New survival game demonstrates the power of Unreal Engine 5 for open worlds – massive worlds and huge bases

New survival game demonstrates the power of Unreal Engine 5 for open worlds - massive worlds and huge bases

Under A Rock is a new survival game in Unreal Engine 5 and will be released on Steam and for PlayStation and Xbox. A release date is not yet in sight, but MeinMMO has already spoken to the developers about the title and sees a lot of potential. As part of our “Find Your Next Game” theme week, we want to introduce you to Under A Rock.

A 60-second trailer with no crazy content, actually just a short demonstration of the world – that’s all it took to realize the potential that lies dormant in Under A Rock.

A paradisiacal world could be seen, rich colors of blooming flora, surrounded by the green of an endless jungle. Then an endless desert, burning with heat, mountains looming in the background – the urge to explore announces itself.

Houses can be seen, built from palm leaves and tropical woods. A whole village, which also immediately stimulates my imagination … the first construction plans are already emerging in my head.

The survival game Under A Rock immediately fascinated me. I didn’t expect that when I saw the trailer for the first time at the start of the shift with sleepy eyes:

Survival co-op on Steam: Under A Rock shows base building in Unreal Engine 5

I spoke to one of the developers about the project, Thorbjørn Olsen, and he also said in an interview: “We didn’t expect the attention […] The feedback blew us away.” After all, at that time there were only 2 videos with a total running time of 2 minutes.

For our “FYNG” theme week, I spoke to Thorbjørn about the vision that the small team of 5 Nordic Trolls is pursuing with the game, what enrichment Unreal Engine 5 represents for open worlds and why the survival hit Valheim is one of the role models for the game.

The worlds in Under A Rock are completely randomly generated.

Endless exploration, huge worlds and vibrant AI

What is Under A Rock game? A flawless survival title awaits us here, which offers co-op and PvP, but should also be fun for solo adventures. Standard games allow up to 10 players, but servers with many more players can be created.

A key feature is the large, procedurally generated worlds. If you start a game, the world will be recreated for you – with a size of around 64 km². 8,900 soccer fields, the world of Far Cry 5 or the maps Erangel and Miramar from PUBG (via youtube.com).

Even away from the big, unknown world, ready for extensive exploration tours, the title offers many survival elements:

  • Day-Night Cycle – It gets dangerous in the dark
  • Diseases – Yes, but Thorbjørn didn’t want to reveal anything just yet
  • Base Building – Unreal Engine 5 allows unnecessarily large bases
  • Crafting – New resources make for better gear
  • Food – Gives you buffs for faster progress
  • Action Combat – Heavy and light punches, dodge rolls, blocks, parries
  • A Strange Curse – Something is wrong with this world
  • Death – You lose your backpack, but not your toolbar
  • PvP and PvE – The server admin decides
When is Under A Rock released? There is no concrete release plan for the new survival game yet. Alpha testing phases are planned as soon as the Nordic Trolls team is satisfied that there is enough content in the game for a test. Early Access on Steam is also planned.

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If you want to participate in early testing phases of Under A Rock, join the game’s Discord server and check back regularly – you can sign up here as soon as the developers announce an alpha test: Under A Rock Discord.

In addition to the huge worlds, there is also a focus on different AI factions, which should ensure a lively atmosphere – away from tasty hunted goods and intrusive monsters.

Thorbjørn explained to me what makes the world in Under A Rock unique and why the AI ​​factions are so important to the game. By the way, he regularly shows the progress the team is making on Twitter:

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Unreal Engine 5 allows for huge worlds and ridiculously large player bases

What is special about the world of Under A Rock? I would like to start with the technical aspect, because Under A Rock is created in the Unreal Engine 5. With the help of the powerful tool “Nanite” you can do almost revolutionary things.

Thorbjørn says you can build ridiculously big bases. The way the Nanite tool calculates the world allows huge builds without putting too much strain on the server’s performance.

The move from Unreal Engine 4 to UE5 helped a lot with that aspect, thanks to Nanite. […] You can build absolutely amazing bases, pack tons of stuff in them – decorations, lying around items, you name it. As long as this is based on nanite, your performance will not be affected. That’s pretty amazing. Nanite gives you an initial performance hit because of the way it renders things. But after that everything goes fine. Just keep building.

Tree houses are also part of Under A Rock’s plans. In addition, your buildings can be seen miles away on the horizon. The widespread “popping up” of map elements when approaching bases should no longer exist:

under a rock base miles away
Player bases can be seen from a great distance.

The model for the large worlds with a random factor was Valheim: “Thank you Valheim for inspiring us to do it ourselves,” Thorbjørn ennobles the Viking adventure. With the help of “seed codes” your worlds can then also be shared.

