AU ABROAD

VideAU Games PC Review: Unclaimed World (Refactored Games OÜ, 2014)

The skimmer, lies cracked open to the sky, both lifting rotors spread next to it, their mighty engines still, no pulse lives in this beast. We carefully make our way out of the copter, making sure not to venture too far on our Unclaimed World.

Outside everything is a red-orange blur of life – no green. The bright purples perhaps reminiscent of the exotic in the Amazon. Water is thankfully still blue. Though its reflection doesn’t seem to affect the sky at all – still wrapped in orange, purples and pink it feels like it’s always morning. As though this planet’s just waking up.

We set up an area me – Ward Conlan , Joquin Lehner, Ilya Khan and Augustine Yeobah, seting each of ourselves up to scavenge, to forage, to hunt, to build.
The group thankfully knows some of these skills, so we’re able to do all of it. We build a camp while the binal rats and thunder chickens run through the under bush, causing no end of amusement for Augustine. Though it unnerves Ilya and I, these animals are used to predators.

The quadites are what the advanced scouting party called them. And if the reports were right, they would be on us soon. It wasn’t until that night that they descended like some deranged headless dogs out of the multi-coloured leaves.

We knew they were there from the screams of Augustine, still trying to collect some oil tubers for tomorrow’s breakfast. We immediately grabbed the weapons that we had, one hunting rifle and two metal sticks from the crashed skimmer and went to rescue Augustine.

The mutilated body sat next to seven quadites. Blood still flowing out from a heart that hadn’t stopped. With not a sound the quadites turned to us with their headless faces, their spear like legs tinted with Augustine’s blood. This wasn’t a rescue anymore.

Ilya immediately dropped his stick and ran. I let out a stream of shots, but without knowing exactly what these things were I shot blindly at the group, hoping to hit some vital part. Joquin used his makeshift club deftly but it was a bad choice to get in close – a quadite stuck his calf and he dropped to the ground. Immediately the quadites trampled him with their spear feet, sending vicious jabs from his skull, to his toes. The quadites seemed to trample mindlessly, until Joquin’s movements stopped. I only knew he wasn’t dead from the gurgle in his throat – though it wouldn’t be long till he went.
I still shot furiously into the swarm, ignoring precautions about ammo and Joquin’s safety. I hoped Ilya would return soon as …

GAME CRASH

Such are the experiences of one playing Unclaimed World. Fitting into the surge of survival games (Rust, 7 Ways to Die, Zombiediaries) but takes it into the sci-fi realm of humanity against an alien nature – which is something different. Unclaimed World takes us to Tau Ceti and deposits you on an uninhabited world, and for a while it captures you in the fantasy.

Though it’s only for a while.

Obviously, since this game occupies the Alpha stage of development playing, itself, feels like a survival game, with play often requiring you to be sure of potential pitfalls. Don’t try to salvage a building that you haven’t built yet, don’t stack up too many items to build on the queue, etc. If you avoid these your game won’t come crashing down like so many unprepared survival-scientists (survivalologists). So you could say it’s got some meta-gameplay occurring, but really it’s just that it’s in its early days.

Controls and directions seem a bit clunky, though that’s also to do with the gameplay. Instructions are set in an early Simcity type of zoning, so you don’t directly control your survivalists. Instead zones are set up for selecting this or that area for getting food, hunting, scouting, etc. The game focuses more on giving the player this staged representation of survival, rather than this immediate individual point of view (ala Day Z). So once you get through its controls the game’s beauty shines through.

There’s the beginning of ecosystems around you with different systems of plants and animals working off each other. Biology, geology and topography goes on in the alien Tau Ceti system. On the forums there’s a whole heap of backstory and reasons for which plants do this or that, but I think blatantly reading through it detracts from the sense of discovery that you get on the planet – which is a real pull for me. Figuring out that you can (if you somehow figure it out) create guns, bows and spears is great – though I’ll say that the in game production screen offers a bit too much of a helping hand, by suggesting the needed components. Though that’s a minor complaint, the game would probably be too infuriating for people if they didn’t have some sort of guide in how to create different items – the acquisition of such items is probably where the challenge comes from.

There’s also character interaction that makes you want to care about Ward, Joaquin, Ilya, and Augustine since they have some pretty interesting conversations with each other (if a bit scattered). Since the survivors are all researchers of the Tau Ceti system there are various journal entries that pop up in a Pikmin Olimer type way, giving hints and clues as to the origin, or the purpose of the wildlife around you. Though at this stage deaths, creeper information and the end of the day are the only journal entries that pop up. The saddest part I saw though was when I was only down to two survivors Joaquin and Augustine. They didn’t talk for a while, I think Augustine said “Looks like we’re the only ones left,” and then (like some bad space horror film the creepers descended killing the last two survivors of the ill-fated recon mission.

Other more successful attempts, usually ended up in the game crashing (since it’s still an Alpha), so I’m not quite sure if there’s a happy ending to my crew’s survival.

Hopefully there’ll be scope for this survival game to turn into a full-bore colonisation game with different survivors banding together to create an actual town (ala Alpha Centauri). Though I guess that’ll be something far off from this early build. Still it’s an enjoyable alpha, if still a bit formative in development, I can’t wait for the rest of the game to mature.

Alpha Review Score: 7 out of 10

Highlights: Space exploration, Alien world, some funny dialogue, sad deaths, potential looks good.

Lowlights: Short, occasionally crashes.

Developer: Refactored Games OÜ
Release Date: March 26th, 2014.