How can a survival game stay relevant in the ever-changing landscape of gaming? Developer Creepy Jar opted for Steam’s Early Access model, a chance to show Green Hell to the world and see what worked, fixing bugs, and expanding key features. While plenty of these Early Access games stay in an unfinished state for years (DayZ’s 5-year period remains a ludicrous example), it is commendable that Creepy Jar spent a little over a year before releasing the full version of their game.
Green Hell’s defining feature when compared to contemporaries like Project Zomboid, The Forest, and Conan: Exiles is its narrative, put front and centre of the game. A couple of adventurers are split up in the Amazon jungle, and it is up to the player to hone their survival skills to find their loved one. The opening tutorial is impressive, a surprisingly helpful guide through the many mechanics at the core of the experience, while also featuring strong voice acting that makes it easy to invest in the romance of the happy-go-lucky explorers.
The tutorial is a godsend, for Green Hell is as challenging and complex a survival game as they come. Outside of the expected presence of crafting, hunting, and all the staples of this ever-popular subgenre, there are some nice additions to the mix that keep the gameplay fresh. Healing is done through body inspection, having to analyze each wound, and learning specific ways of treating an injured leg from a fall over a spear wound. Combat is more in-depth than expected, with dodging and blocking as well as multiple weapons being available through nature, crafting, or the dangerous tribesmen that populate the forest. Even the so-called “animal husbandry” has been introduced in later updates, all about taming and breeding some of the forest’s animals, including the internet’s favourite lazy boys, capybaras.
A constant that will be used time and again is the protagonist’s smartwatch. Entirely solar-powered, this watch is so smart that not only does it show the time and orientation, but it also has a macroelement scanner. While most survival games will be content with having a Food and Water meter, Green Hell shares the current levels of protein, carbohydrates, fats and hydration, forcing players to be mindful of the types of food they consume on their perilous journey. There is also a sanity meter that rapidly descends as more dangerous and horrific sights are witnessed (or even committed, like cannibalism), which may even lead to fights against phantasmagoric Sanity tribesmen.
Fans of open-world survival games with crafting mechanics will have a field day with Green Hell, for it is one of the most complete games of its type out there. Those who are looking for a narrative-driven experience can enjoy Story Mode on lower settings, hardcore survivalists can dabble in the endless Survival Mode (both in singleplayer or with a friend), and more content is constantly being added, including the Spirits of Amazonia prequel expansion. A worthwhile recommendation, and likely to turn newcomers into a niche subgenre of gaming.
A copy of Green Hell was received for review purposes.