CryoFall Early Access Impressions: We've Played This Game Before, Many Times
Good lord, yet another indie early access survival game you say? Yep, CryoFall is now throwing its hat into this very, very crowded ring and hoping to come out a champion.
Conan Exiles, Ark, Outlaws of the Old West, Outward, Don't Starve Together, **deep breath** Rust, The Forest, Terraria, Project Winter, Rimworld, Neo Scavenger... the survival genre is rapidly becoming over saturated and there's not enough unique content to differentiate each title.
I'm gonna have to get to the point pretty quick with this one -- while there are a few changes to the skill system that might pique your interest, on the whole CryoFall doesn't do anything different from any other survival title.
Survival Game Iteration 27,396
While the recently released Outward at least gave us something slightly outside the norm with a fantasy storyline and co-op gameplay, here the only thing that's really "different" with CryoFall is the 2D presentation and cartoon-style character models.
Nearly every aspect of this game is so familiar at this point it just all feels unnecessary. Grab plants, rocks, and fallen branches. Craft an axe to get more rocks and wood. Make a torch, put together a campfire, start building walls... we've done all this so, so, so many times before and CryoFall doesn't particularly do it better or in a more interesting way than any other survival game.
But hey, this time you'll be vexed by crabs, snakes, and armadillos in an indie 2D world of instead of dinosaurs and zombies in a 3D one. *Yawn*
In typical survival style, you unlock recipes via a research tree using points gained by crafting, fighting, and so on. The tree evolves from basic stuff like wood doors and lamps all the way up to energy weapons and advanced mining equipment.
There are also some serious limitations in this early access release that are worth mentioning. For instance, there's only a male character model, and when you join a server you just get a random configuration of colors on your clothes.
Considering how simple it would be to tweak the colors on this pixel art and make additional models to select at startup, I don't see why that would be the case, even with an early access launch.
The only significant changes CryoFall presents by going 2D are in limiting the field of vision with the top-down viewpoint, and allowing larger numbers of players on the same server.
While any server can host up to 200 players at a time, that number doesn't particularly matter right now due to the low player count. I've never actually seen more than 80 on at a single time, with the North American server often at 30 or fewer players.
Minor Shakeups To The Survival Style
So for survival veterans, what are the positive aspects of this game aside from the 2D visuals? There are three elements in particular that CryoFall has going for it at the moment.
First and foremost, this is a remarkably stable experience for an online early access game. That very well may be due to the reduced resources of a 2D game that only has to render a small portion of the map at a time. Whatever the reason, CryoFall runs significantly smoother than big dogs like Ark or a horde of other early access survival titles that are drastically in need of more polish.
Second, CryoFall offers up a map editor through Steam, so you can basically run your own client / server combo to play around in the world and figure everything out before going live with other players.
That's a very wise course of action, for one simple reason...
There is an immediately aggressive (I'd probably go so far as to say homicidal) player base. You were walking near an area where I'd built something? Don't care that you clearly are weaponless and have just started exploring, I'm gonna kill ya!
I don't know what it is about the low player count, but right now everyone is basically an aggro troll playing a battle royale game instead of a survival sim (you guys know Rapture Rejects exists, right?). The developers have stated PvE servers are in the works to deal with that issue, but they aren't available yet.
Aside from the aggressive player base, the 2D take on survival leads to some player conflict you might not expect. It's not all that difficult to construct really big, map-consuming towns by using simple wood walls that effectively block other players out of a segment of the world.
People are already building all over on top of each other in a race to take over the map, which makes to shudder to think of what sort of chaotic free for all will be occurring when there are actually 200 people playing. That will not be a newbie friendly situation at all.
So what about that third thing that is different with CryoFall?
That's the skill system, which I have to admit is fairly rewarding, with skills unlocked as you gain experience by completing tasks like mining, wood cutting, building, and so on.
The truly interesting part here is that the developers announced mod support for the skill framework, so (if the player base ever gets large enough to attract talented modders), this means eventually we'll see custom skills to change the game in unexpected ways.
The Bottom Line In Early Access
If you're a survival fanatic and have to play every iteration of this genre, CryoFall might be worth it for you to try out. Likewise if you prefer the top-down 2D style over the often messy 3D visuals of bigger games like Ark, then give it a shot.
Otherwise, just simply steer clear. There are dozens of other survival games out there, and this one doesn't dethrone any of them.
If CryoFall ever catches on and gets some serious mod support, it could be more worthwhile to a bigger section of gamers. Unfortunately at the moment this is just another indie early access entry that isn't really worth the investment.