Impressions: Savage Resurrection

Savage is back. That’s right; that relatively popular game you might not have heard of from 2003 (and the 2008 sequel) has been resurrected. Well, almost. Savage Resurrection is currently in early access on Steam. As it stands now, the game is basically a remake of the first Savage game. The primary goal of early access is, of course, to finish the game, but aside from that, developer S2 is focusing on community involvement to help shape what Savage Resurrection becomes in time.

For the unfamiliar, Savage: The Battle for Newerth was an original mash-up of two popular genres: Real Time Strategy and Shooters. At the time, Warcraft 3 was big, and shooters, well, shooters have always been big. One person plays the RTS game, building structures, mining resources, and commanding units. Everyone else controls a lowly footman. It’s almost two games in one. You have the RTS experience of the commander, and the shooter experience of those on the ground. There are also some RPG elements thrown in for good measure. The game isn’t a heavy RPG, but there is an XP system, and you do level up, and each level grants you a predetermined perk. Savage was a special kind of game. A few have tried similar things – notably Natural Selection – to various degrees of success, but none of them have clicked with me as well as the original Savage did.

So how does this new Savage stack up to the original? Impressively, actually. Resurrection looks like Savage (a bit better, actually, thanks to Unreal Engine 4) and for the most part it plays like Savage. Battles play out between the two opposing factions, the Humans and the Beasts, and much the real world, war is funded with gold. Regardless of your faction, everyone needs it in order to upgrade to better units and to buy weapons and consumables.

If you have a good commander, he or she will be issuing orders out the gate. Mine these resources. Help construct this building. It’s probably best to listen to orders, just because a team that works together wins together, or some other such idiom. If you want, though, you can ignore any orders and go off on your own, a true battlefield warrior.

A good way to get both gold and XP is to kill the creeps spread across the map. Most of these are easy to vanquish, but there are a few harder ones thrown into the mix; an indicator of difficulty would be nice, so you don’t run up to an unfamiliar creep and get your head chopped off. Earn enough gold, which is kept when you die, and you can buy items that your commander has taken the time to research. You can also run back to the base in order to tweak your loadout without dying, but considering there’s no death penalty aside from a respawn timer and losing everything you’ve bought (okay that’s a pretty big one), it’s usually okay to die early on in the game. But once you’re dumped 7k on your loadout (of the 10k gold cap), you may want to work harder to preserve your life.

Both factions have six different units, or classes, of increasing gold cost. The default one is free, and weakest. He’ll do at the start of the game, or if you find yourself broke after wasting all of your gold to become a veritable one-man-army and then dying in five seconds flat. After the free unit, there are two more warrior-type classes that are better, but more expensive. Then there are the specialist classes. Unlike the previous three, these cannot have their loadoats edited. What you see is what you get. Those include two siege units and a support. Siege units are the most expensive units in the game. They’re big and hulking, and can obliterate buildings. The support class provides necessary healing to the troops since nobody likes to die.

Both the Humans and the Beasts have their own arsenal and tech trees, and while a lot of aspects are parallel, there is enough uniqueness to both factions to make them interesting in their own way. Humans have a traditional vibe with assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles – you know the drill. They’re all energy weapons that shoot lasers instead of bullets, but the gist is the same. Beasts have a lot of similar analogs, but overall their arsenal is more unique, and features weapons that are magical of nature, and use mana instead of ammo. One shoots fireballs. Another shoot a fast-moving ice spike but still functions similarly to a sniper rifle. One of the weapons is casts a hail of large, icy balls in a wide spread.

Weapons and FPS funzies aren’t all there is to the game, though. There’s also melee combat, which is actually a large part of Savage despite being labeled as a shooter. Equip your melee weapons, and you zoom out to third person. Each faction has its own special move while in melee. Humans can block, and Beasts can leap. A successful block briefly dazes an attacking Beast, letting the Human get a free hit or two in. Leaps can be used to easily dodge enemy weapon fire, or confuse a melee attack, or to simply get around the map in style.

