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Survived By Early Access Thoughts

Survived By Key Art

Early Access is something I’m very torn on about. If the game is genuinely using Early Access to pay for its further development and growth, to get feedback and update accordingly? I love it. That’s a terrific way to build an indie game. But for a game that simply uses it to launch an unfinished product and get as much money as they can out of it? That’s greedy and selfish. It’s doubly unfortunate when it’s a game I’m excited about, that is doing something I think is extraordinary or otherwise enjoyable. Survived By is definitely in that second group. It’s an amazing concept, and one I had a lot of fun playing. But. There’s that word, “But”, that hated word. Before I get into what I loathe about it, let’s instead focus on the good. Because while the reviews are “Mixed”, and a lot of people have found what I found, it’s not too late.

Survived By is an upcoming pixel-based Roguelite MMO, that’s also a Bullet Hell. Think Rogue Legacy + Touhou + a top-down view. I’m told it’s very reminiscent of Realm of the Mad God, but I never got into that. All the talk of ROTMG in the livestream (embedded below) made me think I should try it anyway. Sadly, I hear that’s pay-to-win now too. It’s a top-down bullet hell MMO where when you die, the character is permanently dead, but you can take some of their legacies with you to the next character. You can take some of the items with you, and bring character traits to the new character, and each time, you’ll get a little better, last a little longer, do a little more. This sounds like a concept that could be incredibly fun on paper. There’s an infinite amount of growth and joy to be found, and on top of that, it’s free to play right now! It’s a free-to-play game in Early Access without a cover charge.

In Survived By, you wander a top-down world and pick a name, and a character class. Wherever your mouse points is where you fire your attacks. There are also Special Attacks, but they did not work as described when I was playing. The actual story is unclear, and as of right now, it’s a run-and-gun where you just explore and murder everything that is not you/another player. You can craft items and potions, and without a potion, you won’t survive very long, that much I can tell you. The enemy bullets travel what feels like a hellish eternity, much farther than my own did. There are caves that hold more powerful enemies, and several different biomes to explore. At least there are also shrines to teleport you to other areas you’ve visited, so you don’t have to walk all the way back to your main camp to re-supply, idle safely, or craft gear for your character. This part of the game, the exploration, the killing, that’s all fun and easy to get into. I wish the UI were far more clear and easy to understand though. You’ll adventure as far as you can, completing the quests that pop up along the way, return back, make better gear, rinse, repeat. Very easy to understand.

It definitely should have gone with an Early Access price though. Instead, they nickel and dime you everywhere. At least two of the character classes are purchase-only that I’ve seen. You can spend real money to instantly craft items, instead of having to wait for them. If that weren’t annoying on its own, you have to craft all of the pieces of an item separately, so that’s more waiting, and more potential nickel-and-diming. When your character dies, you can spend real money there as well, to make the next character that much stronger, if you’re short the in-game currency. When a character dies, you have several options for the next character – A new name, a new class. You can take a few of the items with you as heirlooms if you have the currency for it. Then there are the Trait Cards. These cards offer damage bonuses, and things of that nature, that will make you stronger. Overcoming challenges in-game can help you unlock rare/legendary cards because believe me – you will die. These “Ancestral Legacy” cards are yet another thing tempting you to spend real money, and it’s a damn shame. The further you get along in the game, the more you’ll find your progress hampered by not spending Electrum.

It’s going to happen. If you don’t have a potion to carry with you to the next character, it’s going to be awfully frustrating. Everything comes down to Electrum, the real-money currency. Spending on cards, speeding things up, and though from what I understand, “everything you can spend real money on can be unlocked in-game”, that’s not very clear as to how. The UI itself is not intuitive, the font is small and often hard to read, and nothing is clear and easy to understand. But even with these things, I’ve enjoyed the game. Being near players who are killing things also grants you exp, so if you’re weak or low on health, you can hang out near other people to still mooch some Experience. There are Elites, dungeons, plenty of procedurally generated quests (typically “kill x of this enemy), an Auction Hall, and much more. The actual gameplay is solid, easy to understand, and it is not an unforgiving, heartless beginning. In fact, when I streamed this game, I had a hard time not dying. I had to make myself die on purpose in order to see what it was like for the purpose of this review. It has controller support, but it’s not clear what button on my controller does what, but that’s another thing that can be fixed.

Survived By Is Good, But: 2.5/5

For everything I love about this game, from the setting, the legacy system, the gameplay, the pixel graphics, there’s something I detest, and it’s always linked directly to spending real money. If classes can be bought/found outside of spending money, I have not seen how. If it were only cosmetics (skins, et cetera), I would have no complaints, but that’s not it at all. Survived By is being published by Digital Extremes and developed by Human Head.  They have a potential goldmine on their hands. But if they keep this current monetization system up, it’s going to turn even more people off. I think if they had opted for a 15-20 dollar Early Access fee, and made the in-game store all cosmetics, things that won’t help you win the game, that would be fine. It’s not very challenging right now, so I haven’t felt the need to spend money, but they tease you by starting you off with some Electrum. You’ll get used to having it there when you need to do something, and when it’s gone, you would perhaps be tempted to spend money. If this pay-to-win schlock goes away, my number will certainly change.

But for now? I’m haunted by what could be, instead of pleased by what is. Players who spend money right now have a distinct, real advantage over players that do not, and that frustrates me to no end. I have fun playing this game, and there is still plenty of time to change what is, into what should be. If they hold off too long, the playerbase and potential audience I think may never forgive this early access build. Death is a punishment, but it’s not the end. What death should not be in a game like this, is a moment to milk more money out of a player. I see that in mobile games all too often. While I think it has no place there, it for damn sure has no place here in a PC game. It’s disgusting and greedy, and if that sort of behavior vanishes? Then Survived By could really grow into something wonderful.

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