The Survivalists is a procedurally generated trek into the survival genre that is almost relaxing. You’ll build, explore, hunt, and fight to see the next sunrise, but, unlike some survival games, it’s not soul-crushingly tedious and presents a bright and colorful world for you to tame. Who knew that trying to survive would be so laid back?
After being shipwrecked on a tropical island, The Survivalists keeps things simple from the start. Crafting is critical, and the game doesn’t force you to discover each recipe by trial and error. By making new items, you’ll unlock adjacent recipes for more items whether making something at the crafting bench, forge, or building a new blueprint.
The simplified menu system is great, and it’s easy to look up what you need. Each recipe shows the materials required to make the item. It’s still your job to find them. My only complaint is that I have to make each item individually instead of making multiple items of the same type in a queue system.
With my newfound Robinson Crusoe X Huckleberry Finn lifestyle, I was able to finally build a raft and sail off into the unknown. The world map is initially hidden until you physically cross it or use your spyglass to reveal sections. My time on the water was mostly very slow and peaceful sailing unless I encountered a shark.
Sharks aren’t the only threat. On land you’ll encounter, animals such as wild boar, tigers, and bats that will aggressively hunt you when you come too close. They are also a source of food, so you can’t easily avoid them. The different island biomes might present a threat by being too hot from a lava flow or a bug-filled swamp. Both can damage you.
The native population isn’t happy to see you either and will attack you on site. You can protect yourself by building a fence or wall with traps to try to keep them out, and they periodically raid your village to kill and destroy. There is a day/night cycle, and the crafty homewreckers loved to attack after dark.
All of this would be too much for one lone castaway, but there are fuzzy helping hands everywhere. Monkeys can join your team to help you build, gather raw materials and process them, and fight. I thought it was only a gimmick at first, but they are well-integrated and a lot of fun.
Enlisting a recruit for your monkey army is easy. You will select a monkey to mimic your actions. Then, you’ll chop down a tree, attack an enemy, or churn out items at the forge. It’s monkey see, monkey do, as long as you give them the appropriate tool.
They will keep working until the tool breaks or they run out of things to do, and they level up in the different tasks. One of my monkeys cleared a huge patch of trees while I was able to work on less menial tasks. When I returned, I was able to collect timber and keep building, and he was even faster the next time.
The most useful way to use your monkeys is to create a small army. I thought of them as my apes of war, but it was more of a guerilla force. In general, I didn’t love the combat. It can be challenging to see in the dark or if your view is obscured by lots of trees. To keep me safe, my little partners can swarm an enemy and don’t require any food. They were the perfect killing machines, and I loved rolling through an area and taking out all the enemies that previously destroyed me.
Even with your simian special forces, you’ll die, especially since your stamina runs out quickly. It’s not excessive, and it was usually my fault. I recommend saving often at the nearest bed. After being revived, you can work your way back to where you made your last stand and collect your items and your scattered monkeys again.
The game offers up to four-player online co-op too. I wasn’t able to try it for this review, but it looks like it would be more fun than a barrel of monkeys. (That’s the last monkey-related attempt at a joke.)
If you properly prepare with weapons, food, and monkeys, the game offers more challenge in vaults and labyrinths. Scattered across the islands, vaults offer a chance to collect some great loot. The vault usually has some enemies to clear and some great chests to open at the end.
Labyrinths require a key sold by The Mysterious Stranger, a merchant that travels between the islands. These are giant versions of vaults with puzzles that need to be solved to open locked doors, and puzzles require monkey help too. These are awesome, and the rewards at the end are sweeter too.
If you’re a survival game expert, you will enjoy The Survivalists, but it’s also great for anyone that wants an entry point into the survival genre. The game’s exploration, crafting, and fighting form a satisfying loop without being unnecessarily complicated. It nails the core elements of a survival game without making it too easy. It’ll take work to escape these islands, and I had a lot of fun trying.
The Survivalists PS4 Review
Overall - Very Good - 7.5/10
The Survivalists is a great take on the survival genre with something for veterans and newcomers alike. The core elements of the game are simplified from others in the genre, and it is better for it. Although crafting the same item multiple times must be done manually, and combat isn’t always clear with all the action in the game, the monkey mechanic works well and gameplay is very satisfying.
- Monkeys are genuinely useful and used in interesting ways
- Great entry point for someone new to the genre
- Satisfying gameplay loop of exploration, crafting, and combat
- No auto queue for crafting the same item multiple times slows down pacing
- Your view can be obscured during combat leading to an untimely end
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.
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Jason became terminally addicted to videogames after receiving the NES at an early age. This addiction grew to include PC gaming and was cemented with the launch of the PS2. From then on, he was afflicted with epic RPGs, tense shooters, and deep strategy games, never becoming skillful, but never able to quit. He continues to play games (poorly) and share his passion for them to anyone willing to listen.