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Early Access Impressions: Hurtworld

Rusty

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Hurtworld [official site] is the latest multiplayer craft-me-do to go flying off Steam’s shelves, in the vein of Rust and its many followers. But, I suspect this one – despite being absolutely packed with features – is too early. It’s brilliant that you can build and race cars, but it’s dreadful that the crafting interface doesn’t have even the most basic elements in place.

So, as is achingly familiar at this point, you begin dumped on a beach (albeit without any sea) with nothing, for no reason, and no idea where to go. But you’re hungry. Dear God, you’re hungry. Charging about, I gathered sticks and stones until I had enough to craft myself an axe and pickaxe, and then set about gathering more sticks and stones. Why? Because I’ve played so many survival games that I’m pre-programmed to do so. I’d deliberately picked a quiet server, because I’m scared of other people, and always think I’m intruding when I pick one, but the world bore no signs of life at all – beyond a few rabbit-things. And so to crafting.

The interface, which I think at this point should be the very first thing a team creates when making such a game, is very poor. Needlessly nested sections duplicate their contents across the confusing window, while displays of which ingredients are necessary aren’t highlighted or faded to indicate whether you have enough of anything in your inventory to make it. Just rudimentary stuff, really.

However, with sticks and stones I could build a workbench (with a circular saw!), and with that I can suddenly build a ludicrous range of home DIY equipment. (Seriously, it includes an automatic assault rifle, skater beanie, and a working fridge.) Were I to possess the necessary components of course, which reveal themselves without having previously been encountered, and offer quite remarkable recipes like creating a reel of string from an animal bone. Quite the trick.

Hunger is, as is so tediously often the case in these games, an incessant nag from the opening moment. My character, apparently male, occasionally declares to me how incredibly hungry he is. So food then – I desperately hoped that if I could take down a decent sized animal, I’d have enough meat to put that fuss aside for a moment and better explore what the game offers.

Despite creating a spear, I managed to kill a deer-thing by brutally stabbing it to death with a pickaxe, and then – rather tidily – it dropped a rare steak of its flesh in a tiny wooden crate next to its corpse. Hmmm. Anyway, food! I lit a fire, cooked the meat, ate it, and… saw the hunger meter slip back a fraction. Oh for fuck’s sake.

I killed another deer, this time with a bloody incredible aim of the spear, and it dropped two of its neatly packaged offerings – both of them hide. I had, in the manner of an MMO, managed to kill an animal that had no flesh inside. Oh for fuck’s sake.

By this point it was night again and I needed to sit next to a fire so as not to freeze to death, and listened to this chap complaining about his empty tummy despite having so recently tucked into an enormous steak. Come morning, I dropped down off the rock I was on, a distance that in real life might have reasonably hurt a shin, perhaps at worst twisted an ankle, and was told I was “close to death”.

I got better. By waiting.

A while later, I was killed by a “Bor”, which is the clever way they’ve spelt “Boar”. And, to ensure I was once more reminded why I so adore the online element of these games, the chat window declared:

iwuvcats: rip
iwuvcats: i already killed 7 bors
iwuvcats: even tho i only started 30 mins ago

It’s mostly bores that kill me, it seems. I’m not iwuvcats. However, being a bit more canny, it’s a quick process to be at the point where I keep getting killed. Until, joining a server apparently for my nearest town (Bristol), I found a much more established population. Buildings, people in clothes, people with shotguns.

I was sniffing around some buildings, and a guy spoke to me. “Uh uh uh,” he said, levelling his shotgun at my face. I stood still, interested to see where this would go. “On your knees,” he said. Oh boy. Obviously I just stood still. He didn’t seem to know what to do then, just pointing a gun at my and sidestepping. Eventually, growing annoyed with this, I hit him with my pickaxe, and after a rather ridiculous chase, he shot me to death.

The game is very nice looking. It’s found a pleasing aesthetic, one that borrows from but stops a way short of Firewatch’s gorgeous cartoon world. It’s a strong start, and even the animal animations are decent at this early stage. Glitchy, but decent. Hitting rocks with pickaxes and wood with axes makes satisfying, growing cracks appear. Unfortunately there’s no final animation for that just yet, meaning they pop out of existence and into your inventory.

But goodness me, it’s so fussy. Your inventory is limited by slots, but not by weight, making for the most ludicrous mechanic. I am able to carry hundreds and hundreds of wooden logs, but there’s not room for a bit of string. Completely daft. More inventory slots can be crafted, but then you’re in the tricky position of needing a lot of materials, not enough space to keep them, and the vicious circle of therefore not being able to build the equipment to store them.

Oh, and most fussy are the fires. Stand near one and you develop “heatstroke”. Stand a foot further away and you freeze to death. Very silly.

My explorations took a more interesting turn when I stumbled onto someone’s home high in a mountain. There didn’t appear to be anyone around, but I did see an exciting unlocked locker outside the house, and a field of orange-things! Could I steal? Would I get caught? Did I want to spoil someone else’s game? Well, rather than continue starving to death (for whatever reason the game had stopped spawning wildlife for a very long time) I grabbed his orange-things, and then I admit I stole some string and a cool looking magnet thing from his locker. I left the rest, because I’m a gentleman thief. And then I hot-footed it out of there, seeing someone walking toward the place, and thrilled with my narrow escape.

Then I got killed by a boar or died of cold because it stopped spawning flint or some dick shot me for no reason or whatever.

The more I played, the less I disliked Hurtworld. But it needs a lot of tidying, a lot of basics better in place. Oh, and it would be kind of nice if they’d remove the crudely scrawled dicks from the boxes. Seriously. And most of all, it needs its own gimmick early on. Right now it’s hard to distinguish between any number of other games for far too long. I see cars in the videos, but goodness knows how you’d ever get to that in a hostile, glitchy world. If anything, right now Hurtworld feels like a template for a game, without the unique ideas in place. I hope they’re on their way.

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John Walker

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Once one of the original co-founders of Rock Paper Shotgun, they killed me out of jealousy. I now run buried-treasure.org

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