Prior to lockdown, my other half and I spent quite a lot of time playing Minecraft in split-screen mode via our PlayStation 4, she’d got off, look for resources, get killed, get frustrated, but ultimately fill up chests dotted around in different locations around the small castle (or fort, whatever) we’d managed to build, whilst I would potter between these chests, collecting up whatever she had gathered (lots and lots of cobblestones, obviously) and putting them to good use building stuff. I built her an arbour, a greenhouse, a stable, pig pen and chicken coop. I created a red stone railway so she could send some of this stuff directly to me, it was great fun.
What does this have to do with Surviving Titan though? Well, there are some pretty obvious influences here, there’s resource gathering and item and equipment gathering, all of which is needed in order to survive and reach the endgame (something I’ll readily admit I’ve not yet managed, but then I never do manage it in these games).
So, in Surviving Titan you play a person, male or female, that you can name, that has crash-landed upon the planet Titan, unfortunately, you also have amnesia, your escape pod is out of fuel and you only have a blaster, some flares, a bit of food and a survival suit that gives you some basic stat buffs. You also have a little robot companion who tries to teach you the basics of what you will need to survive, whilst giving you a whole load of attitude to go with its “advice”. Things start off simple, gather some wood and some stone to make an axe, then its a pick-axe and eventually you’ll be smelting ore into bars, synthesizing weapons, planting food and going off to search the planet for more and more stuff.
As you explore the randomly generated terrain (created from seven different biomes), you’ll happen upon a variety of wildlife, monsters and other survivors. The latter usually give you a task to do in exchange for something, one survivor required me to retrieve her weapons from her crashed ship, after which she joined me in my adventures, another time I happened across a friendly monster who was being harassed by an ogre, he tasked me with killing the ogre in exchange for sharing his knowledge of creating traps, as I write this I’m actually trying to gather and craft everything I need to take on the ogre as it’s much, much stronger than I am, whilst I’m also trying to gather the resources required to make a synthesizer in order to hopefully begin making some kind of fuel cells.
This is all played out in a similar visual vein to the likes of Stardew Valley, though where that game gives you plenty of objectives to be getting on with, Surviving Titan can feel a little too directionless at times. You’re told by your robot you need to start gathering X to make Y and then left to just wander. But then, due to having a small inventory space and your equipment taking up slots in that inventory, you often feel anxious about straying too far from your ship and your food resources, especially as your energy, hunger and thirst bars deplete at a rather quick rate.
This gives Surviving Titan a slightly different feel to some of its contemporaries, or at least the ones I’ve played, as there’s a genuine feeling that you are struggling to survive that, in contrast to the game’s visuals, is actually quite oppressive at times. This ties things nicely into the games skill-based system, as you do various tasks: mining, farming, fighting etc, you’re skills in those areas gradually level up, you also earn skill tokens too that you can sink into the skill-tree to unlock further abilities such as being able to drop glow sticks when in caves or increasing the chances of rare items appearing when you’re gathering. Though it doesn’t all work quite as well as it hopes too. I tried three different saves and on all three I was pretty limited on what I could farm for quite a while, my dude was living off of tomatoes (which thankfully hydrate as well as to stave off starvation) for absolutely ages, I had wheat so, in theory, I could make bread, I also had raw meat from chasing piggies down to kill, plus potatoes, so could have made a stew (I think), but I just couldn’t figure out how to get the cooking mechanics to work, crafting menus are a bit cumbersome and messy too, with different items being tied to one specific piece of equipment, and with over 150 craftable items it can be a little difficult to remember exactly what’s needed for each and everything.
There were other teething problems too, as mentioned I had three different games running, the first one I just picked up everything I could and soon found myself overburdened by stuff I had no real way to get rid of (though as I write this a new patch has come out that means items will disappear if left on the ground for 48 in-game hours), my second game my ship landed in the middle of a massive expanse of water, I would walk for a good long while, at least an in-game day, in one direction and find no land, use my droid to go back to my ship and then walk in a different direction. In the end, I sacked that save file off and begun anew again and had much more success. I’m probably in a minority of people that this has happened too, and its one of the drawbacks of games that use randomly generated terrain, especially so when the playing area is as huge as it is here, so it feels a little unfair to criticise Surviving Titan too much for this, but it did sour things for me until things began to click on that third attempt to start the game.
I do think though that it’s important to note that Dynamic Zero, the game’s developer and publisher, are a small studio from Brighton and that currently, it appears to be still being worked on as patches haven’t yet reached the 1.0 and onwards phase. Early signs are that Surviving Titan is a real gem of a game, it’s difficult without being too brutal and it’s very easy to lose a good chunk of time to it, with its creator Myles Panayiotis (or Zero) still hard at work on it, bringing more content and ironing out the creases, it should develop quite a following, hopefully even a console release, the biggest omission, in my book, is a multiplayer element as I’d have liked nothing more than trying to survive Titan with my other half.
Key provided by Dynamic Zero for review purposes.