Platform Reviewed: PC
Platforms Available: PC
Publisher: Team Niche
Developer: Team Niche
Release Date: September 15, 2016 (Early Access)
MSRP: Php 489.95
Niche – a genetics survival game, or just simply Niche for the sake of brevity, is an indie simulation and strategy game that plays around the theory of Darwinism wherein the course of the game relies on natural selection. Presented in a visually engaging world and laid out on a hexagonal-grid playing field, the goal of the game is to see how long you would be able to let your species survive, and possibly thrive, in the harsh environment that they live in.
The game starts off with only a pair and an offspring of a species that seems to be an amalgamation of different kinds of mammals. Each creature has its own set of traits with varying values that would tell how good they are at scouting, foraging for food, attacking, etc. These traits can then be passed on to an offspring through mating and their value can be enhanced or nullified depending on the parents’ specialty, for example: parents that have a good stat in foraging can have an offspring which can be twice as good at foraging. Each creature can only have a set number of actions they can do per turn or day depending on their maturity.
Other elements come into play, such as mutations that can happen in between generations which give out random traits that may become an advantage or disadvantage in their survival. Weather and the terrain have an effect of how much resources your species can get. There’s also the threat of predators that may pop out from the tall grass at any time of the game, which may be a blessing or may spell out impending doom based on the condition of your creatures. Creatures can also get sick and will inevitably face death through old age or hunger, whichever fills up their “health” bar first.
The fate of your species depends on the decisions that you make. Will you try to forage food from a thorny plant and harm your creature in the process? Will you let your pack migrate and venture into the tall grass where danger can just spring out on you without prior notice? Will you spend precious turns in trying to chase down a damn rabbit just for a little amount of meat? Despite having a choice, the gameplay is still heavily affected by the harsh nature of the environment, just like how it is in nature.
We picked up Niche because it has a very promising and interesting premise; being able to play as God and tinkering with biology. With the game still on early access, it still has a lot of things to work on. First off is the difficulty; Niche was supposed to be designed as a challenging strategy game but the difficulty that is currently available is just a bit too harsh for those who would just like to enjoy the sandbox aspect of it. There are no visible counters implemented in the game yet but it is quite a challenge to go past the fourth generation, and that is even with the help of outsiders or those creatures you just meet along the way. With all the factors you have to weigh and juggle with, it give out an impression less like a “row against the current of fate” and more of a “let yourself drift through the torrential rapids of doom and hope you don’t smack towards the boulders” kind of thing.
Still, Niche’s challenge is something that needs to be experienced personally to be appreciated. We’re keeping an eye out for possible additions during its early access and quite possibly on its full release on the PC and on mobile devices, which is sometime within the first quarter of 2017.
This preview is based on an early access copy provided by the developers