The Slow Road To… Nowhere?

HIGH Interesting premise. Cute visuals.

LOW Combat never evolves.

WTF It’s riddled with bugs, many of them severe.

 The Wild Eight is an open-world survival game with light RPG elements recently released for consoles, though it’s established an audience on PC over the last few years. However, this version suffers from numerous problems that keep it from being a recommended experience.

As the game begins, the player must choose from one of eight possible protagonists – they were all passengers on a plane that crashed somewhere in Alaska, now forced to adapt and survive in the freezing cold. Each of the characters differs from the rest in starting stats and bonuses, including resistance to cold, movement speed, melee damage, and so on.

After picking a character, the story begins as said hero slowly gains consciousness after the plane crash. Immediately noticeable are the cute but minimalistic visuals, which remind me of a 3D art book in motion. Every elevation of snow-covered hills seems like a folded piece of a paper, and all of the world’s flora and fauna like origami figures. This presentation is accompanied by a soothingly sad piano melody, establishing a somber tone that’s further emphasized by the presence of the day-night cycle.

Crafting is the order of the day as a series of tutorials prompt the player on wood and ore gathering, as well as how to construct a shelter where new abilities can be learned. Ability points are gained by performing the activity for each of the skill trees (gathering, offense, defense, hunting and mobility) but, the choices are fairly unexciting — almost every unlock gravitates towards basic tropes like “increased defense” or “increased stamina recovery speed”.

Hunting for resources is necessary in order to keep up with the unforgiving difficulty. Some critters won’t attempt to fight back (deer and rabbits) and will run away quickly, while others will prove hostile the moment they spot the player. Unfortunately, combat is fundamentally uninteresting, and doesn’t evolve one bit throughout the adventure.

All of the melee weapons have the exact same wind-up animations, and each swing must be dealt while standing completely still. Attack combos do not exist in The Wild Eight, nor do shields. As a result, trading blows with an adversary is inevitable, and yet, even the most basic enemies are capable of killing the player in seconds.

Thankfully, death on Normal difficulty isn’t the end of the world. After respawning, the player keeps all of their unlocked upgrades and can find their own corpse with all of its accumulated items. Also, in what must be an attempt at humor, the corpse itself can then be cooked on a campfire and consumed.

Ranged weapons are much safer to use, but the ammunition required is hard to come by. The basic arrow is made of bone, but enemies can withstand more than just one arrow – therefore, any ammo carried by the player will soon deplete. This means they must rely on RNG and pray that defeated foes drop the bones needed to restock. However, more often thаn not, the big bad wolf that tоок nine arrows will drop only skin and meat, and at that point, it’s back to melee again.

Both melee and ranged combat feel cumbersome on the PS4 thanks to an atrocious control scheme that can’t be tailored. The shoulder buttons are dedicated to turning the camera left or right, while the selection and consumption of items is done with the directional buttons. As a result, when desperately trying to escape a beast that’s giving chase, the player must remove the thumb from the L3 button (the move stick) and — while panicking and standing still — select the correct life-saving item, and then use it with a different directional button!

Needless to say, when a fast enemy appears out of nowhere, death is more than likely thanks to this setup. The absence of a more suitable control scheme or of a customization option is baffling. Admittedly, one might make the point that this constraint ‘accurately’ portrays the difficulty of being lost and stranded in an unwelcoming environment, and I do confess to experiencing occasional feelings of satisfaction and triumph after small victories.

The Wild Eight’s biggest issues lie in its technical shortcomings. This PS4 version is loaded with bugs, some of which are of the game-breaking variety. The list is long and includes disappearing environment components and objects, ‘reachable’ items positioned behind solid walls and closed doors, and important NPCs that fail to spawn, effectively blocking the completion of some sidequests. The worst of all is a glitch that corrupts whole save files! During my time with The Wild Eight, I experienced four data corruptions — it was so severe that I simply stopped trying to complete the game.

While the plot interested me and I would have preferred to see it through, The Wild Eight‘s technical and design issues cancel out its charm and atmosphere. Aspiring survivors be warned!                  

Rating: 4 out of 10

— Konstantin Koteski

Disclosures: This game is developed by Fntastic and published by HypeTrain Digital. It is currently available on Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, PS4, Linux and Classic Mac OS. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4 Pro. Approximately 40 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes on the PS4.

Parents: This game has not been rated T by the ESRB, and contains Fantasy Violence and Language.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game can be fully enjoyed by anyone, as any sound cues are accompanied by visuals. Dialogue is subtitled.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.

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