At this stage of the survival genre game, you need more than just a novel idea for the setting. You need unique features to draw attention — and subsequently players — to your game. And you really need to have a good plan for dealing with the toxic pitfalls that plague many titles. Last Oasis believes it offers this package: a different story coupled with new features that also solve some of the more frustrating aspects of PvP survival games, like offline raiding.
Does Last Oasis succeed? I sat down with Donkey Crew devs and Producer Lucas Stannis for a video tour of the current state of development ahead of its latest early access launch date on Steam March 26th. I can say that things look promising, and some of the more unique features have caught my eye. But will it grab and keep a large enough players base?
The world and its story
If you haven’t heard much about Last Oasis yet, here’s a briefing. While it is post-apocalyptic earth (not original), it focuses on the planet having lost its rotation, throwing half into glacial ice age and the other into scorched, barren desert (more original). Only a tiny strip between the two extremes is inhabitable, and that strip is constantly shifting as earth continues to revolve around the sun. This necessitates civilization be constantly on the move. In game, this “livable” (it’s still trying to kill you!) area is shown as multiple hexagons representing oases of habitable area filled with a variety of resources. These oases are spread out across the map, and travel between the hexes involves going to the lobby from the edge of one oasis and picking another one on the map to move to. Players move between these oases via walkers, large mobile wooden vehicles. Water, as you might imagine, is the valuable resource; it’s used not only in crafting and drinking to stay alive but as fuel for walkers to move.
The majority of the remaining civilization is on a moving city called Flotilla. Players are citizens who have been cast off to go support the city by collecting much needed resources. Life in Last Oasis then is gathering resources, building up clans, trading, and for some, even setting down more permanent roots. And since it is PvP, you know there will be pirating.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Last Oasis to me is the fact that this game offers a true nomadic experience, which is is pretty spiffy for an explorer-at-heart like myself. Don’t get me wrong: I do love to build, especially in survival games. But once I do I also tend to feel tied to one place. My base becomes a tether, restricting my adventurous spirit. In Last Oasis, the gameplay is geared toward mobility.
Some players may want to settle in one area until forced to move, while others may be happier always on the move. Last Oasis supports both playstyles. Those who want to stay for longer periods can build in stone, and clans can even claim territories (more on that in a bit). For the wanderers, the many different wooden walkers offer a partially or even completely mobile lifestyle. You can build a walker with enough room for crafting stations, passengers, and storage space for cargo. (Note: Cargo inside a walker’s hold cannot be accessed by pirates unless the entire walker is destroyed, as opposed to the easier-to-loot storage boxes that can be placed on a walker.) Wooden bases built on land are also able to be packed up and stored in a walker, to be placed again elsewhere exactly how they were built, so there’s no lost time redesigning. Note: If any packing or unpacking is interrupted with an attack, it is merely paused.
Mobility is more than just exploration though; Stannis noted how mobility is encouraged by the fact that resources will be spread all over the map, with no oasis having all materials needed for survival and progress. Each oasis does have a trade hub where players can request or fulfill orders for both other players and the city of Flotilla. This means trading and transporting can be a very viable enterprise — a playstyle I quite like.
Yes, this definitely sounds enticing to me. A nomadic life on the move is something I want to try. Nomad MJ, of the Shiny trade caravan. Has a nice ring, no?
The key to this nomadic life and travel within the game is the wooden walkers. Players build their first one in the training oasis. Called the firefly, this basic one allows players to work into moving out of tutorial lands and into the game proper. There are a number of different walkers, with varying uses and using varying amounts of resources to construct. Here are walker types and basic descriptions:
- Firefly: intro walker, one person only (possible second)
- Dingy: wind-powered, next step up from firefly; cheap to make; two-man
- Stiletto: step up from dinghy; fast, maneuverable, more deck space; for solo or small groups
- Hornet: study, low to ground (harder to topple); fast to out run giant beasts
- Buffalo: a bigger version of stiletto; very versatile
- Spider: small utility; great for scouting, raiding; one ballista or more storage for packing structures
- Falco: one of fastest, can catch almost any walker; higher tier; rear-facing gun pods
- Schmettterling: base-like with underbelly for living; lots of cargo space; slow
- Titan: definition of war walker; flat deck space, can install dozens of guns; needs a larger crew
- Toboggan: merchant walker; speed to outrun pirates, can’t carry much weaponry
- Tusker: late-tier trading walker; largest cargo walker; slow and hard to maneuver so needs escort of war walkers for defense
- Proxy: immovable, is deployed to claim a territory for 24 hours
Once you have your basic walker, you can continue to upgrade it and customize it to better meet your gaming needs. Fun fact, most of the walkers need a grappling hook to board! Bonus fun mechanic.
