The Survivalists begins on a deserted island. With no memory of how you got there and no tools at your disposal, it’s up to you to carve out a place on the island, forage food to survive and command a fleet of monkeys to do your bidding. Rather than a straight survival sandbox, The Survivalists opts for an adventure-mystery feel with secrets to uncover, new islands to explore and a bunch of activities to take on. While its cute, pixel art aesthetic won’t be for everyone and its short length is an issue, there’s plenty to love.
Cards on the table: you can finish The Survivalist’s main story in about 3 or 4 hours if you know what you’re doing. The basic plot revolves around island living, exploring and finding unique labyrinthine structures where you can unlock the secrets of the game. After these labyrinths are explored, you’re basically left to your own devices. But you won’t have a good time with the game if you’re in a rush to finish it. Instead, the game encourages you to explore, build and fight your way through a variety of procedurally-generated islands as you quest for the perfect home base and the rarest items in the game.
Every island you come across is unique and filled with rare treasures for crafting your way to victory. They’ll also get you closer to your goal: unlocking the raft and taking your monkey army to the high seas. The more you play and build, the more the world of the game will open up.
Your home island starts with a variety of threats, each more dangerous than the last. It’s not quite a survival game — and enemies are fairly easily vanquished — but you’ll have to constantly forage for new weapons and crafts to get yourself out of danger.
The Survivalists operates on a fairly standard crafting system. You’ll collect resources by chopping down trees, harvesting bushes or mining rocks. Then, you’ll be able to handcraft or use a crafting table to create newer, better tools and weapons strong enough to conquer whole dungeons.
As you create more objects, you’ll open up more recipes until you uncover the game’s most important one: the raft.
While the opening chapters of the game start off fairly slow as you learn the mechanics and meet your new monkey pals, the raft is where it really opens up. Once you have the raft you’ll be able to travel to other islands, start unearthing rarer objects and discover the four mysterious labyrinths on far-off islands. Getting to this point is a bit of a pain in the arse because the game goes for a ‘minimalist direction’ that tells you basically nothing. You’ll need to figure out crafting and exploration on your own and while it is fairly simple, it’s easy to get confused by the lack of instruction.
If you ever get stuck, the game does tell you what to do — you’ll just need to comb through diary entries, treasure maps and monkey training guides to find out exactly what’s going on.
For the best experience, you should craft every recipe in your arsenal, travel wide to find the best materials and focus on building bigger and better accommodations for your home base. Start small, and build your way up. Whenever you see something new, explore it. But make sure you’re never alone on the island. (If you have friends with the game, you can co-op your adventures.)
The Survivalists requires thinking and a lot of patience to get started but once you have the basics down, you’re set for a fantastic, monkey-filled adventure. Its short length and fairly basic gameplay may be a turn off to players looking for a meatier experience, but personally, I loved the game for its simplicity. Exploring is a joy and uncovering each and every treasure is consistently fun. There’s so much to find in The Survivalists and you can do it all with your monkeys by your side.
Your monkeys will do most of the work for you if you play your cards right too, so you can spend most of the game chilling, wandering and exploring new islands. There’s plenty to uncover including rare gems, weapons and golden treasure. Every island is procedurally generated, so the world of The Survivalists really is your oyster.
If you’re looking for a hearty and complex survival game, you won’t find it here. But if you’re looking for a relaxing life simulator more akin to Stardew Valley or Graveyard Keeper, The Survivalists delivers chill vibes in spades. In 2020, the game is a breath of sweet, fresh air (and the closest many of us will come to island living for a good long while).
Make sure to take your time with the game and smell all the roses along the way. You never know what you’ll find amongst the thorns.