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Stat-based survival, November 29, 2015
Your jeep has crashed and you're stranded in a desert wilderness . At the outset you can choose to be an athletic rock-climber or a more knowledgeable but less physically robust nature-loving survivalist. These classes will have obvious repercussions on how you navigate the desert. Would you prefer to scale that cliff wall, or would you prefer to know whether this water is safe to drink?
The game is choice-based and has stat-tracking. Your water and stamina levels are what you need to maintain. Sometimes they'll decrease for obvious reasons. Trekking for hours in the midday sun is going to dehydrate you. But sometimes you'll suffer an accident like a tumble down a ravine and unexpectedly lose some stamina. If either stat drops to zero, you're dead.
There's no plot in sight. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The game is purely about wilderness survival, and I was actually surprised by how engaging it was. Normally I want a story, but this game is filled with enough environments and events that it pulls you along anyway.
I was also tremendously lucky to get as far as I did. I felt like I was skirting disaster a few times only to barely scrape through and keep going. Occasionally this was because the game gave me a challenging situation and I put on my little thinking-cap and did the right thing, but occasionally it was because I randomly stumbled across some garbage like an old glass bottle that I wound up needing later. No thought went into that on my part. It was total chance. And it did strike me as odd how you sometimes needed these artifacts to accomplish a survival task when surely there would have been other ways.
(Spoiler - click to show)For example, the glass bottle provided me with a shard to scrape bark from a tree and brew some medicinal tea. But someone stuck in the wilderness would've dug into that bark with their bare fingernails if they didn't have a tool for it.
Eventually, however, I did die. I was so far along that I felt like I had to be near the end, and when I checked the walkthrough I discovered I was one node away. Rather than encouraging me to try again, this made me stop playing. I didn't want to reread all that text just to try changing one variable to earn the extra stamina point that would've let me live, especially since it wasn't guaranteed that I'd be able to change a variable that easily.
This was also where the game's plotless aspect finally caught up with it. Because there was no story, I wasn't invested in reaching the ending to see what happened. I had experienced the wilderness survival simulation thoroughly enough. Other players might be more motivated to make it all the way through.