The Wild Eight: It’s a Mixed Bag

This article is based on the Early Access game around March 2018

Following the completion of Resident Evil VII, I was in that drifting void between titles; not quite wanting to go back for DLC at the moment, but not really ready to move on to a more solid single player experience (I’m still playing F:BR in the background to satisfy my multiplayer needs). Luckily my wife and I both spotted that “The Wild Eight” was reduced on Steam and having been struck by the low-poly visuals we saw it as a good chance to give it a shot and check out this Early Access Survival game…

My long-held misgiving about the perils of Early Access are well documented, and in this case likely justified. “The Wild Eight” has been Early Access for some time and still isn’t that much of a polished experience. I’m writing this bit in italics because I don’t like criticising a game that isn’t full release for being buggy, but this game is full of bugs and it needs to be mentioned. Just starting the game was often a challenge, getting the lobby to work the next one, and this was before we even managed to play any of it. We saw animals walking through walls, at one point my character wouldn’t walk anywhere, some enemies didn’t seem to do any damage, some areas seemed to be filled with toxic gas, but there was no visual indication, we restarted once because the animals wouldn’t attack (they just stood there whilst we pummelled them)… oh, and one time the entire contents of my backpack from a few lives ago suddenly spawned in front of me…  

… even setting the bugs to one side it was a mixed experience. The game is an open-world survival set in a winter wasteland; the where’s and why’s are unexplained at this point. Our hapless protagonists are eight… or however many players you can gather… individuals covering the full spectrum of the “Big Book of Different People”. Each comes with a small skill bonus but as I almost instantly forgot what mine was supposed to be good at I don’t think it had a big bearing on play. The goal is to wander around surviving with the usual mix of cut down wood, find stones, make axe, use again, rinse repeat that we’re all pretty familiar with in this type of game. There are the typical hunting & cooking activities, crafting weapons, and each character can throw up a shelter and a workshop which act as a place to get your “skill tree hit” and “craft to your heart’s content” respectively. More widely the game about trying to discover “what happened” and that’s a spoiler that I can’t spoil because it’s unanswered at the current stage of development. The player(s) wanders around finding locations to loot, activating radar dishes that auto-map certain regions, doing side missions in slightly grander locations, and story missions in the most interesting locations. It’s a pretty straight forward formula that works well enough, although as I mentioned we quite quickly reached a point that displayed “End of Part One”, but really marked “End of the Story Missions” leaving us scampering around picking up all the remaining side activities.

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Fans of the Building and Crafting genre will likely be disappointed with how shallow the crafting experience is; there is no customisable building construction, just throwing up the pre-made shelter or workshop and, whilst all the essentials are there, the item and weapon selection is limited; personally I enjoyed the low-calorie crafting as it drew focus much more towards exploration. Our approach to combat was melee heavy, but there is at least one type of in-game gun to be found and the player can craft bows & arrows, although we found it unnecessary. Aside from slightly woolly control, combat shouldn’t cause any major problems once your chilly explorer has found some type of substantial weapon. It’s also mostly unnecessary as the animals and enemies rarely ‘need’ to be eliminated so mostly exploration is an exercise is running away from wolves.

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With shallow crafting and combat, it’s not obvious where the redeeming qualities of “The Wild Eight” lie, but it does have some neat points. Visually I found it appealing; the action is viewed from an isometric-ish perspective and has that low-poly charm that is so popular at the moment. Kitting out my character in low-poly yellow coat with low-poly ear flap hat managed to switch on that part of my brain that enjoys customisable characters. The ingame locations were just as charming with the interiors showing that diorama-like quality that I enjoy so much, crammed full of detail that silently tells the player all about this world. Despite being (currently) short, I also appreciated the mysterious plot elements. Each time that we’d come across a location both of us would meet at the doorway and venture inside to discover some typically tragic scenario. The events that transpired conveyed to us through the state of the location, diary fragments, and the beings we sometimes encountered. The enigmatic nature of the quests left me wanting to find out more and hopefully in time we’ll be given a final release to get stuck in to.

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Whilst the simplistic combat and crafting feel like a deliberate choice to allow the exploration elements to shine, there are many other game aspects that currently have the hallmarks of questionable design. The standard ‘chest’ holds an inconveniently limited amount of items so that our “home” turned into a labyrinth of these identical boxes. One mission establishes a particular underground complex as a good base of operations which has some useful facilities, however the player’s chests, workshop, and shelter all need to be constructed outside making the situation awkward, unwieldy, and involving running out into a blizzard each time you want to switch your loadout. The viewpoint can be rotated about the character, but never seems to provide a large enough field of view whatever direction they’re moving and was responsible for many… many… instances of my poor puppet falling down cliffs. The player can place a map marker, but there is no onscreen indicator showing an appropriate heading so I found myself bringing the map up every 10s or so. These are just a sample of a whole pile of similar annoyances that aren’t game breaking, but detract from the enjoyment of the experience.

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It’s also tricky to see where the game development is going; the map isn’t as vast and sprawling as many open world offerings and, apart from key locales, is jigsawed together from a small pool of standard forest tiles. In our short playtime we managed to explore every corner of it, find all the interesting locations, and complete all the available quests so in order for this game to develop the map size will need to increase significantly. We also MAX-ed out the skill tree and workshop upgrades pretty much entirely with no implication that this was an area under development.

Despite what I’ve written here I did enjoy the experience, but a big chunk of that may have been the visuals and the gentle co-op experience that both my wife and I seemed to be in the mood for. I’m hopeful that in the future I’ll be able to revisit “The Wild Eight” and proclaim that all the flaws have been fixed because there are some nice aspects to the game… unfortunately it just seems to be chilling out in Early Access limbo at the moment with no signs of getting off the couch… 

5 thoughts on “The Wild Eight: It’s a Mixed Bag

      1. … only other thing that looks similar is “The Long Dark”, but I haven’t played that, so no idea about its werewolf status.

        … I’m gonna say yes, this is the one with werewolves! 🐺

        Liked by 1 person

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