The survival genre has evolved a lot over the years to offer its fans a variety of different experiences. Players tame dinosaurs in Ark: Survival Evolved, battle insanity in Don’t Starve, or progress through the ages in CryoFall. While the sheer amount of variety within the genre is great for its fans, it can make it difficult for newcomers to truly stand out from the crowd. This is the challenge that Fractured Veil is hoping to overcome with the launch of its Kickstarter campaign and eventual full release.
Fractured Veil is developed by Paddle Creek Games, a small studio of industry veterans who set out to make their favorite survival game. I got a chance to jump into the game with Project Director Ryan Wiancko to explore the game’s world and mechanics and get a taste of what makes this game so special.
The hands-on preview began with my customized character spawning in the belly of a massive science-fiction structure that would feel right at home in a modern Fallout title. The structure’s main floor is empty for now, but Wiancko quickly filled me in on the team’s plans for the space, which includes quest givers and market stalls for players to congregate around and interact with.
While I was led away from the massive structure, I was filled in on the game’s world and setting of the island of Maui 100 years in the future. The environments were lush and vibrant, with trees like skyscrapers, rolling hills, and abandoned signs of humanity slowly being reclaimed by nature.
Eventually, we reached a small shack set up in the middle of the street, constructed with rusted metal sheets all tied together. The modest structure housed a Totem and a chest, and it is here that the first unique feature of Fractured Veil cropped up. The Totem is rather standard and used to mark territory so that other players cannot infringe on your buildings unless you permit them to. It is also where players can set permissions for other players, such as unlocking doors or storage for them.
However, the Totem can also store resources like wood, stone, and metal so that all players in a group can access it. Another handy feature allows players to see what is in a chest by just looking at it instead of the usual process of opening a chest just to see if what you’re looking for is in it before backing out and going on to the next chest. Another great feature allows players to access the contents of all nearby chests in their base to let them shuffle items around with ease.
After grabbing a bow, shotgun, pistol, and some of the usual tools players would expect, I was shown one of Fractured Veil’s flagship features: its drones. The drone was hovering above Wiancko and me with a camera lens fixated on us. Wiancko explained that every server in Fractured Veil would feature a similar drone that operates via machine learning and monitors player activity to record exciting moments.
The drone’s recordings are then live-streamed 24/7 to the game’s Twitch and YouTube channels for anyone to see. It’s hard to believe, but the technical elements are already present even before the Kickstarter has launched. In fact, anybody interested can check out the live streams right now. I saw them in action myself while I was playing, and they have been active ever since.
I was then led away from the modest shack to my first combat engagement with a group of Fractured Veil’s mutants. The mutants featured various designs that resulted in different combat approaches, such as running at you with giant cleavers or screeching to attract other mutants. The combat was challenging but manageable and a lot of fun with some great details like dismemberment for killing enemies with a shot to the head or a limb.
Then, we had to burn the bodies with some torches to ensure that cannibals would not spawn in and come after us as well. While we prevented that from happening, the concept is a novel idea. It is an interesting way to add more threat to killing enemies by forcing players to stay in the area longer and reward attention to detail.
After the dozen or so corpses were turned to ash, we headed to a small flatland so that I could try out the game’s building mechanics. The system was still relatively rudimentary but did have some solid fundamentals already built into it. I set about building a small home from various pieces and then upgraded it from wood to stone to metal. The system is fun and has a lot of potential for the developers to build upon.
I was then given a small peek at a very early-in-development mechanic that will allow players to build vehicles. Wiancko showed me the process of building a small golf cart and explained to me that the thought process behind the mechanic is for a group of players to slowly invest the resources in a vehicle over time so that getting a vehicle is an exciting step forward for players. The systems and controls were still very rough, but the core philosophy behind the system seemed to be coming along well and seemed to provide a good activity for high-level players.
The last destination for my preview was one of Fractured Veil’s dungeons. The dungeon was an instanced cave that saw Wiancko and me working together to tackle rooms filled with groups of mutants and other creatures like wild boars. The caves were dark, which led to some great tactical action, with one of us having to carry a torch while the other shot enemies until we could switch to burning corpses for much-needed light. While that process sounds a bit morbid, it was inventive and a fun way to approach the level.
The dungeon was also challenging, enough to cause one of us to die and take several breaks throughout. Eventually, we reached a room with a boss fight, although I did not get to see it in action as it was beneath the ground of the cave when we got there. Once we were there, Wiancko filled me in on some more of what the dungeons in the game were striving for.
He relayed to me that the team was inspired by gameplay mechanics in other games, such as Destiny 2‘s strikes, although with the added benefit of being able to take the rewards from completing it back to one’s base. The dungeon was quite lengthy, but after completing it, Wiancko also told me that each dungeon in the game is planned to have at least five different levels for players to run through, with each one getting more and more difficult than the last. To make it even more interesting, reaching other levels can only be done through secret doors, one of which I completely missed while we ran through the level ourselves.
The dungeons make up a big part of Fractured Veil’s planned PvE content. Like almost every survival game on the market, players in Fractured Veil can choose to focus on PvE or PvP content, which Wiancko made sure to stress and revealed how the developers are hoping to handle this. The mechanics behind making sure that PvP players don’t bother PvE players is through a smart cost/benefit balance.
For example, he illustrated how PvE activities would require one type of ammunition while PvP would require another, much more expensive ammunition. This means that participating in different activities will reward players with resources that can be used to continue tackling those activities. This way, a PvP player won’t be motivated to kill a PvE player because they will likely only have PvE resources which would be relatively useless to them.
Wiancko also explained some other possibilities that the team is exploring, including having security zones similar to those in EVE Online that will flag players with too high of PvP ratings if they attempt to enter them. One particularly interesting idea that he shared was having the server’s drone follow those dangerous players and broadcasting their location to everyone on the server so they can be avoided if need be.
Wiancko also explained to me how the game takes advantage of its multi-dimensional setting. Rather than players choosing a single server to play on, they will instead play on a cluster of servers, each of which are different parallel dimensions of Maui that can have a range of different modifiers applied to them. Players can then travel between the different dimensions through portals that open up across the map.
I did not get a chance to see any of the other dimensions. Still, Wiancko did give me some examples: a winter dimension, a dimension that sees hunger degrading much faster, or dimensions with larger enemies or enemies that deal more damage. The proposed technology is again impressive, but the team at Paddle Creek Games already has it developed to the point that they are happy with it.
This begs the question of what role Kickstarter will play in Fractured Veil’s development, but that is part of the team’s strategy. With how lofty the game’s promises seem and the many failed stories that have played out on the platform, the developers wanted to have something solid to show that they know what they are doing.
This puts them in a great position to get funding to complete parts of the game that are more fun to advertise to players. Rather than having to theorize about the plausibility of server clusters, the developers can show off possible enemy variations and get feedback from the community to help them shape the other content in the game, specifically the more technical features.
Regardless, Fractured Veil is already very promising, and it will be exciting to see where the developers go from here if the game’s funding campaign is successful. Fractured Veil could mark a massive leap for the survival genre.
Fractured Veil is in development for PC.