I absolutely loved the game This War of Mine. The story was intriguing, I felt empathetic with the characters, the places you scavenged created suspenseful and heart-stopping moments, and the decisions you needed to make had drastic consequences on what happened throughout the game. I saw the game Impact Winter as another game that would give me the same feeling that This War of Mine did. I left Impact Winter with more questions than I got answers and it isn’t that great of a feeling.
Impact Winter is game about surviving until the timer expires. Originally released in May 2017 for the PC, this port had everything going for it to make it a gem on the console. The phrase “In 30 days, help is coming…” from a mysterious floating robot named Ako-light starts the game off and you know that you are about to embark on a dangerous adventure. You are a man named Jacob who needs to lead a team to survive the harsh cold environments that were caused from a devastating asteroid. You see things from a top-down isometric view and the entire point of the game is to help your team survive and make the rescue timer go down as you complete small objectives all around the map.
You start off inside of a church where you have beds, a few supplies and a fire. You and Ako-light trudge off into the deep snow covered environment looking for any supplies you can to keep everyone alive all while discovering points of interest that can help shorten the rescue timer bit by bit. Time for disappointment #1: the travelling. This game feels like a chore. Go out, scavenge, fuel the fire, feed the team, empty inventory, and repeat until you find one or two items that may complete a quest randomly. I found myself running back and forth between the same destinations 3-4 times just to keep collecting items. Is this the point of the game? Yes but it was so boring to do so that I was left moaning each time I found nothing of interest.
Each team member, including yourself, has a collection of stats that need to be satisfied at all times: health, energy, temperature, hunger, thirst and morale. You can maintain your teams energy, hunger and thirst automatically but the health, temperature and morale meters need to be manually satisfied. Health goes down when someone gets hurt crafting or random scavenger sneaks into the church when you are gone (or you yourself get hurt by something on your journey exploring). You have to go heal your team with bandages, medicine, etc. The fire in the middle of the church maintains the temperature. Feed the fire animal parts, wood or fuel to keep it going. Your core temperature can lower while being out and exploring so sometimes you need to start a fire outside during your trek and sometimes you even have to set up camp to regain energy. There is a lot of micromanaging going on here. While you are scavenging you will come across random items that some of your team members really enjoy and this will help them gain morale.
Your team is also capable of crafting specific items for you and these items can become more advanced depending on what you craft. See it as unlocking more crafting items the more you craft. One of the more important crafting members is Christophe the engineer. Christophe tinkers with your Ako-light robot, by way of quests, to give it upgrades as long as you find the right parts. Each team member has a quest line for you to follow and items to go find and bring back. Finding the right items is not difficult. It is just taking the journey to get the pieces that became cumbersome. Don’t get me wrong the game has the mechanics down pat. Everything makes the game more and more engaging. The biggest problem is how it maintains these mechanics over the course of a play-through and how much you end up not caring about the survival of anything.
The world outside the church is a whitewash of snow, snow and more snow. The snow has actually covered the entire environment and you only see hints of what used to be sticking out from it. Sometimes you will see the roof of a gas station, or part of a house. There are plane crashes, fenced in towers and even caves to explore. Some of my favourite parts of this game were discovering new points of interest that would take me into a different scene where I could scavenge to my hearts content. Speaking of various locations, there is a map. This map does not show you current location at any time so you must use items to send signals to help you locate where you need to go or remember where you left stuff. This makes item management crucial. You learn after a while what items came from what objects and the avoidance of specific objects became automatic. The Ako-light robot is helpful in discovering items as well. If you use the robots flashlight then you can see in dark places. You can use the robot’s scanner to find dig spots that hold items in the snow. You can also discover signal booster locations. The robot’s battery drains over time and with each skill you use. The battery can only be restored back at the church so your management of it can be important.
So many people will be reading this and think I am giving the game such a positive vibe that there should be no reason to think it isn’t worth your time. As I said, the mechanics are engaging but over time they can become frustrating with so many technical issues that I thought would be fixed from the PC version but were not. The game is exhausting enough trying to traverse the snow-covered terrain that these issues only damper the journey even more.
First off let’s start with Jacob himself. His movement and interactivity with elements is broken. You need to be in the perfect position with anything to interact properly. Talking with people, climbing ladders, or moving around objects takes patience. I literally found myself stuck in front of a train because I had clipped into the tracks and had to restart. Thankfully the auto-save only happens when you enter new areas.
Another issue was the changing of scenery due to current quest objectives. I ran into an instance where I received a quest to climb a radio tower to insert a battery. I found the tower and had the battery but had no way of getting to the tower’s ladder because it was fenced off. I later discovered, much later, that in order for the fence to be removed I had to be advanced on a certain quest. Once this quest line had reached a point, the fence disappeared like magic. The flow was officially broken.
Texture pop in happened constantly. I would be walking up to a scavenger in the snow and holes would appear around the scavenger randomly. There seemed to also be a lot of slowdown and lag as you entered and exited areas. These issues were supposed to be dealt with on the PC side but they have snuck onto the console. This is a shame since they had so much time to read the feedback given from the PC community.
Impact Winter is an engaging survival title that has everything going right for it but has too many technical issues to make it standout. This War of Mine brought empathy to the forefront where Impact Winter focuses on individualistic efforts and doesn’t give you a chance to connect with any of the characters. The journeys to scavenge are long and brutal and leave you exhausted almost not wanting to adventure out again and again. You need to have extreme patience for this one and work around the issues that present themselves.