At E3 2018 we got to see Scavengers in its early stages, as Midwinter Entertainment was in town to demonstrate the concept behind the multiplayer game. This year not only did we get to see the first gameplay trailer - which you can see above - but we also got our hands on the title along with the Midwinter team in LA. We were thrown into a match and given a chance to experience the unique 'co-opetition' Scavengers is looking to offer, and along with another journalist and a trained developer, off we went.
"Scavengers is what we call a survival shooter co-opetition, and it sort of plays out within each session through three main phases of play," Midwinter CEO and co-founder Josh Holmes explained to us when we talked to him. "So the first phase is what we call the Explorer Phase, and this is where all the teams are dropping into the large, open map and they're starting to hunt around and scavenge for items and equipment and weapons. They're starting to build up some materials and resources, collecting those with their keeper robot that accompanies them within the session, and then they're drawing up a plan for the mission ahead."
"And then in the main phase - which is what we call The Hunt - this is where players are going out and they're trying to retrieve samples of Scourge DNA virus to bring back to the space station they've been sent down from, and so they're going to be in various locations around the map, harvesting samples from shards of the asteroid that's struck our moon, and they are collecting those and engaging in PvE combat with a lot of AI that inhabits the map. And then this is also at times an opportunity for PvP because while each of these different locations gets exhausted, there are fewer and fewer places to go on the map, which then leads teams to converge."
"As you're going through this process, collecting these samples helps you level up your character and gives you new things to craft using your keeper robot, and that allows you to become more powerful. You're able to build weapons and equipment and gear upgrades, and then assuming that all of you working together can accomplish your shared goal for the mission, then the station AI will send down a dropship and you enter a third and final phase which is Extraction, and here all of the different teams are converging on the dropship location and they're trying to fight their way forward and manage to get to safety aboard the ship and carry their samples back. And that then contributes to your progression within your meta-career playing in Scavengers.
This is all necessary to outline first and foremost because this is what dictates the play in Scavengers, much like the gradual reduction of the play area does in traditional battle royale games like Fortnite and PUBG. Scavengers does indeed play like a battle royale at times, pushing players together before they all descend on one point for victory, however, the beauty of this game is that it also fuses these ideas together with things pulled from other genres.
Survival is perhaps the most prominent genre in there, as the early game is all about ensuring you stay alive by dropping in, collecting weapons, and keeping your vitals healthy. You'll need to forage for food and keep your temperature above freezing, so while you're looking for samples you'll also need to find fires and animals to hunt and sustain yourself. It's no use getting the samples if your long-term plan isn't there, after all.
In our first match this actually led to catastrophe for our squad, as our overconfident journalists took on a giant bear for the big rewards, but it ended up downing two of our warriors, before the other took a slightly dangerous route down the side of a cliff to help them and ended up down and out as well, ending our run.
It's not just bears that pose emergent problems, as storms also sweep into the map to drop your temperature dramatically and reduce visibility, pushing players and dictating the play. All these elements, from resources to NPC locations, make sure that each match of Scavengers is different and unique, which we found a lot more varied than comparative battle royale, especially since there are more phases than simply being the last man standing.
Once we tagged out with another group and jumped back in we had found our footing a bit more and got to hunting not only animals for food and crafting materials (during which time we crafted a weapon to use and cooked some food on a fire), but we also found some bandits to take down. After dealing with their threat we stole their loot, and off we went in search of samples, which was becoming an increasingly urgent task.
As Holmes mentioned, that quest for samples naturally pushes you towards other players on the map, and the progression of players and the transition initiated by the survival-based gameplay to PvE and PvP combat feels organic and natural. It's not just a circle forcing you together, but you're growing need to get enough samples to escape, which may mean actually leaving some other human player unharmed if you believe that fighting them won't help your overall goal. Once that goal is hit though, it's every team for themselves, which is the 'competition' half of 'co-opetition'.
Unfortunately, our second run was ended when another team came over a ridge and took us by surprise, at the same time as a group of Scourge were nibbling at our heels. We didn't end in a blaze of glory, but that illustrates just how the cookie crumbles in Scavengers; you may stumble across some unwilling victims as you come over a hill, or be pincered by two factions by chance. If one match goes badly, chances are the next won't... at least not in the same way.
In terms of the actual combat we dealt with, the variety of weapons is evident already, and there are various types of guns to collect. A bow is good to start with as you hunt wildlife, but as you progress there are more powerful items in your arsenal that you can unleash, which should help you against other players with the same. By the time all the remaining teams reach the dropship, the gunfire is a real spectacle, and it creates some very tense gameplay as you're all clawing for the same thing.
We only got a brief and ill-fated look at Scavengers during our time at E3, but what we saw left us wanting more. You learn from your mistakes and you know the same scenario won't happen again, and that leaves you wanting to try again and again to get that little bit better, which is the same pull we remember feeling when battle royale first dropped on the scene. We're intrigued to see how Scavengers develops - we just hope we don't run into any bears next time we're out collecting samples.