Have You Played… UnReal World?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

This has nothing to do with the popular FPS series, Unreal. It’s much more interesting. UnReal World has been a mainstay on various hard drives that I’ve owned since I first discovered it at some point in the mid-nineties. The first release was in 1992 and to describe the game as being ‘a bit ahead of its time’ would be like describing Usain Bolt as ‘quite fast’. Unfamiliar at the time, the elements of play are now a genre in and of themselves. It’s an RPG about wilderness survival, with borrowings from the roguelike ocean, and an enormous amount of things to craft.

It’s also, quite possibly, the best example of its type.

While the original release is twenty two years old, the latest update was this month. Two decades of development have paid off and UnReal World has the most intricate procedural worlds to explore and perish in. The setting isn’t the usual dungeon with a dragon in it – fantasy aspects are stripped back and the game takes place in the far north during the late Iron Age. You’ll spend your time hunting, trapping, fishing, building, trading, fighting and freezing to death. Sometimes you might bleed to death instead, if the mood takes you.

Animals and people are convincing, the world is full of wonders both mundane and extraordinary – the paw prints of quarry essential to your survival in the morning’s fresh snow, a sled piled high with human meat capsized by an abandoned village.

Most extraordinary of all is the price. Unreal World is free, as of 2013, although donations are gratefully received. Download it and lose yourself in a slice of history.

You can read more Survival Week articles over here.

26 Comments

  1. JonasKyratzes says:

    I remember playing this game about a decade ago. I had a lot of trouble not getting lost all the time, but it was very impressive.

    Should go back to it, really. I’m so sick of dungeons.

  2. djrodw says:

    played it for years myself… and for such a simple “looking” game its depth is astronomical.

    I am glad you did this article, URW is the game that I recommend to anyone anywhere I see them asking “know any good survival games?”

    also, there is something magical about walking around in the snow. yer slowly freezing to death sure but the sounds he put in the game. I could walk around and just listen for hours at peace.

  3. Michael Fogg says:

    >>>Unreal World is free, as of 2013

    he writes in late 2014

    • sinister agent says:

      They also wrote about it at the time, as literally one click on the relevant tab will show, you dolt.

      • Hex says:

        You somehow never cease to be a paragon of pleasant interactions. I really can’t fathom how you keep such a kindly attitude all the time.

        Truly an inspiration to all of us.

        • nindustrial says:

          In fairness, experience has shown Michael Fogg to be a fairly consistent troll around these parts.

          • Hex says:

            In that case, let the lynching commence.

          • nindustrial says:

            Now now, just saying “dolt” isn’t far off the mark. But back to friendlier topics. URW really is something special!

          • Michael Fogg says:

            @ nindustrial
            You surely have me confused with somebody, sir
            @ sinisteragent
            You clearly misunderstood me.

        • sinister agent says:

          We’ve talked about this already mum.

    • cafeoh says:

      I think what he meant was that “as of 2013” could be interpreted like the article was written in 2013, as opposed to something like “UnReal World is free, and has been since 2013”.

      I did understand it as “kinda late to the party guys aren’t ya?” at first though. Ambiguous comment to an ambiguous expression I guess. :)

  4. Zankmam says:

    Hope we get a NEO Scavenger mention.

    • pund says:

      was thinking about Neo Scavenger as well, really liked the vicious combat in that game.

  5. Gap Gen says:

    If we’re going for survival recommendations, here’s Badger Trails, which is a bit like Shelter for the Acorn Archimedes generation: link to youtube.com

  6. TimePointFive says:

    step one, go fisherman so you start with nets. step two, find a village near some body of water. Step three, set up camp on the water near the village. Step four, cast net, CARVE TONS OF BOWLS. Step five, start trading bowls until you RULE LAPPLAND.

  7. MrFinnishDude says:

    We need more games based in Iron Age Finland.
    Sadly nobody seems to care about Finnish history but focus on those damned Vikings instead.

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      We all care, but don’t want to hurt the feelings of those big Norse babies. Nostalgic musings about the Vikings are all they have left.

  8. Greggh says:

    I remember, not six years ago, I just got into college and found about this game in some RogueLike forum/site.

    Played the, then “demo” extensively. But I had no means of international purchase, so I learned how to hack the license activation system (and did so every other release) and voilà, gained a skill and lost dozens of hours to URW…

  9. Tim James says:

    I played UnReal World and the DayZ mod and now I feel like I’ve had my fill of the entire survival genre from this era. I don’t want to ruin the buzz with potentially lesser games.

    I’ve never felt such an intense desire to finally see a bonfire in a videogame, and I played the Dark Souls games for 300 hours.

  10. Fiatil says:

    I played this just last week, and I think it still is the best of the genre. Nothing beats the tension it can build, and the sense of accomplishment gained as a result. I recently decided to mod Skyrim to be as much of a rugged survival experience as I can imagine, but it can’t hold a candle to UnReal World.You’re actually tracking stuff for miles. You just ran out of food and you’re slowly, painfully starving to death over the course of hours of real time.

    As an example, I was in just such a situation. I had searched all day long for an elk, but it was evening becoming dusk and all hope I had of tracking something down had essentially failed. Exhausted, I decided to scrape together a fire and sleep by a lake for the night; morning would bring a much better chance of success if I could survive until then. But just as I was about to lay down, I see, impossibly, an elk track at the edge of the screen. I leap to my feet and not two screens away is a 400 pound elk. I ready my horrible cobbled together bow and curved arrow, and the first shot somehow manages to hit it in the leg.

    Of course, it’s not dead yet. And my next and final three miss arrows miss horribly. It’s still faster than me, but it’s wounded and bleeding. I follow it around the lake until it decides to jump in to escape. I can barely swim, and any water can be dangerous in Finland even in the Spring, so I decide to just follow it on land until it decides to return to shore. Out of arrows, I have only my knife. I imagine myself mocking the elk, staring it in the eyes as it looks hopelessly back at me. Because I know, once it resurfaces, I have on shot to stab it in the skull or my life is over.

    Eventually, it does. My knife is true, the elk breathes its last, and falls back into the lake, around 6 feet deep. Completely broken and exhausted, I hop in the lake to summon the last of my strength to drag out this 400 pound elk. The button is pressed, and

    *You’ve feinted*

    I drown in the lake.

    • TWChristine says:

      That’s one of the greatest stories I’ve ever heard! Now, to be clear, I don’t like it for the fact that “HAHA! You died! lolz”, because I honestly feel bad for you in that regard. But I love that there are games like this, and a hobby where you can have such crazy interactions with things! :D

  11. blainestereo says:

    Ah, good old days of digging some pits in the village square, putting some spikes in them then collecting the ungodly amount of slightly bloody loot. That takes me back!

  12. Shiloh says:

    I’m currently in the dead of winter, and to be honest my UnReal life is feeling a bit empty. Autumn was bountiful and my cellars are full, I’ve got fish and elk drying around my cabin, a cow and a pig penned out back, and I’ve built a shelter up-country laying the groundwork for a second cabin along a river full of salmon, so I’m keeping busy, but I’d love to be crafting some little wooden statues or embarking on a meaningless bit of artistic endeavour, just for the sake of it.

    Because I’m human, obviously, and that’s the sort of thing we do.

    • Quirk says:

      UnReal World is moddable. There are some nice mods that let you weave nettles into cloth and make clothing, or dredge bogs for iron and make things from it. It probably wouldn’t be hard to make one which added the ability to make some variety of decorative woodcarving.

      Also, to be generally on-topic: this is one of the best games.

  13. Haborym says:

    Tried to get into this game but just couldn’t. Thinking maybe it was a little too hardcore for me.