If there was ever an over saturated genre in the video game market, survival games would be in the running for whatever kind of award that can get you. The genres’ undying popularity has spawned great games likeRustpictured above. Of course the sheer number of fans for this game type has paved the way for large piles of early access games, some ending up in the quick quid and never finished heap but still for the most part ending up in gamers’ libraries. We just simply can’t get enough of them, it seems they give us a certain joie de vivre.
We’ve got your dinosaur taming survival games with the likes ofArk: Survival Evolved, of course naturally there is a horde of Zombie survival games such asDayZandJust Survive, then there’s Sci-Fi survival in space with the likes ofOsiris New Dawnand an underwater alien planet setting withSubnautica, not to mention the legions of bog standard potential real worlddystopia versions a laHurtworld. You name it people want to survive it, kind of like life itself.
Another way in which survival games echo life, is that they’re utterly bloody futile!
A Dog Eat Dog World
The one thing that ties all these different survival scenarios together is being thrust into a hostile environment and using your wits and surrounding resources to survive. Ultimately there is no real end goal to these games beyond that, unless they’re single player with story progression. For the sake of this article, I’m going to be focusing on multiplayer, specifically player versus player rather than just the environment. This is where you can find the real echoes of life in our society and the sometimes all too easily conceivable pointlessness of it.
Sadly, for the most part the survival game community is a dog eat dog world, where people will kill you on the off chance that you might have some goodies in your inventory even though you look like a fresh spawn. Then there is those who would in fact just end your miserable existence for the thrill of the hunt, even when there’s no sport in it. But there are players who prefer to make friends in this futile existence, I am one of these players, there’s enough pain without a guilty conscience. I remember one friend gaining encounter in a game of Just Survive;
A real life pal and I were new to the server, we had nothing but the clothes on our back and hope in our hearts. It was night and we were warily making our way into town, when in the middle of the road a creep with a torch silently beheld us. To put it simply we had no fight so we went into flight mode, to put it plainly we were cowards. So as we ran, like an excitable dog he preceded to chase us for a 5 minutes saga of humiliation, freaked out by a torch lit stranger. We took shelter in a house, so he stood at the window flashing us not saying a word. That’s when we made another break for it and bumped into a stranger kitted out with a backpack and rifle, we begged him for assistance to end our fear. Putting our trust in a stranger with a weapon rather than one with a torch. He scared off our light bearing accoster and we teamed up and to this day are still friends.
A rare occurrence in these worlds of mistrust, what with the nagging paranoia that your supposed newfound friend is just waiting for the opportune moment to stab you in the back, learning your weaknesses and biding their time – we’d be stupid not to strike first right? It’s an infernal pattern with a ripple effect, shit on or be shat on.
In these games you have few options once you’re surviving and well equipped, try to just exist in perpetual defence for the mere sake of it, accumulate to exterminate the competition, to share in their hard work by raiding them, and taking their possessions for your own. Or try to work with people in exchange for mutual cooperation and face the risk of being so easily betrayed.
So why do we enjoy survival games so much?
Leaving Your Mark And Making A Story
Base designing and building is one way you can leave your mark.
Throwing yourself into the pattern of destitution, accumulation and loss to someone or times scythe in the form of a server wipe, seems a tedious repetitive task with no end in sight. Almost as futile as cleaning your house, however it is definitely a lot more fun. It’s infinitely more enjoyable to face virtual futility than the actual consequential reality. Like life itself, for all its futility, the goal of survival is to enjoy the ride and thus give a point to it all.
Leave your mark and enjoy the process, whether that be in the form of your creations or the friends you make along the way. That’s why survival games are an importantand enjoyable genre, they’re player based experiences that allows us to embrace life in all its futility.
If you’re a fan of Military simulators and haven’t played Squad yet, I implore you tocheck it out right away. Usually you should probably wait until you have actually started the review to say that, however Squad isn’t your usual game. I’m so convinced that you’ll be convinced, I’ve jumped the gun.
Squad is a PC game set in the modern day war environments of the Middle Eastern occupations and insurgencies, as well as the Eastern European separatistNovorossiyamovement. It is a tactical first-person shooter, with a massive focus on cooperating within your squad, as part of a wider team in up to fifty-a-side servers.
In this game communication is vital to survive the fight as well as win it and this really sets it apart from a lot of games in its field. But why else do I think you should check it out?
Developed by Offworld Industries it was created in the same vein as theProject Reality modwhich was well received and known for its heavy focus in the realism of gameplay as well as teamwork. Squad does its ancestors proud and has brought this focus and love for communication and cooperation into the forefront of the next generation, as well as the community who make that facet work. Starting out on Steam’s Greenlight service it received over9,000 votes in just a dayand a month later a Kickstarter which lasted a month raised CA$434,805. Although there are many other reasons why Squad is great, what truly makes a MilSim successful, is the community who love to play together and work together. Squad has cornered that market well.
Having stemmed from Project Reality which does exactly what it says on the tin, means squad is up there as one of the most realistic military simulators to date. Whilst still keeping it fair enough by allowing you to be revived and healed, its damage system is pretty unforgiving. It takes a while to cycle through heavy equipment as well as giving you realistic stamina and movement. It takes practice to get a hang of the different weapons at different ranges, but anyone who appreciates realism in military shooters will appreciate all this in Squad.
No other game has made me feel such terror and excitement at the sounds and visuals when taking and returning fire. From the realism of the crack of bullets on the ground around you to the meaty sounding explosions which kick up dust and small rocks at your feet, it feels intimidating.
