Despite its bleak premise, unforgiving gameplay, and constant fear of nightfall, The Bonfire 2: Uncharted Shores is an absolutely enchanting game. Players are tasked with helping a stranded crew survive on a mysterious island after their ships are destroyed out at sea. The survival simulation game will see you harvesting resources, crafting buildings, and slowly piecing together a bustling town. It deftly merges the dread felt while playing survival games with the addictive quality of city building sims, and pulls it all together with a cartoonish veneer that makes you feel personally responsible for everything that befalls your tiny villagers.
If you've played the original title, you'll notice that, while most of the core mechanics remain intact, there's been a radical shift in perspective. No longer is your land viewed as a side-scroller. Instead, you'll be looking down on the action from an isometric standpoint. To go along with the new look is the ability to place buildings wherever you see fit, giving you complete freedom over your settlement.
At its core, The Bonfire 2 is all about managing your resources. You'll need to track each villager's Health, Energy, and Hunger, along with a growing list of natural resources such as Wood, Food, Iron, and Coal. Each person can be assigned specific tasks to help keep the village running, and you'll find that constantly changing their focus is key to quickly growing your town. For example, if you're trying to build a bridge to access a new part of the environment, it's beneficial to pull your entire population off their current tasks to lend a helping hand. Of course, this means you'll no longer be stockpiling any other resources, and unless you've planned ahead you could find yourself in a predicament down the line.
Tracking all of this is made easy, thanks to an intuitive and minimalistic menu that gives you all the info you'll need without ever intruding on the action. You can even navigate the menus and perform at bit of managerial work while the game is still running in the background, or you can pause the action if you need a few seconds to gather your thoughts.It's an impressive UI, and among the best in recent memory.
As you slowly grow your town during the day, things always take a turn for the worse at night. This is when your crew will take shelter - or sleep by the bonfire if you have no huts built - and your assigned guards will watch over them as they regain their energy for tomorrow's work. But when the sun goes down, the horrifying creatures of the island come out to feast. And if your guards aren't properly equipped to deal with the challenge, you could see the death of your population. The Bonfire 2 makes it easy to grow connected to your townsfolks - thanks to adorable portraits and hilarious, incoherent vocals - and hoping they make it through each nightfall is an exhilarating experience. You don't have a direct say in the action - that is, you can't tell your characters who to attack - so you'll need to make sure you've properly leveled up their attributes and given them the best gear to help them be successful on the battlefield.
But no matter what happens at night, the sun will always rise, and your crew will get right back to work. This game throws a tremendous amount of content at its players and, despite lacking any sort of tutorial, the basics are surprisingly easy to pick up. Plus, Xigma Games does an excellent job of pacing the gameplay and offering new buildings, enemies, and gameplay elements as you stretch out your playtime. It's safe to say that there's never an idle moment in The Bonfire 2 and trying to play it like an idle clicker probably isn't the best way to run your settlement.
If I have any complaints about The Bonfire 2, it's that the game starts out a bit on the slow side before finding its groove. With only a few villagers, it's difficult to quickly complete any crafting project, and it's not until you're several hours in that the tension starts to pick up. You also need to craft certain buildings to unlock others, even if there's no logical reason for it - other than helping to guide the action and not overwhelm the player. There are a few graphical hiccups, too - a few times I stumbled upon boars walking backwards - and patrolling guards tend to bump into buildings and cluster in a group as opposed to actually searching the perimeter.
The Bonfire 2 far surpasses the expectations set by the original title and raises the bar for all other mobile survival games. As a premium title, it's not beholden to cheap time gates or frequent advertisements. Instead, there is no respite from the grim reality of your village. Build your settlement, defend it from terrors of the night, and shake off any casualties before getting back to the grind. It's a thrilling gameplay loop, and one that I won't soon tire from - though I doubt my villagers feel the same.
The Bonfire 2 is now available on the App Store for $4.99
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