Hurtworld: Just Another Survival Sim?

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If you gaze into your crystal ball and look all the way back to 2012, you’ll more than likely find me playing DayZ for hours and hours at a time with my university friends. These were long afternoons spent enveloped in the early days of the mod, just before it blew up online, before the sales of Arma 2 exploded as a result, and even further before the standalone version of the game was even conceived. DayZ for me was a revelation; it was a breath of fresh air riffing off the success of Minecraft but injecting a whole lot more human psychology into a bleak eastern European wasteland. The realistic weapon physics combined with scarcity of supplies lead to some of the most intense responses ever pulled out of a game.

Now throw your crystal ball away and take a gander through the new wasteland; Early Access survival simulators on Steam. Hurtworld from Bankroll Studios is the latest drop in the ocean. Does it match up to what is fast becoming a tiring trend?

“It’s sad for me to admit that survival sims are horribly dated already, a mere three years after their initial explosion”

It’s sad for me to admit that survival sims are horribly dated already, a mere three years after their initial explosion. DayZ was a fantastic, tense and brutal experience, but it seems it was lightning in a bottle. Other iterations on the forumla have suffered from an extreme case of diminishing returns and Hurtworld is no exception. You spawn alone (and naked, like in Rust!) on the edges of the map and begin your tedious task of gathering nearby sticks, wood and stones. These can be turned into basic tools, which can be turned into basic crafting machinery, and from there the rest of the game unlocks. You can build structures and buildings, again, like Rust, and presumably at some point you’ll be able to craft better machines, structures and weapons. I know what you’re thinking, this all sounds really familiar, doesn’t it? Is there anything original about Hurtworld?

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Well, sadly, no. In a market where we are oversaturated with this kind of game, you need to have something more than this. Survival mechanics are passé at this point. Everyone has managed to live through some kind of devastating apocalypse, but here it feels so dated already. It’s not badly made, nor is it particularly buggy, but it just doesn’t have anything else going for it. You just pick stuff up and mine resources and make things out of it, just like every other game of its kind. That’s it. Oh, and then someone shoots an arrow into your head and you die. Or you freeze to death. or a deer crushes you. Great fun, right?

“[Hurtworld] is not not badly made, nor is it particularly buggy, but it just doesn’t have anything else going for it”

Nothing about Hurtworld is ill placed or badly made, and in the dire forest of survival sims, the game is relatively well made considering how early access it is. Smacking fallen branches with your hatchet feels punchy and satisfying. Once you’ve spawned in, your objectives are immediately clear and you don’t suffer the usual initial haze of confusion that tends to come with survival sims: branches on the floor give you wood, as do stones. Pick some up and make a tool. And so on – it simply works. The design allows for instant access to its systems which is quite nice and the game has a Rust vibe, which is great, because Rust is a fantastic, constantly evolving work in progress, but it’s bad because, hey, pssst, we already have a Rust.

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I predict this will more than likely be your throught process as you play, but then you’ll build yourself a nice fire, cook up some rabbit meat and eat an orange, build a spear to defend yourself with, and while you figure out what you want to build next another player will lodge a spear into the back of your skull and kill you. Oh yay. How fun.

The game is also in an incredibly early and rudimentary state. Graphics, as of time of writing, are simple and flatly textured. Models have very low polygon counts and textures are basic “MS Paint” affairs. The UI is very functional but the inventory layout seems like a placeholder and the whole game does just feel so very unfinished. On the basis of that we could argue that many more interesting features will be coming later on down the line in future updates, but the base game right now is very bare bones and has a really limited amount of features. It just feels like a carbon copy of a lot of your faveourite early access games.

“[Hurtworld] just feels like a carbon copy of a lot of your faveourite early access games”

Hurtworld is a fun take on what Rust already manages to do, and it’s not a bad game; it’s just entering a tired, over-saturated genre. If you’re looking for a survival game that pushes you to your limit, or something to throw around with your friends, the genre is already well established enough that you probably already know all about it.