Serum Early Access Impressions

Serum is a video game made by Polish developers called Game Island and they describe it as a survival adventure game. I like Polish game creators. They tend to create games that have good production values yet manage to keep it real and have a semi-indie feel. On the other hand, it feels like every other week a new survival game gets released. It’s getting increasingly hard for us gamers to get excited about new survival releases.

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Serum Early Access Preview

It’s the End of the World as We Know It

Toxic plague caused by pollution, called the Blight, wreaked havoc on Earth. Corporation, called E.V.A.S., seemed to have created a cure for it in the form of a Serum. Unfortunately, the serum itself is mutating those that use it and you’re in the corporation’s research facility trying to find a way to fight both the mutation infection and the Blight.

Everyone has a timer on their hand, like in that movie “In Time” with Justin Timberlake, that tells them how much longer they are protected from the effects of the Blight. Once that timer reaches zero it’s: “Bye, bye cruel world”. Taking the serum extends the timer and the serum timer is paused only while you’re in your base. You start your adventure from there and it’s where you’ll do most of your initial crafting, research and upgrading.

Facing Corporation Fallout

To find the solution to the infection you’ll have to visit other biomes within the corporation research facility you’re in. You’ll be running to the biomes, trying to find research on the serum mutations and blight, and each time you’ll discover new points of interest and gather a little bit more information and then run back home for a refill.

When I say refill, I mean that initially the serum protects you for just 5 minutes. You can’t consume too many serums, because each time you take one it increases your mutation level. After a certain point you will have to make your way back to the home base and use the absorber to flush your system of the mutation.

The tension created by your desire to go as deep as you can into other biomes while being time limited is quite intense. At first you’ll be doing 15 minute tracks into the biomes, gathering resources that help you upgrade your base and serums along the way and soon you’ll produce things that help you stay outside for longer and fight tougher mutated enemies.

Serum Forest Biome Entrance

Sticks in Atomic Age

While I’m on the subject of fighting you’ll start with a machete fighting mutated bugs, rats, wolves and other wildlife menagerie. Fighting animations are clunky and although you have a block and dash-dodge it all feels rather janky with the current build of the game.

There’s also a certain amount of excitement because this clunkiness makes fighting a difficult endeavor and the danger of you dying is real. When you die you respawn at the base and lose everything you’ve gathered during that run. To retrieve it, you’ll have to run back to your corpse to pick everything back up, so you really want to avoid dying as much as possible. The fact that you automagically respawn to life is not explained by the game’s lore as far as I’m aware.

Serum Combat

The Thrill of Running

Initially I was frustrated by how short my exploration was and how hard the fights felt. Each outing was an anxious run to get as far as I can and discover a new tidbit of story and information to progress the various quests you get along the way. After a while though, the sense of urgency and dread in all my actions started being very exciting and before long I was hooked.

As I’ve progressed and upgraded my base a bit, I was able to upgrade the blight protection serum to last me longer and I could consume more serums. That made exploration easier, but I had to go reach new places far from the home base, so it evened out. You also unlock new serums, and you can combine them into multi-purpose buffs, which provides a creative way for players to experiment in different combat styles and approaches. I imagine in end game you’ll be able to consume so many serums that you’ll have super-human powers of jumping, slamming and running, but that also probably means that you’ll face super-human strength enemies as well.

The game is made in Unreal Engine 5 and its predominant sick green hues in the forest biome and browns in the swamp biome can obscure how lush the environment really is. Graphics are good enough looking that they didn’t bother me, but they’re nothing to write home about either. The performance was good, and I only encountered minor stuttering on the highest graphics settings, but UE5 should be able to provide good performance for various configurations.

Serum Multiple Effects

Final Thoughts

Serum is driven by exploration and discovering where the story is taking you. You won’t spend hours hacking at mining nodes and picking up sticks to build a pointless cozy home that a lot of survival games seem to make you do. Every resource you pick up will be spent on upgrades that will enable you to get further. This entanglement of game mechanics and story is what makes Serum very interesting to play.

I’ve spent about 15 hours with the Serum early access press preview build. Early access has all the most basic functionalities present, and everything is working without many major bugs. There’s at least another 15 hours of content from what I can see, if not more. I’ll do an update of this preview if anything worth mentioning comes up.

There’s a roadmap of features and improvements that they will be working on for full release, including co-op. I’m just hoping they’ll work on basic UI functionality first, because it screams for some Quality of Life improvements.

I’ve enjoyed my time with Serum so far and will be finishing the game for sure, which is more than I can say about most survival games I’ve tried this year. If you’re looking for that post-apocalyptic fix yourself you can find the game on Steam and if they get the price right and manage to fulfil all the promises from the roadmap we might have a pretty solid game on our hands. It will be out in early access on May 23rd, 2024.


  • Limited time you can spend exploring makes things exhilarating.
  • Discovering where the story will take you next.


  • UI is missing lots of Quality of Life features.
  • Clunky melee combat.
Review platform: PC
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Author Serge profile picture
Having games be part of his life since Commodore 64 it was only natural that Serge co-founded With every new game he travels from being the Noob to being Gosu. Whether he does coding or editorial work on the website he is still amazed by the fact that gaming is what he does for living.