It’s just you and the monkey (and maybe a friend) as you attempt to survive being marooned on a mysterious island packed full of adventure and danger.
Type: Single-player, Online co-op
Genre: Survival, RPG
Developer: Team17 Digital Ltd
Publisher: Team17 Digital Ltd
Release date: 20 April, 2019
Survival simulations come in many forms. I’ve put plenty of hours into the likes of ARK: Survival Evolved, Conan: Exiles, 7 Days to Die, and so on, and the best ones always brought something to the table that made them stand out from their peers. ARK delivered us a complex and rewarding system of creature taming and training, providing an experience that was packed full of unique creatures with their own unique capabilities. Conan: Exiles provided a world that carried with it an exciting RPG feel with its more complex combat system and variety of pre-existing adventures that you could find yourself on, intentionally or otherwise. 7 Days to Die’s harrowing zombie simulation had building and survival systems comparable to the best in the genre while also applying a thick coat of tension with massive hordes of the undead bursting onto the scene regularly.
The Survivalists succeeds like these others at standing out on its own which is a true feat when it comes to the survival genre. How, you ask? Monkeys.
The Great Marooning
The Survivalists begins with you floating up to the shores of an unknown island, unconscious, on a modest little raft. Whether you were a passenger on a larger vessel that had experienced disaster or simply had one hell of a night fueled by jager bombs is unclear. What is very clear though, is that you have to find a means to meet your basic needs and quickly.
You’ll be searching, harvesting, and hunting for a variety of materials ranging from berries to furs to wood and metal. These resources will allow you to build a base with the workbenches and furnishings that you need as well as a plethora of tools that will enhance your ability to use the island’s bounty to your advantage.
The gameplay is smooth and feels pretty close to what you’d expect from a top-down action-RPG. The art style is unlikely to blow your mind, though the controls themselves do their job well and neither ever got in the way of enjoying the experience. The 2D top-down camera did make it so that this title didn’t quite have the immersion of the first and third-person entries in the survival genre though.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
But what about the monkeys, you ask?
The monkeys on the island serve as your slave labor. You acquire these creatures by finding them in the wilds and bribing them to your cause with an item that they demand to be provided with via a thought bubble. Once you’ve secured it for them, they’ll follow along behind you until you assign them to a task that you’ve mentored them on. These jobs range from crafting items to harvesting, collecting, and storing them, and allow you to automate a significant portion of your survival production chain.
For those looking for a personal flair, your primate buddies can be customized, both to differentiate them for your own entertainment and for keeping them separate for quickly assigning tasks at a glance. The latter is particularly important as many tasks require the monkey servant to be carrying a related tool and they will gain experience as they carry out their great works. In other words, you don’t want your long-time lumberjack cooking your dinner unless you don’t have a chimp chef around to do the task.
The Survivalists is an interesting take on survival. I enjoyed the time that I put into it, though I must admit that it didn’t capture my interest as much as the long-standing kings of the genre. I didn’t run into any bugs and the gameplay systems worked as they were intended, though I too often found myself grinding for resources while several of the ‘adventures’ that I found myself on weren’t quite as exciting as I had hoped. My experience was entirely of the solo variety though and I would venture a guess that it would be significantly more entertaining if I had a friend or two along for the ride. Overall, if the theme interests you, pick it up and give it a go, though I’d recommend doing so knowing that you’re going into a simpler and more casual survival title than you may be used to and that you’re unlikely to find yourself riding a consistent thrill high.