MSRP: $14.99 – base game, $19.99 – Storm Warning edition*
How to Survive is a zombie beat-em-up with RPG and survival game elements. You find yourself on a not-so-deserted island, inhabited by the undead, and a couple of other survivors who’ve been here a little bit longer than you have. They will give you quests (called objectives), and lead you through the story mode to try to escape.
There are four modes – I decided to start with story because it sounded like the other modes would benefit from having some experience with the game mechanics. There are three playable characters in the base game, as well as more than can be added with DLC or by purchasing the Storm Warning edition. There are also three difficulty levels, as well as multiplayer support, so it appears as if How to Survive will have plenty of replay value, especially if you can find someone to play with.
Although there isn’t a tutorial level, you will often see hints pop up in the lower left hand corner of your screen, and as you progress through the story, you will find collectible books. This has got to be the campiest version of a tutorial that I have ever seen. Clearly, the game doesn’t take itself too seriously, but I’m pretty sure that most people will either love or hate Kovac’s Rules without much room inbetween for apathy. For me, the first one was kind of fun, but over and over it’s just damn tedious.
The control scheme for keyboard and mouse is WASD movement with click to attack, and it feels a little wonky. How to Survive does have full controller support, but even after seeing controller instructions in game, it didn’t actually occur to me to try it out with the controller. The save system is checkpoint based, which is pretty irritating when combined with the odd staggering that the movement keys tend to give.
Looting is also somewhat problematic – it’s hard to see where lootable items are on the ground unless you’re standing right on top of them. This wouldn’t be awful except for the focus on fetch quests and crafting; you’re going to need to pick things up. This gets a lot worse when playing during the in-game nights – you will need to be very cognizant of which direction you’re pointing as there are monsters that need to be scared off by pointing a light at them. Directional light management makes it just that much harder to find stuff.
All of this may make it sound like I hated my time in How to Survive. I didn’t. It’s not a bad game, but it does feel rough around the edges, and at least as far as story mode is concerned, it’s very linear. As a single player game, there’s nothing about it that really sets it apart from other zombie killing games, at least within the first hour or so of play. The voice acting is really good, however, and the interface is easy to use. It’s certainly not revolutionary, but it’s still a decent experience.
*Until May 9th, both the base game and the Storm Warning edition are on sale for 90% off on Steam. For $2 for the complete package, I can certainly recommend picking this up – especially if you have access to a controller and/or people to play with.