Somewhere in Canada, there’s a 16 year old hobbyist who’s been developing a game. It’s a fairly simple game, on the surface. There’s only one map – a significantly smaller version of Prince Edward Island. The graphics aren’t much to look at, and it features zombies as the primary antagonistic force – admittedly, one which has grown rather played out in recent years. Still, there’s…something about the game. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s incredible and I can’t seem to stop playing.

Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to Unturned

The game – which is free – is currently in early access, and plays something like a fusion between Rust, DayZ, and Minecraft. Your character is hurled out into the wilderness of Prince Edward Island, completely naked and all but defenseless. While fending off the zombie hordes, your task is to build yourself a shelter, secure a steady source of food and water, and…well, survive. It won’t be easy, naturally. With the zombies, even one slip can mean your death, and there are plenty of players around who’d like nothing more than to kill you and take all gear from your cold, dead corpse. 

Zombies and other players aren’t the only thing you need to worry about, of course. Eating spoiled food (or being exposed to zombies) will gradually increase your toxicity bar, likely in addition to damaging your health. If it gets too high, congratulations – you’re the newest member of the undead. On top of that, you’ve got a constantly-filling draining hunger and thirst gauge. Again, if either of them reaches 100%, you die. 

The game makes use of a varied skill system. Chopping down trees, mining stone, hunting animals and killing zombies all gain you experience. That experience can be used to improve your character’s skills – for example, you can put points into Crafting to increase the number of recipes available to you. Careful, though – if you die, you’ll lose a level in each of your skills until you drop back down to level zero.

Yeah, it’s not really a game for the faint of heart. 

The crafting system is actually surprisingly deep, even if there aren’t many recipes to choose from at the moment. Using materials found throughout the world, players can construct their own stronghold wherever they see fit, building it out of either wood or stone. After laying the foundations for a home, you can put down walls, windows, and doors; you can also find a generator to power electric lighting, an ice-box, and an electric fence.

Currently, Unturned is in early access, and completely free to play. Those of you who’d care to contribute can offer the game’s creator five dollars to gain access to a Gold account, which grants you new customization options for your avatar, access to special servers, and a few other minor perks. 

Unturned may not be a terribly new – or unique – idea, but it’s executed in such a way that it doesn’t matter. There’s hours – perhaps even days-  of fun to be had playing this game, especially if you’ve got friends to share the experience. Give it a try. After all, what have you got to lose? It’s free.