Survarium Open Beta First Impressions: Ambitious Yet Incomplete Shooter
The Survarium MMOFPS was born from the ashes of STALKER 2. In April 2012, the development of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was officially abandoned and GSC Game World studio closed down. Members of the development team however found themselves in the Vostok Games studio and initiated the development of Survarium (obviously created on the basis of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, even though the new studio has been unable to acquire the rights exploitation of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. license for its new project).
At the time of the Open Beta access, Survarium saw its ambitions scaled down to finally take the simple model of a multiplayer shooter. The Vostok Games studio is betting on an early release, only offering two PvP game modes while pursuing the development of Survarium to finally reach the state of a MMOFPS.
Without customization choices, we are left with a middle-aged balding man wearing a sweater to commemorate the sadness of the holiday season in a post-apocalyptic atmosphere. The choice of equipment arises before the launch of the first match, between a rifle for a better aim and range, and a machine gun for a much higher firing rate. This choice will without a doubt affect the play-style during matches, the former being more appropriate for camping and sniping, while the latter, lacking accuracy, works best at closer ranges.
According to the map determined randomly by the meanders of matchmaking, we can end up in different environments, always with that particularly careful post-apocalyptic touch of green. The atmosphere will most likely be one of the main selling points of Survarium. No major conflict, terrorism or zombies on the horizon, just survivors fighting to obtain their share the few remaining exploitable resources in this world.
Players will also have the option of choosing a faction which allows them to target specific equipment and adopt certain play-styles (scavengers allowing the use of sniper rifles for example). Between the proponent of close or remote combat, or even camping, the design of the Survarium environments is planned and calibrated well enough to allow everyone the freedom of expressing themselves, i.e. killing opponents. The variety of cards allows to partially offset the poverty of game modes at present.
Of the two game modes available, there will of course be the traditional "Team Deathmatch", made in simplicity and efficiency. Two teams compete with the simple aim of killing as much if the members of the opposing team, while avoiding death themselves. On another note, "Protective device" mode requires players to seize batteries scattered on the map to bring to their base. To spice things up, an opposing team can raid your base to steal your batteries. The two teams will thus have to play both the attack and the defense for a balance game based largely on the willingness of everyone to not only play the game, but also co-operate with each other.
If there is one currently available feature that truly maintains the atmosphere of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, it would be the anomalies and artifacts. Present on all the battlefields, anomalies. Anomalies are results of the catastrophe, deadly man traps that however also contain artifacts. Requiring a good detector and the equipment required to survive the devastating effects of anomalies, artifacts contain various powers that will help you during matches. The Larkspur for example, is extremely valuable thanks to its ability to heal serious injuries, while the Sponge absorbs radioactive gas while in its passive state but turns into a deadly poisonous grenade when activated.
Progression And Free-To-Play
As they play through deathmatches, players receive money, experience points and reputation points according to their performance. This is calculated through the use of several factors, including how many enemies you killed, how many batteries you delivered to your base, and how often your die. Money will, of course, allow you to purchase more equipment, while experience points allow you to level up and upgrade your stats, and reputation points will increase your rank (ranging from rookie to elite) which in turn unlocks new equipment.
Its a given by now, but any MMO operating on a free-to-play model will always evolve over the wire when it comes to combining growth and shop. With Survarium, the challenge will be finding the right balance when it come to unlocking equipment or ammunition that can give an players interesting boost. While only time will tell how the premium options will evolve, the Vostok Games studio does seem to be on the right tracks at the moment.
To truly become the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. MMO we all look forward to, however, Survarium will have to start by releasing the Freeplay mode. Expected to offer a mix between PvE and PvP elements, this mode will allow players to evolve on a large map, interact with NPCs, complete quests, and, ultimately, co-operate to kill players in the enemy factions all while surviving mutants and anomalies. If so far, not much has been said about how big the maps would be or how many players would be able to join them, up to 100 players fighting for their faction to gain the control of a map as big as those in the previous games would be the best way to maintain the feel of the series.
In the end, if the first game of the Vostok Games studio does have some nice potential, it would be best to wait for the addition of expected content. Indeed, the environmental management with the equipment, anomalies and other strange phenomena present in Survarium are only in their infancy, and the game has yet to reach its target dimensions as a complete MMOFPS with the yet to be released Freeplay mode.