The Black Death
April 19, 2016
Syrin Studios & Small Impact Games
Green Man Gaming Publishing
It’s the mid-1300s, and the plague is in full swing. Most historians agree that around 30 to 40 percent of the population was killed by the plague, will you be one of them? How long can you survive, and possibly thrive in, The Black Death, an early access title from Syrin Studios and Small Impact Games available on Steam for $19.99.
You have been thrusted into the heart of the Black Plague, starting as a mere beggar, sick, hungry, thirsty, trying to survive. Towns are desolate and depressing, even the capital is full of bodies, piled high, some not even burned or wrapped any more. Every direction you walk leads to danger, be it the plague, the bandits, and other survivors willing to kill you for their own survival.
You play through much like many other survival-esque games, be it Rust or Conan Exiles. You have to collect and scavenge food, water, and other crafting materials and try to survive as long as you can. It starts off VERY difficult and brutal in my opinion, but as you play more you unlock more skills that makes life a bit easier.
Everyone starts as a beggar, but after you unlock all the skills within that class, you can move into a new class the next time you die. I personally don’t like this system of ranking up, as I don’t want to have to suicide my character just to try a new class, but would have rather been able to promote myself into one of those classes. Overall, it’s not a terrible idea though, it just takes a lot of work to be able to get any promotion to those classes.
The game is very much like the other titles I mentioned, you collect resources, craft things, level up to unlock skill points to use to learn recipes, craft new things, and just live as long as you can. There is a housing system in the game which allows you to purchase houses, and then craft things like a bed, doors, walls, and other items such as crafting stations work benches, looms, anvils and more. This allows you to have a base of operation away from town and other players to be able to survive and store your items in.
Visually, the game was done quite well. There’s definitely a sense of death and despair throughout the entire world, with a general haziness you see. If you are too close to someone infected, your screen can begin to fade or warp meaning you need to get away from it so you don’t risk yourself to infection. Being built in the Unreal engine, they were able to really do a fantastic job in my opinion and I found everything to look well detailed.
The audio in the game doesn’t give much to speak about, however, and as I’ve mentioned in some of my recent reviews, this is another game that does everything fine, but nothing stood out like crazy. Sound effects sound fine, but nothing really was so amazing that it was something to write home about.
In terms of replay ability, the game does have frequent updates for being an early-access title. We actually were playing just after a major patch release, and the devs added a LOT of things to the game which is always good to hear on an early access title. With the eventual ability to play multiple classes after ranking up, being online and playing with friends to help you survive, and a pretty good ranking system to allow you to expand what you can craft, buy a home, and grow your character, I can see myself putting more time into this
Overall, The Black Death is very much a typical survival game with the unique environment of being set during the mid-1300s and having to survive the plague, not just survive in general. This uniqueness plays well into the world they built visually, and adds the mechanic of ensuring you also don’t contract the plague while keeping yourself fed and hydrated. While the player base seemed a bit small, there was still fun to be had and just meant I didn’t have to fight off as many people in PvP. For $20 and as an early access title, I’d recommend getting it on a sale unless you are REALLY looking for another survival game, or if you really loved Ark, Rust, Conan Exiles, and other titles in this genre.
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