Last Oasis, from developer Donkey Crew, is a survival game but with more than a few twists. It’s an MMO/Survival hybrid set in a post-apocalyptic world that forces humans to constantly be on the move. Staying in one place means certain death and so all of humanity live as nomads.
Part of the reason for this design decision is to eliminate, what Donkey Crew calls, some of the negative aspects of survival games. Another is that this kind of game had never really been attempted before.
Donkey Crew wanted to create a brand-new world and a new survival experience for players. One that will both challenge and delight them. Last Oasis is full of big ideas but the central conceit is by far the biggest.
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Speaking with Donkey Crew’s Project Lead, Florian “chadz” Hofreither, Producer & Designer, Chris Thompson and Producer, Lucas Stannis, I asked where the concept of this nomadic society and gameplay came from. Right away they told me the flaws they see in the genre and in other survival games.
For example, we saw the offline raiding and the stalemate thing between the clans and we figured we don’t like any of that.
So what can we do? So we thought, first of all, what if you always take your base with you and you can take it offline. Well, then we don’t have offline raiding anymore. Okay, but why would anyone take the base with you?
And then we thought, what if you have to move all the time anyway. And then we came up with the nomadic concept.
Thus, the idea of a survival game in which you always have to keep moving was born. Once Donkey Crew started to put the pieces together it learned that this nomadic gameplay loop was great for clan warfare. Because clans aren’t able to hunker down and dig into a base for days and weeks, combat has been invigorated.
Players won’t have to wage a war of attrition and they’ll always have to be thinking of the next move. Once a new server pops up, clans will rush towards it and they’ll need to claim resources. There’s potential for clans to become allies or enemies very quickly and that’s really exciting.
The idea of playing a nomadic survival game is already pretty different from what’s already out there. Always being on the move is a radical departure for these kinds of games in which building up your base is the most important thing. However, Last Oasis isn’t without bases, in a way.
As you traverse the enormous dune sea, you’ll spend a lot of time on your Walker. This hulking, insectoid machine is part sailboat, part Strandbeest and part mobile siege tower. Powered by wind, they “sail” across the dunes and carry you and your clan (of you alone) to your destination.
There are a large number of different Walkers already in Last Oasis and they cater for different playstyles, player numbers and goals. For example, some Walkers serve best as cargo carriers while others are designed for battle. Some can be piloted by a small number of players, even one in some instances, while others take a group. With these Walkers, Donkey Crew has put into place the pieces that will help shape and create this nomadic world.
Donkey Crew envisions different kinds of crews using different Walkers. It wants to see pirates and merchants, explorers, traders and more. And with the different Walkers and vast open-world at the players’ fingertips, there’s certainly room to play however you like.
When you’re riding a Walker, it’s astonishing to see your character look as though they’re standing on solid ground. The team worked incredibly hard to achieve this because you spend so much time in-game on your Walker, it had to be right.
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We put a lot of effort into making sure that you’re completely stable on this moving vehicle. We’ve seen a lot with survival game, very often people experience like the chittering and things like that when you’re standing on a vehicle and we need to make sure that it absolutely just feels great because as I said, you spend most of your time on deck.
When you’re not on deck, you explore on foot and work to expand the incredibly detailed tech tree. Byu doing so, you can specialise in all manner of things. To unlock knowledge and upgrade your skill tree, you’re going to have to explore the world, find things to interact with and research and also trade. By doing this, you can acquire knowledge and upgrade your character.
While combat on the Walker is on an enormous scale and has all the excitement of a naval battle, combat on the ground is much more familiar. Your character can attack and block in one of three directions; think For Honor. Getting into one on one combat seems to be reserved for fighting mobs but there’s always a chance that clan warfare will devolve into man-on-man action. That being said, there are giant mobs you can fight from on your Walker and those things are nasty.
However, playing and controlling your character on the ground is really the most micro of the gameplay in Last Oasis. If we take a macro view, players can look at the map and see dozens of hex-shaped areas. Each one is its own server and its own ‘oasis’ that spans an enormous distance. Players are able to travel between servers but only by travelling to the very edge of the one their in. And travelling is going to cost you.
As a post-apocalyptic game, Last Oasis puts a heavy emphasis on water. In fact, there isn’t even food in the game. Water is what sustains you and it’s what you need to stay alive and to travel. You can store water in your Walker and by marking a location on the map, see how much water will be consumed on your journey. You’ll always have to keep a watchful eye on your water, because without it, you won’t survive.
Something I learned from Donkey Crew is there are multiple biomes in Last Oasis and it’s not just one big desert. There’s grass and forests and plenty of environments in which you’d expect to find water.
Essentially, in Last Oasis, you’ll need to ride you Walker across massive stretched of land, battle giant mobs and conserve water to reach new, greener pastures as well as explore on foot, scavenge, research and learn. From what I’ve seen it’s a little Sea of Thieves, Conan, Rust and EVE Online but it’s also something unique all on its own.
Donkey Crew has clearly worked very hard to create something new and different that gives players the freedom to play how they want to. The Walkers feature incredible designs and the sense of scale when you stand near them is awe-inspiring.
Last Oasis is certainly an interesting concept and has lots of potential. Hopefully, it doesn’t suffer the same fate as many recent releases and fail to provide enough content to players who then lose interest and move on.
Donkey Crew isn’t worried. It says that the game is already packed with content. There are tonnes of monsters to fight, things to research and harvest and the world is very much alive. The team also plans to constantly add content to Last Oasis so players always have something to do.
So far, so good for Last Oasis. Here’s to a successful early access period and launch.
Last Oasis is in early access on Steam.