For the purpose of transparency, this review was completed using a review code provided by Bandai Namco. The use of a review code does not affect my judgement of this product.
Impact Winter is a survival game set rather conveniently in winter. Well, kind of but we’ll get into that later on. Impact Winter is a survival game that tasks the player surviving for 30 days until the team get rescued. As with all survival games you must manage your resources so that your team and yourself don’t die of starvation or dehydration. However just because this game shares many mechanics with other survival games, does that mean it is the same as all other survival.
The story of Impact Winter is fairly straightforward. An extinction level event occurred on Earth, caused by a giant asteroid hitting the Earth. The aftermath of this event was environmental upset, with the planet being plunged into sub-zero temperatures and unparalleled levels of snow. The player plays as Jacob Solomon; a man who was left with nothing after the event and so wandered the land (which he now refers to as The Void). Prior to the game’s opening, Jacob was wondering around The Void when he came across a buried church. Jacob entered seeking shelter, and was greeted by a group of fellow survivors.
After some time Jacob gets elected as leader of the team, and so it tasked with venturing into The Void to gather resources. The game begins with Ako-Light (more on this lil critter later) bursting into the main hall of the church before flying off into a room. It is later revealed by Chistrophe that Ako-Light received a transmission that promises that help is arriving in 30 days. Jacob then is tasked with making sure the team have enough food, drink and resources to stay alive as well as running favours for the members of the team that reveal a little bit more about who they were before the event.
If you are looking for a story heavy survival game you will not find it in Impact Winter. I did not find myself connecting to the characters or their stories, and found myself only coming to them for the sake of the quests. However I was after a survival game so this didn’t bother me personally however it is worth noting.
Before we get into the gameplay I have some things to say. I played this game with a controller because I simply couldn’t use the keyboard. Some menus allow for the arrows and E to be used, while others require WASD for some reason. The controller allowed for smoother menu navigation; when the buttons worked. One second my A button was pressing things, the next I couldn’t open the deposit box at the campsite ( a feature I will explain later). I encountered one bug in the game which is pictured above. I left a building and upon entering The Void found myself stuck in the roof of said building.
When entering the building Jacob descends down a rope (if the entrance is a hole in the roof). Fair enough. However, after exiting a basement back into said house instead of simply being there Jacob falls from the roof with the same rope descend animation. The loading times from building into The Void are incredibly long, however this may just be an issue with my PC. I waited over a minute every time I left a building to go into The Void, yet coming from The Void into a building took mere seconds.
I will return to amend these points once the game is patched and these issues are fixed.
The core gameplay itself is fairly straightforward. You need food? Go find food. You need drinks? Go find drinks. Complete quests, get more quests, craft and upgrade. Do whatever it takes to survive the 30 days. Each team member has their own quests for you which usually revolve around what their defining skill is; Wendy is the cook, Christohpe is the tech guy, Maggie is the builder and Blane is the survival expert. You will also encounter strangers in The Void who will ask for your help with tasks such as acquiring items for them or picking locks to chests they find.
Every quest that is completed earns you RP. Get a certain amount of RP and you level up. This unlocks certain perks you can assign to team members. You have to be careful with this as each has a negative and a positive. For example crafting times may be reduced, but risk of injury from crafting may increase. Levelling up also takes time off of the rescue counter; the higher the level the more time you lose. This mechanic honestly doesn’t make sense to me. I would much have preferred the game’s other methods to be the sole way in which to reduce the time until rescue. In The Void it is possible to power up power stations, or lay signal boosters in key locations, as a means of alerting this rescue force to your location. This seems viable to me as a game mechanic, and if levelling up didn’t reduce the amount of time until rescue is something I would’ve done much more often.
Let’s talk about Ako-Light, who I will simply refer to as Ako from now on. Ako is a robot that Christophe found and serves as Jacob’s buddy in The Void. He has several functions. Jacob can activate Ako’s flashlight, for obvious reasons. Ako can scan the surrounding areas for hidden objects, and then use his thermo-drill to make a hole which Jacob can then search for the item. The main purpose of Ako however is that he serves as the player’s inventory. Items can be moved quickly in and out of the inventory, but can also be moved around inside the inventory screen in an attempt to squeeze as much loot in as possible.
All of these features can be upgraded to allow for a larger inventory, or a stronger thermo-drill that can drill through ice blocks. Players can also upgrade Ako’s battery; something I would probably suggest be the third thing you do (Firmware, Inventory, Battery). This is important as every action Ako performs drains his battery and if Ako’s battery runs out he is forced to carry Ako to the church to recharge him. It’s important not to let Ako die as should he die you will be left with no radar, no mini-map and hence no sense of whether you are in The Void. It is possible to place markers in The Void. These markers (which you have Blane craft) automatically point to the church and so may be worth taking with you on those long journeys.
Long journeys can be made easier via the ability to establish campsites. This is really simple to do and only require a tent (again something Blane can craft). These campsites allow Jacob to sleep and recover energy while also saving the game. When you die you return to the last save state you had from sleeping so it’s something that should always be in the back of your head. Before you sleep you can deposit items into the delivery box and these will be transferred to the church while you sleep. This was handy as I found a massive stash of petrol for the church fire, but I was quite a distance from the church. I simply established a campsite and sent the fuel over. The only issue with this system is that you must be able to sleep to transfer the items to the church, and once a campsite is established it is permanent. It would be nice to have a choice between a temporary campsite for just stopping off and not going back to the church, or a permanent one.
The last gameplay issue to talk about is the weather. The weather changes from time to time, and you will receive a little notification in the top left telling you when it changes. However you don’t know what the change is. More wind? Less wind? Who knows let’s wait and see. This becomes an issue as more wind slows down Jacob’s walking speed and so means that long journeys may no longer be viable. Being as advanced as he is it would be nice if Ako could inform you on this somehow. There are also whiteouts in the game; heavy snow storms that make it near impossible to see and separate Jacob from Ako. Ako will give you a timer saying when the whiteout is due (mine was 1 minute 30 seconds) so make sure to be indoors when that hits.
I can’t fault Impact Winter for either of these. The world is gorgeous to be in. Wandering through the snow and seeing the sheer scale of destruction caused by the event never became old. The audio could be better. It does a good job of adding to the tension of being alone in The Void, and always made me feel tense when I needed to. The music changes once your inside a building. It becomes much more calm and reflects your mood of “Finally, I’m indoors”.
To sum it up, I did enjoy Impact Winter. When it wanted to work. The inability to interact with certain things due to the controls not being finalised was a tad annoying. The long wait times into The Void became very tedious. Yet, I would recommend this game. The issues will be patched (I hope) and once all of the small knicks are ironed out what I think we will find is a immersive vast world that delivers what it promises. Impact Winter revolves entirely around survival of you and your team, and that is what it promises. Keep this one on your radar. Currently for PC, planned for console later this year.
A mediocre story all too familiar with fans of the survival genre, combined with buggy gameplay and other small issues means that Impact Winter didn’t make the impact with me I was hoping for. However, should these issues be fixed we could well be looking at a real gem for the survival genre.