Eight Point’s debut effort isn’t a particularly unusual survival game, at least on the strength of a few hours play, but it does handle some well-worn ideas with thrilling starkness. In particular, I really like what it does with fire. If wood-chopping, mining, hunting and crafting are the verbs that carry you through this Alaskan wilderness, campfires are the punctuation points – fleeting reprieves from the chill of nightfall, where you can cook otherwise poisonous food, patch your wounds, hone your character’s fledgling ranger skills and maybe craft yourself a pair of wooden clogs without worrying (quite so much) about dying of hypothermia.
Viewed in top-down, it all makes for an arresting tableau. Firelight etches deep, twitching shadows into the surrounding, procedurally generated woodland, warming the flat planes of the game’s stylised geometry. The listless piano score fades as darkness sets in, leaving you all alone with the crackle of twigs, the shifting of snow-covered branches, the scuffles and howls of passing animals.
Eight Point’s nine members proudly declare themselves to be residents of Yakutia, a wintry expanse the size of India that houses a population smaller than that of Rhode Island, and while I doubt they developed this game while crouched in a makeshift tent, it certainly feels like the work of people who are intimately familiar with the experience of being very, very cold. There’s a sense of actual, tangible peril to it that survival games often fail to convey, preferring to bury you in vaguely anxiety-inducing drudgery.