By Terris Harned (NWOrpheus)
It’s kind of hard to play Green Hell without your mind making connections to the 1987 Guns N’ Roses hit “Welcome to the Jungle”, especially if you’re an old fart like me. Much like in the song, this survival game, set in the Amazonian jungle, is full of things that will make you bleed and quite probably scream. I found the game to be quite enjoyable, in a very edge of your seat “is that going to kill me?” kind of way.
Like many survival games Green Hell tends to be difficult until you learn the tricks and then all the difficulty fades away entirely, even if the suspense doesn’t. I found it to be an engaging game all the same, with a story fraught with mystery that drives you to keep playing. The game has a brief tutorial which introduces you to the game’s mechanics and hints at some of the story. In fact, there are some clues in the tutorial which come into play later in the game that can be vital to discovering the “better” of the two endings.
While you can skip the tutorial, there is a sequence after it that shows how you came to be in the jungle without any supplies (except your backpack, long range walkie talkie radio, and smartwatch). Given the likelihood of death as you first learn the game, coupled with the sequence being unskippable, I recommend leaving the first save game slot, which the game auto-creates immediately after the sequence, as a starting point.
In order to save the game at all you will need to build a shelter structure: either a palm shelter, a frame and a roof, or some other form of roofed covering. A simple palm bed on the ground will allow you to rest and recuperate energy, but it will not allow you to save the game. When you’ve established yourself one of these structures and can save, just move down to the second save slot, and you’re good to go -unless you’re on permadeath difficulty, in which case your saves are deleted when you die!
Before you get started you’ll be able to adjust a number of settings related to the difficulty of the game. You can toggle whether or not natives will appear, as well as a wide variety of animals that can sting, bite, claw, poke, or otherwise make your trip through the jungle an unpleasant one.
You can also adjust how quickly your macronutrients will deplenish. If it’s your first play through, you might want to consider at least turning this setting down, so that you’ll need to spend less time gathering food and water, which will give you more time to learn the rest of the game’s mechanics.
Adjust the settings to your preferences and enjoyment level.
Food and water are your primary and constant concerns, even with the rate turned down. Most of the bodies of water in the game are brackish or contain parasites. Parasites will cause your macronutrients to deplete quicker, meaning you spend even more time focusing on food and water, and getting too many parasites can quickly lead to a death spiral. Parasites are relatively easy to cure, once you’ve discovered the method. I’ll leave it to you to discover what those methods might be (either by gameplay, or Google).
The one thing I will say in regards to keeping yourself hydrated is that coconuts are your best friend. Finding them is always a joyous occasion. Coconuts, when eaten, also provide both carbohydrates and fats, which are two of your three food based macronutrients, lacking only protein (the fourth item on your smartwatch simply being hydration).
Really though, protein and carbs are easy to get in the early game. It’s fats you’ll be scrounging for.
Learning how to supply each of the macronutrients is a core part of learning the game, which I wouldn’t dream of spoiling for you, so we’ll leave that for the time being. Suffice to say, the jungle provides everything you need to survive.
Your smartwatch does more than just monitor your hunger levels. It is also a useful tool in tracking your location via GPS coordinates as well as keeping track of the time. Without a torch, the jungle can be a very difficult place to navigate at night. Being away from your camp, especially in the early game, can be a risky endeavor.
Resting is a core part of the gameplay, and a good way to pass the night hours. Falling asleep on the ground can have consequences, aside from just making you dirty. Sleeping on a bedroll, and near a burning campfire, helps reduce the chance of discovering you have a lovely little parasite when you wake up.
Worms and leeches are just two of the many ways that existence in the jungle can tax your sanity. Provided you care for them quickly they’re not a great concern. Left alone they will cause your mind to break down, which will eventually lead to hallucinations, and this is yet another way that you can death spiral. Keep an eye out for the magnifying glass in the lower left corner of your screen. This will tell you when you’ve sustained a malady of some sort, be it a falling injury, parasite, bug bite, or gaping wound from a jaguar.
Never underestimate the usefulness of a fishbone. Also doubles as a toothpick, in a pinch.
If treated properly, there are very few things in Green Hell that are instantly deadly. Infection is a very real danger if a wound is left unbandaged. But even infections can be treated through creative game mechanics.
