The original Survivor Squad was a decent little game. It centred around a single man initially, then more as you met new survivors, who basically have to survive against mutants that have almost ended humanity. Most of what you do is go into buildings, fend off the squatting nasties and rifle through every cabinet, bin, chest or closet that you see. The variety in maps you could play in the first game was limited – but very challenging. When you completed a new map you felt like you had accomplished something, so it was the perfect storm of challenging and rewarding gameplay, with the scavenging element that appeals to the treasure hoarder in me.
When the developer contacted me about reviewing this game, I was actually pretty excited. I had no idea it was being developed and getting super early access to review it was great for me. I wasn’t expecting too much because of its current alpha phase, but the developer has produced, so far, a pretty solid concept. Instead of having a crew that you build and level up, you have a set group of four to make your way through maps – or gauntlets. In these you’re not challenged to scavenge, but to solve the puzzles and escape with the least amount of damage taken and the least amount of time taken. This all ties into a global leaderboard which ranks you against every other player of the gauntlet. This adds in a new level of urgency that you wouldn’t have had in the previous game, competing against others to become the best in the world at a challenging gauntlet gives a great endorphin rush, especially after having tried to complete it multiple times.
The game itself is a challenge, making your way through hordes of mutants to your objectives can be a very difficult thing to do, especially if you’re not a hundred percent sure of where you need to be heading. Fighting off wave after wave of mutants encroaching on the helipad as you wait for your escape requires some serious thought as to the best tactical positions for everyone. The game seems to borrow some ideas from the Left 4 Dead series as there is a “spitter”, a “jumper” and a “grabber” amongst others which can provide with some difficult scenarios at any stage in the game.
You are able to do something that would’ve been nice in the first game – make maps. If you want to see your survivors battle against five hundred mutants while trying to open every room in a building by standing on pressure plates, then you can get that. Or if you’d rather they were pressing buttons rather than standing on plates, then feel free to do that instead! The ability to create a situation from a movie or a different game and see if you can survive in that scenario can lead to some very fun and familiar situations.
It is still in alpha phase, so it’s difficult to be too critical on the game, but currently, I don’t see this game as being a “full” game unless it’s got more added to it. It feels like a game you’d play in your browser or on your phone – a bit of fun for an hour or so, with some great replayability, but there’s not enough to keep you hooked for more than a short while. I do expect that as the game matures and receives more content it will move towards a more complete game. Endless Loop Studios have released quite a few updates to it since I started playing it, so it is evolving as time passes, which is precisely what you’d want to see in an early access game.
The only other criticism I’d have is that there is no way to fail a gauntlet from what I’ve played. The damage you take is applied to a counter, so you could just go away from your keyboard while in the middle of a horde and eventually, hopefully, things will sort themselves out. It isn’t necessarily an awful idea, but it does remove some of the difficulty in favour of additional leaderboard points.
Personally, I would have preferred this to be DLC for the original Survivor Squad. The core concept of SSG, as I understand it, is to allow users to create maps and compete against others around the world, which doesn’t seem to me to be a full enough idea for a complete game. It may well grow to be big enough to be a standalone game, and that is what I’m certainly hoping after the first Survivor Squad, but currently I couldn’t justify paying for this game.