I've previewed and reviewed a bunch of survival games over the years. Each one tries to do something a little different to stand out from the crowd, and Survival: Fountain of Youth is no exception. The unique features of this game certainly intrigued me when I played it during the Next Fest in Summer 2022 and I was anxious to dive into a more complete version of the game.
Survival: Fountain of Youth is set sometime in the early 1500s. You are a nameless crew member who has joined Ponce de Leon's expedition to the Caribbean and Florida in search of the titular magical fountain. Unfortunately, things go awry and your ship shatters to pieces, depositing you on the beach
A Legendary Journey
Your adventure begins on the doomed ship that's carrying you over the ocean. A fire breaks out and you're trapped -- the only way to safety is through a broken window. Before you dive out, though, you'll have to choose your starting equipment.
There are a total of 10 items to choose from, and each and every one of them is useful. You could take the Leather Backpack and increase your inventory size. Perhaps you could play it safe and take the Bag of Medicine in case you get sick. Or, instead, you could play it really safe and take the Pistol with ammo.
You can only pick two items to take with you -- or three, if you're playing on Easy difficulty -- and this is the first challenge that you'll have to face. I imagine that the limited selection represents grabbing a few things in a hurry before the fire consumes the ship. I made my usual choice of the Iron Axe and Iron Flint and dove into the water.
Taking Your Time
With the intro over, the game itself begins proper. You awake on a beach of an unknown island, surrounded by crabs and coconuts. It's not immediately obvious, but you are definitely on the clock in Survival: Fountain of Youth.
Disease and injury are one of the challenges in this game, somewhat akin to what you see in Green Hell. You can get a fever, the flu, indigestion, and a host of other maladies if you make a bad choice or are simply unlucky. What's a little more unique about this game, however, is the addition of environmental factors. The hot Caribbean sun is beating down on you, and that means you'll get a sunburn without protection. Continue to stay in the sun and your injury will worsen, penalizing your stats to a greater degree.
I'll happily concede that some people might not like how Survival: Fountain of Youth forces you to manage your time, but I think it's a refreshing change from the status quo of survival games.
This light time pressure is not the most interesting way that the game uses time, though. Movement and combat take place in real-time, but harvesting resources (and performing certain other actions) brings up a dialogue menu. Interact with a tree, harvest some resources, and time will jump forward. You'll lose some tool durability, your stats will go down slightly (representing the passage of time), and the resources you want are on the ground.
I'll happily concede that some people might not like how Survival: Fountain of Youth forces you to manage your time, but I think it's a refreshing change from the status quo of survival games. I haven't seen very many games that do something like this, and I think that this one feature would make it a game worth exploring -- if only for the sheer novelty of it.
Unraveling the Mystery
There's more to Survival: Fountain of Youth than, well, survival. There is also a story to explore -- another welcome respite from the years of storyless survival games. The island you land on (and the other islands in the immediate area) is home to an ancient civilization called the Bimini. They have left behind "chronicles" which depict their mythology, abandoned temples, and seemingly magical potions.
The core hook of the story is your attempt to catch up with Ponce de Leon and figure out what happened to the rest of the crew. This narrative enhances the survival aspect, giving you a purpose and always pushing you forward.
Survival: Fountain of Youth gives you a generous amount of flexibility to determine how you want to play the game.
That same forward momentum also applies to your movement between the islands. After you're finished with the islands in the Bird Region, you'll take a boat on a journey to the Buffalo Region. This second zone has a harsher climate, tougher enemies, and more powerful resources for you to exploit.
Survival: Fountain of Youth doesn't force you to take this path, though. You could, for example, opt to build a main base on the Island of Hope where you begin the game and fast travel home anytime you need to do some crafting. Alternatively, you could aim for a more nomadic feel, building a new base camp for each new region you explore. Survival: Fountain of Youth gives you a generous amount of flexibility to determine how you want to play it.
Survival: Fountain of Youth Preview - Final Thoughts
I progressed to the current endpoint of Survival: Fountain of Youth's story in just a few hours, though I caution that you won't have the same experience -- I had the benefit of a few dozen hours of exploring the game to discover what I could about its mechanics. I'd estimate that it would take 10 to 20 hours for you to reach the end of the currently available content.
A total of 5 regions are planned, each of which has multiple smaller islands to explore (and a few puzzles to solve, too). The Early Access launch version ends its story on the third of four major islands in the second region, but the entire region is nonetheless open to explore. It's a tantalizing taste of what's to come.
Survival: Fountain of Youth may not make any groundbreaking changes to the survival genre, but it's a pretty solid survival game as it is right now. The time mechanics, disease system, and other unique touches make it stand out just a little more than the competition. If you're a fan of the survival genre, I think that Survival: Fountain of Youth is well worth checking out.
TechRaptor previewed Survival: Fountain of Youth on PC via Steam using a copy provided by the publisher.