The top-down view survival game The Wild Eight was released in Early Access back in February 2017. Ever since then the game had a lot of ups and downs. Most of them reflected by the ever-fluctuating user reviews. However, with its 1.0 version release on October 3, 2019, the game officially left Early Access in a more than optimal and enjoyable state. Added content includes the conclusion to The Wild Eight’s main story, new side quests, a new biome with new creatures and resources, new ranged weapons, and equipment. Considering my not-so-brilliant experiences with survival games, I dived into The Wild Eight feeling a bit skeptical – if not slightly discouraged – that it might not meet my expectations. Thankfully, after a rocky start, and hours trying to get a grasp on all the mechanics, me and my character stopped looking at each other sideways.
HIKING AROUND ALASKA
The Wild Eight takes place in Alaska – a very weird Alaska – where clearly something has gone terribly wrong. The game begins with a plane crash, leaving me without anything but a Shelter. The icy and desolated environment proves to be very harsh to survive during the first hours. The good news here is that I don’t have to go through this adventure alone. Instead, I can either join a public server or join forces with a friend, or two, or eight.
The Wild Eight is quite hard by default, which is why I personally suggest starting off in Normal to get the hang of it and, later on, start a new game on Extreme. The difference between the two modes is mainly the penalties upon death and the hunger and cold side effects on characters. Dying on Extreme makes us lose not only all our items, but also all perks as well. A blank slate all over again. Whereas dying on Normal mode doesn’t really penalize other than having to walk all the way back. It’s worth noting, though, that items are lost only temporarily until we make our way back to our body.
Upon starting a game, we’re asked to pick our survivor between 8 possible characters. I found it really appealing, game-wise, how each of them has different perks and abilities they can rely on. While it’s a nice feature in multiplayer, (and it affects that the most) on single-player their unique bonuses still manage to make a difference.
The recommended survivor for new players is usually William, who starts off with added defense and added resistance to cold. In other words, William is slightly harder to kill than other survivors. He loses Heat way slower than everybody else but he lacks some other convenient perks that you can find with other characters. In my case, after a couple of hours, I immediately switched to a new survivor. I ended up playing as Robin, the most agile out of the eight. I got scratched, clawed, bitten, and thrown around. But in the end, I always managed to outrun the deadly Alaskan wildlife and save my skin for yet another day.
ONE RABBIT AT A TIME
My Alaskan journey started out really rocky. I had no clue on what the most efficient way to survive this deadly environment was. So, I took it slow. I camped out near the plane’s crash site and ventured a bit further away only whenever I needed to hunt down some rabbits. I could’ve gone for deer too, but they were considerably faster than I was at the time. And just like that, I started understanding the game a bit more than I did the rabbit before.
The tutorial guides us through our first steps, from building a Workshop to arming ourselves with pickaxes, axes and food, and moving out. The Shelter (you start with one of these) and the Workshop are the only two buildings that can be carried everywhere. Whenever we need to build somewhere new, they don’t require any extra resources. All we need to do is pack ’em up and bring them over to our next campsite, wherever that might be. They both start out at Level 1, and they can be leveled up with various materials found along the way, be it wood, rocks, iron.
Inside the Shelter, we can check out all the possible ability skills that can be unlocked and leveled up. There are a few different categories, such as Hunting, Gathering, Defense, Offense, and Mobility. Each building level up will open up new skills. While, through the Workshop, we can make and find everything we might need to survive and face gradually tougher enemies and harsher situations. The highest level for the Shelter is 8, while the Workshop can be leveled up to 9.
TILE AFTER TILE
I set out on a mission to find out just how extensive the world map is in The Wild Eight. It took me 53 days of careful planning to push all the way towards the last tile. 56 in width and 39 in height, for a grand total of 2.184 tiles to explore and to experience death in. For the most part, the world didn’t seem empty or lacking. Mainly because it takes place in Alaska, I wasn’t really expecting to find a map thriving with life or new zones to explore. Rather, the game managed to perfectly deliver what I perceived as an ominous, almost melancholic and lonely setting. Everywhere we go, there’s snow, trees, and animals to keep us company. But no humans whatsoever. Some buildings are merely abandoned while others seem to be entirely run down and destroyed.
At one point, I had decided I’d had enough of being alone, and tried to tame a deer. Everything went smoothly, and eventually, I had my loyal deer, Poki, accompanying me through the wastelands. It was short-lived, however, as Poki suddenly left me because I wasn’t feeding him enough. In my defense, he was eating way faster than what I could gather.
While the scenery doesn’t really change much, no matter which direction I decided to go, the enemies found along the way do, even if only slightly. That happened in particular with the introduction of Act II, which gave e a different “version” of the animals I had encountered so far. As if to balance out the rarely changing scenery, each darkened tile was still a surprise. Maybe in the next one, we’ll step in there will be a Radio Tower to activate, allowing us to discover a bigger area around us. Maybe, it will have a Warehouse where we can stuff ourselves with goodies. It could even contain a secondary quest.
There aren’t many secondary quests, but they are carefully placed so that you’ll have to step across them eventually. Most of them aren’t long or complicated either, allowing us to easily breeze through them in order to get back to the main quest. I’ve found out, through multiple playthroughs, that secondary quests have the tendency to just bug out. For example, an invisible wall made it impossible for me to continue through a secondary quest called “Prisoners”, found in Act I.
GOING OUT FOR A STROLL IS WORTH IT
I’ve been running around in The Wild Eight for more than 50 days now. I’ve been running for my life. At times I’ve been running because I simply had too much life and thought I could push myself further. I’ve come across weird glowing spirits and threw dynamite at a werewolf out of desperation. I’ve dined on rotten meat and got indigestion multiple times. I even considered cooking up my own dead body whenever I died and made my way back to my lifeless corpse, starving yet again. And it’s been fun. The Wild Eight scratches that survival itch that no other game similar to this has been able to focus on and pin down accurately. We’ve got mystery. We’ve got an interesting, and enthralling main story that leads us on as we tell ourselves, “I need to know what happened here”. There’s a smooth not-too-linear-not-too-complex gear and crafting progression. And a rather unique design choice, forcing us to never fully camp anywhere, instead roaming the world managing our inventory space carefully with things that are essential to us.
Of course, the game isn’t perfect, and considering how vast the world map is, it can definitely feel empty to some. However, it’s worth reminding that The Wild Eight just recently left Early Access with the complete main quest. Hopefully, that means we can look forward to more side quests content in the future. Until then, The Wild Eight is already a game worth investing hours in if you’re passionate about the genre and don’t mind the slow pace it revolves around.