I’m about halfway through my second Scavengers match, previewing Winter’s Fury, when I stop and notice just how much fun I’m having. Not since my days of terrorizing PUBG have I really enjoyed a proper battle royale, as – much to my own disappointment – I completely bounced off Fortnite and Warzone. Subsequently, I’m taken completely by surprise when I realise that I’m very much vibing, as the kids say, with Scavengers‘ newest update.
A lot of this comes down to my time playing Rin, lobbing nanobot smokescreens and running across a frozen wasteland with her signature gun, a craftable Shin-48 that, sincerely, means business. For anyone who hasn’t played Scavengers before, every explorer has their own unique gun that they alone can craft in a match, and this uses up a resource called scrap.
Scrap is how Scavengers separates itself from the BR pack. Whilst running around looking for better guns is certainly a major part of Scavengers at first, the early game feels much less like the cornucopia at the start of Hunger Games than others in the genre. To have a good shot at surviving you’re encouraged to attack NPC-inhabited camps to earn scrap, which pays for all sorts. While I beelined toward creating Rin’s unique gun, there are shield upgrades, consumables, and even vehicles to spend scrap on. All well and good, but every match I knew the Shin-48 was waiting for me.
The Shin-48 absolutely shreds through targets at close range and still packed a nasty little punch at mid-range, but there’s some significant recoil control involved with hitting targets from further away. While I had zero problems in picking off NPC raiders from a distance, players proved a much more difficult target to potshot from afar.
That’s perfectly fine though, because Rin’s unique ability – a bright purple smokescreen – is the perfect tool for picking the right distance to engage enemies. Unfortunately, it took me fifteen minutes into my first game as Rin to realise I was playing her completely wrong. From years of completely useless muscle memory, I was expecting her to simply chuck the smokescreen in an arc. Upon lining up and using the ability – appropriately aiming high to ensure it made the distance – I discover that Rin could have been a hell of a pitcher, as she sends it flying forward seemingly forever. The massive force behind the smokescreen means that instead of landing neatly amidst the players firing at me, the grenade soars past them, spectacularly useless.
Once I had the finer details of smoke screening down, I found much better success in outsmarting players. I’d say the results speak for themselves, but they didn’t – I really suck at Scavengers. Despite my own shortcomings, Rin’s smokescreen feels like a really powerful utility tool for repositioning in a fight and forcing enemies to make mistakes. Across my time with the preview, we managed to use the tool to both escape and close in on players, depending on how brave we were feeling.
Admittedly, my bravery often took a backseat to my desire to win. I didn’t have too much experience with Scavengers, I relied on my two teammates – TJ and Mary, both developers at Midwinter who we need to shout out for saving my would-be carcass – to steer our chances at victory in the right direction. With their guidance and over the course of a few games I found that Rin slots right into an approach the duo call “multiplicative gameplay”, a design choice wherein explorers should bring some sort of synergy to their squad.
Rin is fairly open to who she works with – the smokescreen and decent range gun means that she’s a versatile pick for teams regardless of how what distance they’re looking to fight from, but I found that we got a lot of synergy out of palling her with Cruz, whose mobility-centered Tailwind skill allowed us to take advantage of the chaos caused by my smokescreen.
Outside of what Rin brings, I wanted to know how Winter’s Fury would affect the general playstyle of the game, and it turned out that the developers have very specific hopes for the direction that this update will nudge players toward.
Mary says that it was “never really our intention” to end up with the highly PvP oriented gameplay that Scavengers has ended up with, even though it’s still fairly tame compared to other games. Of course, the studio understands that – for reasons unknown – players are “always going to gravitate toward” killing fellow players. Despite this, the studio still wants to break out of that mold a little more and offer more ways for players to approach the game’s PvE and long-term reward system.
Escaping with data can be spent on research, which in turn unlocks more crafting options when you take an explorer into a raid. TJ adds that the research options add more meta-game decision making to the game, and while finding “the right balance between PvP and PvE” is tough, the main goal of Winter’s Fury is to restrict “hunters” – players who hunt down others as soon as they’ve dropped – while giving less PvP-inclined players a better chance of escaping with their loot. At the request of the community this means nerfing the early game PvP playstyle with an “information fog of war” that stops hunters from quickly locating players, but it also means adding the R.A.S.P. rocket.
As a player that doesn’t always have the competitive drive (read: I suck) to constantly aim for first place, I adore that Winter’s Fury aims to expand on options for players who want to play it safe and go for long-term stakes. TJ says these systems will mean that players can weigh up their options and decide whether it’s safer to leave with the loot they already have. That’s where the R.A.S.P. rockets come in, which offer a way to evacuate early and keep earned data without risking it all on the brutal slaughter of that final, bloody dropship extract. In my experience, having the motivation to survive with what you’ve earned adds a lot more longevity to the game – so I appreciate the focus to try and give players a little of both worlds, something the game is already trying to do with the PvPvE approach.
Speaking of those final moments, they’re scored impeccably by Kazumma Jinnouchi. I comment that it really brings those last moments – when every surviving player is forced to convene on the last ticket home – to life, and both TJ and Mary are quick to agree. As it turns out, they’re big fans – and fairly long-time colleagues – of Jinnouchi. Mary lets me know that both herself and TJ worked on Halo 5 with Jinnouchi, and around a third of Midwinter staff previously worked at 343.
My ineptitude meant that I didn’t always make it to that beautifully scored and dramatic finale, and there was still plenty in Winter’s Fury that I didn’t get to try out. The main thing I missed was the new boss, Bulwark, a dual-shielded and heavily armoured new boss.
That’s alright, because I have a feeling I’ll see him soon. I’ll be sliding my way back into Scavengers (oh, they’re adding directional sliding!) in the future, and I’m excited to see how the community responds to Winter’s Fury, and whether the closer balance to PvP and PvE will land with players. My time spent with Midwinter left me feeling that the studio takes that community very seriously. Because of that, the future of Scavengers looks bright – though maybe a little purple.
Scavengers is out now in Early Access on PC. The new season Winter’s Fury arrives on 15 September. The game will go into full release in early 2022 on both console and PC, with a first console alpha coming “very soon”.