The Survivalists Gene
Tracing the DNA between a brand new game and a selection of classics
The survival sub-genre has emerged into the limelight in recent years; it combines parts of several other genres, depending on which game you play. Typically, there are dire circumstances, scarce resources, and the need for the player to craft what they need from those resources in various clever ways. Games as far-ranging as the classic Oregon Trail all the way to this year’s Ground Zero fall into this category in some way, but they share a common DNA. Let’s look at several of these titles to see what elements connect them.
The Survivalists (2020)
The Survivalists is, unsurprisingly, a survival game, but it’s one with a big difference. Whilst other games in the genre task the player with carrying out a lot of the work themselves, grinding away to gather resources with which to craft, The Survivalists provides some help, in the form of monkeys.
Training monkeys is not necessarily something you’d expect to be doing in an otherwise typical survival game, and it comes with its share of problems. Particularly problematic with a controller, I suspect (I played the game on Switch), having to teach these primates how to carry out tasks by demonstrating them each and every time can wear a bit thin. It’s also difficult to do in a hurry, when in the throes of combat for example.
Having said that, The Survivalists has some pretty solid sandbox elements, and there’s plenty of satisfaction to be gained from an efficient production line of simian helpers. There’s something remarkably pleasing about building a base from scratch in a — relatively — peaceful corner of a world and many games offer a similar experience, albeit without the monkey mechanic. They often seem to involve far-flung islands …