While the next generation of gaming may be the theme of 2013, it’s hard to ignore the survival aspect of many of the games that have been released – not including games still to come. This year seemed to be the period in which developers simply had enough with holding us by the hand and showing us pretty surroundings, instead pushing us to get down, dirty and outright sadistic in many cases. Here are our top 5 picks for the best survival games of 2013 thus far.
An interesting indie title which rewards you for surviving against all odds, the main objective of Don’t Starve is to last out against a hostile alien world full of wild animals and stave off hunger and sickness. You can scavenge the environment for tools and food, while also building shelter to better protect yourself. The art style also isn’t your typical survival grittiness, opting for a Tim Burton-esque take on the nightmare of staying alive.
Metro: Last Light
4A Games’ labour of love reaped great dividends both commercially and critically, and for good reason – Metro: Last is a race against time and the odds to prevent the further destruction of humanity. It doesn’t help that the radioactive environment, mutants, military and other survivors are trying to stop you from accomplishing this.
In Last Light, one must barter for bullets and weapons, keeping a constant eye on their environment and employing stealth at the right times. Though its predecessor was a bit rough around the edges, Last Light properly encapsulates the gameplay features established with a riveting post-apocalyptic journey.
The Last of Us
Some survival games pit you against monsters, forcing you into situations where you must think quickly and consider the larger good before taking any risks. The Last of Us goes above and beyond this with its heavy, grim atmosphere that is constantly bearing down on you. Playing as Joel, your emotional connection to the world is Ellie, reminding you that all is not lost.
But her child-like demeanour only serves to remind one of the sheer horror and impact that the post-apocalyptic tragedies have on her. And what happens when you must become the very monster you’re constantly fighting against to keep Ellie safe? The game has no easy answers or happy endings – it’s simply that the journey for survival keeps going. Just as people keep living, trying to be happy; trying to stay positive and trying to find meaning in places even when there is none.
Crystal Dynamics’ origins reboot of Lara Croft earlier this year took the survival aspect one step further by introducing whole new ranges of torture and pain that she could suffer. Every situation Lara found herself was fraught with peril, and one little mistake could lead to her horrible death. However, extending this to even the normal fire fights, it made players think on their feet – and at times, even upside down – for finding ways to quickly dispatch of foes.
The same environment which could be scavenged to upgrade your weapons and unlock new skills also featured ways to take down enemies without getting into a heavy gun battle. You could use the rope arrow to bring down a structure with several baddies on it, explosive arrows to ignite explosive objects to kill groups of foes, or even take the high road and shoot your enemies from above. Sometimes you’d have to tough it out, but that’s what being a survivor is about (but dear lord, did she have to die so horribly sometimes?).
State of Decay
Some zombie games ask you survive in the sense of killing everything around you to fulfil a particular objective. Some of them, like the Day Z mod for Arma 2, challenged you to an open world setting of survival. Undead Labs’ State of Decay builds off of that, allowing you to recruit survivors, set up a base, scavenge for supplies, and essentially survive for as long as possible against the undead hordes.
There are weapons galore and vehicles to be driven, but you’ll also need to manage your party’s needs and temperaments, banding together to fend off any assaults – or just running away when things get too hairy. While Left4Dead throws a sizeable amount of reanimated corpses out you, it’s like freaking World War Z in State of Decay. And those moments where there is a venerable silence and you’re not sure just when the zombies will attack in Valve’s franchise? That is every moment in State of Decay.