Neo Scavenger – early access – gameplay and review

By Michael Vass | November 23, 2014

There are more than a few gems out in the wold of early access video games. These are video games that may be in the Alpha or Beta stage of development. Games that don’t have the final polish found in the launch of major video game publishers, like Dragon Age: Inquisition, and may have the occasional bug. But these games often prove to be worth the discount of cost and the issues that may be involved. Neo Scavenger, in Beta at this time, proves to be a gem with few flaws, and worth the money.

Video game - Neo Scavenger

Neo Scavenger is a video game by Blue Bottle Games, an independent video game publisher. The video game is a turn-based, post-apocalypse, survival game. A unique niche, and a game that may not fit the perceptions gamers might have for the genre of survival.

Neo Scavenger is not, currently at least, graphically stunning. It’s more of a throwback to the video games of the 1980′s. Graphics more akin to the old pixelated days of Tomb Raider, but not quite that rough. Simple graphics on a 2D hexagonal map with static images. Which may sound unapealing at a time of games like Mass Affect or Star Craft II, but the benefit is the lack of distractioon on the core elements of the game.

In terms of the soundtrack, it is a bit repetative. Luckily it is also fitting with the gameplay and mostly far enough in the background that a player will likely forget it’s there. Occassionally the track will change to a more base driven theme that will remind the player of the soundtrack and tend to intensify the mood of the game.

At the core Neo Scavenger is about choices. What would you carry if you have little room to carry anything at all? Where would you go, if you don’t know where you are going? What skills will help you survive challenges you don’t know will occur? It goes on from there. These choices, are what make the game compelling and frustrating at the same time.

The choices start at the character creation screen. Choices of skills like Electrician, Hiding, Strong, Tough, Botany and more are available for the player. Which is the right choice, or even how they might apply in the game are unknown. Are the skills needed for the early game, mid-game, or end-game? Will any choice help or hurt as the game progresses? Players on the first several tries through will never know.

I say the first several tries as you can expect to die a few times before things become clear. Hypothermia, starvation, dehydration, are just a few of the things that can kill a character early in a new game. Which says nothing of the random map and supplies that are generated each time a new game is created. Then there are the other things that could kill a game in later stages – like infections and plague.

But these things add to the challenge, and will likely cause a player to want to go at it again and not make the same mistake twice. Initial triumphs might be a simple as surviving combat, living for a week or more, exploring areas of the map, or even as simple as finding a sleeping bag or pants. The complexity of the game mechanics grows as the player lives longer and learns more about the world they find themselves in. It is an apt translation of the mystery that the character experiences upon waking in a world he does not know, and a past he cannot remember.

There are flaws though. The character creation does not allow for the image of the character to be altered in any way. He is always a nondescript male, apparently white, with indeterminate weight and height. Games cannot be saved and a new game started. There is only one save available – so any past save is overwritten. The game lacks a tutorial, and may factors that can kill a character are unknown until you die of them.

The game is highly open-ended. That is that there is no real path to progress, other than a hint early in the game that some may not remember or understand. Another hint appears if a character makes it to the right place in the game, but that is is. How to advance in the game is left to the player overall. There is no skill tree, nor experience to speak of. Characters can learn to do things, either by finding receipes or figuring out how to do things, but there is no indication in-game of when something has be learned for crafting.

Add to that the fact that the graphics are dull. Combat, once figured out, can be a bit repeatitive. The absolute randomness of supplies can either be a blessing or a curse at any point in the game. All that said, the game is an early access game. Many of these things may change. Then again, they may not.

Ultimately, for $10 on STEAM, the value and fun of the game exceeds the price paid. This is a game that many fans of turn-based strategy, survival, future apocalypse and even zombies (though the game has mutants instead) may enjoy.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

** Here are some actual gameplay videos. The video quality is not the best as these video was not captured but recorded. Game graphics are better than shown. ***

Neo Scavenger game intro – Day 1 ingame

Neo Scavenger game – Day 1 ingame, part 2

Neo Scavenger game – Day 2, part 1

Neo Scavenger video game – Day 2, part 2

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