While I am more interested in a nomadic life, moving between trade stations in different oases to buy and sell resources, there are benefits to claiming territory. For one, a bonus amount of everything any player harvests in your claimed oasis is transferred to your clan as a payment. So claiming is definitely a way to increase wealth and power. Devs emphasized that they felt this mechanic will help foster more cooperation; guilds definitely benefit by getting free stuff, so it is in their best interest to let players harvest in their area as well as protect them from marauding killers.
It is important to note that claiming a territory is not permanent. In fact, clans who want to keep a particular territory will need to reclaim it every 24 hours. To claim, you deploy a proxy walker. Others can disrupt the claiming by destroying the proxy. If it is successfully deployed (and that takes an hour), the oasis is claimed and safe for 24 hours. At the end of that time this can be contested again, and everyone has equal chance to place a proxy, not just the most current owners.
As for combat, you can’t get a feel for much hand-to-hand combat just from watching. The devs did try to demonstrate how players can choose attack and block direction by moving the mouse. I did, however, get to feel some of the impact of the big battle on the walker even through the video! The walker can get smashed and tossed around, and even flipped. And yes, you have to try and hold on! Hunting giant creatures looks like quite the wild ride. Devs mentioned that weaponry was very similar to Dark Souls, which influenced combat.
An important note is that progression is not tied to combat. Instead, it is tied to exploration and travel. Players go searching for hot spots, old walker debris, and the like, and then research the item. The fragments collected are used to unlock new technologies, like building better walkers and walker upgrades.
One of the things devs wanted to address was the bane of PvP survival games that is offline raiding. Survival games want to foster “meaningful” conflict, but you really can’t get that by sacking bases when no one is there to defend. Stannis discussed the method Last Oasis is using to combat this: Players can pack up their stuff onto a walker and log out safely in the lobby area between oases. All a player needs to do is not be attacked for three minutes and they and their packed goods will be teleported to the nearest edge of the oasis and they’ll log out in the safety of the lobby/no man’s land. That only works for wooden structures that can be packed up, however; stone ones are permanent.
The pack-up feature is available to players in another way, to prevent them from being shut out of the game when an oasis is locked. Remember how the inhabitable areas will change as the earth revolves around the sun? Players can designate specific walkers to be used in the event that the oasis they are occupying gets closed while they are offline. At that point, the walkers and everything in them — including players — will be auto-migrated to another open map so when players log in they have access to their stuff and can continue playing.
How did it look?
Seeing as this was a dev tour on a dev server, you can’t get a feel for how long it would take to do things such as make the various walkers or travel across zones (the intro map is 4k, and the others are 8k), or get an accurate reflection of facing dangers. But you can get some impressions.
Even just from video, I felt the impact of the giant creature as it mauled the walker. Swinging around with grappling hooks also definitely looked fun. The narrator tutoring you in the beginning amused me, and there was some decent character customization. I liked that the mob creatures weren’t really human; instead, they are an slightly evolved monkey called Rupu that mimic humans. I didn’t get to see much in the way of wildlife, but the concepts look intriguing.
The graphics themselves looked good when standing still. However, between the discord video quality and the increased load on the internet due to isolation, when there was action the view was very rough and pixelated. There is no way for me to accurately judge how it will look when run on my own machine. That said, the recording that the devs sent of a tour did look quite crisp.
Is the game worth a try? Can this game be fun for a solo and/or small group player without getting ganked all the time? We shall see. While I usually only play survival games on private servers, Last Oasis has a few elements that I want to check out so I am willing to give this one a spin.