Table of Contents HIDE
- A Bit About the Developer
- What is Undawn?
- What’s Wrong with Undawn? (Gameplay Analysis)
- Is it worth playing Undawn?
It has been less than a month since Undawn was released on Steam for PC on June 14, 2023, but I have already logged over 120 hours and become one of the top players. Currently, I rank 9th in the PvP arena on my server and am in the top 100 PvP players overall across all servers. It’s worth mentioning that I haven’t spent a penny of real money on the game.
I share this not just to boast but to establish the fact that I have a high level of skill and knowledge of the game mechanics, so you can trust my evaluation and critique. And there will be plenty of critique… But let’s go through everything step by step.
A Bit About the Developer
Undawn is developed by Lightspeed Studios. According to their official website, the studio positions itself as “one of the world’s most innovative and successful game developers” and has offices in China, the United States, Singapore, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.
Lightspeed Studios is best known for the mobile game PUBG Mobile, which has been one of the most popular games on the Google Play Store for many years.
What is Undawn?
Undawn is a cross-platform MMORPG targeted towards “social” players, referring to those who prioritize social interactions within the game. Some readers may reasonably argue, “But how can it be an MMORPG if the developers claim it’s a survival game in an open world?” Well, the world is indeed quite large and open, but it doesn’t really feel like a true survival experience.
Instead of a fully-fledged survival open-world simulator, PC players got a rather flawed port of a mobile game, complete with all the classic attributes: level caps, excessively short missions, overly casual gameplay, and so on. I’ll delve into all of this in more detail in the gameplay analysis below.
What’s Wrong with Undawn? (Gameplay Analysis)
From the first moments I started playing Undawn, I was genuinely excited. For once, I had hope that bold developers had combined the best aspects from top games into one innovative masterpiece. However, after several dozen hours of gameplay, I realized how greatly I had been mistaken about this game.
Post-apocalyptic Immersion and Survival (2 / 10)
When we delve into post-apocalyptic games, we expect to have to ration food and water, fend off hordes of zombies with the last stash of bullets, scavenge for supplies, medicine, and resources in long-abandoned houses, spend nights by the campfire in dark forests surrounded by predators and the undead… Well, Undawn offers none of that.
Early in the game, you’ll be given a plot of land where you can build your dream mansion and furnish it with the most exotic furniture to your heart’s content. On your plot of land, you can engage in farming on an industrial scale, growing crops that could feed an entire community. Water can be obtained from any river or simply from the faucet in your home, where it magically appears on its own. You’ll “survive” with a surplus of food and water at any stage of the game.
As for zombies, they pose no threat to players. The vision and hearing of zombies in the game are limited to a range of 5-6 meters. You can run around the open world for hours, and no one will attack you, completely shattering any sense of immersion in a post-apocalyptic setting.
While the bosses in the game are indeed powerful, their strength lies not in their skills but in the colossal amount of bullets you need to pump into them. So, if you’re even slightly smarter than a cactus, you won’t have any problems with bosses.
Overall, the world of Undawn looks and behaves as if there are no zombies at all. They are merely cute decorations wandering somewhere outside the city and pose no threat to anyone.
You’ll attend campfire parties, dance, zoom around the map on a motorcycle or a SUV, and engage in a multitude of other nonsensical activities that have no relevance to the “survival” genre.
Resource Gathering (4 / 10)
When I started playing Undawn, a game about ZOMBIES, I expected to spend most of my time fighting zombies. Imagine my surprise when a couple of days in, I realized that my entire gameplay revolved around endless and all-consuming resource gathering!
There are only four main types of resources to collect in the game: wood, ore, plants, and animal hides. The level of resources may vary from region to region, but the essence remains the same: you run from tree to tree, bush to bush, collecting, collecting, collecting… This is the core gameplay of the game.
Certainly, Undawn has a few cooperative missions where you’ll battle bosses and hordes of zombies. However, at the moment (at level 47), there are only a few of these missions: one daily mission (5 minutes) and several other weekly missions (15-20 minutes).
As a result, instead of fighting zombies, you’ll spend most of your time digging ore, chopping down trees, and searching for specific bushes.
And you’ll have to do this constantly because all these resources are needed for crafting ammunition, medkits, food with damage bonuses, repair parts, and even the hero’s equipment. It’s dreadful.
PVP Balance (2 / 10)
As I mentioned before, I am one of the top PVP players on my server. Throughout my gaming experience, I’ve played various shooters from Warzone and PUBG to Warframe and Caliber, and I can assure you that, at the time of writing this review, Undawn has the worst PVP balance I have ever seen in shooters.
The issue lies in the fact that the game’s matchmaking system throws PC players and smartphone players into the same battles. However, players on mobile devices have an “aim assist” feature enabled (read as “legal AIM bot“), while PC players do not. Well, technically, there is an option for PC players, but I didn’t feel any noticeable effect from it.
Players on smartphones quickly close the distance to you and start jumping around you—literally, up and down, up and down. The AIM bot does all the aiming work for them, and they effortlessly kill you on equal terms.
But the worst part is the unbelievable number of bullets you need to pump into a player to finally take them down. Since the game is primarily designed for mobile devices, it forgives any mistakes made by your smartphone and tablet opponents, and I often find myself running out of an entire magazine of bullets just to kill one person.
As a result, it all comes down to teamwork, not your personal skills or even your equipment. People in top-ranking positions gather pre-made teams and simply overwhelm any random enemy composition with their sheer numbers. You have no chance against this tactic because when four players rush at you simultaneously, and you don’t even have enough bullets in your magazine to kill one of them, the outcome is predetermined.