Bandages, leaf beds, shelters, and cook fires are all things that you obtain through crafting. Green Hell actually has several different distinct crafting methods, as well as more than one way of obtaining crafting recipes.
The first and most commonly used crafting method involves targeting an item, either in your backpack or on the ground, right clicking, and then clicking where it says “craft”. This opens a special window where you place objects on a large stone and combine them into something else. This method is used for creating bandages, tools, weapons, and other simple objects.
When crafting from within your inventory, you don’t actually need to know the recipe. You can learn a recipe by picking up objects, by crafting them, or by raising your crafting skill.
There is a crafting skill, and the higher it is, the greater durability of the items you create. Similarly each type of item (axes, blades, spears etc) has a skill that determines how effectively you use those items. A higher axe skill with the right sort of axe can reduce the number of swings it takes to fell a tree. A higher quality spear, combined with a high spear skill, can make defeating the jungle’s dangerous denizens easier.
The second method for crafting is by opening your notebook and finding the object you wish to create. The notebook will list the item, as well as everything you need to construct it. You then click the item, and place it in the ground or wherever it is appropriate in the world. A white ghost of the object will appear. It is now up to you to place the objects listed in the notebook into the ghost of the object, in order to construct it.
For objects that you have to place, you’ll typically unlock a recipe by finding an ingredient for that recipe (such as mud) or by finding an example of the item in the world, like a stone circle fireplace, or drying rack.
I rather enjoyed the feel of this style of crafting, even though carrying larger objects felt like a chore at times. I think feeling like a chore is exactly the point. Having to chop down a tree and carry several logs, as well as a number of long sticks, then using ropes from my inventory, gives this a feeling of it actually being a task that requires effort. In other games I might just have all the pieces in my inventory, and place them wherever I like, which isn’t terribly realistic.
The final method of crafting items is in interacting with the world or with other objects you’ve placed. Cooking on fires is a great example of this, as you can place a piece of meat near a fire and it will cook over time. Making mud bricks is a second example. In this case, you must first use the notebook method to create a brick drying area. You then place mud and campfire ash together and form it into bricks.
This actually segues nicely out of crafting, and into the game’s graphics; in particular, the animations of Green Hell. I noticed that when crafting bricks, your hands move around a bit, and do some stuff… but it feels very arbitrary. It doesn’t seem like the movement of the hands and what is being made actually go together. For a game otherwise focused on realism, I found this disheartening. It pulled me out of my immersion, and is one of the ways I was disappointed with the game.
The second area where I felt there was a lack is when you interact with water. You can hear a splashing sound as your feet move through rivers and such, or if you jump into a deeper body of water that you can swim in, but there is no observable splash. You don’t seem to make any impact on the water itself, whatsoever, and this too draws from the immersion.
The final issue I had, graphically, was the fact that some hitboxes seemed way off. When placing the roof on a structure, you have to aim at the center of a structure, rather than its top, otherwise the roof won’t snap to the right location. When picking up some objects, especially fish after having speared them, you have to aim away from the object in order to interact with it.
I really don’t understand what’s going on here, but eventually you get used to it.
Otherwise, the graphics of the game are great. As I said elsewhere in the review, I frequently found myself literally on the edge of my seat, leaning forward and excited. It’s a fun feeling trying to anticipate where a snake might be. When you hear the skittering of a spider or scorpion in the underbrush, you might react by jumping and turning to run quickly away.
Green Hell isn’t the most challenging survival game I’ve ever played; I honestly think The Long Dark holds that title for me. But it is fun, relatively unique (The Forest is the closest game, but there are plenty of differences), and engaging. The story is far better than people give it credit for, and I would tell you more about it if I could do so without spoiling it for you. Plus, after you finish the story mode, you can play survival (which drops you into a random area on the map), or complete one of the many challenge modes the game has.
With a $24.99 USD price point on Steam the game definitely gives a good value for the amount of play time you’re likely to spend in it. I have a couple problems with Green Hell, but nothing that makes me shy from recommending it overall. I give Green Hell 4 out of 5 coconuts (85%).
Note: A game key was provided for review purposes.