Developer: Mojo Bones
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Review copy provided
The snow-capped wastes of a civilisation lost stretch out before Jacob, as he clutches at his coat for a little extra warmth. Behind him is the spire from a church protruding from the endless white. For Jacob, this church is home, but for us, it’s a place we have to keep dumping wood into. The fire won’t keep itself going, after all.
Impact Winter is a post-apocalyptic survival game that derives its name from the proposed theory that a large asteroid impact would propel enough dust and debris into the atmosphere that it would block out the Sun’s rays, decreasing the planet’s temperatures rapidly and basically causing the world to end. Cheery stuff, but at least it’d solve global warming. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.
The game opens up in the church, with your leading man Jacob receiving a transmission from an unknown source that help is indeed on the way, but they’ll need thirty days to triangulate your position and send in the rescue squad. As leader, it’s up to you to protect yourself and your mates from the world around you, scavenging food and supplies to make it through the month.
Now, we reviewed Impact Winter when it launched on PC last year, with Cassie saying that it was “an interesting game with good graphics and a pretty soundtrack, but bugs and other issues with controls prevent a higher score”. Almost a year later, Impact Winter is available on consoles, and not much has changed.
The main point of the game is to earn Rescue Points, or RP, which allows the rescue team to triangulate your position faster and complete the game quicker. It’s a contrivance, but it’s one that’s designed to help create task prioritisation. Completing quests, or events as they’re called, will earn valuable RP and unlock new roles for your compadres, but you also need to provide the supplies they need to survive, and that doesn’t earn RP.
Basically, you’re overseeing a delicate balancing act between advancing quest lines and making sure the cupboards aren’t bare, and it’s a task that can easily get away from you. Spend too much time trying to find the right materials for an upgrade and your crew will eat you out of house and home, meaning you have to waste valuable time making sure they don’t starve to death.
It’s a trend common in most survival games that’s rather aptly similar to a snowball rolling downhill. Problems give away to more problems. Low supplies lead to hunger, which leads to low morale, arguments, peoples leaving the church or even death if you’re too careless. This cycle of sorts can make your journey through “The Void” a difficult one, and it’s a hard cycle to break out of.
Your team of helpers back at the church aren’t the most useful for breaking that cycle, as they have both their benefits and detriments. You can order them to cook food, craft tools and machinery for the church or upgrade your flying robot buddy Ako-Light, and they also give out those vital events.
As you earn RP, you can assign roles to the different survivors, such as scavenging for supplies themselves, faster crafting times or the ability to diffuse any arguments, but these usually come with a negative of increased injuries, energy depleting faster or food not satisfying hunger as much.
Because you can only unlock one role per level, it can take a good couple of hours before you’ve can assign useful roles to the survivors, which means that your team are perfectly content to sit on their ass waiting for you to bring home to bacon. For instance, you only unlock the hunter/forager roles at levels 8 and 11 respectively. These roles are the most important as they allow your survivors to focus on supplies whilst you handle the more important stuff.
Handling your cabal is easily the worst aspect of the game, as they’re micromanaged yet autonomous in the worst ways. You have to dole out rations to each individual survivor every time you go back to the church, so that they don’t start raiding the supplies like savages, yet you can’t manage their schedules to get them to eat, drink or sleep when necessary.
If Impact Winter went either way with managing your crew, things would probably be much better. Assigning food automatically would eliminate plenty of faffing around, whilst giving more management would have allowed you to feel more like the church leader Jacob is meant to be. This “walking the line” approach offers the worst of both worlds.
Exploring the overworld is thankfully much better. Though you might get sick of seeing snow everywhere after a while, the ruins of society are wonderfully created. Buildings, overpasses and radio towers can be seen poking out of hundreds of metres of snow, giving you a real sense of the devastation caused by the impact. The brilliant soundtrack by Mitch Murder also helps to create this sense of unease when wandering the wastes.
Despite that, there are still some issues like glitches, whether that be when navigating menus or watching a traveler just glitch through a fence like it doesn’t exist. The performance, at least on the Xbox One version of the game, is terrible too. Everytime you load up a new area, you’re greeted by at least 5 to 10 seconds of serious slowdown and stuttering before the game manages to sort itself out.
At its core, Impact Winter is all about multiple playthrough. The main conceit is that you’ll take what you’ve learnt about the world, the crafting materials you need and so on, and you’ll apply it to another playthrough which you’ll be able to complete faster. That would be the case if the game didn’t have the majority of the problems it does have. As it stands, you’ll barely be able to stomach the first 15 days, let alone the full 30 or even re-upping for a return journey.
All in all, Impact Winter has potential for a decent survival game, and fans of the genre will probably get some limited enjoyment from it. The problem is that the game has had potential for about a year now, and it still doesn’t seem fully realised. Whether or not the team at Mojo Bones will keep updating the game from now is unknown, but as it stands, Impact Winter reads more like a tale of what could have been.