Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge

Steam Challenge: Unturned


Game: Unturned
Time Played: 1.4 hours

My friends and I have been hooked on the zombie survival game 7 Days to Die lately, and have enjoyed doing the things that zombie survivalists do. I happened to peek at the Steam Charts last week and saw a game I hadn’t heard of in the top 5 — something called Unturned. I saw that it was a sandbox survival zombie game and it was free to play. So I figured I’d give it a whirl just because it seems to have a lot of players and I’m into the genre right now.

This was released on Steam about a month ago, though the game has been in development by one person for a while. It’s early access, and I’ve heard it has frequent updates despite the one-man dev team. That’s all pretty amazing, given the game that came out of it!

Note that my experiences will be colored by 7D2D and the other roguelike type games I’ve played in the past. I’m also not a PVPer and only played this game solo during my explorations.

My Unturned Review

I like roguelike games. I’ve played several of them, and don’t mind the idea that I have to start over from the beginning when I die. However, in many roguelikes, even when you die, you still carry something over — in Don’t Starve, you build up points and unlock new characters, for example.

Unturned isn’t a roguelike, it’s a survival game. I haven’t had experience with other survival games, such as Day Z or Rust, so I’m probably talking like a carebear on this topic. As much as I wanted to enjoy Unturned, it was the unforgiving roguelike death penalties that made me eventually give up.

Sailor Zombie!
Sailor Zombie!

So, you’re dropped somewhere randomly on the map when you first spawn or die. You have two chocolate bars and a juice box to sustain yourself. And a fairly useless flashlight. You only start with 4 inventory slots, so that means that three of the four are already full.

Lack of inventory was one of the major frustrations for me. You can eventually find a backpack while exploring. However, in the 20-something times I died playing this game, I was lucky enough to spawn near a town that had a backpack once in the whole hour. Then I died and lost it and everything in it. : /

My second great source of frustration in this game: there is no map, so you have no idea where you are and where settlements are. I read later that you can find a map item that works as an in-game map. Never found it. Was no help to me. Instead, I wandered around aimlessly and had no idea where I was. As soon as I thought I had a hold on location of some sort, I’d die and end up randomly moved on the map.

I heard there are sleeping bags you can make or find in the game that you can place down so that you always spawn in one spot when you died. Never found one. Never found what I needed to make one. Not sure I’d have the inventory slots to hold the stuff I needed to make one. Was no help to me. : /

Zombies didn’t seem to drop loot. Or maybe I just didn’t find any. However, when you kill zombies, you earn experience! Poking around the UI, I discovered you can spend experience to enhance skills, such as your endurance (which you need because your block-person sure can’t run for very long) or the damage you deal to zombies.

Okay, I thought. A skill system is pretty cool. At least I can carry something over when I die… Wait. No.

When you die, you lose half of your skills and all the unspent experience you earned. So, I was struggling to fight zombies with whatever I managed to find — if I was lucky enough to find a weapon at all — using that experience to increase my skills by one point, only to lose that point and pretty much start back at square one when I died.

I couldn’t even imagine the frustration of losing half the skills you earned if you were at a HIGH level!

That was the point where I had to step away from the game. I spent over an hour’s time only to be sent back to square one again and again, and had nothing at all to show for it. Not a bedroll, not a backpack, not even a simple map. Now if there’s a way to change these settings on the server (I was playing on Easy), I didn’t see them.

Other Thoughts

My character – the one time I actually had stuff.

Visually, the game reminded me of something like Minecraft. The blocky graphics didn’t bother me as much as I thought they would — block clouds actually looked pretty cool in a weird, surreal way.

I never got to try out building because the one time I accidentally found a mining pick, I died like 3 minuets later. Crafting wasn’t super intuitive to begin with, but once I understood the controls, it wasn’t bad. It didn’t help that I had no recipe list and had to keep going to a wiki for help.

Do I recommend it? I don’t think Unturned is a bad game — hardcore survivalists probably enjoy the things I find frustrating. I think there’s a lot of room for this game to grow, and I might check it out again later if some of the systems get a bit of a balance. But as it is, my gaming time is too limited to spend it replaying the same thing over and over with nothing to show for it.

The game is free. It’s a small download. Try it yourself — maybe try it in a safe multiplayer PVE environment. I couldn’t imagine doing this on a PVP server… I die enough to just the zombies.





I'm a technical writer by day, gaming gal by night. I have a wide array of gaming interests, though I most often blog about MMOs, RPGs, and Nintendo fanstuffs. Like what you just read? Check out my Webcomic and Fantasy Fiction projects!

6 thoughts on “Steam Challenge: Unturned

  1. I haven’t been a fan of the Minecraft-esque aesthetic in many games at all, so that, combined with the “oh look, ANOTHER zombie-survival game!” eye-roll, pretty much made me mildly disinterested in this one when I saw it in Steam.

    I think you’re right, there is nothing inherently bad about the decisions to limit inventory space, effectively reset skills and xp, and make navigation difficult. Those things, especially the lack of (mini)maps, actually appeal to me, but they aren’t for everyone and they should only happen in games where it makes sense – like a survival game.

    Maybe it depends on how you approach it. For me, games like this are more about seeing how long I can last, and less about progression. I know some roguelikes have that between-run progression that is supposed to make things easier for you on future runs, but I am content with unlocking more playstyle or cosmetic options than powerups. I don’t mind starting over effectively from scratch each time if the gameplay is good enough.


    1. Thanks for your thoughts on this!

      I find some roguelikes a blast to play because I feel like I’m always learning and discovering something about the world or gameplay to help me survive longer the next time. I feel like I take something away from that session, if it’s only learning survival tricks or crafting recipes, or what I need to focus on first on my next spawn. I’m totally into that because that accomplishes something, IMHO.

      I didn’t get that feeling in this game. I don’t feel like there’s all that much to learn, to be honest, and never felt like I accomplished anything during the hour of gameplay. I just kept dying with no lessons or tactics learned.

      You die, get stripped of everything, then have to shove yourself right back into zombie-infested buildings in order to try and find something you can use to survive. The only loot I found (aside from berries) was in buildings. To get to buildings, you have to fight through zombies (with fists unless you’re lucky enough to find a weapon). This usually means you die again before you can gather much to help you survive. And the cycle starts again.


      1. Ah, right, yeah it’s no fun if it feels like pure luck that you made it as far as you did. Or that you died as soon as you did. Having control over your fate (or feeling like you do) is pretty important.


  2. Huh, I genuinely enjoyed this game. But I was playing with my brother, who’d already learned all the controls and stuff and could tell me what to do to hopefully not die. It’s thanks to him that I only died a couple times. If you want to give it another go sometime with a team, let me know; I have a game I can share on Hamachi. 🙂


    1. I don’t think it’s a bad game. I’ve just been spoiled by 7 Days to Die, so it’s hard to adjust to a survival game that offers very little in the way of flexibility in how it plays. In 7D2D, you can customize just about every setting — you can even turn OFF zombies if you just want to run build mode only!

      It lets you find that comfortable spot of difficulty to provide challenge without too much frustration, and that’s something I genuinely appreciate. I think Unturned is shooting for a totally different type of gameplay. Maybe if I wasn’t so immersed in 7D2D already, I’d have enjoyed this a bit more. With the new alpha 9 release for 7D2D this weekend, I think I’ll have my fill of zombie hunting. Thanks for the offer, though!


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