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Once Human Review (Closed Beta) | Surreal Survival Done Right


Once Human is an open-world survival game from NetEase featuring slick visuals, massive maps, and both PvE and PvP battles. Read on to learn everything we know, our review of its Closed Beta Test 3, and so much more!

Everything We Know About Once Human

Once Human Story Plot


Once Human is set in a post-apocalyptic world where an alien entity called Stardust has taken over human society. What were once humans, animals, and plants, have now mutated into terrifying and dangerous creatures called Deviations. With Deviations out and about, human survivors have grouped into factions. Some of these factions are worthwhile allies, some are outright evil, and some are complete lunatics.

You play as a Meta-Human who wakes up in the middle of nowhere, hungry, and with horrific Deviations all around you. As a Meta-Human, you can survive the contamination and use the power of Stardust. However, you’re not at all invincible as Deviations could still rip you apart and other survivors could shoot you dead.


Discover the truth behind Stardust, learn its origins, and find out what it aims to accomplish. You are humanity’s last hope. How you accomplish your mission is entirely up to you. You could visit human settlements, learn about them, and fight with them, or you could take down Deviations on your own and be an unsung hero, leaving no name to be praised.

Once Human Gameplay


Once Human is a third-person survival-shooter game with crafting and base-building elements. You’ll encounter hostile survivors and different types of Deviations throughout your journey. Some deviations look like creepy mutated spiders, while others look closer to mutated trees. Take them out with about 100 different guns, each of which is customizable with accessories and gun perks. Discover and unlock new things by finding blueprints, which allow you to collect and craft new equipment to protect yourself.

It’s not just the living things that Stardust has corrupted. It’s the soil and water too. Consuming polluted food and drinks will lower your sanity, which will then drop your max HP accordingly. Will you pass hunger to avoid insanity or will you take the risk and eat or hydrate? The choice is yours.


You could chop down trees, mine for ores, and gather other resources that you could turn into tools, equipment, or to build. Build your territory exactly how you want. The game will feature typical base-building elements. However, something cool that this game features is the ability to relocate your territory any time you want.

The game also grants players the freedom to proceed with the game however they want. You could be a lone wolf and operate alone, or you could interact with the settlements and help each other.

Once Human Full Release Date

Releases Q3 2024


Once Human will be released sometime in quarter 3 of 2024. An exact release date has not yet been announced, but we’ll keep this page updated should anything come up.

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Once Human Review (Closed Beta 3)


What makes a great open-world survival game? It’s a difficult question to answer—about as difficult as a similar question pointed toward any video game genre—but as a Minecraft veteran of ten years, I’ve isolated a few criteria by which an open world-survival game can be judged. I could go over all of them now, but let’s sprinkle them through the review so it goes down smoother. The one thing I want you to understand from the get-go is that Once Human will be running this gauntlet and, buddy, it’s running like a PUBG player with the safe zone shrinking at their heels.

We’ll start with the obvious: survival. Half the fun of an open-world survival game also makes up half of the genre’s name, so a good survival aspect should be present for such a game to be considered "good". Once Human’s survival mechanics aren’t that complex and could be likened to The Sims with its simplicity. You fill bars of hunger, thirst, sanity, and health whenever they get low and gain bonuses for keeping them topped off. Not exactly Green Hell, but complexity isn’t everything.


While simple, Once Human’s survival aspect is balanced well around its open-world, combat, and base-building mechanics—never once feeling like an afterthought or a show-stealer in any way.

It takes a back seat when there are foes abound so combat flows easier; being in your claimed territory lowers your hunger and thirst’s decline by 80% so you can focus on base-building; the stamina and health bars are usually ample enough to keep you alive when out and about; all of these features are in play to make sure every aspect has a chance to shine even if you’re going to want to chomp on a deer steak every now and then.


More to that point, Once Human’s survival aspect goes beyond keeping your hunger and thirst satiated, as there are plenty of things out here to kill you and a gallery’s worth of crafting recipes to keep them at bay. This moves us along smoothly to the next pillar of a good open-world survival game: combat.

Good combat is what separates an open-world survival game from a life simulator because being fed is no longer enough. You’re going to need to fend for yourself from waves of hostiles and, such as in the case of Once Human, may have to actively seek them out to get stronger.


This game isn’t like Minecraft, where mobs will spawn to assail you on your base unless you ward them off somehow. Your claim is 100% safe from overworld mobs, allowing you complete freedom with your base-building plans, but we’ll dive deeper into that later. Progression only moves forward if you brave abandoned outposts filled with infected monsters to claim the treasures within, as some things just can’t be crafted or would take an ungodly amount of time to craft otherwise.

