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Review RPG Codex Review: NEO Scavenger

Infinitron

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Tags: Blue Bottle Games; NEO Scavenger

NEO Scavenger is a hardcore post-apocalyptic survival-focused roguelike, developed by Daniel Fedor of Blue Bottle Games. Released last December after spending over two years in paid beta/Early Access, the game got lots of love from the relatively few Codexers who bothered to play it. It was brave Gamasutra warrior Felipepepe who volunteered to review this worthy title, and many months it took him to uncover its secrets. Today, I am proud to (finally) present the official RPG Codex review of NEO Scavenger. Have a snippet:

Combat in NEO Scavenger is very special - so much that even the mainstream gaming media devoted an article to it.

It is presented in a simple interface, with your actions and current status on the left, the enemy's on the right, and the current terrain characteristics in the middle. Just like in other events, you select commands, such as “Shoot”, “Kick” or “Walk towards”, and the combat log will describe what happened. There's a wide variety of combat actions that can be performed, depending on the circumstances and on your position, traits, and equipment.

For example, if the enemy is unaware of your position, you can shout to reveal yourself and then try to strike up a friendly conversation (or trick him into believing you are friendly), or you can remain silent and try to sneak up on him. On the other hand, if you are the one being ambushed, then your options will be restricted to searching for the enemy, taking cover, fleeing or [Stoic] just waiting. If the enemy is far away, you can slowly walk towards him or make a quick charge – but that leaves you more vulnerable and increases your chance of tripping and falling over. If you do fall over, you can try to get up, roll in any direction or even attempt to grab the enemy's leg to pull him down too. A character with the "Tough" trait can headbutt enemies, a "Strong" one can create obstacles, a "Trapping" one can set traps, etc. Even your equipment plays a part here - a character wielding a powerful weapon or maybe even just wearing a creepy clown mask can be a lot more persuasive in getting enemies to surrender or flee.

Of course, there's not a single frame of animation in NEO Scavenger, and combat is no exception. The combat log is all the feedback you'll ever get, apart from the occasional nasty status alert popping up on your status screen or the enemy's. While this may seem crude, it allows for actions that even AAA developers would find a challenge to animate, such as headbutting, leg tripping or parrying - all while wielding a frying pan and pushing a shopping cart.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: NEO Scavenger
 

LusciousPear

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Thanks for reviewing this. The game really was a joy to explore, and a fantastic mythos (even if I had to look at the source code to understand it all).
 

dcfedor

Blue Bottle Games
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Thanks for the comprehensive review! There are some great observations made here, and I think it will inform my future design decisions. Also, good mod picks!
 

felipepepe

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Thanks for the comprehensive review! There are some great observations made here, and I think it will inform my future design decisions. Also, good mod picks!
Thank you for reading. I know that you tried something different with the CYOA segments, and that most insta-death scenarios are signaled, if subtly, but I really felt they detracted from the game, leaving you without options.

Still, I applaud you for this great game, and for the bold implementation of some concepts. :salute:
 
Self-Ejected

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Good review. I agree with all the positive observations; as for the critcism of the CYOA sections, I can't really bring myself to fault a roguelike for squirrelling away some difficult-to-access story content. A little more clarity with the hints would have helped, but I don't see the problems as badly as you do; particularly since the story segments can be advanced more quickly as you gain more experience with the game.
 

felipepepe

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You could call it a personal bias, but I'm against taking away control from the player - especially in a permadeth game. I get that it's a stable of CYOA games, but it clashes heavily with the roguelike part, which is a lot more prominent in NEO Scavenger.

In an insanely complex roguelike such as Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, I usually have many tools at my disposal, and feel that every death is always my fault. Restarting is a lot more interesting, since every new game has a new scenario, with probably a new character and loot that will greatly impact your game.

NEO Scavenger has the advantage of not having XP and having a short power curve, which means you can quickly get back to your feet (at least quickier than crawling back to dungeon level 45). However, while learning how to survive is the entire fun of the game at the start, once you know how it starts to become more like busywork, scavenging dozens of places in search of shoes, clothing, a lighter, a crowbar, a backpack, food... there's just not enough character build, location or item variation to keep that fresh after many retries.
 

sser

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The insta-deaths during the CYOA parts were also my primary hangup with the game. During one of the segments you can get 'chased' out by a bunch of people, but instead of just killing you it puts you on the world map quite literally being chased by what must be a dozen well-armed enemies. I physically had to escape from them, hiding and ducking into forests and what not. That's much better gameplay than "Oh they caught you. You are now dead. Restart." which encompasses far too many of the CYOAs. That aside, the game is pretty much brilliant.
 

imweasel

Guest
Thanks for the comprehensive review! There are some great observations made here, and I think it will inform my future design decisions. Also, good mod picks!
Thanks for this gem of a game. It is by far the best survival simulator I have ever played and is worth every penny. :salute:
 

Ignatius Reilly

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This isn't a power fantasy where you cast fireballs while break dancing with your staff

such as headbutting, leg tripping or parrying - all while wielding a frying pan and pushing a shopping cart.

