Trudging through a desolate, snow-covered landscape for ten minutes, scavenging a couple of gas cans, and hiking another ten minutes back to the fire you need to fuel sounds like a chore. This series of actions is what characterizes the experience of Impact Winter, a slow-paced survival game. But monotonous as it may seem, you’ll be driven to keep performing these actions because of the tense scenario that contextualizes them. Instead of challenging you to persist indefinitely, Impact Winter asks you to endure for a set amount of time with the looming promise of rescue–an end to your struggles–and pushes you to stretch your already thin resources just that little bit further.
You play as Jacob, who leads a group of four other calamity survivors. They’re holed up in a church when a little robot called Ako-light springs to life, broadcasting a mysterious transmission that states a rescue operation is occurring in 30 days. Jacob’s task is to leave the safety of the church with Ako-light at his side and traverse the post-apocalyptic tundra, scavenging for supplies in order to keep the group alive until that time.
Each survivor, including Jacob, has a number of meters that must be maintained at a safe level in order to avoid their deaths or departures from the group. These include overall health, energy, hunger, thirst, temperature, and morale. Keeping the church bonfire fueled and making sure each survivor is fed and happy are as important as exploring the world and completing quest lines, which fast-track the looming rescue operation by taking chunks off the timer. The constant juggling of all these priorities keeps you anxiously engaged, your thoughts constantly being occupied with short-term planning as you trek through the snow.
Each individual back at camp has a different crafting specialty that Jacob can take advantage of to help ease the burden of his tasks. For example, Wendy can effortlessly cook a number of filling meals given the right ingredients, while Maggie is exceptionally handy at mechanical repairs and upgrades. These characters also provide a series of personal quests, the completion of which help decrease the rescue timer and expand that character’s range of crafting recipes. These quests are narratively thin, but they are the primary motivators for you to explore the world and push the boundaries of how far you are willing to risk traveling from relative safety. And it’s the exploration of this bleak, snowy wasteland of a world which is Impact Winter’s strength.