Areas with a higher concentration of infected—mostly towers—will also house Deviations, which are large boss monsters that’ll need more than a couple of crossbow bolts to take down and leave behind powerful remnants for you to use when defeated. This is the main way players can spike in power in this game, although taking down a Deviation is usually an ordeal you want to be well-equipped for.


Speaking of equipment, let’s talk about the combat loop itself and how your gear helps with that. Ranged and melee combat options are available in equal measure, although I will concede that ranged combat is usually superior, especially if you’re alone. This is somewhat balanced by the game’s lack of a durability system and ranged weapons requiring additional crafting for their ammunition, making melee options more reliable even if they are generally weaker.

Combat in this game is a matter of taking good aim, dodging attacks a la Dark Souls, and managing your health and sanity as you take hits. You often fight in small, cramped spaces within abandoned outposts, but fights against Deviations usually have enough space to run around in, so theirs is an encounter about skillful reaction to massive attacks.


I find such a combat loop effective, especially when combined with the game’s massive array of craftable weaponry in armor. Although there’s no hard class system, players can choose how they play by crafting which weapons suit their playstyle best and playing accordingly. This freedom keeps things fresh and the unique boosts that Deviations grant when taken down often make these excursions worthwhile.

Moving swiftly along to yet another pillar of good open-world survival is the other half of the name: open-world mechanics. I’m a staunch believer in CD Projekt RED’s 40-second rule for open-world games, which is a video game design philosophy that posits a 40-second timer between points of interest in a map to keep things interesting. Once Human follows this rule well enough with its towers and lootable areas, although the execution isn’t perfect.


Points of interest are often comprised of player-claimed territories and abandoned outposts. These are fun for the first few hours but get stale before long. I wouldn’t consider it too bad a downside considering that player-claimed territories could be moved easily, but it’s noticeable enough to mention, especially in lower-level worlds. Once Human is also an online multiplayer game unlike The Witcher, so additional considerations had to be made for the game’s expanded player-to-player interactions in the open world.


Next up is base-building, which the game does well through variety and quality. There are plenty of building prefabs and pieces you can craft for cheap, much more than your run-of-the-mill survival crafter, so seeing full-on Texas-style mansions isn’t uncommon, especially if you’re among the ones using their creativity to the fullest.

The building assets themselves look great, showing robustness not often seen in survival games. Even the crafting and processing facilities look modern and dependable, which is a far cry from the hodgepodge look of most crafted facilities.

The game’s base-building also has plenty of quality-of-life features like quick dismantling, arrows denoting interior and exterior walls, snap-to-grid functionality, and a free-aiming camera. Outstanding work for a game where you’re more out and about than your usual survivor.


The following criteria aren’t as integral to open-world survival games, truth be told, but they still contribute to its overall quality. The story isn’t usually a factor for these types of games, often limiting the narrative to framing the player’s situation rather than an overarching epic across areas. Once Human actually tries to have lore and world-building in its open world, providing a nice background for its unique aesthetics and premise without hard-locking the player to a set direction in an otherwise open world.

Visuals also aren’t that integral to open-world survival games, but they do help give it an identity in a sea of driftwood and thatched roofs. Once Human dared to be different in this regard and it did so really well with its techno-surrealism, cubist minimalism, and use of vibrant colors. The Deviations themselves could rival Resident Evil with their grotesque designs and the overworld isn’t just a mess of trees, rocks, and streams one might expect from this kind of game.

The icing on the cake is the game’s incredibly detailed character creator, which I used to create the most warped-looking freak of nature this world has ever seen. I wouldn’t recommend this because the game does make sure the face you created is always visible, but the more artistic among you will surely appreciate the added detail.

Once Human’s audio is its worst aspect at the moment but, again, it’s not an effective indication of its quality as an open-world survival game, especially while in beta. The game features voice acting but it’s not available for all NPCs nor is it the best delivery I’ve ever heard. The player character is notably inconsistent with their voice lines, switching between being a proper mime with hand gestures and breaking out in full monologues during cutscenes.


This is where the crack in the paint starts to show, as it were, as NetEase is primarily a Chinese company. Some UI elements are still in Mandarin and a lot of the translations still seem a bit wonky. But that’s a beta test for you. None of these should reflect the final product, but I still think it’s worth a mention.

Overall, Once Human is one of the few games preventing the open-world survival genre from being one huge snoozefest. It stands out visually, does its survival and open-world mechanics well, provides immense customization for its character and base-building, and most importantly, chooses to be fun instead of grueling. It is wacky as all heck on many fronts, that much I can concede, but there is no doubt in my mind that Once Human is an example of surreal survival done right.

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