Impact Winter tells an apocalyptic story of snow and survival. A meteor has hit somewhere in Canada kicking up so much debris that the sun can no longer heat the Earth, plunging the planet into another ice age. As Jacob, an every day man, you must lead a small group of survivors and coordinate their skills in an effort to survive. There is hope, however, as you receive a mysterious radio signal. The problem is that it will take them 30 days to find you, can you keep the group together till it’s time to be rescued?
At EGX Rezzed in London we got some hands on time with the game and also an interview with 3 of the developers from Mojo Bones. Mark Norman – Artwork, Stuart Ryall – Designer and Co-Founder and Ash Pemberton – Programmer.
Wandering the frozen wasteland you stumble upon a small group of 4 survivors holed up in a church. Your future becomes tied to theirs when they make you their leader and you discover that one of the group has found, repaired and reprogrammed a military drone. The drone, called Ako-Light, receives a mysterious radio message that claims help is on its way but its going to take 30 days. As the player you only have direct control of the main protagonist Jacob, but as the leader of the group you are tasked with ensuring everyone in this post-apocalyptic family works together and stays alive.
What’s the Story?
As in most survival games you need to manage several meters: food, water, health, morale and energy. In Impact Winter, as the leader you also need to look after the well being of your group, which adds a sense of responsibility and intensity that you don’t normally experience when you only have yourself to worry about. However, there are benefits to having this extra weight on your shoulders; each member of your group has specialist skills and experience that you can and must utilise in order to survive long enough to be rescued.
Blane is a retired police officer with strong survivalist skills that you can call on to help you lay traps and hunt wildlife.
Maggie is the daughter of a car mechanic and has picked up many of her fathers skills and knowledge. She will help you turn the empty shell of the church into a more secure and comfortable place to call home.
Wendy is a retired veterinary nurse with excellent medicine skills, she’s also pretty handy with the cooking pot.
Finally, there is Christophe, the resident genius and techno geek. Given the right parts he is able to upgrade Ako-Light, which is necessary for many different reasons.
In Impact Winter it is your job to roam the tundra wastelands scavenging for items that your group could use to upgrade your base and aid progression. Things like upgrading your fire to a furnace, adding a water purifier, creating traps and signposts, etc. Ako becomes your useful companion on your trips outside the base by carrying the items you find while also providing light, acting as a radar and offering many other handy tricks as it is upgraded.
As the Leader of the group you are responsible for maintaining the health and well being of all of the members in your party, from food and hydration to health, warmth and morale.
There is a fire in the church that needs constant fuelling for cooking and to keep everyone warm. You can find limited canned goods and bottled water while scavenging, but at some point you will need to find renewable sources of food and water. It is also imperative that you maintain the group’s morale as well, neglect a member’s needs for too long and you may find they become uncooperative and less inclined to do what you ask of them.
Fortunately, while you make all of the decisions you don’t need to do this all on your own, each of the group members can help you out. While you can’t directly control any of the other characters you can interact with them and give them crafting tasks. This is where it gets interesting, each character has a path for you to follow, as you spend more time completing tasks for someone you unlock more of their abilities and gain access to more crafting recipes. For example, the more tasks you complete for Blane, the better hunting and trapping skills and equipment you can learn to use, including sign posts that automatically point to base. Wendy will be able to provide you with more complex and beneficial food recipes while Maggie can help you to craft a furnace or water purifier for the base.
Each character can also be assigned a role, out of the approximate 26 available, that will help you manage them. A few examples include:
The Forager role which appears to allow them to scavenge for items outside the church but at the risk of incurring the wrath of the wilderness.
The Peace Keeper role prevents arguments with the other members of the team but at the cost of quicker energy drain.
We asked the development team if it was possible to complete all of the different paths for the characters and they told us that while it is possible to do tasks in all 4 paths at once if you wish to, it’s not possible to complete each pathway in a single play through. We assume that focusing too much time on Christophe and upgrading Ako may improve your ability to scavenge for items and bring back what you find. However, if you haven’t invested enough time with Maggie in upgrading the base with a furnace and water purifier you will find yourself having to return often to refuel an inefficient fire. You would also be leaving the hydration of you and your team to pot luck in finding water bottles, which we again assume are finite in number.
In order to construct all of these new items you will need materials, lots of materials. Jacob’s role is explorer and scavenger and as you agree to different tasks with group members or need to stock up on supplies, you need to explore the snow covered landscape with Ako-Light as your sole companion. Ako provides a light source, storage and a basic radar to start with but by following Christophe’s path you gain access to further upgrades including more storage, sonar and a white out (snow storm) early warning system.
The Impact Winter art team have done a great job creating the feeling that you are part of a vast barren wilderness with crisp visuals. You get that satisfying crunch as you trudge through snow drifts and a real sense of the danger in getting lost. You come across the occasional half buried building that hints at the previous civilisation that has now been wiped out, but these are few and far between. While you have Ako at your side you are fairly safe to wander as you wish, as the drone’s radar will always point you home or to previously discovered way points. However, you are always at risk of being caught in a snow storm or whiteout. This can separate you from Ako-light leaving you with the real prospect of wandering lost and alone until you die, unless of course you have placed signposts or can find a landmark to guide you.
As you explore the wilderness you may come across fellow lost souls of the apocalypse that will ask for your help. We came across one stranger that asked us to find some lost supplies which involved using Ako’s radar to locate a spot in the snow before again using Ako to melt/dig down to them. We didn’t get time to return the found goodies to the stranger, but we assume they give you some sort of reward for helping them, of course that’s if you decide to and don’t just keep what you find!
The main thing you are looking for in your outside expeditions are caves. We found one that allowed us to drop down into a buried underground street. Here we were able to search old mopeds, dumpsters, waste bins, containers etc, for loot. This gave us the opportunity to play with the Ako’s inventory system. In Impact Winter you don’t have to worry about weight or the number of inventory slots, but you do have a small grid which you fill with the items you pick up. Every item has a shape, from a ball of crumbled paper that is one square in size, pipes that are long and thin to a breeze block that is 4×3. This means that you need to organise your inventory carefully to make sure you can take everything you need back, or until Ako is fully upgraded, leave it for another run.
In an interesting take on the RPG leveling system, the team at Mojo Bones have added a twist. Instead of the usual idea of leveling your character to become stronger and faster, in Impact Winter, completing tasks and gaining XP allows you to strengthen Ako’s signal which helps your rescue party lock onto your location and find you quicker. When we asked the development team why they took this take on the system they said they wanted to do something a little different and that they wanted to create a mechanic that appealed to the growing ‘speed runner’ community as well. This adds a level of replayability that is perhaps removed by having a fixed ending. The end may always be the same but the story told to get there will be different and what exactly is the most efficient blend of skills and pathways to follow. Each playthrough will have change and new challenges.
Mojo Bones are putting the final touches to Impact Winter and have recently pushed back the launch to May 23rd. This is clearly a team of developers who love computer games and are dedicated to creating an experience that they can be proud of. We asked them why they chose not to use Early Access as many games do, especially in the survival genre. They told us that while Early Access does provide the opportunity to bring in extra funding, it can come at a cost. Obviously, with a game that has a definitive story there is always the danger of spoiling the plot long before it’s full release. When you let people play an unfinished product their first impression will always be of an incomplete experience, and it’s that first impression that Mojo Bones want to get right.
When released, and if you decide to buy it, your first impression will be of a game full of character, from the Americana inspired art work to the apparent attention to detail and desire to create a different but complete experience. Impact Winter is bringing in a snowstorm.