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Friday, March 1, 2024

Diving, crafting, exploring: Survival game Under a Rock looks gorgeous and is different every time

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A new survival title promises not only beautiful game graphics thanks to Unreal Engine 5, but also plenty of variety. We spoke to the developers

We get stranded on an island, meet a lively dodo and flee from the roar of dinosaurs: Admittedly, at first glance Under a Rock reminds us of the prehistoric survival hit Ark: Survival Evolved.

But in addition to the chic Unreal Engine 5 graphics, which are somewhat reminiscent of Disney or Pixar, there are other features with which the open world aims to keep us on our toes. We spoke to the developer studio Nordic Trolls and found out more about their upcoming game in an interview

What can you expect at Under a Rock?

The survival game Under a Rock takes us to a mysterious island in the 19th century. Our hot air balloon is caught in a supernatural storm, we wake up on the island and quickly realize that something is very wrong. As we don’t really have any other choice, we explore the open world that is our new home. The first trailer already shows the chic graphics:

Luckily, we are professional explorers and can tackle the exploration either alone or together with up to nine other friends as an explorer team. There will also be a PvP mode, but this is not a must and can be switched on or off at any time

With the help of the Character Editor we have numerous options to customize the game characters to our liking. We can let off steam with magnificent beards, voluminous hairstyles and stylish outfits – although the suspenders seem obligatory.

As the developers revealed to us in an interview, tamed animal companions also follow us wherever we go – including the legendary dodo, which should definitely go down well with Ark fans. We can level up the animals, equip them, ride them (!), breed them or … eat them. We have to keep ourselves alive somehow.

(We can find and tame fluffy and feathered companions in the wild.)
(We can find and tame fluffy and feathered companions in the wild.)

We soon find out that we didn’t just land here by accident. There are clues hidden all over the map that indicate that the island is cursed. So our mission is to find out how to lift the curse

While exploring, we should proceed with caution, however, as the island is not only full of secrets and riddles, but is also home to fierce locals and strange creatures. Some of them look very cute, but even fluffy bunnies have sharp teeth here!

Comprehensive crafting and survival system

Typical for a survival game, we must of course survive in the wilderness with all the means and resources at our disposal. Many of the materials we collect or produce grant us various temporary bonuses

Nordic Trolls wants to provide an extensive survival system and allow us to build complex bases. We should even be able to build cities! And to solve a typical problem in multiplayer survival games, the development studio has added the practical “Ghost Building” feature: We can save our base as a blueprint and if it is destroyed, simply rebuild it (if we have enough resources).

Another special feature is that food does not spoil The developers want to ensure that we have more time for other aspects such as exploring and don’t have to constantly worry about whether the dodo steak in our backpack is already getting furry.

In addition to the typical needs such as tiredness or hunger and various weather conditions, we also have to contend with special island challenges in Under a Rock. These include curses, diseases and possibly angry locals – depending on how we deal with their belongings

( Either the three of them dance with each other or it's straight to the head.)
( Either the three of them dance with each other or it’s straight to the head.)

But the many dangers should not deter anyone: The developers have included different difficulty levels to make it easier for newcomers to the survival genre, for example. This way, every type of player should find the right challenges and neither be bored nor overwhelmed, as they explain to us.

We explore the world and the AI reacts

According to the development studio, the game should feel rather relaxed overall – but that doesn’t mean that our decisions have no consequences!

Thanks to the specially developed “dynamic AI”, the islanders remember our actions&nbspand react accordingly. So if we do something – for example, spontaneously plunder the locals’ temple – we’ll probably get a visit later, but not for coffee and cake

In addition to the diverse world on the surface, the open world of Under a Rock also takes us to underground areas and lets us dive into any body of water.&nbspThis is intended to give the environments more depth. So quite literally.

( The island looks like something out of a travel brochure, but harbors many dangers.)
( The island looks like something out of a travel brochure, but harbors many dangers.)

Nordic Trolls tell us in an interview that they are aware that non-handmade worlds can quickly appear arbitrary. However, they are convinced of their self-developed procedural system, which promises a varied and exciting world for every playthrough. In this way, the story should unfold differently for all players

What do we like? What remains unclear?

What we already love about Under a Rock:

  • Ghost-Building: If this works as well as it sounds, it could be an interesting gradation of PvP. We don’t have to turn it off completely just because we’re afraid for our artful base – if it gets destroyed, we still have the blueprint and can rebuild it soon.
  • Graphics: Under a Rock deliberately opts for a more colorful look than many of its genre competitors. Some of the images remind us of Breath of the Wild – we really want to climb that volcano back there! This may also make it the ideal game to explore with younger players, for whom gritty hardcore survival would not be suitable.
  • More companion features: As much as we loved them – in Ark you could do next to nothing with the dodos except feed them, breed them and use them as pack mules from time to time. So it could be a big plus point that you apparently have more of your animal companions this time.

Where we are still unsure:

  • Procedural world: Although many games have already implemented this, a procedural system is not always convincing and often makes the world seem lovelessly thrown together. We are very excited about Nordic Trolls’ implementation, especially because the story is supposed to be spread across the entire randomly generated map.
  • Peaceful play possible? While some of us try to remain as pacifist as possible in survival titles, the AI locals often throw a spanner in the works. They provoke us until our patience runs out and our pacifist success is inevitably lost. Hopefully the AI in Under a Rock will not only be programmed to react aggressively to us, but will also show us a little respect.

Under a Rock will initially launch in Early Access on Steam and Epic Games exclusively for PC and will remain in pre-release access for around a year. The final version will then include more biomes, more creatures, boss battles and so on. With the final release, the game will then also be available for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. The game does not yet have an official release date, as the developer studio’s motto is: 

“No release date until we’re sure we can meet it.” 

You can (on Steam) add the game to your wishlist and you’ll be notified as soon as a release date is announced. 

What are your first impressions of the new survival game Under a Rock? Which of the presented features do you particularly like? Will you be adding the Nordic Trolls game to your wishlist? Do you think Nordic Trolls’ motto is right? Let us know what you think in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!

Editor’s verdict

The trailer for Under a Rock doesn’t give much of the story away – and I think that’s a good thing! You sink straight into unusual graphics for a survival game, which makes me think I’ve landed in a Disney universe. It definitely looks like a welcome change from other hardcore survival games. I’m very curious to see how the AI behaves – especially in a procedurally generated world, which often causes problems.

I hope that you don’t have to rush right from the start to prepare for the first unplanned visits, as is the case with other genre representatives. Personally, in survival games, I always want to focus on having an established base before embarking on an adventure.

I’m particularly looking forward to the animals that can be discovered on the island and I already have a clear idea of how I would set up my breeding. I was particularly taken with the dodo – I read somewhere that it’s called Kevin (!) – in the first few seconds of the trailer. You should know that I used to be a professional dodo breeder in the Ark universe.

I’m definitely excited to see what the five-person development studio has put together for us and am already looking forward to Early Access!

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