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Winter Survival Early Access Review – Terrifying yet Promising

Winter Survival is a brutal survival game developed by DRAGO entertainment and launched on Steam early access on March 7, 2024. What was supposed to be a nice winter hike in the Mount Washington State Park with friends, turned into a dire situation. Stripped of gear and thrust into a merciless winter wonderland, you must battle the elements, hunger, wildlife, and your own sanity to survive.

The game offers two initial game modes, story and endless mode, with a third ‘cold wave’ mode coming soon. I dove into story mode, which is voice acted very well, where you learn more about yourself and people long gone while you struggle to survive in this harsh winter landscape. The tension in some moments is palpable as you try to avoid wolves and bears. You must find your friends and get back home. In Endless mode, you must take advantage of more resources and crafting options as you try to conquer the world around you. You start and proceed through the game with relative freedom.

Winter Survival offers a buffet of survival mechanics, and the game world is harsh and unforgiving. The snowy landscape is beautiful yet a constant deadly threat, with forests, mountains, and frozen lakes offering both resources and dangers. Early on you learn to use the environment to your advantage and avoid confrontation where possible. Observe your prey from within scrub bushes, study its behaviour, and make and set traps to capture animals. Make a mistake and it’s a trrible, gruesome death, with a reload to a point just before your mistake.

Crafting torches allows you to scare away wolves, and crafting spears allows you to throw them at prey and protect yourself from apex predators that surround the area. However, given limited resources, you’ll want to think twice before charging at a grizzly bear. They are a mighty predator and going against one with a knife or even a spear might not be the brightest idea. Avoidance is your best move in the early hours of the game, where possible. There are some structures you can hide behind and wait for the animal to move on.

The core gameplay revolves around scavenging for food and water, building fires for warmth, and crafting tools and weapons to defend yourself and hunt for prey. Gathering wood, stone, and animal hides is essential for crafting everything from basic tools to a sturdy base camp. The hunger, thirst, and fatigue system is well implemented, with the added challenge of a “wetness” mechanic that forces you to dry out near fires after being in the snow or water.

The game boasts a unique sanity system. Isolation, hunger, and the ever-present threat of death all contribute to your mental state. As your sanity crumbles, hallucinations distort your vision and unsettling whispers fill the air. Fear and the stress associated with it adds a layer of depth and psychological horror to the struggle for survival, making your decisions that much harder to make in the heat of the moment.

The only slightly negative thing I can say is that it’s not explained well and early enough about how the save games work. You can only save at the bed you craft for yourself. There’s no checkpoints or autosaves. After the initial sequence of dealing with wolves and a bear in the cave, I got to the next section and logged off. It warned me that my last save was 7 minutes ago, but I had to leave the PC so had no choice. It was frustrating but otherwise the game is fantastic, looks awesome and creates a real sense of dread at times, while rewards you for exploring and thriving on your own.

There is a comprehensive roadmap on the game’s Steam page with the cold wave mode coming first, followed by story act II, world updates #1 and #2, story and iii and more. There are also new animals, a fishing system (all good games have fishing!), new snow and tree types, and so on. I am definitely keen to watch the game grow over the early access period and will revisit it often.

Winter Survival is a promising title already with a solid and terrifying survival experience in harsh environments. Story mode is engaging already with excellent voice acting and exploration is exciting. The diverse mechanics, intriguing sanity system, and multiple game modes offer a decent early access package, and I am keen to play the new updated content as it’s added. This is definitely a game for survival fans to add to their watch lists.

This review utilised a key provided by Stride PR and Winter Survival is available on Steam early access, with console versions planned for the future.


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