Build Your Future, Build Your Tribe
Eden Rising: Supremacy
Developer: Nvizzio Creations
Platform: PC
MSRP: $14.99
Release Date: May 17, 2018

Eden Rising: Supremacy is a game that blends the exploration of an adventure game, the crafting of a survival game, and the frantic scrambling of a tower defense game. It’s a heady blend of ideas that is both inspiring and daunting – the people at Nvizzio Creations have bitten off a lot to try and bring together into one cohesive package, but even on the first day of launch, there’s a lot of promise here.

The world of Eden feels raw while you walk through it. It’s an alien world that’s rough around the edges, filled with poisonous water and creatures that want to see you dead. Its landscape is dangerous and difficult to understand. Yet despite all this, the world is colorful and exciting, with a horizon that always hints that there are new discoveries to be made, and fantastic moments just a little further down the road. If you just keep going, just keep persisting, maybe with some encouragement from your friends, all your effort will be worth it.

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Brace yourself - There is a lot to unpack about this game.

In this way, Eden Rising: Supremacy perfectly matches the world that it is trying to simulate: while there are tons of rough edges to this early access game, what it delivers on more than makes up for its faults. Filled with surprises, this genre-bending world has elements that sing in harmony with each other, leaving you and your friends clamoring to play more.

The Premise: An Alien World That’s Full Of Surprises

To understand Eden Rising, you have to understand where the developers want you to begin. At the start menu, you have a chance to create your own server, or join someone else’s. This is important, because a server in Eden Rising is essentially a save file not only for yourself, but for anyone that joins your game, now or later.  If you create your own server, name it well, but essentially that server now saves the progress you and anyone else makes in the world of Eden.

This is now your struggle, and your personal world to conquer. Good luck.

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As you craft and build, your avatar will look more and more like they fit into the alien landscape you are exploring.

When you find yourself standing on the shores of an alien planet, surrounded by mushrooming plans and toxic sulfuric lakes, you are obviously a little confused. The only backstory you are given is from a disembodied AI, who informs you that as survivors from Earth who have come here to survive (what happened to Earth? Are you all that’s left?), the surface of Eden is incompatible with your physical being. This is a promising start.

Fortunately, this powerful-but-damaged AI has offered a symbiotic bargain: in exchange for running your bodies through a process to make you resistant to the current atmospheric conditions, you will help it reboot and repair from the dilapidated state it has found itself in. Since you don’t seem to have many other choices, this is where you start the game: trying to get to a massive surviving computer core that is called a crucible.

What this all translates into is that after a brief tutorial, you (and up to seven other friends!) end up on a hill, with a mushroom-themed landscape below you filled with monsters and harvesting supplies. You can see sprawling objective in the distance: blackened angular rows and walls that look like shelled out ruins. You were taught how to make a trap, and make yourself a spear.

Good luck. Don’t try fighting the Gorgon.

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You will be flattened the first time you try to take this guy on, I promise.

Gameplay: It’s All About The Next Big Discovery

If I tried the typical new game explanation by saying “It is a combination of X and Y,” I would need a flow chart. Part MMO, part Minecraft, part Orcs Must Die, with a dozen other influences, Eden Rising: Supremacy is a game that isn’t afraid to try something wildly new by using lots of old parts. This is a key part of the learning process about the game, and part of the fun. Much like any good Dark Souls game, nothing is immediately explained once you are beamed out to the real map. You have to figure out how to manage.

A great example is how two friends and first I ran about, madly grabbing as many mushroom parts that we could, stocking up so we could create the starting trap we were taught during the tutorial. During this time, we discovered that: enemies could hide in the tall grass, glowing red things were actually explosives, and that if we were careful, we could harvest the explosives ourselves.  We also discovered that crafting blueprints can unlock just by finding a brand new material, and that some monsters that you find are not meant to be killed when you first meet them.

