In a virtual open world, the population runs mad. We shed ourselves of our identity, of our boundaries and of our responsibilities. As we walk upon the dead, our foot-steps crunching upon forgotten bones, we repeat a mantra over and over with each pump of blood in our system: no matter what, survive. However, no one said we had to stay sane.
I got to preview the open-world survival title Shattered Skies, currently in beta. It is developed by Free Reign Entertainment, who fortunately have experience in the genre. Unfortunately, said experience comes in the form of Romero’s Aftermath: a free-to-play zombie open world survival game which is kicking about on Steam at 44% positive out of 9,121 user reviews. Although, I admit, I never got to try it as zombie open-world survival titles have, for me, blended into a Day Z mush.
So now Free Reign Entertainment has decided to go with a paid method; it seems appropriate to see what the deal is — To discover if they’re doing the same old song-and-dance behind a paywall or if there’s something different going on.
If Day Z is pure vodka, sometimes sold to you in a dubious and questionable form with methanol in it, then Shattered Skies is the safe, reliable, and easy to comprehend beer. You run around a map collecting weapons, ammo, meds, food, and water, though enemies are far and few, equipment is plentiful, and there are few conditions to be in: bleeding, dead, starving and dehydrated.
“But beer makes you fat, Kailan.” Oh I know, and in a similar way this simplified system left me at an ease that I shouldn’t have been in. Every time an enemy did appear, there was a bit of a struggle as I ran two clips of ammo into the alien creature that teleported in with a noticeable sci-fi “woosh”. Even though it was always the same type of alien and I’d reliably down it, usually they’d be able to sling plasma onto my face or puncture a good few holes in me. Needless to say, I’d be left vulnerable afterwards.
Perhaps more scary (especially in my now-vulnerable state), however, was the hidden threat always lurking: other players. The disgusting beasties out to wear your skin as a mask. Shattered Skies isn’t shying away or letting nature take its course, oh no. If you want the best guns (as the rarer guns do more damage), the best attachments, and even more cosmetic skins, you’ll likely want to loot the various free-for-all packages dotting the map or going where loot is being parachuted in (marked on your radar and via flares for maximum competition).
However, if you gun down a fellow human being, others will know by your name changing color. So you better be sure before you get blood on your hands. Blood isn’t easy to wash off.
If I had to sum up my first impressions of Shattered Skies, it would be by describing something that happened in the game. As I had amassed a pretty large water collection (since you just refill bottles after use) and I got a pretty large backpack with a lot of spaces to share, I thought I’d give it out to those who perhaps are starting off or lost their loot. I announced across the server where I’d be (in a non-PvP zone) and that there’d be water and a backpack being given out.
Upon arrival, there were two people waiting. One who looked like he’d done the rounds quite a lot, and one who looked relatively new. After giving my water and a backpack to the travelers, one exclaimed over voice chat, “That’s it?! Only water? No vodka?” in a thick Eastern European accent. As I said bye (as I was logging off to play a pen-and-paper RPG), the same person wished cancer upon me.
The spirit of Day Z is still intact from what I can tell, and my only grumbles at this stage are the lack of a race/gender option, a disappointing lack of variance in rarity effects of guns (only damage increase), and no variance of alien type while only rarely strolling in one-by-one. I’ll admit, it feels somewhat as though I’m nit-picking. There is no current release date of Shattered Skies, but you can purchase now to join the on-going beta at different tiers.
You can join us in our mad games of wishing cancer on those who’d give us water instead of vodka (which isn’t in the game), tripping over guns you don’t want, and looting a box before anyone else notices. Just don’t be surprised if someone shoots you on a whim – that’s what it’s like out here. With the fall of civilization, the first thing to collapse is our minds. Pass the vodka.