Impact Winter Xbox One Review
As a general rule, if I’m not losing sleep to a sprawling, epic RPG, I’m losing it to the painful repetition and meticulous planning of the modern survival sim. The Flame in the Flood, State of Decay, The Long Dark, whatever… Give me a post apocalyptic world, limited resources, and the unrelenting risk of failure and I’m yours.
The latest one to keep me up at night is Impact Winter from Mojo Bones and Namco Bandai. In it, you play Jacob, the leader of a group of survivors holed up in a church after a meteor collision has covered the Earth in a second Ice Age. The world outside is frozen and inhospitable, but, in true survival sim style, you’ll need to repeatedly head out into it and scavenge supplies to keep your tiny little colony alive until help arrives.
Unsurprisingly there are a lot of menus. There are menus inside menus and under menus, but you’ll need to learn your way around if you’re to keep everyone fed, happy, and stocked with the gear they need to fulfil their roles. Old bird Wendy, for example, is the cook, who’ll whip up nutritious treats with whatever you bring her. Blane, the former sheriff, will upgrade your shelter’s defences, while tech-head Christophe and mechanic Maggie are able to use materials you bring back to craft new gizmos and upgrade Ako-Light, the little drone who flies around with you on your excursions.
The central premise is that you have 30 days until rescue arrives, and you need to stay warm and vital until then. Jacob is the nominated forager, most likely as he’s the hardiest among them, so it’s up to him to bring back what’s required. Heading out into the cold for the first time is quite daunting; it sounds daft, but there’s just so much white, and the swirling wind and darkness, cut only by the slim blade of light projected by your drone, create a wonderfully oppressive atmosphere.
Outside, you’ll be inundated with busy work to keep your mind off the cold. NPCs are found scattered about the world, and they’ll usually require you to go gather something for them, such as essential supplies or, in a nod to a certain other survival franchise, bottle caps. There are radio towers to turn on, caves to explore, the remnants of civilisation to pick clean for anything useful. The grid-based inventory is intentionally restrictive: each time you venture out you’ll have to prioritise what to bring back. You might well find a bunch of car batteries and fuel, which Maggie can put to use, but you’d probably be better off fetching back food, medical supplies, maybe even a firearm to defend against wolves, or to allow Blane to defend your shelter from the raids that can occur when you’re gone too long.
While away you can camp in tents to save your game, but the longer you spend outside, the tougher it gets for everyone else. They need food and supplies, which is another thing to consider: do you go further afield in the hopes of finding rarer and more useful gear, or get back to where you’re needed sooner, but with a less impressive haul? Oddly, completing tasks reduces the rescue timer and I can’t understand why this is. 30 days is 30 days, and it’s an incredibly gamey mechanic that makes little sense in the scheme of things.
The minute-to-minute bugs that troubled the PC version seem to have been mostly cleaned up, but the load times are still drawn-out and once or twice it froze for a worryingly long time while transitioning between areas.
Impact Winter is an interesting adventure, but there are moments when it seems to really want to remind you that it’s a game. It’s slow-paced, too, and unlike something like, say, The Flame in the Flood, you don’t often feel under a great deal of pressure or even in much danger. As a result, it’s not a game you’d call “fun”, but the atmosphere and wealth of tasks and locations make it well worth your time.
Loads to do
A few odd ideas
Long load times