In Impact Winter, the clock is always ticking as you try to survive a post-apocalyptic winter. But can this survival game with a timer mechanic thrown in make a meaningful impact upon this crowded genre?
Impact Winter gives away very little as to why the outside is now called ‘The Void’, and what has happened to create this desolate snow-scape which has covered skyscrapers to their rooves in places, and left very little of the known world left. What does become clear though, is that like many single-player games in this genre, that you have many comrades to please, limited opportunities to do so, and consequences for failure.
You’ll quickly find Ako-light, a helpful little robot who informs you that rescue is a ‘mere’ 30 days away. However, by crafting items to help these mysterious people coming to save you hone in on your location, you can reduce this timer and thus increase your chances of survival. This forces you to explore the overworld to pick up materials, meet strangers and enemies, and work out more of what happened to this place…
In order to survive, you need to craft (everything from food through to electronics), and in order to craft, you need materials. To get these materials, you need to scavenge for them or complete quests in the overworld. There’s no fast travel, you get affected by hunger and tiredness yourself, and you have limited inventory space. Whilst this can be occasionally frustrating, the system is quite reminiscent of the original Resident Evil games and isn’t the most realistic or onerous in terms of demands on you. Managing space within your pack is certainly the bigger challenge. Impact Winter is by no means an easy game, and you’ll be juggling several priorities at any one time. Whilst there is a tutorial, it’s pretty basic and there’s zero hand-holding beyond then, and you’ll have to learn many of the mechanics by yourself.
Scavenging is also not quite as easy as it should be. The game can be pretty finicky about where you stand before you can inspect objects, and it’s not always clear what may hide treasures and what is just an inanimate texture there to add some flavour to the world. There’s a few other glitches I ran into too, like getting stuck on objects, or having the clock countdown whilst having a notification pop-up (fine, apart from the fact I was being attacked by a wolf in real-time and couldn’t escape).
There’s plenty of replay value though – seeing all the game has to offer in a single playthrough is pretty much impossible, so I can see a fair few wanting a second bite of the cherry.
Impact Winter has a really and charming solid art style that works on both a character level and also from a world building level. The outside feels cold and harsh, and the wind and weather has some nice effects on your character, who will shiver, put hands up to deflect the snow and generally seem to get quite upset with you taking them outside.
Even more impressive is the sound direction. The game has some really strong and highly atmospheric music which really helps with the sense of loneliness and tragedy that pervades the whole map. It’s one of the best aspects to the whole game. Unfortunately though there’s no speech, and many of the sound effects feel muted or half-assed in comparison to the fantastic score.
“Impact Winter” is by no means perfect. It’s been made to a budget, and it shows in many places, like the lack of speech and the poor QA. In other areas, it’s a bit more difficult to see whether it’s poor game design or just the developer intention that guided decisions. But the overall idea works well, and the art and sound direction are superb. Impact Winter may not be some huge open world multiplayer game that’s spent years in Early Access, but it deserves its place amongst these sprawling games and provides an interesting and meaningful contribution to the genre.