ZERO Sievert is an Unrefined but Atmospheric Survival Experience | TechRaptor (2024)

When it comes to stuff in indie games that feels outplayed, survival games and procedural generation seem like they’d be at the top of that list. But hold your horses, ZERO Sievert, a new Survival action RPG just out on Early Access, has more to offer than those labels might make it sound at first. By mixing in permanent elements to the world and aiming for a lone-survival, S.T.A.L.K.E.R vibe, this game has the potential to become more than the sum of its parts. Whether it will go beyond potential still remains to be seen.

As I said above, ZERO Sievert is a survival action RPG with more than a dash of S.T.A.L.K.E.R-esque irradiated post-apocalyptic wasteland thrown in for good measure. It also had the distinction of being a 2D-pixel art affair, so I suppose you could call it 2D S.T.A.L.K.E.R, but that’s not quite telling the entire story either. It might be chasing S.T.A.L.K.E.R, but it feels closer to an apocalyptic take on Pixel Piracy than anything produced by GSC Game World.

As of right now, the game doesn’t seem to feature much of a story. You get some setup, namely that the world has been destroyed in a nuclear war, and the last scraps of humanity (as far as you know) are holed up inside the Bunker, and it's from here that you’ll make your raids into the wasteland to scavenge for supplies. Beyond that, the story mostly exists in the text you get when taking on random missions.

ZERO Sievert is an Unrefined but Atmospheric Survival Experience | TechRaptor (1)

So, the main appeal of the game currently lies in the primary gameplay loop, which is going out into the wasteland, completing missions and scavenging resources/equipment, find an extraction point to get home safely. As you repeat this, you steadily increase the quality of your equipment and upgrade your base at the bunker until you become a master of the post-apocalyptic world.

When you start out, you’re given a few different bundles of equipment to choose from, and this choice has a huge impact on how successful you are. Starting out, you only have the guns, armor, and resources that you get in these starter kits, and almost everything you meet will be more capable than you. Knowing which package to choose for your playstyle is critical, and it’s also probably something that you’re going to have to try and get wrong a few times. That said, it’s viable to win with any equipment if you’re competent and lucky enough.

To say that the ZERO Sievert is unforgiving when you start out is an understatement. You basically get plonked down into the wilderness with a handful of supplies and have to try and gather better equipment before something finds you and ends your brief existence. Your first few times, you’re going to die. Honestly, even your later attempts are probably going to result in death around half of the time. The only saving grace here appears to be that there’s not much of a downside for dying besides dropping the stuff you found in that run.

ZERO Sievert is an Unrefined but Atmospheric Survival Experience | TechRaptor (2)

So, how do you actually go about surviving the game when all you’ve got is a pop-gun and two packs of gum? You have to use The Sneaky™. The element of surprise is your only friend most of the time, and even then, you’re going to need to start with something small. Just take out some animals and lump their carcasses back into camp, because human enemies seem to have an unfair advantage in the ‘spotting you first’ department.

The next difficulty in ZERO Sievert is getting out again. You get dropped off in the middle of the map by train, but to leave, you have to find a randomly generated spot on the map and stand there for around 5 seconds. This does mean that sometimes you’ll have to cross the entire map to find an exit, but it honestly promotes having extreme awareness of the map each time you load into it, which fits with the low-tech post-apocalypse vibe the game is going for.

I guess the only real problem there is the procedural generation, which technically makes each level ‘different’, but it doesn’t really. Like most procedural games, it just makes the levels feel generic and undesigned, especially since each of the currently-available 5 areas has at least 1 or 2 major features that are always around anyway. In the end, procedural generation adds nothing to this game but also takes nothing away, so it’s a null value.

ZERO Sievert is an Unrefined but Atmospheric Survival Experience | TechRaptor (3)

All that said, there is enjoyment to be found in ZERO Sievert. Slowly building your character up to use better and better equipment over time is fun, and there’s a great atmosphere all over the place. If you’re the sort of person who loves this kind of experience, then it will properly suck you in. On the other hand, right now, it’s a little too early to appeal to almost anyone else. There are lots of little patched-over holes and missing options that make it feel like an unfinished experience, which of course, it is.

Right now, several dialogue options are greyed out or labeled (being worked on.) There are only five destinations for the train, but there are a bunch of empty spaces to show there are more levels to come in the future. All of this makes sense for an early access game, but the feeling of being an incomplete experience also extends to the gameplay. There’s a general air of a game that still needs a lot of polish and balancing to become truly addictive and playable.

ZERO Sievert is an Unrefined but Atmospheric Survival Experience | TechRaptor (4)

If you like your experience a bit unrefined and tough-as-nails in a twitchy-trigger-finger sort of way then you’ll probably get a hoot out of it, but you also risk ruining the experience before it’s fully developed. On the other hand, if you get it now, trying to take a screenshot opens the debug menu, causing you to run really fast and not take damage anymore, and you know that’s going to be gone in the full version. There are the bones of a good experience here, but personally, I’m not sure that’s enough to keep me playing until the full game actually shows up.

TechRaptor previewedZERO Sieverton PC via Steam with a code provided by the developers.

ZERO Sievert is an Unrefined but Atmospheric Survival Experience | TechRaptor (2024)
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