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Story wise we are explorers in the 18th century and our hot air balloon accidentally took us exactly where we wanted to go. A strange world with strange characters, valuable artifacts and a mystical secret.

In terms of story, that was it. There is still something about the dodos, but Thorbjørn didn’t want to tell me more about it. We can also send artifacts and local creatures home, sort of a collection and progression quest.

under a rock dodo exclusive
Something is wrong with the dodos, I suspect something bad.

The world should offer many biomes – from dense jungles to strange mushroom landscapes to heated deserts and underwater biomes. In addition, different types of caves are vying for your attention.

Exploration is paramount and the procedurally generated worlds ensure that no two worlds are the same. 64 km² of undiscovered land.

There is something new to discover everywhere, a fresh view of the world that never offers the same perspective and always wants to surprise you – be it with a fantastic view or huge crab critters.

under a rock crab cattle exclusive
Seafood tonight!

AI factions bring life to the big world

How should AI factions provide variety? The factions bring another unpredictability factor into play. So far Thorbjørn only wanted to tell me about the Neanderthals, but there are said to be other “intelligent” factions later.

The factions do their own thing on the map, basically acting independently of you.

You can interact with the factions, make them friends and nice neighbors. Or you can directly hand out slaps and javelins to pocket their resources. Of course not without provoking a counterattack.

For a “raid”, however, the factions must first discover you. The AI ​​shouldn’t cheat – if they don’t know where your base is, they can’t start a raid.

However, if you are not careful, the Neanderthals will follow you after a visit and see how you have settled on the island.

under a rock neanderthal artwork
Artwork of the Neanderthals in Under A Rock.

Even if you’ve been nice to them, a raid can still happen. Thorbjørn briefly brought out the Neanderthal:

Uhhh, you live here on a nice piece of land, you have all these cool things, so many resources – let’s assume this is ours now.

Attacks can happen from time to time and Neanderthals are not exactly known for their diplomatic approach.

Although there is no real diplomacy system for complicated rounds of negotiations about territorial borders, there are certain interaction options such as donations – or even war.

Should there actually be a destructive attack on your base that destroys large parts, Under A Rock offers an innovative system for reconstruction. Your base remains as a kind of blueprint and you only have to get resources to rebuild it.

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Incidentally, the dodos are not their own faction, but they can also cause stress if you steal too many eggs from them. Although I don’t know much about the birds yet, I already have animal respect. And a little hungry.

Complex combat system completes the whole thing

Does PvP fit into the concept? Player vs. player combat also has a place in Under A Rock.

Self-created player servers are generally designed for 10 players, which is already a decent number of players for PvP. However, unlimited players can be added via an “experimental mode” – if the hardware fits. Rentable servers from external providers are also planned.

Larger servers are therefore also conceivable and desired by the developers, enlivened by many players who also engage in exciting skirmishes with each other.

The combat system definitely offers the potential for this and relies on an endurance mechanic.

When attacking you have light and heavy attacks available, which can be charged for more damage. Different weapons provide variety in the attack patterns. Planned so far are:

  • sword
  • Axe
  • knife
  • hammer
  • spear
  • Unarmed Combat
  • bow

When defending, blocking or parrying is possible – both actions can be performed “perfectly”, which costs less stamina. However, taking too many hits while blocking can knock you out – “stability” is also a factor.

There is also a dodge roll that gives you some distance and makes you invulnerable for a moment.

The day before our interview, Thorbjørn and his team tried out their PvP system for the first time and “had a lot of fun doing it”.

In PvP, it has yet to be seen whether Under A Rock can create motivation for longer, but the combat system is not likely to fail.

Conclusion: A (possible) dream for base builders and explorers

More and more projects are being created in Unreal Engine 5 and Under A Rock has the potential to define this new generation of graphics for the survival genre for the first time.

Developer and producer Thorbjørn Olsen was absolutely enthusiastic about the possibilities of the new technology.

Extremely large worlds with lots of life and movement, as well as massive player structures that are visible from miles away – without fully loading the servers. In addition, the charming graphics, lots of survival, exploration and dynamic AI factions.

Under A Rock is still in an early stage of development. A lot will still change, some ambitious plans may not work out. But right now I’m really looking forward to the game and will keep an eye on the development.

The team at the indie studio Nordic Trolls has already proven that they can develop games completely. With Karnage Chronicles, there is an action RPG from the small studio for VR fans on Steam.

Let me know what you think about Under A Rock and discuss the possible potential with me. Do you also see a rough diamond or rather a piece of old coal? Write it in the comments.

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Mike Schneider
Freelance author at MeinMMO

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