Green Hell: A textbook survival experience
Calling Green Hell a standard survival game isn’t entirely inaccurate, but it is also a poor representation of what this game offers. This is a true-blooded survival game set in one of the world’s harshest environments: The Amazon Rainforest. An immersive simulation with no zombies or aliens, just the player versus the wilds.
The idea certainly isn’t a new one, and with innovative competition from games like The Forest, the biggest question is if this game provides a unique enough experience to be worth your time. After about 60 hours with the game, we are ready to dive into what Green Hell offers and how it stands up to other survival games.
Story and concept
You play as Dr. Jake Higgins, an anthropologist, and author who is returning to the Amazon Rainforest with his wife in an attempt to reconnect with the Yabahuaca People, an indigenous tribe about whom Jake has written previously.
After Jake’s wife calls him for help from the Yabahuaca settlement, he is attacked by tribespeople as he tries to reach her in the night before falling from a waterfall. Hopelessly lost with no supplies and mild amnesia, Jake must survive the rainforest and find a way back to his wife if they hope to leave the jungle and complete their mission.
Green Hell’s story is pretty standard fare for a survival story, with a few twists and turns here and there that keep things somewhat interesting. Most of this story is told through environmental features, radio conversations, and flashbacks. Very little is initially revealed, and it will take some piecing together to find out why Jake came to the jungle and what has really happened to his wife. It isn’t anything to write home about, but certainly compelling enough to keep the player motivated and involved.
The story objectives are pretty rudimentary, typically requiring the player to travel to a new area and locate a special plant or piece of equipment. This item is then used to cross an obstacle to reach the next area. Nothing special, but we feel it’s enough not to drag the game down.
The graphics of this game are a bit of a mixed bag. Let’s get our few complaints out of the way first. Occasionally, the environments blend poorly and leave graphical bugs where surfaces meet, and textures can sometimes look unfinished or out of focus.
Those are our only complaints, though, as this game is a feast for the eyes in just about every other scenario. The foliage feels very present and lifelike, and the water effects are gorgeous. Animal and enemy models are smooth and well-animated, and even the player’s own model is highly detailed. There are exceptions to most of these compliments, with some plants looking like PNG cutouts and one or two animals moving stiffly, but these are the exceptions and not the rule.
Sound and atmosphere
If nothing else, we feel Creepy Jar nailed it when crafting the atmosphere of Green Hell. The environments are highly immersive, with plants and animals reacting to your presence and interacting with the environment in noticeable and interesting ways.
The sound design for this title is masterfully implemented, with unique sounds for animals, enemies, weather effects, and even some plants. These sounds serve to make the game more immersive and play an active role in the gameplay. Rattling can alert a player to snakes, running water can guide a player to its source, and growling may indicate a jaguar is stalking you.
The sound effects all feel satisfying and impactful. Sticks rattle when you pick them up, trees splinter when you chop them, and animals squeal when you stab them. With the amount of environmental interaction in this title, a good selection of well-made sound effects keeps things enjoyable and rewarding.
There isn’t much music in Green Hell. The only musical tracks you may hear only play during cutscenes or combat, and the combat music is still rather buggy. For example, if you shoot a tapir with an arrow and it runs off with it, the combat music may glitch and continue playing on and off for as long as that tapir is alive. Perhaps this is just our opinion, but we felt the combat music wasn’t very pleasant to listen to either, so having it playing on and off constantly was irksome, to say the least.
At its core, Green Hell is a traditional survival game. There aren’t any mutants or zombies to defend against, just the occasional tribesperson. While it doesn’t detract from the game at all, we felt this title could have performed just as well without hostile tribespeople, too, as they rarely appear and are quite easy to manage.
The game doesn’t emphasize combat, so what does it do well? We can confidently say that Green Hell is a refreshing return to the roots of what survival games are founded on. Sure, you’ll need to ensure you don’t get speared, but your primary struggles will be against the environment itself.
Finding food and water is a constant struggle, requiring players to manage specific macronutrients so they can’t just rely on eating bananas all the time. The player must handle parasites, infections, disease, and the sanity-draining effects of isolation to survive. This isn’t a game you can expect to coast by in, and we love that about it.
The game’s crafting system isn’t complex, but learning a new recipe will require the player to experiment with different ideas or find a prototype. Adaptation is a major part of the experience, allowing players the trial-and-error experience of surviving in an unfamiliar and dangerous environment. This absence of hand-holding improves the game’s immersion and encourages the player to explore to find better gear, learn new crafting recipes, and discover points of interest.
The unique inventory and building interfaces drew our eye to the game. Just about every item can be dragged directly from the inventory to the environment and vice-versa. To feed a fire, you’ll need to pull the sticks from your bag and drop them in. To build a frame, you’ll need to place the supports before you can tie the struts. It may not seem like much, but making the environment interactive in this way sells the game’s immersion.
The main story isn’t something players will likely want to run through a second or third time. However, additional challenges and the Spirits of Amazonia prequels add lots of extra content for those who want to put their skills to the test or dig further into the backstory.
The map is static, though players may have missed many hidden locations in their first run-through. We previously mentioned that the trial and error of discovering recipes and how to use the wildlife was a great part of the game, but this also means that the first experience will likely be the most interesting, as that knowledge remains viable in additional playthroughs.
With all of that in mind, we still feel that Green Hell would still have tons of replayability value, even if it had nothing more than its survival mode. The game’s most enjoyable aspects are those related to daily survival, and we’ve spent hours just building up another base somewhere new in the jungle.
Final thoughts on Green Hell
Green Hell is one of those games that helps define what the survival genre is and can be. It may not always be the most exciting, but it’s one of the most immersive survival experiences we’ve seen. The depth and intricacies of the game’s systems make managing needs a challenge rather than a chore and turns combat into a dangerous and impactful event.
All-in-all, we hope future survival games can look to this title for inspiration on how to incorporate survival mechanics meaningfully instead of just adding meters to babysit.
If you want to get a strong start with Green Hell, check out our 10 Tips For Getting Started.