One minute you can be patrolling peacefully through the beautiful forests of somewhere in Eastern Europe towards a capture point, the next you’re being mortared from out of nowhere and genuine fear grips you as you panic in the maelstrom.
Factions And Squad Member Roles
You can play as one of four factions so far, with similar squad roles except a small split along the lines of conventional and unconventional warfare found in contemporary combat zones.
Squads are split into three role sections;
Command and support –
Squad Leader – Arguably the most busy and stressful position, but to me, ultimately the most fun and rewarding. You are in charge and responsible for co-ordinating with other squad leaders in the command voice channel, you will need to also give orders and relay information to and from your squad. As well as marking enemies and such other points of information on the map, placing ‘rally points’ (the point from which you can spawn) and approving vehicle claims (nothing to do with insurance honest). You can place forward operating bases (FOBS) and the buildings you can construct in them, every other member has a shovel to build on your orders as well as deconstructing enemy positions.
Medic – You are responsible for keeping your teammates fighting fit, and should probably not be doing too much fighting up front, often you’ll find yourself sticking close to your squad lead to the point of feeling like their batboy. A vital support role that can be the difference between an attack failing and succeeding.
Squad Roles –
Riflemen – You are the core, the main fighting force who will do the bulwark of the killing and dying, if shooting is your thing this should probably suit you best. There are a few different primary weapon and optics choices. Equipped with a grenade, smokes and sandbag emplacements as well as a shovel for building structures or taking down enemy structures. You will do the groundwork and grunt work for your squads’ success.
Scouts (Unconventional only) – This is another one of my favourites roles, you operate up front and sometimes behind enemy lines, gathering information for your squad and causing disruption to your enemies. You are equipped with a lesser rifle but come armed with an IED (Improvised explosive device) which you can place and set off with a remote detonation device. Along with the IED you also have an anti-tank mine, these can both destroy vehicles entirely, which is vital to unconventional factions as conventional factions hold all the best vehicles.
Fire Support Roles (Limited to 3 per squad) –
Machine Gunner – You will take positions to offer suppressing and supporting fire to your squad as ordered.
Light Anti-Tank (LAT) – You are a vital member of the team equipped as a rifleman but in place of grenades you have anti-personnel rockets as well as anti-tank rockets. Vehicles can make or break your attack or defence and must be dealt with efficiently.
Heavy Anti-Tank (Unconventional forces only) – Same as above except you are equipped with a heavier rocket to help take out the better armoured vehicles of the conventional forces.
Grenadier – Great for assaulting enemy positions when they’re taking cover, good to help your approach or stave off enemies taking cover when approaching your position.
Marksman – As and when required your squad leader will give you special fire missions but in general you are a more precision fire support role watching over your squad.
The roles add to the variety in game play and tactics making for a diverse play experience overall.
Varied And Detailed Map Design
There are maps from environments in South-East Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, some are based on real regions, but all of them are stunning and great for combat in their own ways. The map designs are based around objective capture points which are well thought out and conducive to the flow of the game, they are balanced and allow for different strategies and tactics so the game Meta is wide-ranging. There are infantry based maps which are smaller scale and vehicle based maps which are vast battlefields. The amount of detail and thought that has gone into the map design really sets it apart from other shooters.
Large Scale Mobile Warfare And Base Building
There are a plethora of vehicles in Squads factions which match some of the hardware available to them in the real world, and their weapons are a pleasure to use as they really pack a punch. However driving is tricky and true to life and being effective is difficult, especially considering drivers and gunners have to communicate and work together closely whilst undertaking their separate tasks. This mobile dynamic is highly enjoyable whether in a supporting role to infantry or as a focus of your squad as a whole and it is also much needed. Some maps are so vast that without vehicle transport, you’d be running a marathon. You’ll be surprised to know that the most important vehicles on the battlefield isn’t even armed, it’s a logistics truck, the use of this vehicle can make or break your teams efforts.
Logistics trucks are vital in base building, they supply FOBs with ammunition and supplies for building the HABs (respawn areas) as well as mortars, machine gun emplacements, solid defences and ammunition for resupply. With base building the developers have given you the ability to change the face of the map, created a staging point for attacks and a fortress for defending wherever you please.
Indeterminable Boredom Punctuated By Moments Of Terror?
I have found that this old quote regarding war rings true to some when they first play Squad. And admittedly I can see why, if you’re on the back foot and the enemy team is just doing better altogether, it can feel more like a running to your doom simulator than a MilSim. But sometimes, communication and teamwork breaks down and you’re going to get steamrolled.
However, even when this happens I find there is fun to be had in the camaraderie of the challenging struggle to fight for a comeback. Not to mention, the landscapes are so great for jogging through it might actually have sale value as running simulator. The breath-taking vistas of the maps are done great justice by Squads graphics. So if you find this happening in your first games, just stick with it, losing is so much less boring when you can understand what’s going on and see the bigger picture. Just check out the beautiful views until you’re ready to lead. Then you can take charge and ensure you never have to play a running simulator again by always leading to victory.
Squads large scale gameplay and immersive realism means that so many different stories and narratives are created on the battlefield. Such detailed maps and so many different roles from an individual basis to squad level means each fight is a different experience. There is just so many variables to react to in this immense and immersive battle and that makes it a MilSim masterpiece in my eyes.
WithVersion 10just having been rolled out live this month adding many more features, there is no better time to get involved with your boots on the ground. Squad is a game with a community backing behind it and developers that sincerely want to push their project forward in the best possible ways for the genre and those who back it.
Look out for a V10 review coming soon and to all my future squaddies and enemies, see you on the battlefield.