Does it Byte? Post I
Eco - A Global Survival Game
For my inaugural post, I'm going to review Eco, which is a newish global survival game from Strange Loop Games and lead developer, John Krajewski. It's been in development for two years and recently launched on Steam.
After nearly 200 hours (160 of it just letting the game run to accumulate skill points) I think I can help you get a clear picture of what this game has to offer in its current state as of Beta 1.7, and I will edit this as the game develops or the price--currently $30--changes.
As of this point in time I'm on the fence for an overall positive review so I'll call this one a "maybe."
FUN FACT... If you're an American taxpayer then you've already paid a little for this game in advance since they have--or will be cashing in on--an educational grant of some sort from Uncle Sam. So what's another $30 right?
I'll try not to factor that in since it doesn't irk some people.
Aspects of or akin to:
- Peaceful mode Minecraft
- The Long Dark's limited resources and management of them. Its calorie system, but more elaborate. No starvation/death, but you cannot perform strenuous tasks on an empty stomach.
Core Concept/Gameplay path:
The main goal is to destroy a meteor before thirty real time days pass--and it smashes into your planet--without damaging your ecosystem beyond repair in the process. Which you can survive but nearly everything on the surface gets wiped out.
You are allotted a number of skill points that you will gain over a 24-hour period which start out at different rates depending on single player (high gain) or multiplayer server settings (lower or varies). Skills are broken down into categories such as Tailoring, Engineering, Masonry, Farming etc. You can improve these skill gain numbers by eating higher quality food (for your caloric skill gain) and furnishing your house with various amenities and creature comforts (for the housing skill gain), plus a multiplier for each of those by keeping your diet (fat, protein, vitamins, carbs), and five room types (kitchen, bathroom etc) balanced.
So your focus here is to maximize skill gain to work your way up the tech tree as quickly as possible. More players = less base skill gains = more cooperation needed, or you can Rambo it in single player if you don't mind being afk a lot since there is no time acceleration or gapped simulated estimations, meaning you must keep the game running to advance time.
To fuel your efforts you will need to gather limited resources (iron, coal, oil) and regulate the harvesting of the renewable ones (wood, elk, plants). Chop all your birch trees/saplings? They're gone forever. Shoot all the bison? No more of them either.
The Good, The Bad, and the downright Cthulhu:
- New concept. Haven't seen anyone doing this and it's catchy. Kudos for being a pioneer!
- Runs smoothly despite ALT-tabbing to the browser plugin designed to monitor various aspects of your planet.
- The browser plugin gives historical-current flora/fauna/pollution data via graph and other representations including a 3D map.
- Some flexibility with the graphics and GUI customizations. (GUI resizing, resolution, view distance, FOV, shadows)
- Only five game freezes/crashes in forty active play-time hours in a Beta.
- The game will likely be finished and not become "abandonware" as some other early access titles have, because
government grant money comes with additional scrutiny and obligations. And paperwork.
- Multiplayer economy is well thought out with a player-linked credit line system specific to each player. For example, I'll buy ten of your logs with ten "MadGames" credits, and can sell you five lumber for those ten "MadGames" back. The economic framework evolves all the way up to the ability to mint your own currency, which can act as a more common trade medium for people wanting to incorporate it and a coin exchange for multiple coin types.
- Get elected, propose laws restricting certain actions like over-fishing, or collecting taxes. Maybe future updates will let you fund game development with said taxes :wink:.
- The crafting tooltip windows are done extremely well and possibly inspired by Minecraft mods such as Too Many Items, where you can hover over highlighted item names to open easily navigated sub-windows. These give comprehensive information on how to make the items and what they are used to craft.
- This interface genius shines in multiplayer to give easily accessible need-to-knows about who has what skills and where to get items you need, whether you're in your map, backpack, or skill tree. Well-linked and well-liked good Sir!
- It's Purdy!
- Very limited character customization, and omg they need all the help they can get because they look really... weird.
- Icons not matching up to what the item is. For example the "medium rug" is a hairstyle icon. Oh...wait...a "rug." That was devs being clever, right?
- The game is littered with little things like this. Kind of like a house made on the cheap, cut corners where you can, copy pasta. In most lighting conditions copper is identical to gold since its a minimal recolor. Some plants look identical alive or dead (big deal of a time waster if you're into farming), and other mildly annoying mistakes that well... add up and break immersion. And many of them are not hard to fix.
- All but three or four crops take around three-four hours from planting to harvest. The slow ones take 24. Two. Four. Design plan? (evil)... or Design flaw? Yes, I like farming.
- For all the touting about ecology it should be more true to it. Or is it supposed to be preachy? Item recipes and fuel costs are waaayyy outta whack. Over-rewarding and under-charging for carbon neutral choices. Quick, easy, and more powerful is usually the path to the dark side, brother. Windmills are cheaper to make and outperform gas powered generation in this upside down world.
- The informational aspect of the interface may be awesome, but the functionality falls a bit short. Harken back to the days where you had to click and drag each individual item between inventories and you will know my pain. Other tidbits to nitpick about it but a novel that would make.
- Server browser is sluggish and acts like it has a memory leak.
- Flying wagons, space travel (FULL DISCLOSURE: NOT A SPACE GAME!)
- Logs can do it too!
- Camo Shirt/Pants don't make you invisible, they ARE invisible.
- Pink undies!
- It's a sandbox MMO! 8D
- It's a sandbox MMO... :\
- Never type /unstuck while in your motorized vehicle. Or DO!
Value - $20
👍 Base concept, replayability of multiplayer play (due to game variation in this mode)
👎 Beta, bugs, core concept inaccuracies, character faces haunt me, sleeping or awake
NOTE: This review first appeared in a slightly different format on the game's page at Steam, and I received a response within a little over a day from Mr. Krajewski, so mad props for responsiveness. One thing he addressed was my initial complaint that there were no key customizations. It turns out there are (my bad) but to be fair, they are buried under an advanced options menu. His additional remarks are as follows:
- Single player balance has changed recently so your skill rate goes up much faster there. We plan to add a "sleep" more >[sic] to advance time in single player also
- Still lots of icons to add so some are reused
- Farming will be getting a pass [sic] very soon
- Pollution is planned to be more impactful, with more sources (garbage, sewage, nuclear waste)
If you liked this and there's a game you'd like me to review please let me know in the comments below!
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art and flair courtesy of @PegasusPhysics
art and flair courtesy of @PegasusPhysics