As a culmination of years of blood, sweat, tears, and passion, Vostok Games, the team behind the famed S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series have come together for their new Battle Royale title by the name of Fear the Wolves. But the bigger question yet – is it worth the wait?
+An absolutely amazing atmosphere that stands out among its peers
+Dynamic weather systems that eliminated players vote on
+A very unique way of handling zones that are closing off
+PvP elements change drastically due to the use of wolves
-Extremely low player count, but does feature a dedicated group of players
-Performance can be a bit wonky from time to time.
It would be an understatement to say that I don’t enjoy a good Battle Royale title when it has something unique to offer. I’ve taken to countless titles ranging from PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, H1Z1, Fortnite, and even my go-to title, Apex Legends as of late.
Over the past few months, I’ve even dabbled a bit in Fear the Wolves from Vostok Games. Well, dabbled is an understatement. I’ve put quite a bit of time into it on both my personal account and the account I use to review games with some sense of privacy when I get that chance.
Motherboard: MSI Z270 M7 Game Ready Plus
GPU: MSI Gaming Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
CPU: Intel I7-7700K 3.6GHz OCed to 4.2GHz
Cooling Unit: Cooler Master GTS V8
RAM: Corsair Vengeance 16GB
HDD/SDs: 525GB Crucial SSD | Seagate Barracuda 7200 RPM HDD (Raid 0)
Since its days in Early Access, I’ve struggled with one very real problem with Fear the Wolves, which seemed slightly alleviated when its recent free-to-play week actually happened. I was able to find full matches featuring 100 other players, 100 other players my partner or myself would have to face off against when the chance to do so actually happened.
But what are you really missing out on without giving the game a proper chance? A lot actually and that’s something to be said for the team behind the famed S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series we’ve known and loved since, well, forever.
Fear the Wolves isn’t just another cookie cutter Battle Royale title – there’s a lot going on all at once
One of my big problems is that Fear the Wolves is extremely underrated for what it is. While it does follow a lot of similar mechanics we’ve become accustomed to with PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Apex Legends, what we aren’t ready for is just how different Fear the Wolves is outside of your basic gear collecting extravaganza.
The biggest thing that separates Fear the Wolves from the rest is the dynamic weather system that is always in play throughout every single match. Every change in the weather plays a massive role whether it’s fog, which limits your visibility and grows even stronger as you go.
Heat, for example, makes the landscape extremely hot and limits just how much breath you have for when you are aiming down your sites. Let alone does it affect your ability to be an accurate shooter, it also reduces the effectiveness of both your medicines and your food. Rain, for example, can be the most brutal of them all. When Chernobyl is already hard to survive around, now, it’s even worse. Thunderstorms are the worst of them all that I had a chance to experience. These storms make it harder to move about, causing vehicles to become even harder to drive.
But let alone does rain make it harder to drive, it even makes it a bit harder to hear those around you due to its intensity. When the thunder rumbles, you’ll find that your vision becomes even more limited than it was before, making it harder to undergo a combat situation as you also have the effects of wind to combat against in this storm.
Wind, if you are wondering, makes your shots a lot less accurate, hinders your movement speed, and even makes it harder to calculate where an airdrop will land on the map. But how does this all come to life and why does it stand out from the other titles on the market? Because dead players get to vote on what weather effect goes into play every few minutes.
Meaning, it can be nice, beautiful even, as you rummage through every building you can in search of oxygen tanks, backpacks, weapons, food, and ammunition for your weapons. However, that can quickly change if a dead player decides to really flip the bird to everyone on the map. They can easily turn it from a nice and calm match to something a bit more chaotic by ramping up the heat or obscuring vision with a heat wave or a sudden patch of fog.
Players aren’t the only thing you have to worry about when you are playing Fear the Wolves
If fog is the only thing you are worried about, then you really aren’t paying attention to the things going on around you, which is something that happened to me on several occasions during my time with the game.
I found that there are different levels of play as the map begins to close in on an area of play. You have what is essentially level system for the dangers lurking about. Level 0, essentially is what it is, means there are no effects going on throughout the map. Wolf packs are tame as they can ever be, only roaming near areas of high-value, which also comes with the added risk of facing down against them.
After a bit, comes essentially, Level 1, which is where the wolves begin to roam across the map, serving as the heralds to the more severe effects of radiation and pushing players to head into the area of play. There’s something special about the matrons of the pack, but we’ll talk about that soon enough since they do serve an amazing purpose that really can change how a match unfolds.
Level 3 is where things get tricky. Level 3, which is the third stage of map progression, is where you will take constant damage within a reddened area unless you are sprinting or moving about. But don’t think you are in the clear just yet. The next level for these zones is Level 4 – or as I like to call it – instant death. That’s it. You can’t stay alive in this area. You will die. Enough said.
