Spending a weekend backpacking across a massive jungle island is something many people would pay loads of money to do. Just you against nature. A little hunting, cooking on an open fire, crafting a spiked bat to bash the shit out of some raptors. Sounds like a dream come true. On Island 359, this dream is yours to enjoy.
Okay, so it’s not really a vacation. More like an action adventure game, created by CloudGate Studio, where you take on the role of a mercenary. Your mission, figure out what happened to everyone, loot everything, and survive long enough to enjoy your spoils. The only thing standing in your way is six square miles of dinosaur infested island. But hey, you got this! Let’s check out what this prehistoric bird has to offer.
The Island Time Forgot
As I mentioned, you take on the role of a mercenary. You get hired to go check out why your employer’s outposts are not responding. After getting dropped off by chopper Dave, you quickly discover that this island just happens to be the land of the lost, as a huge t-rex abruptly tries to give chopper Dave a hug. Now your stranded.
Not all hope is lost though. You will find out that some of the other mercs are still alive and they quickly fill you in on how you can survive. You’re going to need to scavenge for gear, hunt for food and medicine, and go full on Nesingwary on the local dinosaur population. Basically, you want to survive.
Your Life as a Merc
Island 359 gives you a couple game modes that aid in your survival. For starters, you have the Arcade mode. This is just a simple wave shooter situation where you find yourself armed with a couple guns, or a bow. This mode would have been way cooler if it actually had you situated in a base where you could still craft or fortify yourself but opts to just have you standing out in the open. You don’t even get to move, which is really pretty lame, given what it could have been.
The next game mode is the Mercenary mode. Now this is where things get fun. You are choppered in to one of three locations on the island, where you must venture out and hunt some dinos. As you do, you get rewarded with loot drops. You need to secure the drop, loot what you can, and then make it back to your base for pickup, without dying on the way back. If you do this, you get credits to spend at the local Merc mart, and get to keep all your new loot!
What do you need all that loot for, you ask? Our final game mode, Survival. In this game mode, you are on you own, trying to hold out as long as you can. You need to monitor your health, stamina, hunger, and energy in order to stay alive. This is also the game mode where you truly venture out into the island, opening up the map as you find clues about what happened to its inhabitants. You will also find yourself crafting at the crafting tables and pitching tents at inopportune times.
Taking Control of the Situation
The controls in Island 359 are pretty simple. You grip things, you pull triggers, and you use common sense physics. In other words, you grip a door handle and pull, and the door opens. Pretty easy. Overall, everything felt solid with the controls, aside from a few item interactions being buggy. The game features lots of options for customizing your characters height and arm length, so things feel as natural as possible.
Island 359 also features grip assist to aid players with limited space. You just point at an item within range and wait for it to glow. It should also be noted that this game supports full body tracking and does so very well. If you have the Vive Trackers, slap them on your feet and you will be kicking the shit out of dinosaurs in no time at all.
You have the full range of locomotion controls, including smooth/snap turning, and teleport or free movement. The crafting stations are pretty simple to use as well. You just drop the items you want to combine on the table, and poof. It would be interesting to require the players to actually craft the items themselves, but the system works so I won’t complain.
Beautiful and Deadly
Graphically, Island 359 is a beast. But, it is a forgiving beast. If you have the power, it will deliver a truly stunning world, with some great effects. Lower end systems will also get a good-looking world, but with less polish and shine. The game provides a fair amount of options to get most systems in the sweet spot for a good gaming experience.
The guns, world, dinosaurs and items all look great. The character models are a little lackluster, but you really see so few that it hardly matters. The inventory is simple to and clean as well. You have two body slots on your chest, and an upgradeable backpack that you throw down to open up. Now, most assets in the game are reused pretty heavily, but I never really found myself distracted by that during gameplay.
The audio in Island 359 is clean and well rounded. All of your dinosaurs have audio cues that you need to listen for. All of the items ingame have the sounds you would expect to hear attached and the world itself has a good atmosphere going on. You even get another merc that will egg you on, in the Mercenary game mode, through your radio.
Island 359 does have some issues. Items can sometimes fall through objects. The AI doesn’t really seem to react to sound, just movement. That damn tent likes to not stay in its inventory slot when I am rooting around in my backpack. Seriously, it will pop up at the worst freaking times. I am also not wild about the dinosaurs respawning in areas I have already cleared. At least not as fast as they currently do. It felt like as soon as I would get more than 15 feet away, that area was back to being infested.
Minor issues aside, the game is a lot of fun to explore. Being able to go out and loot items, or earn credits to buy items, and then take them with you into the Survival mode is really enjoyable. There is something incredibly gratifying about finding a silencer to put on your gun or crafting a new weapon to take down a raptor with. Then you add the tried and true survival game mechanics on top of this, and you got yourself a solid way to kill a weekend.
Right now, you can pick up Island 359 for only $19.99 and that is a fair asking price for the content you get. It is available for the Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive. While the Windows Mixed Reality hmds are not officially listed, the developers have stated that their Asus unit worked, but they would love some feedback on other WMR hmds. Be sure and let us know what you think of this little island getaway, and happy hunting!