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I m currently very happy that we ve escaped the clutches of winter (at least in the northern hemisphere), and I m generally untrusting of my friends who claim to like the colder months. They would, I m sure, be very good at the sneaky backstabbing in the blizzards of Project Winter, which launched this week. Here s the launch trailer, showing off the subtle approaches you might like to take to murder your fellow campers, like bear or landmine.
For six of the eight players in a Project Winter team, the goal is surviving a chilly wilderness long enough to escape. For the other two, the goal is deception: it's about blending into the team and then, when the moment presents itself, betraying your allies, stopping them from escaping. It's a fascinating concept, and this week it finished its three-month Early Access stint with a 1.0 update that added new weapons and maps.
The new weapons are the crossbow and the tranquilizer gun, both of which are near-silent ranged weapons. The tranquilizer is particularly interesting for traitors because it will stop players using proximity chat, text chat or radio chat when hit (emotes will still be a comms option). If you're one of the two traitors—both know who the other traitor is—it could be a last-ditch option for silencing anyone that rumbles you, stopping them exposing you to the rest of the team.
One place to find these new weapons will be the armory, a new building that only spawns once per map, and has a high chance of containing ranged weapons. The 1.0 update also adds three new maps, each with potential sabotage spots.
The dev team at Other Ocean Interactive says they'll be slowing down new content releases to monthly, rather than every two weeks, to give them "a bit more breathing room and [to] make sure we release polished features". Bug fixes will come more regularly.
The next major update, in which they're aiming to improve repair objectives, add ragdoll physics, give each player a stats page, and more is scheduled for June 20.
At a glance, Project Winter is reminiscent of The Long Dark, but surviving its low-poly snow fields is only half the battle. At the beginning of a game, two of the eight players are designated as traitors. They each know who the other traitor is, and are tasked with preventing the group from escaping. The non-traitors must suss them out before being shot in the back.
It's a fun-sounding idea, though a tough design challenge. Playing the similar party game Mafia (or Werewolf) is always a good time, but I've never been all that attracted to digital versions of the game, because lying directly to your friends' faces is where the fun's at. In that respect, Project Winter provides multiple communication avenues: "proximity-based voice chat, private voice chat radio channels, text chat, and emotes."
A lot of Project Winter's success will hinge on the effectiveness of those tools and the quality of the playerbase. It's a game that's easy to ruin, since it relies on everyone committing to acting.
Right now, reviews are mixed on the Early Access version, but it seems like many of the complaints are simply that there aren't enough players in the game, not that Project Winter fails in its execution, which is promising.
Recent reviews are more positive. When Project Winter releases in 1.0 form on May 23, maybe it'll get a little boost in player count. We'll plan to check it out then to see how it's come along since its Early Access launch.