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Scavengers

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Developer: Midwinter Entertainment

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PC Preview - 'Scavengers'

by Thomas Wilde on July 12, 2019 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Scavengers is a co-opetition shooter that puts players in the role of young survivors fighting in a not-so-distant future, where cataclysmic events have triggered a new ice age.

Scavengers is a co-op game, until it suddenly isn't. At that point, it turns into player vs. player vs. environment vs. the clock vs. CPU enemies vs. random misadventure vs. a couple of random mutant bears. It gets hectic; that's what I'm saying.

It's the late 21st century or so. A few decades ago, an alien race called the Scourge stole and weaponized the moon, using it as a base from which to launch a series of biological attacks on Earth. The biosphere ended up on their side, humanity started squabbling amongst itself rather than uniting to deal with the problem, and then somebody decided to blow up the moon. As you do.

Now, the debris from the moon has plunged most of the world into a state similar to a nuclear winter. What remains of the human race lives and works alongside artificial intelligences in a low-orbit space station called Sanctuary, which is run by a particularly cruel AI called Mother. No real progress has been made in finding a cure for the Scourge, but the research continues.


That research, however, requires continuing expeditions to Earth's surface for useful biological samples, so Mother dispatches teams of human survivors planetside to look. You, as the player, are a member of one of those teams, searching the snow-covered ruins of human civilization for ammunition, crafting materials, food, useful supplies, and the samples in question.

The Earth's surface, decades after not one but two separate apocalypses, is an infinite deathtrap. You have to deal with inclement weather, which can intensify without warning to the point where you'll rapidly freeze to death unless you can find a heat source, such as a campfire. The ruins are also inhabited, not just by the Scourge nests that you have to attack to find Mother's research samples, but by human raiders, hungry wolves, mutant bears, and other assorted threats.

Once you have what Mother's looking for, you can signal her for extraction. However, she only sends a shuttle that'll fit four people, and she sent 16. She's also not going to leave the shuttle Earthside for more than a few minutes.


At this point, hopefully, you've found enough bullets, scrap, and sharp bits of metal to put together better weapons, new body armor, and a few useful consumables like cooked meat. Ideally, you're also working closely with your teammates, and none of them have randomly run off to the far side of the map to follow the inscrutable demands of the human heart or whatever, because the moment that shuttle descends, all bets are off. The match will rapidly descend into a full sprint toward the exit with a lot of ambushes, incidental infighting, and random mutant animals along the way.

Scavengers is entirely built around that central loop, with no single-player content at the time of writing. Fight, collect samples, stay warm, beat wolves to death with improvised weaponry, and then kill every other human you see to secure a seat on the escape shuttle. If the multiplayer match I played at E3 is any indication, a given round of Scavengers consists of about 10 to 20 minutes of calm, cooperative exploration, gameplay, and crafting, followed by five minutes of frenzied, unpredictable murder sprees.

Scavengers is the product of Midwinter Entertainment, a relatively new studio based in Seattle with a few distributed employees in Stockholm and elsewhere. Much of the team, including three out of the four founding members of the company, are veterans of the Halo franchise, including the creative and lead multiplayer directors for Halo 4; the fourth founder, Daryl Anselmo, is the former creative director of Zynga's Farmville and the co-creator of Def Jam Vendetta. The first four team members have been working on the game since late 2016, using both the Unreal Engine and a cloud platform called the SpatialOS, and the team has grown to around 30 developers over the course of the last year and a half.


I didn't get much of a feel for Scavengers on the E3 2019 show floor besides simply playing through a match, but there are a lot of ways to customize and improve a character. There are multiple character classes to choose from, which determines things like your upgrade path, as well as the signature weapon that you can craft if you can find the right materials. It's a surprisingly high-impact game, with scarce ammunition, randomized enemies, and a lot of dynamic events.

Also, the melee is surprisingly powerful. I pulled out an ax at one point during the match in order to hit a bear with it, intending for it to be my last great act of defiance before it turned me into pink mist, but instead, I killed the thing. Charging head-on at animals, mutants, and the occasional other player with a big old handmade Mad Max melee weapon is actually a perfectly valid strategy in Scavengers. I was pleasantly surprised.

I could see a lot about Scavengers being down to the quality of the groups you're with, and that you're up against. According to some of the team at Midwinter, they're still being surprised by their own game at this point, years into its development. The sheer chaos of the endgame of any given match is a thing to behold, especially if the AI decides you aren't getting pummeled enough and decides to hit you with a blizzard or a pack of wolves along the way. It's a slow, PVE burn until almost the last second, when it abruptly becomes a 4v4(v4v4) team deathmatch.

Scavengers is planned for a full digital release sometime in 2020.



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