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The Witcher’s next game is Sons of the Forest meets Bioshock

Our Serum preview from Gamescom 2023 finds us stranded on a remote island in the Pacific with malevolent forces, mysterious liquids - oh, and the Witcher.

Serum preview: First-person view of a character in Serum fighting a ghoul.

“Serum is life.” That was the message given to me by Game Island CEO and creative director Michal Ojrzyński during our preview of the upcoming survival adventure game at Gamescom 2023. With backing from Toplitz Productions, the Polish studio is hoping to score big with survival fans with Serum in what is undoubtedly a crowded market.

Taking inspiration from recent releases like Sons of the Forest and Green Hell, Serum is set in the year 2070 and follows Adam, who is involved in a plane crash before finding himself on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. As a poisonous green fog blankets the land, it’s here that you stumble upon the unknown liquid known as Serum, which not only grants immunity to the toxin but also offers special abilities. Naturally, there are some side effects.

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“It’s a story-based survival game with maybe a bit of Lost Ark thrown in there with the animals,” Ojrzyński tells PCGamesN. “We focus on the time element, the hunger, staying alive, the mutation, how [Serum] is used to fight animals and change yourself and try to answer the question: Where am I? What have I got into? Where will it go?”

The time element referred to is a countdown clock on Adam’s left arm that constantly needs topping up via Serum to survive the harsh environment. Constantly injecting yourself with syringes of glowing liquids clearly brings back memories of Bioshock, another game referenced by the dev team.

A Serum character wielding a bow and arrow.

Movement was quick and fluid with plenty of ways to refill your counter. As I’m usually not keen on these gameplay elements, I was a little worried that I would have to constantly keep an eye on the timer, yet as the game progresses, it appears not to be overly punishing.

Weaponry resembles that of Bioshock too (think the wrench), by combining the negative effects of Serum to upgrade weapons and infuse them with substances. That said, shooting enemies won’t play a part here, as stealth is your best friend.

A Serum character fighting a boar.

As the mysterious E.V.A.S corporation works away in the background, hinting that everything is not as it seems, players will need to take on the island’s mutated animals while uncovering clues about past events. There will be four to five biomes to explore alongside seven animal types with multiple variations. A Bonebreaker, for instance, is three times the size of a regular wart hog, whereas a Fog Wolf is an enhanced wolf with luminescent green eyes that hunts in packs. You’ll need to defeat all of these creatures to extract Serum.

Outside of the game’s central mystery and survival mechanics, the team hopes to draw players in through Serum’s sense of style. “We very much pushed the graphic style, the uniqueness of the animals and the creatures you meet in the world,” Soltysik adds. “Unreal Engine 5 gives us beautiful lighting. Everything looks nice in this green mist and fog. I believe the art style and the way that the mutated animals are aggressive make it stand out.” A tall order considering the competition.

Serum preview: A Serum crafting station.

One extra incentive is the inclusion of The Witcher’s Geralt of Rivia himself, voice actor Doug Cockle, who will voice Richard, a character I did not have the pleasure of meeting. Let’s just hope that Richard is on our side when he finally makes an appearance.

All in all, my Serum preview left me more excited about the game than I was prior, which is really all you can ask. After all, Serum is life.

Serum is scheduled to launch on PC via Steam in the first quarter of 2024, so expect it sometime between January to March. One to four-player co-op will be available too.

Want to play something similar in the meantime? Here are the best survival games as well as the best crafting games on PC for 2023, including the aforementioned Green Hell and Sons of the Forest.