The Boy Scouts of America awards a cunning familiarity with nature and a clever knack for survival with merit badges: a series of colorful, icon-embroidered patches worn on a bandolier to show your superiority over your fellow scouts (and quizzically, are often assembled by your mom). In FiringPinGames’ KickStarter-backed project, Will To Survive, creator Alex Dawson is appealing to the gamer scout in us. After all, modern gamers aren’t without their fair share of achievements and trophies. Only in this adventure, instead of hiding your supplies from raccoons, it’s from laser-limbed aliens. And instead of a backpack, you’re using a tablet and/or your PC.
In Will to Survive, you take control of the title character Will, a lone, scruffy-chinned survivor wandering the devastated and alien-infested streets of Brighton England. The goal, as titled, is to survive. It isn’t to lead a rebel alliance, save your missing girlfriend, or make your way to a particular location. It’s to keep food in your belly, air in your lungs, and hold out as long as possible.
When you start your adventure, Will is inside his safe house owning nothing but the clothes on his back, the meat on his bones, and the sparkle in his eye. This clearly won’t be enough to hold back the extraterrestrial baddies stalking the streets for survivors. In order to find defenses to put between them and you, you’re going to have to dig deep and scavenge the urban wilderness. But as any real scout knows, saying is far from doing.
As you venture forth to find supplies, you will burn precious calories, dehydrate, and essentially wither away. The weaker Will becomes, the more his other statistics begin to suffer, and the harder it becomes to accomplish even the simplest of goals. Most importantly, this will make it even more difficult when the floating, lizard-headed and chrome-armor-plated invaders spot you out of one of their various eyes. Combat is true do or die. If Will gets his innards dumped like a broken bottle of Smucker’s raspberry jam, that’s the end of the line. This is a perma-death affair, so it will take a lot more than conventional caution to see how long you can hold out.
At the time of my preview, Will to Survive was admittedly in its extremely early stages. Many features like its cross-platform support weren’t functional, there wasn’t any in-game music, and sometimes the controls would seem to snag up. While attempting to sneak behind one of the invaders to a military storage crate, I would find Will was hooked on a wall or walking on top of it, and in attempts to rectify the issue I would wind up starting a fight I didn’t want. This makes an enormous difference as in Will to Survive, combat is what can make the difference between a tense survival adventure and an immediate series of rage quits.
These complaints are all technical, though. The real curiosity surrounding Will To Survive at this point should be: “Is it a good idea?” Even at a glance it can be seen that this game is extremely ambitious, proudly attempting to strike at something between nostalgic and innovative. But can the principals of pet care co-exist with elements of survival horror? Based on what Dawson has delivered so far, I can say the potential is definitely there. Having a little dude effectively living inside the ether between my various devices carries with it a certain charm. However, not being able to personalize my avatar might fracture the emotional investment needed to bridge that virtual space. After all, it’s hard to care about something if you can’t in some way see yourself reflected in it.
Again, this is still an early model of the game. The full or future versions are intended to include a more interactive tower-defense style for the safe house and refined visuals, all of which would be welcome improvements. The concept of Will to Survive is intriguing, and definitely the kind of thing I look for when it comes to innovative design and new IP ideas. Players willing, maybe my “Will” will find out soon enough.