Until We Die from Pixeye Games is a remarkably charming little survival game. Players will take on the role of Anna or Ivan, a survivor in the Metro, and have to defend against hordes of enemies that want to end your life. The premise is quite simple but the way the game implements this is quite enjoyable.
The story in Until We Die is incredibly vague. A brief introductory cutscene sets up the game’s background by stating that an invasion occurred, and everyone fled to the underground Metros. Players are survivors in a post-apocalyptic world extremely similar to the one seen in the actual Metro franchise of video games. You get to pick between either Ivan or Anna and they will be your controllable character.
Each of the two characters have their own perks. Playing as Anna first comes across as the better choice because she has better stamina regeneration than Ivan. Players will be taken into a deeper part of the Metro by a railway trolley. You get dropped off with a few recruits and you’re pretty much left to fend for yourself. The tutorial does a good job of getting you up to speed with the game’s mechanics but could definitely use a bit more work to guide players with regards to commanding their recruits.
Players will use their character to command recruits to either harvest scrap and food or build things. Eventually once you’ve harvested enough scrap you’ll be able to fix a broken generator and establish a base of operations. Being a side-scroller, players can venture to the left or to the right and more of the map will reveal itself. If you explore, you’ll eventually encounter enemies or nasty outgrowths. The game encourages you to explore but by doing so, you’ll put your base at risk for attack from the other side you’re not exploring. As you explore, you can use your recruits to dig up and remove rubble. Doing this allows you to build other things in the place of the rubble. As you progress, you’ll eventually unlock new buildings and new types of units. You can upgrade a recruit to a digger or to an engineer for example once you have specific buildings built up in your base of operations.
Players will therefore have to micro-manage their recruits and ensure that they have enough engineers or diggers while they continue to explore and build up their base. The trolley that you came in with requires food for the driver to go out and bring back scrap and new recruits for you. As you explore, build and defend yourself and your base from enemy attacks on either the left or right side, time passes. At night, you’ll be more prone to attack and have to fight off waves of enemies. Surviving days leads to two new perks eventually being unlocked and players can choose which one they want to use while forfeiting the other. Players can also use engineers at the research lab attached to the generator to discover new technologies which you can use. This requires research materials much like how building walls and other structures requires scrap and the trolley driver requires food.
The micro-management interspersed with adventuring to the left or right while commanding your units is remarkably compelling in Until We Die. The game is brutal at first when players are still new to it with absolutely no idea what they are doing. Soon enough though, you’ll learn and you’ll be venturing out further, taking bigger risks and building things much faster. Surviving up to specific days also unlocks new structures for use in-game which can then be used in your next run. Slowly but surely, you’ll be able to survive for longer and this is what makes the game slightly addictive. You’ll want to push yourself to survive for longer and eventually last for a full 30 days. Losing to a bunch of mutated rats because of a lapse in judgement or being careless with your walled defenses just pushes you to do better the next time. Though this may aggravate some players who get easily frustrated at games that do this.
Players being able to control their character and shoot is fluid and building up structures and defenses is rather easy. Commanding recruits and assigning them duties does become slightly problematic when you have a lot of units. For example, it’s quite difficult to assign only an engineer to build something when you have 3 diggers and 2 normal recruits following you too.
Until We Die does suffer from a significant pacing problem. A lot of the time in the early days you spend in the game is spent just waiting around for diggers, engineers or recruits to build something or to harvest scrap or food. Players can assign work and move elsewhere but when your total units are limited in the early game, this slows things down immensely. Much of each run is therefore spent waiting around in the early days before the real battles begin against stronger hordes of enemies.
Until We Die’s late game can be quite brutal and players will feel a sense of dread when a warning about a massive horde first shows up. In a subsequent playthrough though, you’ll be prepared for this. The game therefore gets easier the longer the play it, especially after you’ve unlocked more structures and perks. A fast-forward button would be appreciated to speed up some of the earlier building and gathering parts of the game so that you can get to the more action-packed late game phases quicker. This point is driven home even further if you’ve survived to the later days in multiple runs and then have to sit through the first few phases again in your next playthrough which takes quite a long time to get through.
Additionally, there seems to be a lot of balancing work that needs to be done. Anna for example can continuously fire with her shotgun and has a reload button which seemingly does nothing for her. Some larger mutants can also destroy your units or your player character itself extremely quickly and it almost seems broken for it to be this way. The randomness of enemy waves and where they come from keeps things fresh with some earlier nights being less stressful than others. Late game, it’s anyone’s guess as to which side is going to falter and cost you your base and it stings when you lose to something happening on the far side of your base that you couldn’t address in time. Some sort of quick travel perk or fast-travel system might help alleviate this difficulty spike problem.
With all that said though, Until We Die is beatable. Players will be able to finish the game after getting to grips with the mechanics and after spending a significant amount of time playing multiple runs and discovering what to do, and when and where exactly to do it. Solidifying your walled defenses definitely takes top priority but so too does resource harvesting, management and exploration. The game unfortunately only has one map right now but that one map will deliver hours of entertainment. Thankfully, a save game feature has been incorporated into the game so players won’t lose progress if they decide to quit out of the game.
Graphically, the game features a Metal Slug-esque art style and everything looks extremely visually appealing including animations and flashy weapon effects and attacks. The music is fitting for the game and contributes to the feeling of unease and tenseness when night falls and the mutant hordes attack. The daytime music is rather chilled out and suits the gameplay that goes on during this time. There isn’t much in the way of voice acting with only Anna and Ivan’s commands being voiced. The sound effects used in game are great though.
Overall, Until We Die is a solid side-scroller survival strategy game that has an extensive roadmap laid out ahead of it. At the time of review, this game is well worth the purchase and we hope that the future updates which are set to introduce a new map, new character and multiple other changes helps the game truly excel. As it stands right now, the game still delivered a solid experience if not rough around the edges and deserves a 7/10 score. It’s strangely compelling and it’s highly likely that players will want to keep coming back for more until they beat the map that’s currently available. If you want a tough, slightly unpolished, survival strategy action side-scroller game, Until We Die is a good choice. Hopefully it receives the player feedback and development love it deserves and becomes a masterpiece over time.
Developer and Publisher Pixeye Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, and PC
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