Eden Rising is an embodiment of trial and error. You can die (And you will die) when you are out in the world, gathering materials. You will discover new items without any prompting, and you will figure out in the crafting menu how to create new weapons, armor, tools, and defenses. Suddenly, monsters you find out in the forests and hills don’t seem as tough. You learn as a group that you can use traps and tower defenses even outside the crucibles. You start to coordinate, you start to adapt as you figure out this world.

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Exploring the map of Eden is its own reward.

These new acquisitions you learn to use will let you continue further into the vast world, and find some truly fantastic landscapes. These new areas allow you to find more materials and new things to bring home and share with everyone else, which then lets you defend the crucibles of Eden. This is the rewarding gameplay loop of Eden Rising: your team exploring, discovering, collecting, crafting, and then finally defending.

Rebuilding For Tech And Glory

The world of Eden has beautiful biomes filled with bountiful resources, but you will quickly find out that not all of it is accessible right out of the gate. The whole east section of the starting valley is filled with toxic sulfur to the point where it feels impassable. If you attempt to travel into the fungal preserve forest, you will quickly discover that monsters are too plentiful and dense to avoid. Your starting spear and stickpot traps mean nothing to that first Gorgon you meet; just wait until you see how many are in the woods.

This is where the crucibles come into play, and add the tower defense portion to the fusion that is Eden Rising. Once you activate your first crucible, your tribe will be rewarded with seeing a bright red protective dome come over that surrounding area. The dome heals you, as well as becoming a central hub for the region. It gives you access to a supply chest where everyone can drop off their resources, and activates the telesight towers in the region: a network that you can build up on the map by finding datakeys and switching on connected towers. It works as a teleportation network that zips you over the land, making it easier to collect and resupply. Having a crucible gives you many additional tools, like factories for defenses, but you have to upgrade them by getting refined essence. The way you get refined essence is by fighting through a seige.

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When you are in a crucible, you will get a map overlay of what the next seige will be: it tells you the lanes of attack, the amount of foes you will face. It lets you plan where to use valuable power supply points to drop traps and turrets, and gives you all the time in the world to figure out with everyone else where people should brace for impact. Once you the seige starts however, that's it: you only have a very limited amount of time to stop the rush of creatures trying to get to the core of the crucible. The towers are powerful tools, but you must work in coordination with them: they are not powerful enough to stop monsters on their own. 

Succeed in your seige, and you have effectively rebooted part of the computer network of Eden; this translates into gifts of refined essence, and new technology that unlocks more tools. Fail, and the creatures of the planet have disrupted your plans to create a safe world for humanity. At least, until you go find enough resources to try again, stronger and more prepared than before.

The Good: Building A Tribe, Not Just Inventory

In order to play Eden Rising, I played with three other Sprites and Dice writers. The one thing everyone agreed on and kept repeating is that there was a lot, a lot to unpack about this game. That perhaps is one of its best strengths; that there aren’t just layers of gameplay, but that there is layers of different types of gameplay. For Otto, his favorite moment from our nights playing was when he discovered a way to cross the sulfuric wastes using special healing items, and rushed off to see if he could awaken a new crucible for the rest of us. For Adam, it was unlocking multiple options for ranged and melee weapons, and having a chance to play with different styles of self defense. For Eric, it was watching us all die horribly out in the woods, trying to find shortcuts through dangerous terrain.

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Unlocking technology and new weapons feels like a victory for everyone, not just the individual.

When I spoke with Brent, the creative director of Eden Rising, he said his main focus with this project was to make the players come together, to work as a team. I've been using the word tribe because that was the feeling he specifically wanted to invoke. After several nights of playing, with either by myself, as a duo, trio, or group of four, I can absolutely say this game feels better and better the more you add. Three people might be fighting off gorgons while you dash to recover valuable ore. You might find yourself overwhelmed during a seige, but you were just buying time for everyone else to swoop in to save the day. The world of Eden comes alive in part because this feels like your world. When you finish a siege, everyone benefits. When you craft a stockpile of powerful weapons, everyone benefits. Unlike an MMO, Eden Rising's servers are personal; you aren't just one guild in a sea of players, you are the only players and it is your actions that cause change, no one else's.

