Another microtransaction controversy that I’m on the unpopular side of (Metal Gear Survive)

Once again the hive mind is in a tizzy about microtransactions, whipped into a frothing rage by gaming sites generating ad-revenue through manufactured drama.

The game is Metal Gear Survive, a game the mob was pre-disposed towards hating anyway because they think Hideo Kojima was treated badly by Konami so now Konami is way up at the top of the “game publishers we hate list.”

The issue in question is one of character slots. The game charges you the equivalent of $10 in their real-money currency to purchase character slots beyond the first one. People are losing their shit over this.

While I’m not going to condone this (or maybe I am, see below) I think it is taken out of context. There are very few reasons you’d need more than 1 character slot in this game. There are no classes and you can unlock everything on a single character. You can redesign your character at any time for free. There are no “A or B” decisions that would lock you out of options.

The only thing you can’t change is your character’s gender. So maybe some players would want both a male and a female character for some reason (there’s no difference in the two other than visuals…no romance options or anything like that).

So I can think of 3 reasons why you might want a 2nd character slot:
1) You want both a male and female avatar for some reason.
2) Two people want to play the game on the same system profile
3) You leave the game for a long time, come back and want a fresh start but want to save your old progress

If you really want a 2nd character and don’t want to pay, just create a new profile and use that. It takes just a few minutes to do. It’s trivial to side-step this microtransaction. It’s worth noting that you can delete an avatar to free up your 1 slot (not that case in all games…again, see below).

So why would I be in favor of it? MGS launched at $40. I have no way of knowing if this was part of the reason why, but if I had a choice of the game at $40 with paid extra character slots, or paying $60 and having a couple extra slots I’d never use, I’ll choose the $40 package.

So why did they do this at all? Only Konami knows for sure. This is one of those “always online” games so I assume it has something to do with data storage on their end (your data is stored on their servers). Y’know how Destiny limits the number of slots you can have, one for each class? Same thing, I’d imagine. Destiny just doesn’t offer you the opportunity to pay to unlock more.

Let’s talk about Forza Horizon 3 now. You get 1 character slot in that game, too. There’s no way to buy an extra one. There’s no way to delete the one you have (it is stored on the Forza servers). If you want to re-start FH3, the ONLY way to do that is to create a new profile. (I know this from personal experience, which is also why I have a second profile on my Xbox. I wanted to start over.)

You know how much controversy that generated? Zero.

So Metal Gear Survive offers options that Forza Horizon 3 didn’t offer, though they charge for them. More options apparently equals more controversy. Konami would have had fewer PR issues if they’d not even implemented extra character slots. To me, that seems backwards. Why are we punishing a company for offering more options?

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.

So far, Metal Gear Survive is pretty cool

Gotta make this quick cuz every minute I spend writing is a minute I’m not playing.

I took a chance on Metal Gear Survive. Yeah, I played the beta but the beta was just the co-op stuff. I was interested in the single player game. I wanted a game like Don’t Starve or 7 Days to Die but shinier. Better graphics, smoother gameplay. I was hoping Metal Gear Survive would be that and so far, it is.

I’m not a Metal Gear fan. I came to the game for the Survive part. That might make me unusual.

So far (and I only have a few hours into it, and there’s a LOT of cut scenes action at the start plus I spent WAY too much time creating my character) the basic loop is:

1) Scrounge for food/water so I don’t die
2) Scrounge for materials to craft with
3) Do quests when there is time

Quests (given by a pair of goofy/annoying AIs) are basically fetch quests: go find a memory core and bring it back. Said memory core is generally in the midst of a bunch of zombie things (not rotting-body zombies, closer to the creatures in The Last of Us. Human bodies that have been taken over by a life form) called Wanderers. When you bring it back to home base, it progresses the story and unlocks new game systems.

It doesn’t take long before you start having to enter the Dust which covers most of the world. To enter the Dust requires an air-tank, so now you have to monitor hunger, thirst and air supply. The Dust is really claustrophobic; you lose a lot of your hud and have to navigate by keeping an eye on the lights of high towers that rise over the dust layer.

So I scrounged and built a spear, hunted some sheep and foraged for clean water. Roasted up the mutton I’d taken from the sheep, then headed out to find a memory core. Your hunger and thirst levels go up fast, (lots of complaints that it is too fast but I find it a good challenge; also lore-wise, you are infected by this life form which might explain why they change so quickly) and faster if you’re sprinting or fighting. You do much better going at a slower pace, fighting only when it is required and using stealth to get the job done. This is going to drive a LOT of people crazy; the game rewards caution.

You can craft things, but as far as I can tell you can’t build buildings. Fences and barricades seem to be as far as things go. When you’re scrounging, you can smash up some things but not everything. So it’s not Fortnite, but it can feel kind of similar in the way you engage in the gather and build cycle.

Eventually I crafted a Rusty Machete and unlocked a skill system that I could use to open up special moves and so forth. I still use the spear a lot though, since I can jab Wanderers through chain link fences while staying safe from their clumsy attacks. Once you build gear you have to keep it in good repair and you can upgrade it, too. You’re always going to need more crafting materials.

Death is actually not super punishing. I did starve once. I had the choice of restoring my most recent save (the game auto-saves so you can’t just save every few minutes) or I could return to base camp, leaving all my stuff I’d gathered on my corpse, at which point I could go retrieve it.

At the end of the night I unlocked the co-op stuff. I was level 2. I was matchmade with a level 17, level 18 and a level 1 guy. Monsters are level 20. I died a lot. If you play, I suggest waiting a while before heading into co-op. I did get a lot of rewards though.

My next quest is to go off into the unknown parts of the map to find a teleporter, which sounds like they act sort of like towers in an Ubi game. If I find this place I think it’ll push back the Fog of War on the map, and offer me a Fast Travel option. I can’t wait to find out.

The game is getting pretty well ignored and/or hated on because of interactions between Konami and Hideo Kojima. Lots of review bombing going on.

But so far, I’m having fun. That it launched at $40 helps, too. My guess is that this is going to be one of those games that gets “discovered” when it goes on sale at some point, or is included as a freebie in Games with Gold or Playstation Plus. It’s hard to shout down the crowd and say “This is a good game” when so many are mad about the politics.

If you love survival games though, I’d say take a chance. If you want a game like the last Metal Gear, then I don’t think this is for you. I don’t feel much like Snake. I feel more like Rick from The Walking Dead trying to get supplies without setting off the Walkers.

After a second evening, still having fun. I’ve rescued another survivor, planted some crops, learned how to make flashlights and chemical lights just in time to be sent into a dark ruin. The game is really scratching a lot of itches for me. It’s the kind of game where if you set out on a quest and fail, you can still salvage some progress from it. Usually anyway. You’re always gathering Energy which acts as both EXP and currency. As long as you don’t flat-out die and restore a save, you’ve probably made a positive gain in energy during each outting whether you clear a quest or not.

I’m now using a bow which makes combat more fun. I switch it up between bow and machete, and I’ve learned a few more combat moves. Having a great time. Wish more people would give this a try.