The cold, the wind, the snow, the wildlife are all that stand between you and rescue. Work together to survive. That’s all there is to it. When push comes to shove, you all stand together to make it through. But, the truth of the matter is not everyone sees it that way. Welcome to the world of Project Winter. As the saying goes, keep your friends close but your enemies closer.
Developed and published by Other Ocean Interactive, this title has been in early access since February and has released to version 1.0 as of May 23rd 2019. It’s available for the PC, but the developers do plan to release on consoles in the future.
So what’s this title all about? It’s a survival game with a twist. There are 8 of you on a map, and the goal is to work together to escape before the timer runs out. However, a few of the group are classed as traitors, and their job is to stop the survivors by any means necessary. It’s a fairly sizeable map too. Isometric in the design layout, everything you need to survive is out there ready for the picking. Gather materials to craft items, and hunt wildlife to cook meat to fight hunger. Build fires to keep the cold at bay. All the usual aspects of a survival game are there. Health, hunger, temperature, you name it, it’s in here. But, with the traitor elements in the game, a new layer of fear has been added.
Not knowing who is who adds complexity to the game. Can you really trust the person who is super helpful? Offering advice by what to do, where to get goods from? What to craft? They may be doing this to lure you out on your own, ready to strike when a blizzard comes in or to take you down with a trap/landmine conveniently placed in a hut filled with goodies.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work?
Threats are everywhere. Wild bears and wolves prowl the wild, waiting for any chance to sink their teeth into you. The weather changes into wild blizzards that hamper your vision, paranoia sinks in through the form of whispers being carried across the winds. This ultimately leads into every person on the map changing into a white rabbit (this was freaky the first time I saw this). Being able to work together is key, however. If you gun this game alone, you will not survive. Period. Only by working together can you get the materials you need to be able to repair buildings, power stations and enter new areas that require more than one set of hands.
Communication is the key factor. By communicating with the team, you can see what is going on. There are several layers of chat available in the game: proximity voice chat, text chat, radio frequencies and emotes. With these forms of communication, you are able to build trust with your fellow survivors. Give out key bits of information to others to coordinate a strategy and find the gear needed to call in the rescue vehicles.
But be warned, for if you don’t know who the traitors are, they can use this knowledge as well to gain your trust and to come up with their own strategy and lay traps for you. It’s all a big game of cat and mouse. Who will strike first? Your buddy who has been really helpful, the woman who’s been out there on her own for far too long “gathering” supplies? The other survivor survivors all look too happy to go along with your ideas. See where I’m going with this? Trust no one. But, in spite of this, you need to work together to eliminate the traitors before they eliminate you.
Project Winter = Project Fear
With all this going on, it’s hard not to fear everyone in your group. You know that some of you are traitors, you just don’t know exactly who. Whittling down the list of potential suspects is part and parcel of the game. When you all start off, you are all in the hut at the centre of the map. You can then go off in any direction you want and gather what you think you’ll need. By communicating with your fellow survivors, you can build a social picture of who’s who: their strengths, their weaknesses, whether they’ll help you in case of emergencies, or if they’ll stab you in the back the first chance they get. This can make for some exciting gameplay. Tension brews around every corner, and when a message pops up saying that your recently fixed generator has been sabotaged, it really ramps up the guessing game.
A ballot box is also in the game. You can exile certain people if you don’t feel you can trust them. What this does is cast them out of the group, and they can no longer enter the hut, leaving them out in the cold. Alone. There are a multitude of ways to play this game. But, there is a flaw that I’ve seen that needs to be addressed.
Third-Party Chat Rooms
Yes, you know the like. Discord, Teamspeak, and other famous chat rooms. For most games, these are a blessing as you can openly communicate with friends across many games. But, in this instance, it is a hindrance as it detracts from the game’s focus on working together. Let’s put forward this scenario. You’re with a group of friends, let’s say five people. You all know each other pretty well. You join a game to fill out the remaining slots, and you get started.
Immediately, you have broken the core aspect of the game, which is to communicate with other people. You can tell your friends who is who across the length of the game session you’re in, and alliances will form to further your own agendas or personal vendettas against a certain player because he took your axe from the communal chest. Things like that ruin games were cooperation is key. To be honest, the first time I tried this, I was in a Discord group with my friends as I was given a few copies of this title from the developers/ publishers (thank you very much for that, by the way).
My friends and I were all in a Discord room the first time we tried it. As it’s a new game, our first thoughts were, “What do we do? How do we do it? And what’s the goal?”. So initially, we began by gathering materials, making axes, hunting for food, cooking food and opening huts and bases across the map whilst the rest of the team were off doing God knows what. But the other people could not communicate to us as we were in a group. So, we decided to start again but this time using the in-game chat system. This is where things got interesting. Treachery was afoot, traps were set everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I was afraid to set foot outside in case a bear trap was waiting for me under the snow or inside a house (this did happen with disastrous consequences for me).
A personal flaw of mine is that I am a terrible liar. I can’t lie effectively to save my life. I always have a tell. It became apparent right at the start of the game. If you have a full game, two people are traitors. In this case, I was one of them. The other was a random person whom we only just met in the game. At the start, traitors start out with a radio to communicate secretly. What I didn’t realise is that these radios can be built as well, so people can listen in to gain info; info that can (in this case) get you killed.
It is a fun game, and it can be a real blast to play with the right people. But it all depends on whom you play with. If you play with like-minded individuals, you’ll have a whale of a time guessing who’s who and trying to figure out who the traitors are before it’s too late. But, if you’re playing with people who don’t speak likely because they’re in a chat room, that can have disastrous consequences, so it’s all swings and roundabouts. I’m looking forward to seeing how Project Winter develops further, and I’ll be playing it for many months to come.
I would like to say give a massive thank you to my friends who helped with this review as I would not have been able to play this game effectively without them. They are as follows: kHz Livewire, kHz Darkside, BoldCobra and Godslit09.
Developer: Other Ocean Interactive
Publisher: Other Ocean Group
Release Date: 23rd May 2019