The approach to pushing players from zone to zone reminds me of something I truly liked about Hunt: The Showdown from the teams at Crytek. It’s a solid approach and one that works rather well from start to finish. The only difference here is that Fear the Wolves is essentially the Battle Royale spiritual successor to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series and takes everything we love about the games and puts them into a very similar setting.
But do take note, you won’t see the same map every time. The map does get changed out across what seems like two different maps, possibly three in total. Sadly, I only saw two of them consistently and really grew fond of both as each offers their own unique approach to every situation.
Wolves serve more of a purpose than just being cannon fodder to offer you a challenge
When I first dove into Fear the Wolves late last year, I was unsure of what I should really expect from the game. Mechanically speaking, I thought it would be a simple case of going and grabbing a few tools to better my chances of survival and holding out until the very end – my personal favorite approach to any Battle Royale target on the market. Yes, I’m an opportunist and take full advantage of being one in any Battle Royale game I play.
One of the few mechanics I truly had to learn to master was the ability to use a Wolf Matron’s heart against other players. What this item does if it’s in your inventory has two possibilities. One, it keeps wolves at bay. They who possess the heart(s) won’t be attacked by nearby packs. Additionally, the item makes a great get-out-of-jail card when facing down another player. If thrown at them, the heart will call in a pack of wolves, causing them to attack your target and giving you a chance to win the match or at least survive a combat situation.
Since the wolves do take quite a bit of damage – they are bullet sponges – to take down, they’ll give you a chance to bandage up, escape combat, or hose down your opponent while getting out of Dodge. But sadly, even with my time working on this review, the servers were hard to find a population for.
The player base is incredibly small and dedicated to keeping the game alive
No matter what way I want to cut this cookie, I played on two separate accounts during my time with the game. On one account, you’ll see that I have a few measly hours played, but on the other, that isn’t the case. I’ve spent hours on the game and no matter how many hours I spent across either, I was fortunate if I didn’t spend between five and six minutes in a matchmaking lobby.
Even with the games rather unpredictable patterns, radioactive anomalies that appear on the map, or even the use of wolves that only add to the ever-increasing dangers of Chernobyl, I still had a hard time seeing players really looking to purchase the game during its free-to-play week it had just this past week.
During that time, I’d asked multiple people what they thought of the game; if they were planning on buying it, and if so, when they planned on giving the game a chance. Surprisingly enough? Only a handful out of the several dozen players I met actually planned on buying up the game. Their reason for it? They felt it would have been a suitable strong free-to-play title with paid in-game options.
Even at its $19.99 price point, $10 at the time of questioning them, they liked the elements, they loved the gameplay aspects and its ambition, but they just felt it didn’t have the player base to keep them around. Many of them had actually wished the game had released even cheaper or as a free-to-play in some way or another.
But even with the small player base outside of its free-to-play week, Fear the Wolves has a dedicated base of fans around the world that I’ve been fortunate enough to team up with in recent days and because of that, I’m still going to be giving the game a chance here and there, but there’s one thing I need to touch upon before we continue towards our conclusion.
Performance and Graphics
Chief among games like this is their ability to perform and deliver some of the best graphics the market has to offer. Unfortunately, Fear the Wolves is a mixed bag of tricks. It’s a game that both looks great, and at times, performs just as well. However, compared to some of today’s more recent games, I feel that Vostok still has work left to do with Fear the Wolves.
I often found myself having to dumb down graphics and settings in order to find a performance I was comfortable with when darting across the map through various weather conditions. There were times I took note that the game would go from a solid 60-80fps on Medium-High settings, only to tank well below 30-40fps and hovering there for quite some time.
Then I could crank the graphics to high, finding that I just needed to tone shadows to medium in order to get the best visual experience, outside of highly detailed and numerous shadows sprawling across the map. A really weird issue indeed. Especially when I can run games like Final Fantasy XIV, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and even Apex Legends on the highest settings with very few framerate drops.
But it doesn’t mean that Fear the Wolves isn’t a beautiful game. It’s hauntingly beautiful and depicts exactly how I imagined the Exclusion Zone would.
The Conclusion – Let’s evacuate
As we wrap things up, I want to make this clear. I love Fear the Wolves. I love its atmosphere, I love the designs, I absolutely love how it looks. Sure, it has performance issues, sure the player base is extremely low, but there’s a lot of potential in one such game. It took me back to my days of when I’d play S.T.A.L.K.E.R. for hours on end.
Fear the Wolves
Platforms: PC | Consoles – TBA
Platform Reviewed: PC
Developer: Vostok Games
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: Available Now
One thing I do hope is that Fear the Wolves gets the attention it needs from Battle Royale fans or fans of games with more than meets the eye that awaits those that give the game a chance. After all, this is a game I recommend regardless and I hope that its player base steadily grows given time. Until then, I can’t justify a score higher than the one you see below.
It’s truly a fascinating game and it’s one I hope finds an even larger crowd than it already has.
Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.