Early Access survival game Miscreated is shaping up nicely

It's tense, spooky, and the playerbase is a nice mix of people who want to kill you and people who want to help.

The first guy I meet runs up the road toward me and then stops. I wave to him. He does nothing, so I move a bit closer and wave again. Then I scoot even closer and wave a third time. Finally, I see a line of text appear in global chat: "I don't know how to wave."

This is his first time playing Miscreated, he says. "I have no idea what I'm doing." I teach him to wave, give him a few tips, then watch him run off.

The next two people I meet are heavily geared, traveling together, and very cautious. When they spot me they spread out and keep their distance, holding their guns up but not pointing them at me. I wave a few times, and assure them I'm not dangerous, but every step I take toward them, they retreat.  Eventually, one trots a few steps closer to me, then drops something. "Got a hunting knife for you," he says. I thank them, watch as they run off together, then collect the gift.

The next person I meet opens fire on me immediately with a rifle. I flee, bleeding, and he gets me with a second shot. I duck behind cover, draw my pistol, lean out and fire the only three .22 rounds I have for my pistol, striking him once. He ducks into a tent and I scurry up the steps to a watchtower to bandage myself. 

I'm lucky enough to find a shotgun and six shells in the tower, so I hunker down to see if the attacker follows me. After a few minutes, another player runs up the steps. I assume, like the first guy I met, he's new to the game—he's holding his flashlight even though a) it's off, and b) it's daytime. When he spots me crouched, my shotgun leveled at him, he turns and exits in at a speed I would describe as "comical."

I never see the guy who shot me again, though. Also, all of these encounters take place within ten minutes at the same military base. In other words, I'm having a great time with Miscreated

I took a brief look at it back in April of last year when it had just entered Early Access. It's a post-apocalyptic open world multiplayer survival shooter, where beginning with just your clothing and a flashlight you have to scour for supplies and gear while dealing with both human players and AI controlled mutants and wildlife. The first time I played I didn't spend much time with it, but over the past few days it's slowly grafted itself onto my heart. I'm really enjoying it.

It took a few hours to get there. Initially, when I spawned and began rummaging through dilapidated houses for supplies—a water bottle here, a long-sleeved shirt there, two guns with no ammo and two handfuls of ammo for two different guns—I thought I might not have the patience for it. The endless running, searching, looting, putting together a meager kit, getting into a scrap, dying, and starting over... I just wasn't finding it appealing. The more I played, though, the more I began to enjoy myself. Miscreated is shaping up nicely.

Okay, I've put off not mentioning DayZ long enough. Miscreated is very similar to DayZ in terms of looks and themes and the things you do. It's less complex in a few ways: managing your health, food, and hydration is much simpler, for example. Just eat and drink regularly, and apply bandages if you're hurt. Both games have basic crafting systems, but Miscreated displays the recipes, and it also has a base-building system.

I should say here that I love DayZ. I know it's much-maligned due to how long it's been in Early Access and the fact that Dean Hall left before it was finished, but I played DayZ for some 250 hours, nearly all of them enjoyable despite the unfinished state of the game. That's longer than I've spent on just about any other game except for Bethesda's RPGs and TF2.

I mention this because of what I'm enjoying about Miscreated is that it's giving me the same feelings DayZ gave me when I first started playing it. Some of it is just the enjoyment of slowly learning my way around a big open world, some of it is the delicious tension of player encounters, and some is just the general spookiness of scurrying around the dangerous, decaying remnants of civilization.

(As for why I'm not still playing DayZ, well, I did a very stupid thing when I was brash young (42) freelancer writer for Rock, Paper, Shotgun.)

One thing I'm not crazy about in Miscreated is the base-building. As a concept, I love it, but look at these bases in the image above. It's straight out of Rust, and while I think Rust is a good game it very quickly taught me that I have zero desire to build a giant wooden crate and live in it. Wooden boxes as player homes are dull and completely stand out from the rest of Miscreated's visuals. In Rust, it makes more sense to live in a damn crate since since you're running around naked in the wild, but in Miscreated there are towns and stores and neighborhoods and gas stations and churches and office buildings, so hammering together a shipping crate and moving into it feels like a weird thing to do. 

I'd much prefer to choose an existing house or building and move into that. Board up the windows, reinforce the doors, put traps and warning systems outside, and turn a residence into a safehouse or, with enough help, turn an office block or grocery store into a fortress. I wish that sort of thing was possible: as it is now, you can only build outside of towns.

Miscreated is built in CryEngine so it looks really nice, and I have to say I'm really impressed with how smoothly it's been running for me, nearly always between 60-70 fps on my GeForce GTX 980 (with some occasional dips for a few minutes after first joining a server). It's still an Early Access title, of course, and I've had that familiar Early Access problem: twice I've loaded the game and found the character I'd been gearing up completely wiped from existence. Servers (those close enough to me that I get a good ping) also seem to be either overstuffed with players or practically empty, which makes finding a medium population server a challenge (I like having people around, but not tons of them).

I'm still loving it. It's got the wonderful tension of spotting another player and having no real idea how they'll greet you, with a wave (or the request that you teach them to wave) or a hail of bullets. I hope it remains so for a while—over my many hours of DayZ it became less and less likely to run into a player who didn't immediately kill you on sight. And I'm not opposed to KOS, really. All's fair. I just love a game in which it isn't a foregone conclusion, and right now, Miscreated seems to have a healthy mix of friendly, indifferent, and non-friendly players. Here's hoping it stays that way.


The first PC game Chris owned was Choplifter in 1982, and since then our staff writer has played at least three other games. He has a love/hate relationship with Early Access survival games and an odd fascination with the lives of NPCs.
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