Developer 8 Points released a pre-alpha demo for The Wild Eight recently, which means I decided to fire it up and give it a go. Billed as an “eerie survival adventure,” I’ve heard a lot of good things about the survival game from various websites that aren’t quite as good as this one. I’m looking at you VideoGamesAreAlrightWeGuess.
Yet despite their praise – including that of my esteemed colleague and part-time travel agent for spiders Felix Wong – the pre-alpha wasn’t anything special. You can watch our video below, or continue reading.
You play as Beardy Beardington who survived a plane crash, and it’s up to you to keep him alive. The name of the game comes from seven other survives you eventually run into, though I didn’t encounter them during my brief time with the demo. Much like The Long Dark, The Wild Eight sells itself on a lack of monsters and zombies, and an emphasis on story driven, realistic survival.
The Long Dark is an apt comparison, because aside from the different camera angle, the two games are identical. They’re both survival games taking place in snowy areas that start off with the main character surviving a plane crash, and both heavily pitched their story and the emphasis on realism. Even the art style is similar, though not quite as good. There is one big difference however, one that isn’t particularly well communicated.
You won’t have to worry about dinosaurs biting your face off, but you will have to punch trees for wood…
Whereas The Long Dark pushes a realistic angle, The Wild Eight is more on the cartoony side of the Ark: Survival Evolved-The Long Dark scale of survival games. You won’t have to worry about dinosaurs biting your face off, but you will have to punch trees for wood, kick giant boulders for stone, and build a tent using neither supplies nor knowledge of how to actually do so. You’re also given a map that fills up as you explore, and a compass is available on screen at all times. Those two combined with the overhead camera makes it impossible to ever get lost.
In our let’s play video, I had absolutely no idea that was the case. You’re told to get some wood and stone to make a fire, but it doesn’t tell you how. Given the realistic vibe given by the game and the Kickstarter page, I figured I had to find an axe or hatchet in the plane and gather loose twigs and sticks. After dying once and almost a second time, I randomly hit a tree in anger and wood randomly ended up in my pocket. Imagine my surprise.
From there you’ll be tasked with the usual crafting and survival stuff: building a shelter, a fire, eating food, staying warm and summoning Cthulhu. You’re eventually tasked with finding the tail end of the plane after your character says he sees smoke. All you know is you have to head east, but the map is so big and since you can’t see the smoke yourself you’ll likely not have any idea where to go and freeze to death.
The pre-alpha is well made from a technical standpoint. I didn’t run into any bugs and the survival and crafting elements work at the very least. However there’s not much to it. If you’ve played any survival game before, you’ve already played The Wild Eight, at least it’s pre-alpha demo.
Finding the seven other individuals might happen eventually in the demo, but there’s not much incentive to get there because everything else is so dull and lifeless. And that’s the problem. There’s none of that nebulous, undefined “heart” or “charm” that other, less well made games like Rust have. It’s all paint-by-numbers, another game in a genre that’s getting oversaturated by cynical knock-offs.
Again, this is a pre-alpha of a demo, and the Kickstarter campaign hasn’t concluded yet so there’s no telling how different this will wind up being from the final product. There should be little doubt The Wild Eight will at the very least be a decent little game, and if you’re not a fan of The Long Dark and their excessive delays of their story mode, you might want to give this a try. Otherwise, you might be better off taking a vacation to a warmer place. I know an excellent travel agent.