:lol:

Just purchased the game. Gave the demo a try, once I found some pants and made a proper camp fire I was hooked. It's a game which relies heavily on player imagination, and I appreciate that.
 

HiddenX

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Thanks for the review. Survival games and Rogue-likes a re trending...
 

pippin

Guest
After playing this game I can't look at plastic bags the same way I used to.
 

Tick Tock Crocodile

Guest
I haven't liked a game this much since I first played VtMB a few years ago. After feeling kind of meh about the first few games I found out about and played because of the Codex, it was a great feeling to play this game and just fall in love with it. Many thanks to dcfedor for making it.
 

SausageInYourFace

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While it can get a bit repetitive in the long run I really appreciate the games atmosphere and that it basically lets you tell your own story through its mechanics (I think thats called Emergent Narrative? I just looked that up on wikipedia, which makes me an expert on this issue).

Particularly the combat can get super intense. If you ever wrestled some poor hobo in rain and muck in the middle of the night and smashed his head in with your bare hands cause he stole a bag of potato chips from your camp, you know what survival is about man. The NeoScav thread in GRPG is full of these kind of stories which vouch for the quality the game (and in fact made me buy it).
 

MurkyShadow

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Laying on the ground, mortally wounded, one dog men killed, another one leaping forward, one bullet left,
no ranged weapon skill, trigger pulled, saying my hail mary, dog man is hit in the head, falling dead in my lap.
I... survived? Now just need to drag me back with the little to no food left, the blood poisoning, a light on
the horizon, the city, in the last rays of daylight.

I have played many hours out of the beta. I've got to get at the finished game some time.
Can't remember when the last time was, something got me hooked like Neo Scavenger.
Must've been somewhere back in the times of ancient titles like Fallout.:P
 

M0RBUS

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Thanks for the comprehensive review! There are some great observations made here, and I think it will inform my future design decisions. Also, good mod picks!
Thank you for absolute marvelous game again! :) And for letting me LP it.

The world needs more developers like you and your team!

I haven't liked a game this much since I first played VtMB a few years ago.
Same here. NEO Scavenger was a healing salve for me, in more ways than one. It stands for me as one of the all time greats, and my favorite game of 2014 for sure.

:EDIT:
Great review by the way.

:EDIT:
Also, I should add that I think describing the game's writing as "scarce but competent" is a disservice to it, in both instances. The writing is pervasive and absolutely everywhere, and it's also one of the most amazing writing I've ever seen, if a bit too lyric sometimes. But I think that's what gives it its own charm. NEO Scavenger's writing is unlike anything else I remember reading and one of the high points of the game for me.

:EDIT:
Also, I should say my and my bandmates made a track inspired by NEO Scavenger. It's not recorded yet, but I'll post the lyrics here if anybody cares.

The song is called "Home" and goes like this:

"The wind on my face, the sun at my back, I'm looking for somebody else's track
I'm hopeful of finding that which I thought was lost

Eyes on the horizon, unburdened of life. One dream, one purpose, one single strife
As the world's about to fade away...

On a path with no destiny. No way back

Free, I roam the land
Through dirt and sand
And I do it all alone
Through the wastes
I pave the way
Where I lay my head is home

The welcoming shade of trees in a grove, the perfect music of nature's love
Unstained by the evil touch of Man

The beckoning sound of a distant stream, soundtrack to this blissful idilic dream
The nearest soul so many miles away

(...)

Our future vanished through our hands, cascating down the folds of time
We chose to perish and forget the fallen wings we left behind

So many miles, it's far to late
Another day is blown away
The stars above are now useless
They chose to keep their light from us"

It's a metal ballad with a bad ending, but the ending doesn't have lyrics. Basically a monster appears and does the deed, and only the guitars sing of it in a series of melodic death metal style riffs and solos.

:EDIT:
Yeah, I love this game.
 
Last edited:

karnak

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:bro:
A great review, for a truly great game.
Young gamers should know more about this game. So that they can truly undertand how a complex game doesn't need HD graphics.

In fact I find it sad that plenty of old gamers, who grew up playing in EGA graphics, prefer to play "RPGs" like "Fallout of Duty®" and claim that Neo S. is "too old" for them.
 
Self-Ejected

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Do you see this, Decado? This is how a really serious and sophisticated review is done. Great review, felipepepe!

The world needs more developers like you and your team!

Dude, the game is Daniel Fedor's solo project.
 

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