Each game of Stranded Survival is played on a randomly-generated island covered in the flora and fauna required to help you survive. A labyrinth of caves lies beneath, filled with persistent zombies and untouched treasures. The precious metals glittering within the walls of the caves are just asking to be mined and forged into powerful weapons and equipment. Mages wait on the deepest floors, ready to destroy anyone who comes to claim their treasures. If you want to take it from them you’ll have to forage for resources to stay alive and harvest the caves of previous metals, forging sturdy weapons and armor to aid you in battle.
To survive you must fight against the constant threat of starvation and build shelter to protect you from the indigenous monsters that will seek you out when night falls.
Later on, you’ll be able to welcome the skeletons and zombies that throw themselves against your walls with your spear and thank them for the items they drop as a reward, but to begin with you must search for food and safety. Every death is permanent, and if you’re not careful you’ll lose everything that you’ve worked to build.
Harvesting and preparing food is an important part of the game. If you go hungry for too long your health will begin to drop, but there are several ways to prevent starvation. You can forage for berries and there are chickens, pigs and cows that roam the island, waiting to be chased down and slaughtered for their meat and skins. Another important way to gather food is fishing, which will occasionally reward you with armor and items. Players also have the option of establishing farms, preparing the soil to grow crops like wheat, which can be turned into bread using an oven.
The game features a large number of tools and pieces of equipment that can be created through the games crafting system, where you can turn the resources you’ve gathered into useful tools, appliances, or decorative furniture. Some items in the game don’t currently have any use, and it’s likely that these will be incorporated at a later date along with new features.
The majority of crafting is carried out at a crafting table. Once you’ve placed the crafting table, it allows you to create a large variety of items from the materials at your disposal, including furnaces, ovens, extra storage, walls and wooden tools. It will also give you access to other crafting equipment like the anvil, which allows you to make weapons, tools and armor from the ingots forged from the ore you’ve collected from the dungeons bellow, or the alchemy table with which you can concoct health potions and craft magic staffs to aid you in battle.
The building aspect of the game allows you to use your array of tools to transform the environment and replace any tile with a different kind of tile, providing you have the tools and resources to do so. You can craft buckets and shovels, allowing you to collect sand, dig holes and ferry water. You can also decorate your house with floorings and furnishings.
You have a sizeable inventory to cart your equipment around with, and identical items can be stacked together. The amount you can have in a stack varies, and you need a spare slot to craft anything new so sometimes the cart can feel a bit small. Fortunately, items you haven’t picked up have a habit of sticking around in Stranded Survival, so you can always collect them later.
You can also craft extra storage items like crates, chests, and boxes. The largest option, iron chest, can hold twice as much as your inventory, but you will lose all it contains if you move it.
The game does have some bugs that can disrupt gameplay. Placing items from a stack is generally easy, but if you want to place the only item in a stack you have to release the interact button almost immediately. Otherwise, you’ll harvest anything that can be destroyed by hand. Larger devices may also experience some issues with the inventory interface and the controls, with buttons presses not registering correctly.
The first few levels of caves usually function well. If you take a different ladder or rope down from a floor than the one you used previously, you’ll find yourself on a new level, which is especially useful for gathering resources. However, on the lower floors, where gold begins to speckle the walls and gems jut from the floor, the game often runs into problems. Climbing up ladder or ropes will frequently load up a new unfamiliar level of dungeon, and when you try to access a floor you just descended from, it will disappear. These aren’t things that are meant to happen. In one instance, I saw it affect a ladder I’d used countless times before, stranding me in the lower levels of the dungeon to dodge zombies until starvation claimed me.
Instances like this can ruin the game, forcing you to make boss runs you’re not prepared for in a bid to get back to the surface and find the food you’ve stored. It’s fun to see how long you can last against an enemy that outclasses you, but every death is permanent and instances like this, when all the work you’ve put into building, crafting and planning is lost, can be heart breaking.
That being said, the game’s not overly long. If circumstances are right, and once you have mastered the art of farming and foraging, it’s possible to go from beginning with nothing but a loincloth and armed with your fists to destroying mages with a gem-encrusted spear in a little less than an hour.
The game continues from there, sending you back to the surface to craft new equipment from the items you’ve collected and leaving you to keep on surviving and to keep hunting down more mages and taking their treasures, in a never-ending cycle until you perish.
It is Hardcore?
Well, no, not yet.
It’s got a solid base to build on and there’s a fair amount in the game, with seemingly more to come, but it does feel somewhat unfinished. The challenge of surviving and conquering is satisfying, but glitches can make play frustrating. It’s a game with simple mechanics and a good premise, but it needs a bit more work to make it hardcore.