Chernobyl died, and all that remains are the wolves. Radiation consumes the land, only the massive decaying structures of ex-civilization immune to its deathly grasp. The hardiest of creatures prowl this wilderness, hunting in the hope of survival. You and 99 others drop into this hellscape in search of fame, glory, and the one thing that matters – extraction. Welcome to Fear the Wolves.
This slow strangling of the map operates differently to what you might recognise from other games in the genre. It is unpredictable and nonlinear, spreading in odd directions that are harder to predict. Radiation hot spots can initially pop up anywhere on the map, slowly expanding from these initial zones to eventually cover the whole thing.
The way it does so will rarely be the same. A group of zones on the east side of the map may quickly lock off small villages but create a corridor of safety that includes one of the best looting cities on the map. Equally, things may begin more evenly spread, but eventually create a U-shape on the map that has players converging from all directions on the likely evacuation spot near the southern Security Checkpoint.
The radiation is also not immediately deadly. The first stage is merely a warning – an increased presence of wolves, and the knowledge that things are about to get worse, fast. The playable area will slowly shrink as the zone forces more and more dangers in your path.
At first you will have packs of wolves hunting down players one at a time. They're quick and will strike in packs.
If you survive the wolves, the zone will throw pockets of radiation in your way. These concentrated pockets of radiation are generally referred to as anomalies and cause distortions in the air.
If you still dare stay, the zone will fill the air with radiation forcing you to sprint to keep the radiation from settling. At this point, you'll be able to see the radiation hanging in the air.
If you're unfortunate enough to still be stuck in the zone with radiation in the air, the radiation will continue to get stronger until there's no way to escape the damages. The air will end up turning green and your vision blurry if you're still there.
The zone won't stop until everyone is dead so your best bet of staying alive, is getting out.
Unless, of course, you have the right gear. Fear the Wolves incentivises risk-reward thinking by making it possible to survive outside of the play area if you happen to find oxygen tanks and respirators on your travels. They are limited, but they will protect you for a time. This gives you more options for looting, flanking, and movement. On top of the constant spread, it means you must stay on your toes to survive until extraction.
Veteran players can use all this to their advantage. While the shrinking system isn’t telegraphed, you can learn to read which areas are likely to remain until the end of the game, and the speeds at which further-out zones will become inhospitable. Combined with knowledge of initial drop zones and the movements of players you’ve seen since, this can give you an accurate prediction of where and when enemies will appear and how likely to be well equipped they are.
The shrinking system is at the heart of how Fear the Wolves creates a tense, exciting Battle Royale experience. Next time we’ll discuss how the weather system operates, and the specifics of each radiation level – as well as how the extraction mechanic makes every finale unique and thrilling.
Fear the Wolves comes to PC in 2018, later on consoles. Early Access begins this summer on PC.