Survival games don’t quite scale the heights of popularity like they used to. Whether it’s down to too many cynically lazy releases with next to no interesting ideas or other genres coming to the fore, the clamour isn’t quite as keenly felt for them as before. When a game like Green Hell comes along, however, it’s worth paying attention to; a survival game that doesn’t just want to tick off a mandatory checklist of tired conventions.
Available as an Early Access title, Green Hell feels remarkably ready for a game in its infancy, not too dissimilar to the state The Forest first landed in. The similarities to Endnight’s cult favourite don’t end there with Green Hell having a similar mood and feel, as well as pitching itself as more of a mature and realistic survival experience. For example, the character’s penis does not swing and stays firmly within his rain-drenched pants.
However, while it may at first glance appear to be a cousin to The Forest, Green Hell actually brings a fair few of its own innovations. When you’re left stranded in the Amazon rainforest, you must fight against the elements and yourself to find a hope of rescue. As anyone who’s watched Attenborough could attest to, the Amazon is an unforgiving place with threats lurking around every corner.
Those threats became immediately obvious to me when I had started the game properly after a quite excellent story-based tutorial. Wandering through the neverending foliage, I heard the sound of a rattlesnake, who wasted no time in giving me a venomous bite. Inspecting the wound on my left arm, I hopelessly wandered around for a solution to the death sentence before I slept as a last resort to try and (somehow) beat the bite. I died in my sleep.
A harsh lesson, but not one that should turn away the hardcore. Green Hell doesn’t hold the player’s hand much beyond the tutorial, meaning that death is really just a learning experience. The player is armed with a backpack and tonnes of resources they can find throughout the rainforest, though it’s never immediately clear what they’re useful for. Green Hell requires experimentation, including seeing how much dirty water you can drink before you die (spoiler: it’s not a lot).
To keep track of things you’ve discovered, the player is armed with a notebook that still doesn’t spell things out. My version of the game also seemed to be a little bugged with the text on the pages being slightly too zoomed in to clearly read. A simple fix and a far less egregious issue than many of Green Hell’s peers at this stage in their respective development. Green Hell feels polished and almost ready for the limelight — the only thing stopping it from a full release is the lack of story mode, which will come in time.
Until then, Green Hell offers the customary survival mode, which works in a similar way to Hinterland’s The Long Dark. You just have to survive, swinging dicks and giant scorpions be damned. This is, obviously, a far harder task than it would first appear. The oppressive heat of the Amazon means your character constantly becomes dehydrated as well as it being difficult to find any useful tools early on at all. I’ve yet to find or craft anything other than a crude stone axe outside of the tutorial, or even survive more than three in-game days.
My longest session also had the most questionable conclusion. Green Hell has sanity mechanics that bring the nightmares of the rainforest and your inner conflict to light. The local tribespeople will appear and have a good go at making you dead as well as constant voices of self-doubt being heard. This would be an interesting mechanic and one that has rarely be seen in a survival game, but the way it’s implemented as of now feels too oppressive.
The player’s sanity will drop a little for no discernible reason at times, though the general factor of him being alone in a dangerous environment is probably reason enough. However, his sanity level immediately plummeted without a clear cause a couple of times, creating frustration when he was by all accounts doing just fine. It needs to be tweaked to find a better balance: it can be beyond irritating to just be searching for water and his mentality completely bottoms out.
It’s Early Access for a reason, however. Green Hell doesn’t need wholesale changes as it’s already a consistently beautiful and well performing game on a GTX 1060 at high settings, often achieving in excess of double digits in the framerate department. With some slight tweaks and extra content, Creepy Jar’s brutal affair will, unlike its name, only go on the up and up from here.