I’ve been on a big survival game kick lately. It might have to do with my current situation where I’m stuck in the middle of the Sahara. It turns out the higher-ups here at Popzara have a system where they send water in exchange for articles, so he gets content and I get to keep living. It’s a win-win, really. With that in mind, let’s secure my continued existence for another day or so by talking about BitMonster’s latest release, GRAV!
From the minds that brought you the visually-impressive mobile title Lili comes GRAV – the latest in a long line of indie survival games to show up on Steam. There’s been a whole bunch of these lately, including a AAA-level title from Sony Online Entertainment popping up recently in the form of H1Z1. As for GRAV, the twists here seem to be that it’s got really nice graphics and it’s focused more on action than most. There’s still a fair amount of tree-punching early on, but you’re going to spend a lot more time running around murdering players and wildlife than you might in similar titles.
The tree-punching (tree-lasering, really) is a little unfortunate, since I think it gives an impression of GRAV that doesn’t really suit the rest of the game. You’ll need to spend the first hour or so gathering resources and making dopey-looking basic gear in order to stay alive, but after that you’re going to spend as much time fighting as you are harvesting. Your mileage on this early stage may vary, of course, since natural resources are more scarce if the server’s highly populated and others are grabbing them all.
Unusually for this sort of game, there’s an actual honest-to-God XP bar that you’re going to need to work on filling. Levels help increase your damage and reduce the damage you take, not to mention you’ll find loot crates around that you’ll need a certain level to open, so you’re going to want to get to grinding ASAP. It also needs to be mentioned that the game’s natural healing rate is very, very slow, so you’ll definitely want to have some health items stocked up before getting into a brawl.
Combat’s fairly simple. Run around and smack baddies or players with melee weapons or shoot them up with guns, preferably killing them before they kill you. It still feels better than it does in the majority of survival games, which is nice and makes GRAV feel unique in the genre. There are both PvP and PvE servers available to suit your tastes for carnage. I found that PvP was the more enjoyable option, if only because of how wanton vandalism of other players’ structures helped cut down on the early resource grind. Mwahahaha.
Once you’ve gotten some crap together it’s time to explore the world! Everything is very nice-looking so this is a great time for all involved…except for the monsters and any players who get on your bad side, because you’re going to shoot them. There’s dungeons to come across as well in the form of glowing entrances strewn throughout the world. These are full of stuff to kill and delicious loot, but they’re pretty tough without some friends so you might want to get some pals together before delving.
Building’s an option as well, of course, but it doesn’t feel quite as useful as it does in other survival games. Bases are prefab and very expensive in terms of resources to build. Crafting stations are valuable and need to be upgraded, so that necessitates protecting them on PvP servers, but on a PvE server I could see a nomadic existence being pretty reasonable if other players kept their stations unlocked for public use. Recent updates have allowed you to craft new tools to boost your gathering rate so that helps a bit, but it still tends to feel more rewarding to go out hunting than spend time improving the homestead. This isn’t Harvest Moon, that’s for sure.
GRAV is an Early Access title, so it’s still a work in progress. I’m not personally a fan of this model, but it is what it is. In the first draft of this review I slammed it pretty hard because of how painfully laggy the servers were, but recent updates have done a lot to help with that. There’s still the odd lag spike, but I didn’t find myself dying to seemingly immobile monsters nearly as much. There’s still plenty of rough edges, bizarre design decisions and bugs around, don’t get me wrong. Some stuff doesn’t work, some stuff works poorly and you can’t build a door without finding a blueprint for it, which is a little weird and kind of a pain on PvP servers.
With the lag significantly reduced, though, GRAV is now a game you are capable of playing and deriving enjoyment from. $20 might be a little high and Early Access is always going to be a gamble; in fact, the game’s Steam page specifically says that the final price will be the same as the Early Access price, so there’s no issue with waiting. Still, updates are coming quickly and improving the core of the game, so if you’re willing to stick with it for the long haul you might be rewarded. If your survival itch somehow still hasn’t been scratched, give GRAV a shot. On a PvP server, someone’s bound to scratch that itch with a combat knife to the face. Watch out.