Launching out of Early Access this week is the MMO Population Zero, from Moscow-based developer Enplex. Promising a blend of PvE and PvP gameplay against a sci-fi backdrop, we dove in just before the game’s 1.0 release.
I’ll happily admit I’m not the world’s biggest MMO fan, but every now and then I’ll be drawn to one. The Elder Scrolls Online had the pull of its franchise behind it, as did the Lord of the Rings Online. In Population Zero’s case, it was the premise. Stranded on a planet called Kepler, you have seven earth days (or 168 hours) to save yourself (and your fellow colonists) before you call victim to the dark creatures that already live here.
Saving yourself is a matter of getting enough resources to repair your hibernation pod, and a helpful tutorial eases you into the game’s mechanics. Before long, you’ll be gathering, crafting and working on securing your safety while learning more about the backstory as you go. You also learn that, after seven days, any humans not shielded by a hibernation pod will turn into hellish creatures for all of time, limiting the runtime of each playthrough.
I love this, because with the interest I have in other (narrative driven, single player) games I can’t see myself devoting weeks or even months of my time to a single game – which is eventually why I lose interest in MMOs. Population Zero starts with a level playing ground each week, with additional challenge levels and modes reserved for more experienced players.
Death isn’t permanent so if you bite the dust you’re not immediately out for the week. You get to respawn, though the number of times you can do this is limited as each resurrection takes away some of your humanity and brings you closer to mutating. Reaching the endgame (for the week) means gathering enough resources, or completing enough missions for the people who have safety inside a larger hub – giving you a choice of playstyles.
Visually, Population Zero resembles games like No Man’s Sky or Journey to the Savage Planet, although less colorful and more barren – emphasizing the survival aspect of the game.
It’s hard to look beyond this week’s release because I haven’t been able to save myself during the pre-release week I had with the game, but it’ll be an ongoing process to see how the game develops. This is hopefully also true on the technical side of things, because although the game’s launching this week I did encounter a few glitches and saw other players talk about similar issues as well. The 7-day mechanic still has me intrigued, so I’m eager to dive back in.