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!

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.