Have you ever wanted to create your own family tree in an MMORPG? Well you can do that in Survived By…except everyone else in your family is already dead and soon enough you will be too. Then it’s time for the next generation to take over once again. You see, Survived By is a roguelite, 2D bullet-hell MMORPG where dead characters are replaced with their next of kin.
Currently in Closed Beta, Survived By is in the same vein as Realm of the Mad God and StarBreak. It features retro-style pixel art (albeit much more detailed than the previously mentioned games), permadeath with item drops on death, a player-driven in-game economy, and dozens of creepy monsters that want to eat you for dinner.
Last Bastion of Civilization
A permadeath game just wouldn’t be the same if humanity wasn’t on the brink of destruction, and Survived By doesn’t pull any punches here. The game starts off with a brief introduction that introduces the World Tree and the sudden influx of man-beast hybrids known as the Chimera. We learn that the town of Sagila was the first hit and had no chance to defend itself.
We’re then dropped into the tutorial where we learn how to play the Harbinger (ranger-type) class and prepare to defend the village of Harsa. Then the Chimera attack…and we’re killed alongside everyone else. That’s right, you die in the first 5-minutes of the game! This isn’t just a fake tutorial death either; it actually counts as your first character.
Of course this also helps tie in the Ancestral Legacy system as well. Whenever a player dies they’re awarded Valr and legacies based on their level and how many achievements they complete. Legacies come in four rarities: Common, Uncommon, Rare, and Legendary, which generally become more useful the higher the rarity.
Players can use Valr to upgrade up their existing legacies, sell legacies for Valr, or spend Valr to unlock a random legacy. Up to four legacies can be equipped when a new character is created and players can use special currency to change these later on. Typically, legacies provide a raw stat bonus such as damage reduction, increased critical damage, movement speed, and more health. There are some more interesting choices, however, such as a legacy that makes enemies explode upon death.
Pick Your Poison
As far as MMORPGs go, the controls in Survived By are fairly straightforward and simple; WASD is used for movement, left-click is your basic attack and right-click is the class ability. Right now there six classes in the game that all play a little bit differently. These include: Alchemist, Druid, Geomancer, Harbinger, Infiltrator, and Sentinel. The main things that separate each class are the types of armor they can wear and their class ability.
The Alchemist uses staves and spears and can lob corrosive potions at enemies that do damage over time. Druids wield totems and can transform into powerful bears with increased damage. Geomancers equip pickaxes and summon turrets that attack enemies and block attacks. Harbingers use bows and can shoot a volley of up to six arrows at different enemies. The Infiltrator is the stealthy dagger class that can go invisible and unleash a barrage of knives. Finally, there’s the sword and board Sentinel who can nullify enemy projectiles in an area.
In addition to have different abilities, each class can obtain different modifiers to their weapon. Generally, basic attacks are straight line projectiles, however, there are variations such as the“flanking shot” modifier that reduces the overall range but also sends out short-ranged projectiles at your sides. This allows players to stock different weapons for different situations. Flanking shot is great for crowded dungeons, but a long-ranged modifier might be better for sniping bosses.
Initially, the Alchemist, Infiltrator and Harbinger are available at the start and the Sentinel, Druid, and Geomancer can be unlocked by raising each of the previous classes to level 10. The first time around, it can take about an hour or so to carefully reach level 10 on a new character, but once you’ve stockpiled some silver, equipment, or crafting materials it can be done fairly quickly and makes unlocking new classes easy. Due to the number of “coming soon” signs in the class selection screen, it’s safe to assume that there will be at least a few more class options before the game is released to the public.
During my time with Survived By, I heavily favored the Sentinel. Although he’s not as offensively powerful as most of the other classes, his anti-projectile field provides a ton of survivability and has made me less cautious when going into more difficult dungeons. On the other hand, I struggled with the Infiltrator and Harbinger due to their squishy nature despite having way more firepower.
Cash Shop and Other Concerns
There are four types of currency in Survived By: Silver, Valr, Bloodstone, and Electrum. Silver is the basic in-game currency that can be used to purchase items from NPC vendors or equipment from the public auction house. Valr, as previously mentioned, is used to upgrade legacies. Bloodstones are time-gated currency obtained from completing daily challenges that can either be used to purchased certain NPC items or traded for Electrum, which is the cash shop currency.
Currently, Electrum is the only currency that can be used to purchase certain cosmetic skins or convenience items like more bag space, character slots, or health potions. However, you can also exchange Electrum for Bloodstones that can be used for items to be sold on the auction house. It’s a roundabout way to kind of make the game pay-to-win, but it also makes things friendlier to free players because they can exchange their daily currency for Electrum as well. Additionally, there’s no PvP in Survived By (as of writing this), so paying for better gear only reduces the grind a bit.
Furthermore, in order to help mitigate the feeling of pay-to-win, the game would greatly benefit from level requirements for gear. Right now any level character can wear any tier equipment they can get a hold of. This means that if someone traded enough electrum they could be level 1 walking around in tier 10 equipment and completely steamroll anything they ever come into contact with. I’m sure some people might find this fun for a bit, but it also eliminates a feeling of progression, which people tend to play RPGs for.
For example, I purchased a tier 8 sword when I first created my Sentinel and I was able to clear dungeons 5 levels higher than my character for quite a while. There wasn’t any real challenge until the enemy’s caught up with my gear level. This wasn’t the most compelling gameplay, but it was my 5th character and I wanted to speed through the beginning content. However, if a brand new player did this, they might not enjoy the game for what it is without the constant risk of impending death.
A few of my other major concerns have to do with optimization, map layout, and endgame. When you’re playing a roguelite, the last thing you want to encounter is lag or massive frame rate drops. Even with an i7 and GTX 1080, I constantly experience fps stuttering when fighting just a couple of enemies. A game with 2D graphics shouldn’t have any performance issues with that kind of hardware, and I really hope Survived By fixes this issue before launch. Additionally, the UI scaling has issues for a lot of settings outside of 1080p. The UI will either take up a massive portion of the screen or become so small it can’t be discerned; a scaling feature would be very beneficial.
The way the map is laid out, it’s rather cumbersome to get around the world. The game areas are broken down into tiers that radiate out from the world tree. Normally, players would be able to walk in a straight line and encounter increasingly difficult enemies, however, “fissures” were inserted that completely block off access to the next area. Many of the areas are quite large and it can take a long time to find the exact entrance to the next zone, which can be frustrating when you’re ready to move on. Having multiple breaks in the fissures, or some sort of signs, would greatly help players looking to progress.
Finally, there’s very little to do once you reach the cap of level 25. Apparently a few planned dungeons are still missing from the game, but there aren’t many actual goals besides maxing out legacies and unlocking achievements. There have been some cool limited events with special monsters and gear drops, but I would like to see some type of evergreen content. On the forums, there have been suggestions such as allowing players to work together to rebuild the world and defend forts or villages from increasing chimera attacks. I think this would definitely be a fun idea to get players working together.
Overall, I really like what Human Head Studios and Digital Extremes are trying to do with Survived By. There aren’t many permadeath, bullet-hell MMORPGs on the market, especially not as good looking as this one, and it’s always nice to try something new.