Savage Land Demo,
A deep space mining vessel finds itself the unlikely target of a political coup. A radical movement spreading on the outskirts of the colonies in recent years has managed to infiltrate the blue collar workforce of the Vortex Hibernia, en route to a destination in a far off asteroid belt. This terminus will never be reached. With members of the group embedded even within the ranks of the bridge crew it does not take long for the mining craft to divert to its new destination…Na Pali.
Having been waiting for Residual Decay for who knows how many years (and not being an active Unreal player for some years, either), I was somewhat surprised when mr_prophet contacted me with news of the release of a new demo by Red Nemesis, one that is apparently part of a new project incorporating elements of what Residual Decay would have been – Savage Land. (It seems like one of the less dangerous side effects of the pandemic of 2020/2021 is that it gives birth to tons of creative projects all around.) So for the first time in what has probably been two years, I actually installed Unreal again and gave it a go as soon as I had a free afternoon. Something like this, I would not want to play without a good stretch of time dedicated exclusively to it. And I have to say that Savage Land does not disappoint.
Although consisting of only two maps, the demo takes considerable time to clear for the first time thanks to the maps’ complex layout. Although the levels require a good deal of backtracking due to locked down areas sometimes hinted early on, thanks to scripted events and smart enemy spawning, the already explored areas are rarely just empty corridors that the player only needs to traverse through as quickly as possible. The levels rely strongly on the vertical dimension and require the player to build up quite a good mental map of the level’s layout in all three dimensions, and also understanding what other areas are nearby, but not necessarily accessible… yet.
As you would expect from a Red Nemesis production, Savage Land will deliver an action packed experience with new weapons and enemies, and it has an excellent sound design (perhaps the best we have heard in Unreal yet) that helps keeping you on your toes even when the game is not actively trying to kill you. Replay value is excellent not only because of the smartly managed difficulty levels, but due to the fact that there are multiple ways it can be completed – the quick way and the ‘proper’ way. I am curious to see if/how such choices will influence things on subsequent maps if the team releases more of the project. In terms of replay value, there is also the new game plus option (a nice touch) that second-time players can choose – if they have the persistence to get there. What this means exactly you will have to see for yourself.
Having said all that, I can only hope the Red Nemesis team will keep their motivation to continue Savage Land and the project won’t stall, and hopefully we won’t have to wait 10+ years for it to continue. Better late than never though, and I’m sure there will be people willing to install an almost forgotten Unreal again to play it whenever that happens.