Fear The Wolves (Early Access) Review: Dead on Arrival

After a slight delay, Ukrainian developer Vostok Games’ take on the battle royale genre in Fear the Wolves is now available for purchase in early access on PC. Very few people are playing it however, meaning you probably cannot.

Fear the Wolves is a multiplayer-only game where there are not enough players to actually play. Usually the magic number for the genre is 100 players, but Fear the Wolves only requires 40 and can’t even hit that number a lot of the time. A lack of popularity, and a severe lack of polish – even for an early access title – make this game largely unplayable and sadly, a missed opportunity.

Related: Battle Royale Video Games Could Make $20 Billion Next Year Alone

Like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, H1Z1, Fortnite and any other battle royale title of note, players start a round of Fear the Wolves’ in a large flying vehicle (in this case, a helicopter) travelling in a random direction over the game’s Chernobyl-set location – intentionally reminiscent of the aesthetic of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games – and can jump out and parachute anywhere they wish. The poor load-in quality of the map, the bad lag, and terrible parachuting system are the first hints that Fear the Wolves is not a game that’s ready to be sold to players in early access. It’s way, way too early and that’s being generous.

The game currently features one mode and one map but the developers are promising new modes and locations in future content updates.

No one is playing Fear the Wolves

This we find hard to believe because even on launch day, it was difficult to find a match. For a 100-player mode, we never had more than 55 and often it took minutes to even connect to a match, sometimes to no avail. In the days since, it only got worse. The game will prompt a switch to another server region after a lengthy matchmaking time but players may have to bounce between them and wait a long time to get into a match. The player counts alone, if the devs can’t grow the Fear the Wolves community immediately, will kill the game before it even starts. Over the last week, the developer has been giving out free game keys via select media outlets, while also granting two-week extensions to beta players but it’s not helping.

That speaks to a larger issue of large-scale games rushing to early access and thereby launching without key features, content, and polish in a market where there are more polished, more popular games already available. Many of these games will die out before realizing their potential since it’s impossible to have enough active concurrent players to support the dozens of in-development and early access battle royale games. That’s another story for another day but Fear the Wolves suffers from the same issues that Islands of Nyne: Battle Royale and Fractured Lands do – another battle royale game that can’t hit proper player counts and is currently in early access with a dwindling community.

This problem will only get worse as triple-A games enter the battle royale market, including shooter juggernauts Battlefield V and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, perhaps even Red Dead Redemption 2. There are also other ambitious battle royale games like Mavericks which is aiming for 1000-player games, and existing alternatives like Realm Royale losing the vast majority of their players.

Fear the Wolves needs to be unique, which it is in some ways, but it ultimately must be better and more fun than the chief competition in some ways too. Here is where it misses the mark despite some neat ideas. The Fear the Wolves game map shrinks in unpredictable patterns and contains other external threats like AI wolves and radioactive anomalies. These elements are interesting. When coupled with plenty of weapons and mods, there are some notably good aspects to this game’s ambition. But Fear the Wolves lacks some of the movement controls of PUBG and SCUM and features shooting mechanics which are subpar. Small objects, like thin fences or bushes are indestructible, and players can’t vault over obstacles or through windows, go prone, or lean. It’s rather basic in its control scheme and most of the game involves just running with these bad controls to avoid radiation.

Fear the Wolves is Also Broken

The fundamental movement controls are as clunky as the shooting and the game just plays and looks ugly due to poor optimization (settings must be on low for a chance at a better framerate), save for the pretty skies and ambience. It’s not fun and feels old and broken as a result, made worse with terrible lag.

Fear the Wolves aims to clone key aspects of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds which have become staples for the young genre from the interface, and how the the lobby systems works, the compass overlay, etc. It does a better job however, with in-game inventory since players can move freely while managing inventory since it doesn’t take up the entire screen.

What’s especially neat about Fear the Wolves, and this is something that’d be wonderful in a polished and finished game, is the win condition. Towards the end of the match, when most of the map is rendered uninhabitable due to radiation, a helicopter arrives – marked on the map – for a player to extract. That means a player can win by successfully evacuation the area by clutching onto the rope of the helicopter or by eliminating the other remaining players. When a player attempts the former, everyone else alive is notified that someone’s trying to escape and have time to stop them.

That part is fun, and works well with how the playable map shrinks in a seemingly random, asymmetric way. Then again, to move around the map quickly – if you’re bold enough to try landing outside the center of the map – you’ll need to grab one the game’s only vehicle type only to quickly realize how terrible the controls and lag is when driving it and we’re back to square one.

Fear the Wolves isn’t worth purchasing in its current state. Too few people are playing it, it’s inferior to what’s already available in the market even if there’s fun to be had if you can get into an adequate match, and it’s unlikely to ever be ‘completed’ or get any sort of new content. This game needed a much larger delay than it had and now we fear it’s too late, and currently needs a complete overhaul.

Next: Well, One of these Three Battle Royale Games Still Has Potential

Fear the Wolves is currently available on PC via Steam and Screen Rant was provided a code.

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