We’ve only got about a month of winter left until it releases its icy grip and spring returns. However, video games always provide a way to get back into the winter spirit. Project Winter, created by Other Ocean Interactive, has players trying to survive the white wilderness as they try to call for help. Unfortunately, some of the survivors are more interested in making sure the others don’t make it out at all.
Project Winter is a tense game of survival and trust has some hiccups, but has the roots for a memorable multiplayer game.
This review is based on the Early Access version 0.1.6567.
Project Winter plays like a mix a survival game and multiplayer games like the card game Secret Hitler, the Garry’s Mod game mode Trouble in Terrorist Town, and other social deduction games. Five to eight players are stranded in an icy wilderness, and the players have to complete certain objectives to contact help and escape. The catch is that one or two of the survivors are secretly traitors, and they’re secretly trying to prevent the other survivors from escaping by any means necessary.
Inevitably, this involves some cold-hearted murder. Traitor or not, everyone also has to watch over their needs to avoid freezing or starving to death. Each round generally takes around 20 minutes, with a soft time limit of 30 minutes that heralds the arrival of an extra-powerful permanent blizzard that’ll quickly wipe out any stragglers. There are also more in-depth features, such as crafting, bunkers that require multiple players to open, and special containers only the traitors can open and use.
In a game like this one, the ability to communicate effectively can make or break a game’s quality. Fortunately, it seems to work pretty well. The game has a built-in VOIP chat that’s based on your proximity to other players (as well as text and emotes.) The voice chat is pretty clear if a little quiet for my headphones, and the fact that it’s proximity based manages to help fuel that feeling of being alone and separated from your allies/foes. The other mechanics with the gameplay, such as the game flow and more in-depth features seem pretty balanced.
The game’s graphical style is also rather attractive. While I can’t think of the exact phrase to describe it, the art style is a mildly cartoony style that looks distinctly indie. It almost looks like a sort of polygonal papercraft style that gives the game a distinct and appealing look. The few bits of music in the game are also pretty nice. Most of the time you have no background music except for the blowing of the arctic wind. However, on the title screen and when the escape vehicle have arrived, you get some acoustic guitar tunes that really fit the game’s theme of rugged survival.
Characters in the game can be customized in many ways. Not only can you change your character’s clothes and body, but you can also customize what certain items look like when equipped by your character, which is definitely a neat kind of customization. Customization items can be earned by completing certain achievements and via loot boxes purchased through survival points, which are earned through playing matches. The cosmetic progression system is a nice addition and helps add to the game’s replayability.
There are a few problems I have with the mechanics. Mostly it involves the game’s learning curve. Despite a good bit of tutorial, the game doesn’t really tell you what sort of items you’re looking for as a new player. You might not realize that you can punch things like rocks, trees, and small bushes to collect resources.
There are also little things about the game like that holding the Alt key shows player names above their characters. It’s a pretty big problem if you can’t figure out who’s who and have to say something like “I’m being axed by the guy who looks like a big blueberry” when the traitor comes knocking. There’s also other Early Access issues like the pathfinding for AI animals and loading taking a while, but those are issues that shouldn’t be too prevalent in the final build. I also had some issues with occasional lag spikes in-game, but I’m fairly certain the problem was on my end.
This is more of a problem based on the players, but it’s a notable one:
Because Project Winter is a purely a multiplayer game, it lives and dies on whether it has a playerbase. Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen so far, there aren’t that many players. In the game’s defense, the game is pretty young and still in Early Access, but I remember my first match going into the double digits.
The negative Steam reviews cite this as a common complaint with players talking about often stuck with groups of trolls and foreign players due to the game mixing rooms to fill player lists. However, I haven’t seen any trolls in my experience, and everyone I played with spoke good English so that issue might not apply to everyone. The game’s in Early Access, though, and the devs seem to be trying to engage with the playerbase. Hopefully they can get more players on board and solve this issue.
Project Winter is a game that I want to find success. It’s got some obvious Early Access problems and suffers from a small playerbase, but it’s got serious potential. This is a game that deserves a shot if you enjoy multiplayer games like Werewolf and Betrayal at House on the Hill. Don’t let the game’s early problems turn you off. Project WInter has some very good bones and plenty of potential.
Project Winter is available on Steam for $19.99.