There’s also a stamina system, which is consumed by both sprinting, and the beast’s leap. Pools are fairly limited, but the more expensive soldiers have more stamina, and a few of the leveling up rewards can increase your pool. Stamina has a tendency to drain too quickly and regenerate too slowly – especially if you’re playing a Beast and leaping like a rabbit. Maybe the stamina system could use some tweaks, or maybe people will just need to be conscious of their stamina and manage it accordingly. Since stamina is more important to Beasts, one of the consumables increases the regeneration rate. Humans get a med kit instead, though. Other consumables include a relocator to allow humans to teleport back to a point they’ve designated. There’s also Sacrificial Dagger that allows a Beast to turn themselves into a walking timebomb.

Melee itself is currently a bit clunky. Most of the time it revolves around circle strafing your opponent until one of you manages to kill the other. Blocking can help, but it seems to affect a pretty narrow cone in front of you, either that or it’s just a little buggy thanks to latency. The daze that happens from a successful block could also be increased by a half second, if that. Sometimes it seems to wear off a split second before you can get a counter attack in, but that might be another case of latency. Just because of how unreliable the block can be, the leap seems a bit better in melee at the moment, despite its stamina dependency.

At the moment, ranged combat seems to be more powerful – especially the sniper rifles – and you don’t really want to try to get in and melee a ranged attacker. You can die really fast in Savage Resurrection. Maybe too fast. A few well-placed shots will kill even the toughest of the soldiers, but the siege minions can take a beating, but when the entire enemy team is doing the beating, even they don’t last long. Overall, the time it takes to kill enemies and the damage that weapons do, both ranged and melee, could be scaled back somewhat. Right now the game is 12v12 for custom games, or 7v7 for the competitive mode. S2 has said that these numbers might change, and if they go up, I can see Savage evolving into a gigantic death-fest. Healing is limited, and people willing to play healers are too few at the moment.

Of course all of this is only half the game. The commander plays the other half. They’re the one creating buildings to research new weapons or technology, or establishing new bases to gather resources. They can also build defensive structures to defend said bases. I wouldn’t recommend hopping into the pilot’s seat without familiarizing yourself with commanding at least a little, either through reading online resources, or through the bot matches. Those are still a heavy work in progress, though. Bots will control all of the units, and they won’t respond to orders at all, but it’s still a good way to see what commanding’s all about.

Generally, though, expanding and setting up bases to mine resources is the most important part of a commander’s job. They also have their own gold stocks, which can be used to fulfill requests from players for acquisitions they can’t afford. There are also buffs you can give to soldiers who are in a pinch, or are the walking personification of death.

For obvious reasons, the commander is the most important role. Two good ones and Savage is infinitely more enjoyable. You can vote to impeach a bad one, but since the game just came out, a lot of players seem okay with letting new commanders do their things – or try at least. The community so far has seemed pretty accepting and generally helpful. There are always a few bad apples who expect everyone to be an expert from day one, but that’s not unexpected, and hopefully those players don’t start to outweigh the understanding ones.

S2 has said that optimization is their biggest concern in the immediate future, and I can see why. You’re not going to be running around at 3 FPS (at least I hope not; just don’t try playing the game on a potato). If you have a halfway decent rig, you should be able to maintain at least 30 FPS, if not more, just don’t expect much improvement by messing with the graphic settings. At the moment, performance remains largely the same regardless of quality levels.

The game itself will retail for as much once it comes out as it does now: $25, but there will be cosmetic microtransactions, much like a lot of other games. Get a crate, buy a key, and open her up. Players get those crates, as well as cosmetic gear itself, at the end of the match, at random. It’s a pretty typical system, and I’m looking forward to more varied armies down the line, where not everyone looks the same.

I was pretty excited upon hearing that Savage was being resurrected, and upon playing it, it does seem to have the spark that made its predecessor so fun, however that spark still needs a fair bit of stoking, but that’s what early access is for. I’m not sure how much I’m going to play Savage Resurrection for the time being, but that’s mostly because I know Overwatch will occupy my soul for the foreseeable future. At least that’ll give S2 Games plenty of time to continue and improve the game, and I’m excited to see where it’s going, and I’ll definitely be checking in regularly. If you were a fan of the original – 13 years ago, then there’s definitely a good reason to check it out. If not now, then in a few months.

About Josh Price

Josh Price is a writer who probably spends too many hours of the day playing video games. At some point he decided to put the two together to (hopefully) great effect. He also wrote some fiction. You should check that out if you're into such things, which you should be. Reading is FUNdamental.

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