Survival games are all the craze these days. There is something about being dropped in the middle of nowhere without any food, weapons or resources to keep you alive that gets the adrenaline pumping. However like everything that becomes a big hit, the market gets flooded and saturated with clones and other games with the same concept. Survival have seen a blossoming of games such as State of Decay 2, DayZ, Dying Light, Ark: Survival Evolved and Minecraft to name a few.
Orc Island developed by RubberMan is a new entry into this genre of games and at first blush the game will remind you of Minecraft. Orc Island is designed around a block system that has a more in-depth crafting system and the ability to create different shape and sized pieces, which can only be done in a limited fashion in Minecraft. But beyond that, Orc Island greatly differs because the developer has described the game as a survival game more than anything else.
Orc Island has a lot of mechanics that really push you towards that behavior of a survival game. Your life/stamina drains much faster which requires you to go look for food and create fire to keep it up. You need to run around to grab minerals and materials to craft workbenches and weapons and tools in order to be ready for whatever lurks around the corner. You must be prepared at all times because death is lurking just around the corner, because when nightfall drops on the island the orcs come out to play. This is where the game gets its namesake and this is the premise behind the game Orc Island. Your main objective as you run around during the day to is to maximize the sun and daytime in order to stockpile weapons and food to make it through the night. Once the sun sets and night starts the orcs begin to come out of hiding and will charge and swarm you and lay siege to anything in the open in a mad rush to kill you.
On the surface the games premise seems amazing and challenging at the same time. Unfortunately there are a variety of issues that mar the execution of the game and the ability to really enjoy it. While talking to RubberMan, one of the things the developer stated was that they didn’t want the game to be easy and that is very critical in any survival game. If you can easily survive then the game is not much of a survival game, but becomes a building game similar to Minecraft. However, in the execution of this vision the developer had a few flaws in the game. First, minerals were everywhere on the surface of the island which made it quite convenient so you didn’t have to dig for days to find what you need, but some of the most critical materials (such as iron) was no where to be found. This really creates an issue because only stew seems to fill your health adequately, if you tried to cook up corn, tomatoes, bamboo or wheat you just get burnt goods that might heal one quarter of a heart if you are lucky. Secondly, the detailed crafting system is excessively clunky and this impacts your ability to be as efficient as possible to create weapons and defenses to survive the night when orcs are out because you spend so much time trying to convert a raw material through multiple steps to finally get to a material you can use. Finally, the interface has some oddities with it, mainly with aiming. It is quite frustrating when there is a reticle to harvest and place building materials, but when it comes to shooting your bow or swinging a sword, you are at the mercy of a reticle-less aiming mechanic which leads to a lot of misses and lost weapons.
The game also has challenges of replayability because there is currently only one preset island. Once you learn that island and where everything is, the game just gets easier and easier. Now the developer has stated they are working on other islands, but in this day and age with procedurally generated worlds on the scale of Minecraft and even dungeons like Enter the Gungeon or Steamworld Heist, to have a level that is preset just leaves too much to be desired in this type of game. This becomes especially prevalent because you are stuck on a tiny island that takes no more than 5-10 minutes to walk completely around, so you run into the challenge of knowing where everything is, including all the minerals that can be found underground. I found myself just digging in the same places for the same minerals that I already knew were there.
Finally, there are still a lot of glitches and bugs. Enemies swarm together and move in a mob mentality. Chickens all come together and try to attack your farm if you aren’t guarding it. The orcs might spawn around the island but it only takes a few minutes before they all come together and really do lay siege to everything you have created.
The developer has stated that they will be providing free monthly updates for the game, including new islands and other features as they continue to develop the game. But even with that promise the game has quite a lot to be desired. The premise of the game is one that has proven itself time and again, but the problem is that with all the other options I’ve listed earlier, there are games I’d rather sink my time into because there are multiplayer options and much more that to the other games that are better polished. So the premise and execution of the genre gets a 7/10 for Orc Island. As for the gameplay, there is too much that mars the game and it impacts the premise to really make it successful. Maybe as the developer continues to enhance and work on the game it will become better but as of writing these flaws really place the game at a 4/10 and the overall score puts the game at 5.5/10.