Niche - a genetics survival game Thanks again adamhm for the gift
One of the best games I’ve ever played and absolutely the best I’ve finished in 2018 so far. I really love science-inspired games but this time it was far away from my field so I was not so sure if I would like the game. It turned out I had a blast playing it and I can’t recommend it strong enough.
There are two important parts of the game: one is turn based exploration of an island. You move around your nichelings, gather food and nesting materials, hunt, defend against predators, shake trees, catch fishes, dig roots and whatever not. If you believe you have enough of this island you can gather your tribe and travel to another one but you won’t be able to come back so think carefully before you leave a paradise island full of food. Better stock up first! Even though there is a decent diversity of various actions you can perform this part is a bit simplistic and would be boring if the entire game was about it.
The second part, the most innovative and interesting, is breeding. Each of you nichelings has a DNA with 21 gene types with two copies of every gene inherited from its parents. Each gene affects some body part and in turn affects abilities of your nicheling. That gives you tons of possibilities and I don’t think I’ve ever owned two nicheling that were identical. Many traits can be both positive and negative. For example a spiked body is good for defense but disable a tail which can, for example, increase your fishing ability. Of course some genes are dominant while other are recessive so you have to choose your breeding mates carefully. If that’s not enough you can choose to mutate a specific gene and hope to get something good, ask a roaming nicheling to join your tribe and thus increase your genes pool or even find an ancient being with some superior and very useful gene. In three words: thousands of possibilities!
The best thing is how well this part is executed. You have to really think carefully about genes you have in your tribe and try to not lose the most important ones. It’s not easy but genes diversity is very important: once I bred a pack of stealth hunters and I thought it would be easy to finish the game with them. I was so wrong! Soon I reached a different biome so my nichelings were not so stealthy anymore, there were no pray to hunt and my nichelings couldn’t fish nor gather poisonous berries. The starved to death very soon… the game also shows how brutal the nature can be: you can’t really afford to keep alive and feed a crippled, almost useless baby. Brutal necessity but you really have to get rid of it.
In the end I’ve reached the best ending but it took me a dozen or so of tries to manage my genes pool properly so that I was able to traverse the most dangerous isle.
I really, really recommend the game! Full list