Turn and Face the Fun in UNTURNED
Open World survival games are quirky little beasts. The frequency with which they get made in the indie world suggests an appetite for them, which in turn suggests that gamers are more than capable of making their own fun, given the right tools and interface. Yet if we were to look at these games through the lens with which certain "Walking Simulator" type games are scrutinized (is there a fail state? Is there an objective? Is there a driving plot?) we might arrive at the conclusion that they're not "games" in the traditional sense. Unturned, for instance, feels a bit more like a creative tool, a la Minecraft - with zombies.
Players of Minecraft will have no doubt already made ready to point out that that game also has zombies in it. Well YES, but they're not, as they are in Unturned, ostensibly the main focus and driver of gameplay. In Unturned, you play a survivor of the zombie apocalypse, scrounging supplies, food, and weapons. That's really all there is to it. There's no big overarching plot, no background info to speak of, and no "win" condition. You are given this world to survive and to play in, and you can do - for the most part - as you like.
The game's blocky, cartoonish graphics are also reminiscent of Minecraft, but the big difference is that maps are not procedurally generated, and they do not follow a grid system of block placement. You have a choice - at time of this writing - of four maps: PEI, Russia, Washington, and the Yukon. Craftables are consistently sized assets that you can place anywhere there's room, following simple rules such as walls needing floors and support pillars. So in this respect, there is both more and less flexibility in creativity than in Minecraft (mostly less though, if we're being honest).
The crafting system in this game is awkward. The main issue I have is that so many craftables need fairly rare items in the Medium difficulty setting. Gas cans, for instance, get used in an alarmingly high quantity if you want to power anything. The rarity of items at higher difficulties is also exacerbated by very limited inventory slots, with some craftables needing you to dump out your inventory just so you can hold everything necessary to make them. I ended up turning the difficulty down just so I could actually build a base. Now, that was my personal preference, which brings me back to my key point about making your own fun in these sandbox survival games. With Unturned, you can choose to make things more accessible to exercise your creativity, or you can amp things up so that you really have to want that power generator, or that brick garage, or what have you.
In that regard, there is some accessibility to Unturned, and that can be appealing. But usually this amounts to saying "do I want to take literal, real-life days to build this base, or do I want to run back and forth a couple dozen times from an item spawn point in Easy mode to get everything I need?" The drama and startling nature of the zombies quickly becomes predictable as well, even on higher difficulties. Every once in a while you might run into a rare "Super-Zombie," Unturned's version of a boss monster, but even that amounts to some fairly standard run and gun tactics. Again, you can create your own fun, say by installing a "Horde Beacon" at your home base to draw the creepy-crawlies in, but this is, again, something that necessitates a lot of busy work to make happen.
At its best, Unturned is a charming little time sink. This isn't necessarily a BAD thing, indeed it's a free-to-play game with a fairly large amount of depth, and even the simple act of flying a helicopter can be a lot of fun. Also, it is being continuously updated, so future features such as NPCs might add a little bit more of that RPG feel that fleshed out Minecraft or Terraria. And I have to chuckle at any game so Canadian that it'll let me beat the crap out of zombies with a hockey stick in PEI. It especially bears mentioning that this whole project, aside from being a million times better than any free-to-play game deserves to be, was made and is being updated by teenager Nelson Sexton, who released the project at 16.
This kid loves games, and loves making his own fun. That's pretty damned inspiring.
So if you think it's great he can make his own fun, why not give Unturned a whirl between internet videos and make your own fun too?