My win rate in 4v4 battles is about 50%. This means that neither my skill, extensive experience in online shooters, equipment, nor my knowledge of mechanics ultimately matter. The only thing that matters is which team has more foolish players who scatter in different directions and get quickly eliminated one by one. If you’re looking for fair PVP, Undawn is definitely not the game for you because you won’t find it here. You will be completely dependent on your team members.
I’ve already sent feedback to the developers regarding this issue, but we both know the result in advance… In all my years of playing online games, I can’t recall a single instance where developers seriously addressed the rebalancing of key mechanics. Most likely, we’ll see some new content in the near future, but certainly not a rebalance. Therefore, I’m afraid that the game is doomed in terms of PVP. Even now, at the time of writing this review, serious matchmaking issues are already noticeable in the higher leagues.
Building a House (6 / 10)
Overall, I enjoyed building and furnishing my own house. The problem is that this content doesn’t fit in with the survival genre that the game supposedly revolves around. Just think about it: you have a plot of land where you can build the most exotic palace, fill it with the most exotic furniture, and simply live there like a king. “But what about the apocalypse? Hordes of zombies? Raids by other players?” you might ask. Well, they simply don’t exist. At least not at my level 48; I haven’t seen anything like that yet.
It’s evident that the game is designed for a specific player psychotype called “socializers.” And it’s precisely for these players that the game becomes a paradise: fashionable sofas, expensive wallpapers, luxurious armchairs, and gilded chandeliers.
I must admit, I also enjoy having all of this in my modest shack. The only problem is that no one sees your efforts. To have someone see them, you have to artificially invite friends to your house and throw “parties.” I’m sure you understand that a typical solo player like myself would rather quit the game than engage in such activities… Besides, you know, it’s strange for a 28-year-old guy to play “tea party” with unfamiliar children at a doll-sized table. After all, is this supposed to be an apocalypse or Barbie-land?..
Solo Missions and Co-op (7 / 10)
In terms of zombie missions, I find the game quite acceptable, and I would give this aspect a solid “nine” if it weren’t for a few significant drawbacks:
- Expensive and tedious crafting of ammunition.
- Expensive and tedious crafting of Tactical Gear (consumables needed for using skills).
- Expensive and tedious crafting of Repair Parts (required for equipment repair).
- Excessively fragile weapons, especially Heavy ones.
Because of all the above, you’ll essentially spend all your free time in the game gathering resources, which becomes monotonous, dull, and uninteresting. It reaches the point where players in co-op missions watch out for each other, trying not to deal too much damage. Some players even refuse to shoot and pretend to be “vegetables” throughout the entire battle…
On the other hand, I liked the concept of co-op missions, which resemble Warframe and Killing Floor in some ways. Together with allies, you navigate a small location with zombies and then fight a boss, receiving daily or weekly rewards. Assist Points are awarded for replaying these missions, but unfortunately, you can’t buy anything truly valuable with them. Basic resources and a small amount of Tactical Gear are all you can expect. I suggested to the developers to add more modes in the style of Killing Floor, Warframe, or PUBG.
As for solo missions, they are interesting but problematic since you’ll have to spend a lot of ammunition and “durability” of your equipment.
In other words, such missions come at a high cost, and therefore, the impressions from them are mixed. After all, you realize that every extra shot will be paid for with tedious grinding.
Overall Gameplay Impressions (6 / 10)
If we’re talking about the game as a whole, I am deeply disappointed. In the beginning, I experienced a lot of positive emotions, but the further I progress, the more apparent it becomes that this game has no place for mature, PvP-oriented players like myself. Instead of battling zombies, you spend all your time swinging a pickaxe, living in luxury rather than engaging in hardcore survival. And instead of fair PvP, you’re artificially matched with such unreasonable people that it’s hard to describe the sense of frustration from defeats… Imagine being bound by chains on your hands and feet, unable to even stretch your shoulders, and being forced to fight teenagers in a boxing match. That’s roughly what PvP looks like in Undawn at present.
If you’re a social-oriented player, then the game will be interesting for you. It even has a storyline with video inserts. You can explore a large and quite beautiful (for a mobile game) open world, uncover its secrets, search for treasures, attend parties at friends’ houses, dance around a campfire, participate in quizzes, communicate, furnish your little house, and engage in other activities that social players enjoy.
But when you start playing Undawn, you must be fully aware that it is not a “survival in an open world” game but a socially-oriented MMORPG where you’ll be performing the same mundane activities every day to level up your character, upgrade their equipment, and then repair it every half an hour.
Is it worth playing Undawn?
In my subjective opinion, you should give this game a try and decide for yourself. I cannot know what you specifically expect from it and how critical its flaws, which I mentioned above, will be for you. I’ve studied quite a few reviews about the game on Steam before writing this review. Most players complain about pay-to-win aspects.
However, as a free-to-play player who hasn’t spent a dime on the game, I managed to reach the top 10 ranking in PvP. So, I don’t see any objective reasons why you couldn’t do the same, especially with a strong and coordinated team. No, it’s not about donations; it’s about the artificial leveling of players through a series of blatantly silly mechanics.
In the near future, I will publish a detailed guide on PvP modes in Undawn, explaining the main tactics and techniques that will help you win more often.
I genuinely hope that the developers will save Undawn by adding unlimited co-op missions in the spirit of Warframe or Killing Floor, battle royale matches like PUBG, and a reasonable PvP balance. If you’ve played these games, I think you’ll agree with me that the inclusion of such modes would significantly attract a mature audience. But unfortunately, at the moment, only a house-building tournament and a strange survival event on a radioactive island have been launched…
The hope for a better future for Undawn is extremely weak, but I will continue to play and publish guides until it ultimately fades away.