From Fallout to STALKER to Metro 2033, I’ve been obsessed with games set in the post-apocalypse for as long as I can remember. Even in the last few months, I’ve reviewed a number of them, including Bunker 2021 and Hell O City. The latest to join my ever-growing list is Nuclear Day Survival, a survival adventure game out now in early access from Russian developer Somnium Fabri.
Nuclear Day Survival throws players into the end-times in medias res. It’s not entirely clear what has brought about this particular vision of the apocalypse—early diary entries, as well as, uh, the game's title, hint at a nuclear bomb blowing up without offering much more context around the event. Within moments of stepping into the boots of one of the few survivors left struggling to stay alive, I discovered that the outside world was covered in radiation, and I couldn’t safely leave my bunker without a gas mask. The game’s tutorial is presented as exploring that tiny vault by moving left to right on a 2D plane. While it wasn’t the most impressive place to live, I was able to scavenge through drawers and lockers to collect some basic supplies.
That scavenging process led me to Nuclear Day Survival’s first major gameplay focus: crafting. By going to my bunker’s workbench and combining two dirty rags, one empty plastic bottle, and one piece of electrical tape, I was able to craft a makeshift respirator—one that offered limited protection against radiation but would at least allow me to venture outside and check out the nearby grocery store.
As the “Survival” part of its title suggests, gathering and hoarding materials takes up a lot of game time. The player character must eat fresh food and drink water, as well as sleeping regularly. And if you hope to make it far into the game, you’ll need to find lots of scraps to help piece together wearable equipment that can provide greater protection against radiation...and against other, more terrifying threats that may be waiting out in the wasteland.
I should probably admit here that survival games aren’t really my jam. I can get down with some Minecraft or Don’t Starve, but I’ll generally choose other genres when given the option. With that warning given, I truly believe that the survival aspects of Nuclear Day Survival feel less well-developed and more annoying than many other similar games.
The biggest culprit here is the main character’s incredibly limited inventory space. While he can (thankfully) carry an unlimited number of quest and lore items—thank goodness, because you’ll be picking up notes and keys a lot—he only has twelve slots for materials, tools, food, and weapons. To go out on a scavenging run prepared, you’ll need to already have around half of that space or more taken up by food, water, and items such as lockpicks, crowbars, and shovels, which are necessary to open paths forward as you explore.
That leaves a meager six or so spaces to store whatever goodies you find, and most of these items can only be stacked in groups of two or three. Inevitably, I found myself stuck in a tedious loop of heading to a location, grabbing the small handful of items I could properly carry on this run, and heading back to my bunker to store those materials for later use. Rinse, repeat, try not to fall asleep. I’d assume at some point the game will provide a means of expanding inventory space, but if it exists, I never found it in the five to ten hours I played.
While it may not seem eager to help players along, Nuclear Day Survivor will relieve some of the game’s boredom...for a price. A few hours into the game, I was hit with my first real wall, where I could not progress the main story forward until I had pieced together enough armor to build up a total of 15 resistance to radiation. At this point in time, all I had was still just that makeshift mask, which provided a mere 2 resistance.
Don’t worry, though! If I didn’t want to spend the next several hours trudging back and forth between my bunker and various other locations, the game helpfully offered me a paid “Starter Pack” bundle. Just one tiny payment of $2.99 to essentially skip over the dullest parts of the apocalypse, as purchasing this pack would instantly provide me with a full set of gear, plus a gun and some bullets for added measure. That’s a $30 value according to whatever arcane math the developer used to figure out how much a player’s time and aggravation is worth!
I chose to set the game down not long after this point. As I mentioned earlier, Nuclear Day Survival is still in early access, so it’s possible that issues like the lack of inventory space, inability to stack similar small materials, or even this blatant “pay us to not be irritated” scheme could be fixed. But I think there’s just as much possibility that this early pay/timewall is endemic of the game’s philosophy as a whole, and that the true horror awaiting in this shattered world is increasingly more difficult-to-achieve gear requirements that can be overcome by grabbing your wallet and giving in.
I’m hoping that’s not the case, because everything else here is interesting enough for me to want to see more of it. Nuclear Day Survival’s art style initially struck me as a little like a Flash game, but the more I played, the more it grew on me as a way of providing color and interesting composition while still acknowledging how drab and dilapidated this dying world would be. And the adventure game-y elements really pulled me in, such as one early quest—the one I completed right before that unfortunate paywall—that had me hunting down a ghost for a superstitious doctor in a long-abandoned hospital.
While I was disappointed with how my time with Nuclear Day Survival came to a close, and while the survival elements felt far more punishing of my time than was necessary, I remain cautiously optimistic for the game. If Somnium Fabri can clean up that scavenging process just a bit and cut down on the blatant greed, they could have something special on their hands here—a game that truly captures the post-apocalypse from a perspective we’ve not quite seen before.
💬Have you given the early access release of Nuclear Day Survival a shot? What do you think so far? And if not, what's your favorite post-apocalyptic game? Let me know in the comments!
CHECK OUT SOME OTHER FIRST IMPRESSIONS POSTS FROM TAPTAP:
A Troubled, Confusing Small-Scale RPG Experience - Unknown: Evolution First Impressions
A Beautiful but Familiar Hack-and-Slash - Phantom Blade: Executioners First Impressions
The Vehicle Combat Game Revival Is Here - Rebel Riders First Impressions