[This review contains some spoilers.]
Fragmented is a single or multiplayer first person survival game which can be played by yourself, as a co-op or in PvP mode. For the real nerds out there, it’s also basically a prequel to The Repopulation and comes from the same developers, but that’s a whole other story for a whole other post.
Players start on a hostile planet in their underwear with nothing but their bare hands. They have to scratch out their survival either by themselves or as a group. As you progress your technology gets better meaning you can build more powerful weapons, both ranged and melee, as well as making better clothing and structures.
This is not an MMORPG and while Fragmented features a bunch of guns, the game really isn’t about blasting things in the face. It’s about survival and starting from nothing.
The first thing to note here are the blue icons in the upper right corner of the screen. In order from top to bottom they are: Health Points, Stamina, Hunger, Thirst, Breath and Warmth. These icons are key to your continued life in the game. Stamina is stamina just like most other games and breath is how long you can stay under water without drowning…pretty standard fare.
Hunger, Thirst and Warmth, though, are different beasts. Hunger and Thirst work in a manner similar to “Exile” servers in Arma 3. If you let those bars drop to zero, you’ll start taking damage and die pretty quickly. Warmth is one you want to keep at a happy medium. Like Goldilocks, too cold and too hot are no bueno. Different sets of clothing will help you deal with temperature regulation, but that comes later.
As previously stated you start out with your hands and a pair of shorts. The first thing you need to do is start making yourself some tools. To do this, which took me a while to figure out, use your hands on small rocks until you get some flint. Having gathered flint and some items you can get from nearby plants you’ll be able to make yourself base tools such as a flint knife and flint pick. The pick will let you get the appropriate rocks you need to make a stone ax. These items will allow you to gather items you need much more efficiently, or in the case of the ax, from sources that were previously impossible for you to use.
It’s important to note that in many cases various tools can be used on the same resources. For example; if you kill a creature using a flint knife on it will yield different resources than using a skinning stone.
In some cases you may have numerous options including your hands and a number of different types of blades. You’ll want to consider this as you build your way towards better weapons and gear. Building a gun generally requires some amount of animal fat and only one tool that you have will harvest that for you.
As you move along you’ll be able to build crafting station items such as a stove, mortar and pestle, forge etc. Items like this stay in place once crafted, unless you move them, unlike a campfire which eventually goes out. You’ll also rapidly unlock the ability to build various firearms and other weapons if you apply your skill points correctly.
Over time you will be able to upgrade many of your tools as well. This will allow you to harvest new resources which will let you not only build new and better buildings, tools and gear but also upgraded guns and melee weapons.
Crafting in Fragmented starts with the ingredients you collect which initially are stored on your person. Space is limited but you rapidly gain the ability to build objects such as the Footlocker where you offload crafting ingredients you are not currently able or willing to use. You can also build bags which take up space in your inventory but which have more slots than the number of slots they take up, as such they offer a bit of an expansion on what you can carry.
You are limited on how many bags you can carry as bags each take up four normal spots in you inventory and give you limited access to the contents. For example, storing a weapon, tool, ammo, or medical assist device will not allow you to access it without opening the bag. The variety of bags you can carry does offer quite a bit of flexibility because harvested materials will autofill into the bags if you have at least one of the items in the bag. The largest craftable bag gives you 16 total slots with a net of 12 slots.
In the beginning, inventory management can be difficult as players may find that they don’t have enough space to pick up a crafting ingredient that they need. As such, inventory and crafting management is key to a smooth game. This will get slightly better as the player progresses but with more ingredients taking up space it continues to be an issue.
Finally, a few notes about clothing, gear and gameplay. First, both break down over time. Clothing and armor are damaged by combat while guns and tools are damaged by use. Players can unlock the ability to build repair kits or simply craft a new item when the original wears out. Secondly, the map for this game features a desert to the North and a snowy area to the South. As previously noted clothing that helps keep you warm or cool can be crafted. These clothing items are extremely useful as players expand their exploration of the world past the temperate forest zone in the middle of the map.
