Impact Winter Review – Classic Survival Mastery?
Platforms: PC (reviewed)
Developer: Mojo Bones
Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment
Release: 23th May 2017
Survival games are indeed a strange genre, oversaturated since years by the constant flow of trashy till actual good indies, yet still one of the most successful genres ever. So, of course another one had to be released sooner or later, this time under Bandai Namco´s publishing label and a whole bunch of promises, packed under the name Impact Winter. A tale of a survivors, prisoned in a giant snow desert after a quite impactful winter (pun intended), having to survive long enough until help arrives or die trying.
Once a year, the greatest season of all arrives, I´m talking about winter obviously. However, what happens if winter decides to become a bit rougher, completly snowing in a city, along our group of survivors? With help coming in 30 days we´re left with the task to bring our group through the most impactful winter. Impact Winter wants to tell a story about the struggle of human survival in a snowy, sad landscape, yet never achieves to give characters more depth than single attribute nor able to do much with its setting. As nearly every other game before, an impactful winter isn´t enough to impact the story.
However, Survival games don´t need a story nor great characters, if it offers convincing gameplay. Luckily Impact Winter does exactly that, by implementing a two-split gameplay, not unseen before but combined to form a more than solid base.
On the one hand we´ll be spending a lot of time in the church, our home base, where all our survivors gather, along the different crafting menus etc. At the beginning, the church seemed more like a bland excuse of a hub base, topped by scattered menus, survivors that offer even more menus and an annoying fire, that needs to burn, in order to warm us. Throughout the game, this initial impression of a soulless home quickly changed, due to the different abilities and much more we unlock during the game.
These abilities can be assigned to our survivors to give them extra bonuses like faster sleep or regeneration, giving them a new gameplay depth and letting them feel like humans, not menus. Considering, that we have to keep them warm by burning wood or other things, feeding them with collected food, while not getting much in return except a feeling of accomplishment, makes said system even better. Since we get new bonuses for them, easing our struggle for survival, we´re somewhat motivated to help them, making the church a far better hub world than expected but not outstanding.
On the other hand most of our time will be spent in the actual snowy outlands of Impact Winter´s world, we have to get our resources from somwhere after all. Starting from our church we start our trips to the snow desert, hoping to find new schematics, food, wood, weapons and gagdets, helping us to unlock containers or other little bonuses. We can even stumble upon quest items, giving us either the resources to fix the various obstacles we encounter, like the broken roof of our church, or shorten the waiting time for help, by giving them nomads. 30 days are a long time to survive after all, especially if you have to keep the stamina and food bar of various characters up, along the fuel of our trusted companion robot, so possiblities to shorten the time are very valuable.
Yet, you probably noticed how familiar all these things sound, if you played other Survival games before, and yes it´s true, Impact Winter doesn´t do much new, when itcomes to mechanics. Often, you´ll do exactly what you did 4 games before it.
However, rest assured, since its biggest strength, the atmosphere itself, can establish quite an unique standing. While its main story may be bland without any kind of personalities behind the characters, the environmental story-telling presented to us is truly a sight to behold. More than a few times I encountered a house or abandoned place, full of little details, letting me know who lived here before or even how they died or what became of them. Without words and solely through pictures we´re presented a world, that´s believable, honest, tragic … human. A Survival game, which nails the atmosphere of crawling through meter thick snow just to discover more and more corpses and despair.
Presented to us in a beautiful graphic framework successfully highliting the atmosphere once more. Snow both looks and behaves quite cool, textures are stylish, lighting effects are beautiful, overall Impact Winter can establish an unique artstyle for itself. We´re not dealing with yet another generic Survival game, it has a personality. Whenever I found myself playing it, I deeply enjoyed the presentation because it goes hand in hand with the atmosphere.
Sadly, the technical side isn´t nearly as good. Clustered with various dumb decisions, like locking the resolution to FullHD (at least for me, owning a 4k display), offering only a few graphical options, as well as having one of the worst experiences to offer, when it comes to controls. Even tho some of the bugs and control issues were fixed, Impact Winter is far from being considered a finished and working product, resembling more of an early acces stage, rather than a finished product, just looking at the technical problems.
All in all, Impact Winter is a very classic Survival game, doing basically nothing new gameplay-wise, having a boring story and weak start. Luckily it does enough unique things in the long run, like the amazing environmental story-telling and great presentation, topped with some little new mechanics, adding some depth to the mix. Wouldn´t it have had the various bugs and control problems, I would have found myself liking Impact Winter for just offering an immersive experience, able to compete with the very best out there. Unfortunately, at the moment, I can´t fully recommend it, due to said problems, despite the neat little game hiding beneath them.
[A Review Code was provided by BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment]