely to run out of things to do fairly quickly. Mist Survival is one to keep in the back of your mind and have a look at on its full release, but not one to spend money on right now.

Rhiannon previewed Mist Survival using a Steam code provided by a representative of the developer. It is available on Steam Early Access now.