A while ago, at E3 2019, we were given a look at an upcoming title from Midwinter Entertainment. The game, Scavengers showed off an icy hostile world, packed with enemies, deadly nature and mutated creatures, but since that day nearly 18 months ago, very little has been teased about the title and quite frankly, we almost forgot about it. At least that was the case up until a few days ago when we were given a chance to try out the title for the first time, in an online preview event featuring three matches of multiplayer goodness.
For those who need a catch-up on Scavengers, this is a multiplayer shooter that combines PvE and PvP elements together, to form a style of battle royale, where survival is more important than a kill count. The game uses a series of unique characters and weapons, and mashes them together with a looting, crafting and scoring system to make for a pretty unusual 3-player online game mode, and that's unusual in a good way.
You see, while Scavengers uses a BR format of dropping a bunch of players into a huge map, where only one team can win: it isn't in the same vein as Fortnite and Warzone, and the best way to win isn't to hunt down foes for loot. Instead, in Scavengers, looting items and weapons and completing objectives for Data Points is the best way to win, as you can get a lead on the opposition by engaging primarily in PvE encounters. Considering this is a PvP game also, you will have to fight real opponents from time to time, but unless your entire squad is eliminated, you will respawn after a short period.
The PvE is built around defeating one of two factions of enemies, Outlanders and the Scourge. Outlanders are cannibalistic remnants of humanity left behind after the disaster that caused the planet to become as inhospitable as it is. The Scourge on the other hand are mutated beings, turned into terrifying abominations due to a strain of infection. You will have to head to a variety of points of interest across a sprawling map, to fight either of these factions in order to be able to collect the Data Points they are protecting.
The Data Points are acquired by letting your Watcher Drone companion (sort of like a rudimentary Ghost from Destiny) investigate a specific item in these areas, to claim a set amount depending on the difficulty of the encounter (of which will be made clear on the map). The more you amass, the higher up the leaderboard you will go, and the only way to win is to retain the most at the end of the game, which means both surviving and collecting.
Alongside collecting Data Points, you will also have to hit other locations across the map to grab salvage to be able to craft upgrades and new items. The scrap material you claim works in the same way as Data Point mining does, and will require your Watcher to investigate a specific object to acquire them. Once you do have some scrap however, you can build upgrades for your shields (which is essentially an extension of your health bar), or instead build a stronger weapon or some equipment; it's really your choice, and it depends on what you have equipped in your character's loadout.
The playable characters each have defined roles and special weapons they can craft unique to them, which give them certain playstyles. Valora for example, comes equipped with a hard-hitting shotgun special weapon and can use a deployable shield to protect herself and teammates from damage. Letty on the other hand can craft a mid-to-long range hand cannon and can use a short range EMP blast to knock enemies away from her. The point is, whichever character you pick will give you a different style of gameplay. Whether that's a more supportive team role or a more aggressive one depends on how you use the character, their abilities and their signature weapons.
As I've mentioned a few times previously, survival is key in Scavengers. The thing is, it isn't just about dealing with the AI enemies and opposing players, because the cold can and will kill you if it gets the chance. To be able to deal with this, you will have to light fires around the map to warm up, or instead pick up or craft equipment that will reduce how much the cold is affecting you. On top of this, you will also have to evade, or survive wandering icy storms that resemble giant tornados of frozen winds. You can find shelter to wait these out, or just push through them, however, they will freeze you at a much faster rate than usual, so care should be taken doing so. Since Scavengers is pretty much a BR at its core, you will have a series of occasions where the map size decreases due to a raging storm outside the playable boundaries, and if you don't avoid it, you will die very, very quickly.
The really interesting part about Scavengers however, is that whilst it does feature a lot of battle royale influence, it's also a completely unique entity. You don't find hugely more powerful weapons across the map, you have to craft those to use them, which means gathering scrap to do so, and investing on alternative areas other than shielding or equipment. Likewise, there are roaming bosses to tackle who will offer Data Points upon their demise. Due to the size and health pool of these beings, opposing teams will often work together to bring one down, before ruthlessly attacking each other for the spoils of war. There are also vehicles scattered across the map that resemble hovercrafts, but the catch is to use them, you have to repair them, which means again spending valuable scrap.
The real challenge of Scavengers isn't fighting opposing players, or mowing down AI enemies, it's resource management and strategy. If you think you can just hunt players down all game, someone else who has been farming objectives might take the win, or likewise, if you prioritise objectives too much, a team who has invested time into gathering scrap might blow you out of the water with superior weapons, shielding and the help of a vehicle. Alternatively, you might have been doing great until an ice storm passed over you a couple of times, and because you forgot to stock up on cold protection equipment, you might just freeze to death.
The point is, Scavengers looks to be at its core a revitalised version of the battle royale experience that has up until this point been milked dry. By focussing so much on PvE and survival, players who would normally be put-off by the hardcore nature of most BR games can look forward to one that can seriously enable strategy over pure mechanical skill. Furthermore, by using a three-person team system, and by adding characters with unique skill sets alongside a variety of weapons, different playstyles can be explored instead of just feeling directed toward using the meta items, as is the case with Warzone or Fortnite. Obviously, considering the genre, Scavengers won't be for everyone, however, anyone who is looking for a new multiplayer experience should definitely give this one a go, as you might find it as surprisingly fun as I did.