While patches have been released (17.8.1 being the most recent), as of this writing no major expansions or modifications to the game have been announced.
Guns and Gear
Guns and gear in Fragmented are what they are. They cannot, so far as I have seen, be modified or upgraded but rather are simply crafted “as is”. Unlocking the ability to make a newer and better version of something will require that you craft that new item independently.
As previously noted everything in this game breaks down over time, but the way that the game signals this to you is different for tools and melee weapons vs. firearms. In the lower right corner players will see a fraction. For a firearm this represents rounds in the weapon over the total number of rounds available. With a melee weapon the second number, the denominator for lack of a better term, tells you the number of uses until the weapon or tool breaks. This information for firearms is conveyed inside your inventory where there is a number on the actual gun that tells the player the current percentage remaining in terms of damage to the firearm caused by use.
Generally speaking, in Fragmented melee weapons do more damage than firearms do. Part of this is due to the fact that range weapons miss much more often than melee weapons do but part of it is just the nature of the firearms themselves especially early in the game before you can craft upgraded models. That being said, the firearms are somewhat realistic in their operation and the way in which they do damage. For example, shotguns actually pattern reasonably well while pistols are hard to hit targets with at longer ranges but still do decent damage if the player hits the target. Damage done is based on shot placement which might take a bit to nail down but is also acceptable.
That said, when you upgrade to higher level weapons, the firearm types and ammo types expand offering you a range of options (although they become less realistic). The higher level/damage firearms offer you a Fallout4 like selection that includes explosive grenades, cryoguns, and rocket launchers. These weapons are much more durable with around 800 uses before breakdown. However, like tha lower grade predecessors, these do have some targeting issues. These all “pack a punch” but reload very, very slowly.
Basically anything you can pick up in this game can be a weapon but items designed for combat are, as one might expect, much more effective for the purpose than if the player uses a pick-ax as a weapon.
The game does have some weapons issues however. For example: Pistols with no suppressors make a video-gamey silencer noise and reloading a shotgun moves your hands but there is no magazine removed or inserted into the gun which is kind of odd. The game also generally doesn’t differentiate ammo. If you build 500 rounds of “ammo” they’re interchangeable between say a shotgun and a pistol. Also odd but at the same time kind of cool is that depending on which skills are pursued, and in which order they are pursued, players can end up with a firearm will still relying on a flint knife or some other Stone Age piece of equipment.
Publisher: Above and Beyond Technologies
Release Date: August 15, 2017
DLC Content: Patches, no mods or expansions at present
Platform(s): Steam Early Access
Price: Steam: $9.99
Ratings (out of five stars):
Graphics: * * * * 1/2
Excellent, but with a few bugs.
Physics: * * * * *
Smooth, very realistic and, based on my playing of the game, basically bug free.
Story: * * *
It’s a survival game. The story isn’t terrible and the knowledge you pick up about the planet you’re on is cool. Overall, though, it’s nothing to write home about.
Playability: * * * * 1/2
This game has a heck of a learning curve but the controls are smooth and intuitive. Interface-wise it’s well done.
Customize This: * *
There’s no real customization in this game in terms of your gear or guns. What you build on the other hand is completely up to you. You can rough it in a log cabin or spend your time building a crazy high tech city.
Weapons: * * *
Lack of customization, a few failures in animation and sound and lack of power make firearms less useful than I’d really prefer. Melee weapons work well but…I’d rather be shooting things.
Balance: * * *
Depends on the server you play on. Running a local game or offline game you can set your own difficulty in a number of ways from how many creatures spawn to how much damage you take in combat or even what you get in terms of resources from an item you break down. These settings, when playing on your own server or in single player are changeable on the fly. Online servers are different, they set the rules and you either play by them or leave.
Overall: * * * 1/2
Fragmented is reasonably well done but it has flaws. Keeping in mind that it’s an Early Access game however, it’s a darn good start and really, as a test run for switching The Repopulation over to the Unreal Engine, they’re doing a pretty good job.