At the launch of early access, Brent told me there is about forty hours of gameplay to get through all of the established content of the game. Note that I said established: the team at Nvizzio already plans on expanding the world with even more content and material. Not only that, but even if you complete every numbered siege and unlock every possible item, you then have access procedurally generated sieges that are meant to challenge the most veteran of players. For fifteen dollars, the amount of gameplay – of fun gameplay – is an unbelievable deal.

The Bad: An Unfinished World

What Eden Rising promises is an expansive world, filled with possibility and stuffed to the brim with player choice and interaction. If you haven’t been able to tell by how I’ve already described my experiences playing, the game wildly succeeds at this promise.

For the most part.

There are two elements I would caution purchasers about before jumping in with both feet. The first is self explanatory for anyone who plays a lot of early access games: a lack of final polish. While Eden Rising succeeds at building a thematic world with fantastic art and concepts, there are certain last touches that aren't yet in the game. There were several times where I had gotten stuck on the edge of a cliff or tree cluster, forcing me to hit the 'stuck' button to respawn back at base. The monsters you fight look great, but occasionally their movements will become erratic or jump around. While there are musical cues, the game could use a few more, and some flashier effects for particular attacks to really make them feel powerful. Key bindings can be changed, but will reset when you log back in; there is no way to change the mouse sensitivity.

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Combat still needs a push in the right direction.

The biggest issue is that the game world needs a little bit of stabilization. Frame rates can fluctuate, causing for sometimes choppy fight sequences, or making you overshoot a jump while running through scenery that has a lot of business to it. Immersion into the struggle of your tribe is the biggest strength of the game, so getting jarred out of that can be frustrating. Again, all of these issues should be addressed as the game moves towards full release, but you should be aware of them at this point before you spend your money.

If there is one 'must fix' section of Eden Rising, it is that the combat needs to feel more impactful. While combat can be tough and exciting, it also feels just a little too floaty and out ungrounded. Your dodge is a cool looking teleport, but it's hard to tell how far you'll move; sometimes, you'll reappear feet away, and still see damage appearing on your screen even if you made it out in time. While there are multiple weapons and ways to approach a fight, you often don't really feel the impact of your hits, adding to that floaty feeling. Some enemies have very powerful ranged attacks, but you won't even tell you are being hit because they can hit from such far range, and your character's reactions don't telegraph that you are in attack strongly enough. While the real prize of this game is in the exploration and co-operation, tightening up the feeling of combat should be a priority.

Eden Rising Is A Promising Fusion That Deserves Your Attention

I love this game. Bluntly put, Eden Rising is my favorite game of 2018 so far. This is probably a premature declaration, but right now I am trapped in the core gameplay loop that hits all of my favorite elements. The rush of exploration, the excitement of unlocking new tools, the frantic need to coordinate and co-operate as a team: this game does it all.

Make no mistake, this is an early access game. It doesn’t quite feel finished or polished, with bugs and small inconsistencies that don’t quite connect into a completed product. But I don’t care, because the cycle of constantly upgrading and discovering and adapting is just so rewarding to me. The fact that I can share it with up to seven other friends in our own special server makes that experience transform from being  just good gameplay into something magical.

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Eden Rising: Supremacy manages to take elements from so many games and genres that I enjoy, and then combine them to make something refreshingly different and new. If you are a fan of tower defense games, get it. If you like games with crafting systems and exploration, get it. If your idea of a great evening is logging on with friends to take on all comers, get it. Eden Rising offers so much and asks for so little in return.

The team at Nvizzio Creations is hoping to have Eden Rising out of early access by the end of 2018. If it uses that time well, putting polish on this game and smoothing out all its edges, this really will be my favorite game all year.