Impact Winter isn’t a bad game by any means. It’s far from perfect and maybe even falls just short of greatness too, but it’s certainly an experience that fans of survival games will appreciate nevertheless. Survival games are ten a penny and come in all shapes and sizes, more often than not mashing together two or more genres in an attempt to make the gameplay stand out. Then we get the lesser of innovative titles. Don’t Starve and The Flame in the Flood are prime examples of passable survival games, games that don’t particularly stand out but still merit a playthrough. Impact Winter sits inline with these offerings, it’s no The Long Dark, if you will, but its systems and functionalities collectively wrap up a survival adventure that’s worth your time and attention, warts and all.
Players take on the role of Jacob Solomon, the appointed leader of a group of like minded folks, desperately trying to survive the aftermath of a devastating asteroid collision. Being their leader it falls to Jacob to keep them alive for the next thirty days, which according to a voice on the radio intercepted by the group’s helpful robot companion, is exactly when help will arrive. Cue the countdown, then. The aim of the game is to work towards knocking down this thirty day timer, a baffling design choice, I know, but one that works well in its favor. This is achieved by completing quests on behalf of the other survivors, which will reduce the amount of time you need to wait for your all important rescue.
There’s no shortage of tasks to undertake and heaps of exploration to nail this system in place. The world as we know it has seemingly gone to hell, but hope, as always, is a powerful motivation. Holed up in a church in the midst of a dangerously heavy snowfall, you’ll not only be taking on the aforementioned quests, but will also need to protect your followers from danger. NPCs remain diverse, giving you aid in a range of different ways throughout. There’s a chef, a technician, a base building novice and so on and so forth. Quests that these individuals ask you to tackle will reward you with better abilities, but the strict countdown tends to choke much of the choice later in the game when your missions demand a considerable amount of time and effort.
It’s nice for those that enjoy replay value, but those that favor a single structured run will most likely feel burnt. With that to the side, this does enable players to chase a specific playstyle that suits them, to then take on a consecutive run to see how the game plays out utilizing other routes. The survivors each need to be maintained and kept safe to avoid demise, which includes the usual management layout of health, hunger, thirst and temperature. Mercifully it’s not too hard to balance this with your needs to trek, amounting to little more than keeping these simpletons well nourished and revitalized. In regards to the difficulty, Impact Winter is surprisingly accessible.
I find that most survival games (Don’t Stave, I’m looking at you) are often too unforgiving and lack even minimal guidance, that it risks turning away curious newcomers entirely, not just from a specific game, but the genre on the whole. Impact Winter, on the other hand, is developed in such a way that genre newbies can slot right in and comfortably execute the adventure. Item management is also straightforward and akin to the likes of Resident Evil, providing an inventory slot system that prevents players from hording each and every item they discover on their journey. Items can be rearranged to make space for other items of smaller size, but you’ll still often find that you cant pick up everything that tickles your fancy.
There’s usually just enough time following a quest and before you need to rest, to take a few more trips outdoors to scavenge and explore, which shaves a layer off the strict system that survival games are traditionally known for. Ako-Light, your robot companion, also comes in handy for locating goods and scouting for danger, which is a nice touch and adds a unique spin. Ako-Light runs on battery power, which is a resource in itself. Ako’s battery will deplete upon the use of any of its skills, though a quick trip back to base-camp will replenish its power. This is, by and large, the main aspect of Impact Winter. Players will balance the necessities of in-game life with the pros and cons of exploring the vast and desolate environments in the hopes of bettering themselves through other means. Impact Winter does a great job at relaying a desperate and harsh locale.
The world is full of interesting points of interest to uncover and chart, each of which houses items that you can make full use of, pushing you to tread carefully and weigh up whether the risk of being devoured by wolves is truly worth the reward. Rooftops swallowed by snow, an airplane wreckage, caverns, shopping malls and more, will signify that there’s a structure to seek out, but this sense of wonder is almost always overshadowed by a constant feeling of unease and dread, thanks to the solid world design. It helps, of course, that the visuals remain on point throughout the entirety of play. The details are well crafted, further upheld by a brilliant soundtrack that sets the tone and mood. It’s fair to describe Impact Winter as a juggling game of chance.
Items may not always seem significant at first glance, but should you pass them by, you may find that you’re kicking yourself further down the line for not picking something up. This, again, is where the item management comes into view as a forefront importance. Should you pick up some bottles? Or opt in for a gas canister? The limited inventory space toys with you from beginning to end, as there’s often many more items in the field than you can possible carry. Furthermore, every single item is important in one way or another. Do you leave from camp without any food, leaving more for your camp-mates, hoping that you’ll find some on your travels? Or do you take some with you? This aspect of the game that constantly sees you questioning your options is dominant at all times, and arguably Impact Winter’s most alluring feature.
There’s nothing quite like exploring the environment, keeping a lookout for dangerous wildlife and looting anything that isn’t tied down, all tied to a time-based system that works for and against you. Though, as previously alluded to, Impact Winter is quite an accessible survival game. This is a great place to start if you’re looking to get into survival adventures. It’s not as taxing as Don’t Starve and not quite as in-depth as The Flame in the Flood, leaving itself open to tap into a much wider crowd. Sadly, however, there are some technical issues to contend with. There’s some framerate inconsistencies within, most notably when there’s a lot happening on-screen at once. I’ve also witnessed a single instance of freezing and although this was an isolated occurrence, I wanted to make a note about it nevertheless.
Impact Winter, as far as survival games go, remains quite accessible throughout. The time management mechanic sits well with the item and character management systems, which further bolsters the genuinely tense gameplay. Sadly, however, technical issues such as framerate inconsistency and the occasional freeze, ironically, pulls this game just shy of greatness.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.