In my day, we had to trawl through messageboards - uphill in both directions - to find new games we'd never heard of before. Now it's possible to occasionally look at Steam's top ten most played list and find something unfamiliar. That's what happened today when Craig sent through word of Unturned, a game whose popularity seems almost inevitable: it's an Early Access free-to-play multiplayer survival game with a blocky artstyle in which you cut down trees and fight the undead.
I'd be cynical about it all if it wasn't for the trailer below, which reveals that the enemies are cute like Play-Doh and that you can drive a fire truck.
"Free-to-play" and "survival" have thus far been uncomfortable bedfellows, but there's at least an attempt on Unturned to keep it fair. For example, £4 for a gold account mostly nets you aesthetic benefits like extra skins and a "golden name". The straight-up power benefits it does offer - "boosted loot drops" and double XP bonuses - only work on special "Gold servers", so at least those unwilling to pay can avoid those who have.
Although this is the first I've heard of the game, Unturned's success hasn't exactly happened overnight. It was only added to Steam a few days ago, but the alpha has been available to play elsewhere since November 2013. In fact, the game has technically been available since even earlier than that, as Unturned began as a LUA-scripted mod called Deadzone created within Roblox, a sandbox user-generated MMO aimed at teenagers.
I love that! I love that this thing has gone from humble beginnings to being played by more people than Rust, Terraria and DayZ. At the time of writing, there are 19,469 people playing Unturned concurrently through Steam. Does that mean it's good? No. All of the most helpful reviews on Steam are positive, though. Does that mean it's good? No. But it might mean that it's worth checking out, and free-to-play means it's at least easy to get started.