Subsistence - barely survive AND build a mansion

A Subsistence first impression game review.

Subsistence is an indie survival first-person shooter where the players need to keep themselves fed and build a base for shelter against the elements. Players will hunt for food, keep hydrated, and protect  themselves from wild animals (and hostile hunters later on). In short, failure to keep the most basic need for survival means starting over. It's a frustratingly difficult game in the beginning that requires a lot of trial and error, but consider it an achievement once a working base is up and running. 

Here is my computer system:

CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700k CPU @ 4.20GHz
RAM: 16 GB DDR4
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070x2 8GB GDDR5
Display: 27" MSI Optix AG32C 165Hz

PROS
  • True to the title - you must survive each day
  • Rewarding when supplies have stabilized
  • Interesting AI mechanic where hostile hunters build bases
  • Predators level up when they get you
CONS
  • Challenging hunt for materials
  • Lack of direction in the beginning
  • Subpar crafting
  • AI hunter aimbots
  • A lot of trial and error, so don't waste bullets on chickens

Subsistence runs on the Unreal Engine as similar titles come to mind namely Mist Survival, and Freeman: Guerilla Warfare -- will post a review on later dates. The clear objective from the onset is-- well-- to subsist. What is 'subsist'? I got you, fam.
Subsist (verb) - to have an existence, to persist, to continue, to have or acquire the necessities of life (such as food and clothing).
subsist. 2021. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved Jan 1, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/subsist

As mentioned, the player would need to satisfy their hunger and thirst first before even imagining how their mansion (inside a fortified compound) would look like. The game had me running around the wilderness chopping every tree (not exactly) I can find, to obtain wood logs. The trees don't actually fall down when you cut them, it's harvested instead when I smack it with my immortal axe. Then the trees reset the next day and I could smack them some more. Wood logs are used as fuel for the initial campfire, but they'll be used as planks for base building. Of course, I needed more than wood logs to survive in this game. More importantly, I've been running around looking for that common (yet elusive) sapling to obtain fiber! The game said fiber is common, but I needed to activate my byakugan to spot one.

Here is a clear view of a sapling near the lake.

You'll need to train your eyes (or a pair of eyeglasses) to look out for these bad boys.

It takes practice, but you'll spot more of them later on. They look like a glitched bush from afar.

On my initial playthrough, I found myself meek and steering clear of wild animals since bullets are limited. Although, I have been forced to hunt predators for meat as long as there are bullets to spare. There are "loot" bags or containers that occasionally spawn which includes Ammo Crates, Building Crates, and Medicinal Crates. A lockpick (which can be crafted from the BCU or Base Command Unit) would let players unlock special Locked Crates for rarer loot.

Someone left this bag, but there's nothing 

After stocking up on fiber, meat, blueberries and wood logs, I was ready for my first bonfire. Honestly, I felt desolate and alone during the night in my campfire. I started the game where it was March in game, so it was chilly at night; being away from the campfire would freeze me to death (similar to Don't Starve).

8°c, alone in the dark, in the middle of the wilderness with my campfire. It screams nightmare fuel.

The truth is the easy level is NOT easy (I've had the same run in with Mist Survival). Expect to die over and OVER again. Expect mistakes. Expect lessons such as quickly saving on a good turnout. At day 3, I realized my mistake of building a useless fish trap without grub wasting precious materials. So I find myself at odds whether to redo my profile or not. 

I am not going to lie: I've been thinking of requesting a refund for this game as its "Early Access" stage is imbalanced. This was released on EA in late 2016. It's already 2021 and it still feels imbalanced. But since I haven't been able to fully explore it yet through building my mansion in this placid wilderness, I decided to keep playing. 

The first two days have to be impeccable. I have to be stocked with meat to sustain my protein diet; stocked with scrap metal, wood logs and nails, so I can place a roof on top of my base; stocked with arrows so I can go hunting; stocked with leather for bandages; pretty much stocking up on every aspect to comfortably play. But the crafting in this game is also somewhat difficult. Raw material is hard to find such as feathers to craft arrows, and grub to craft a tackle for fishing. It's difficult to find ammo or materials to craft 1 round, so I'd have to think many times before shooting that Level 1 Wolf. Not to mention, the in-game character's aim is not steady. So is it truly worth chasing after that chicken?

I was filled with glee and my day is made.

Hunger is divided into two bars: Fruit/Vegetable and Protein. And then you also have the Thirst to satisfy. Depletion of these needs will result to no stamina regeneration and eventually death (which I imagine in real life). But since food is scarce, the difficulty is up a notch to satisfy these needs. So I immediately save when I hit a surplus.

Water would have the player run to the lake or a river and fill their canteen with 'dirty' water which can be boiled on the campfire to transform into clean water. The big issue I have is the canteen becomes empty after a single use, thus I'd have to fetch dirty water and boil it numerous times; or craft another canteen which would take an inventory space. I wish there's a way that the player could drink a number of times before the canteen becomes empty.

Creating a campfire is easy as well as obtaining fuel since wood is abundant. On the other hand, the campfire can't start without an igniter. I was fortunate to find another set of matches, but without the proper materials, there won't be a campfire. Which means, if it's cold, the player will freeze to death. So stock up on BioFuel in order to craft a Fire Starting Kit. In order to keep warm on my playthrough, I had to look out for herbs (to make BioFuel) in addition to my list of needing EVERYTHING in the game.

You'll need this Firebrick Bluetooth speaker to fuel your fire.

I was able to build my shelter around the second or third day in the game, although at the expense of hunting materials. As a result, I need to scout some more ways to find food, but I was still in the point of subsisting and not thriving. This means running around the wilderness again and hoping for a loot bag or whatever -- plus not get shot or mauled or get sick from the rain.

It's not much, but it's home.

Once the BCU is installed, the game recognizes that your base is established. Well, I was able to build my glorious base (comprised of a foundation and a wall). I decided to build next to a crag so at least the other side is covered. The lake was nearby too. I couldn't afford to build another set of walls yet. Material is still scarce and it's expensive to build a wall (as it is expensive to build a wall in real life). I was simply desperate for materials. I just hope there bear doesn't jump on me from the top of crag while I'm busy with the BCU.

There's the BCU and here is the first floor of my mansion. Nay! My compound!
 
I haven't seen any hunters yet as I'm probably still early on. But judging from what I've seen on the trailers, I get the feeling that they're as accurate as the game from Mist Survival which was frustrating too. I certainly have no ammo and my pistol is dying. I need to be a ninja again. Anyway, to make the long story short, I'm going to see more of this game.

Conclusion:
The game is difficult but it stays true to surviving each day. Expect to die over and over again. At this point of the early access, I believe the game is still not balanced. It's worth an achievement to thrive in this game too as building in the game is rewarding and what is highly sought after. However, there are many other games where you can build in First-Person that doesn't require a taxing first playthrough or a challenging grind. In my situation, I don't have too much time playing videogames and this game needs some time to learn to get a good playthrough. I've played Subsistence during the winter break, but if you don't have much free time for a singleplayer game experience, Subsistence may not be for you. In addition, coop in the game is present, but it may be much challenging if both players cannot provide for themselves (similar to real life, huh?). Casual gamers steer clear. I do not recommend Subsistence on Steam at the moment, and give it a 2/5.
THE HARVEST GAMER
Sam1, a portmanteau for someone, is an aspiring novelist in the romance, comedy, and horror genre. He is a university graduate with a degree in Business Administration and Applied Computer Science. He is an indie game-developer on itch.io and also an avid gamer. He currently works as an Exams and Adaptive Technology Coordinator.

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