What the heck is Metal Gear Survive, anyway?

Isey pointed out to me that I’d launched into a ramble about Metal Gear Survive without ever really talking about what it was, so let’s back up a bit.

MGS is a survival game presumably based in the Metal Gear universe. I’ve never played a Metal Gear game for more than a few hours so I can’t really speak to that aspect, unfortunately.

You start the game by creating a custom avatar, though there are no classes or anything like that so this is mostly cosmetic. A lot of long-ish cut scenes show you dying and being brought back to life and sent through a wormhole to an alternate dimension infested with a life form that takes over human bodies. You yourself are infected (which I guess is how you came back to life? It’s not clear) but how that plays out, I don’t know yet. It’s just a factoid at this point.

In this other dimension is a world similar to ours if you happen to live in a very arid part of the world. There are sparse trees, scrub grass, a few animals. There are also ruins of small buildings which seems to be outposts. You learn that a team was sent to this world prior to you coming but all contact has been lost, and I guess the idea is that you’re re-discovering things they built.

You are accompanied by a pair of annoying AI entities who give you advice and quests and so forth. I suggest using the Japanese voices with English sub-titles since the English AI voices are VERY annoying. You arrive empty handed, but there’s a rudimentary base waiting for you and in it, basic crafting tables.

So the first order of business is to craft a crummy weapon and find food and water. Since this is a survival game, eating and drinking are essential. If you don’t eat or drink you’ll die and hunger and thirst grows all the time, even when you are in the menus. There’s a lot of chatter about this aspect being too hard but I find it makes things interesting. Sprinting and fighting burn your energy reserves faster than walking and avoiding enemies so you have to be smart and patient if you don’t want food and water to be a problem. Yes, levels go down quickly but I just decided that was because my body is fighting this entity I’m infected with.

Before long the AI starts sending you on fetch missions for lost memory cores (and other items). These are what drive the game forward, both in terms of story and unlocking new technologies. Once you leave the immediate area around base camp you start encountering Wanderers. These are former people that the mysterious life form has taken over. Where their heads should be, there’s a red crystal. They basically act like zombies; they’re attracted to sound and movement and they’re pretty dumb. If you sneak up behind one you can insta-kill it. If you’re on the other side of a chain link fence you can just jab them through the fence and they’ll just keep clawing at you (though eventually the fence will collapse). They act a lot like Walkers on The Walking Dead, honestly.

When you kill Wanderers you get some Kuban Energy from them. You can also get this energy from some plant-like structures and I think from recovering memory cores? Don’t hold me to that last bit. Kuban powers everything. You need it to craft stuff and you need it to level up your character so there’s always this tension between “Do I build/upgrade my weapon or do I level myself up?”

So that’s your loop. Scrounging for materials/food/water, fighting Wanderers and finding memory cores, leveling up and/or improving gear, defense, crafting tables and the like. You’ll also find survivors who come back to your base camp and help you keep things going.

Soon enough you’ll encounter The Dust. Most of this world is covered by a dense dust storm and the boundary between it and clear spots is like a wall. Once you enter the Dust you need to use an oxygen tank, giving you one more resource to worry about besides food and water. It’s hard to see in the Dust and when you’re in an unexplored area you’ll lose things like your waypoint markers. You’ll have to navigate by looking at lights in the sky (which are actually beacons at the top of various towers). It’s pretty claustrophobic, particularly when you notice your oxygen is down to 20%, though in a pinch you can convert Kuban Energy into Oxygen, though it isn’t very efficient to do so.

Out in the Dust you’ll find teleporters that you can fast travel to. So now you start building out a network of Fast Travel points to go deeper into the Dust to get more stuff.

Then there is multiplayer. You can go on “Salvage Missions” with other players. These are 4-person co-op missions that are basically tower defense missions. You spawn into a lobby and then enter these missions so they aren’t directly connected to the single player world, but you do take all your stuff into them, and stuff you earn in them comes back with you. I’ve only done one of these so far since the enemies are level 20 so I’m waiting to get stronger (I’m level 9 or 10 after 3 nights of playing). My one experience in the co-op part of the game suggests that these missions are much more combat focused than the single player, but we’ll see.

Anyway so now hopefully you have a better idea of what the game is about. I love survival games so I’m loving this. To me it’s really fun to work from pointy sticks and eating gerbils that you catch, to crafting bows and eventually firearms while building farms and rainwater collectors, and discovering recipes to make mutton stew or purifying dirty water into clean. Which is about how far I’ve gotten here.

Resources that you scavenge eventually respawn based on a real time clock as far as I can tell. (Though they take a long time…one that I pillaged Tuesday night didn’t respawn until Thursday night.) Stuff like growing crops also seems to work on a real time basis. I love this because it means there are no bad choices since there are infinite resources to collect. So sure, build fences all over the place; eventually the iron you use will respawn. It also kind of rewards people who game on a normal schedule. I think those complaining about struggling to find food and water are the people who can play 12 hours a day.

The Dust is super creepy. I saw a creature in it last night that is called The Lord of Dust and it was gigantic. Hundreds, if not thousands, of feet long. Waiting for it to pass was like waiting for a freight train to pass (all the while my Oxygen was ticking down). And I’ve been sent into ruins in the Dust. As if it wasn’t creepy enough, now I’m in a dark underground corridor filled with creepy crawlies. No visibility due to both darkness (though I crafted a flashlight!) and Dust. Then there’s the thrill when you find an abandoned base that includes the plans to make molotov cocktails and you think about those creepy crawlies again… oh yeah, revenge is sweet.

Anyway yeah, I’m enjoying it a lot. It’s available on PS4, Xbox and PC and on consoles it’s $40. Probably the same on PC. I’m playing on the Xbox One X (it’s an Xbox One X/PS4 Pro enhanced title). No performance issues so far.