Life is Feudal – A Preview:
Realism is all the rage these days – you find it in shooters, truck simulators, caveman wang*. Realism in crafting, however, has been somewhat absent except for rare exceptions like in A Tale in the Desert. But while ATITD is strictly social, Life is Feudal from Bitbox Ltd. aims to be a complete sandbox as a sort of EVE Online meets DarkFall with flavors of Rust/MineCraft/Wyrm for good measure.
A Bumper Crop of Caveats
As you read, be warned: This is a very early alpha, so much so that I actually hope Steam comes up with a tagging system that shows a bit more obviously (than the current tagging system) what stage a game is in, and that can be easily tweaked by the developer over time as it progresses.
It’s also important that you are aware that this is a precursor for a planned MMO of the same name, thus the sub-title: “Your Own.” The difference between this incarnation and the planned MMO will likely be in scale, but by buying in at this stage, you will also get a free copy of the MMO.
That said, the developer appears to be fairly active and seems, in my opinion, trustworthy insofar as every effort will be made to make the MMO version happen. “Your Own” allows you to host your own servers much like you would a MineCraft server. The MMO version would be exactly what it sounds like; a centralized server that everyone connects to.
The final thing you should know about the MMO version if that it will be a “Buy It Once, No Fee” game. You will, however, get only 1 character, and your reputation can dip permanently into the negative if you allow that to happen. The reason for this is that want players who PK others to deal with the consequences of being forever known as a murderer.
Now, for those of you still here, Crafting Sandbox! That’s exactly what it is, and it does not sugarcoat it in the slightest; there are no mini-games for the gathering or crafting, nor does it appear anything will be added to replace the ‘preforming an action’ loading bars, so expect a fairly bland start. And a bland middle, for that matter.
Picking a server will be your first task, so pick a good one because your progress will not carry over to others. When you spawn for the first time, you’ll be in a random location, nearly naked, but for a tunic and some nice cookies to munch on. If you go into this blind, like I did, you’ll run around confused for a little while in complete, untamed wilderness.
So now, what do you DO? That actually takes some thought. LiF has almost zero PvE content apart from its crafting and gathering. Conflict will come entirely from groups of players in a PvP sense and in a Political/Economic sense. If done right, this could be very interesting, but on a new or small server, it may never get to that point. So picking a good server is very important, as well as is not playing by yourself.
In Peasant Company
I 100% recommend NOT trying to solo. You’ll only be in for a bad time (for reasons about character advancement which I’ll get into shortly, and because building up an empire to eventually fight people over will be the whole core of the late-game fun). The early game enjoyment involves being one of the founding members of a settlement, thus being able to say later, “I built this.”
As such, you need to either join a budding settlement to work for, or drag some friends with you, kicking and screaming, to make your own little fort in the world.
Actually advancing your character will take quite a bit of time. Skills are based on a 100-point system, and you can only have a maximum of 600 points. Out of the various crafting paths, each path has 5 sub-skills and each skill has 5 levels of advancement. This means you’ll very much have to specialize. You’ll be able to move your points around if you like, but even then you’ll have to work for them. Since you’ll only be allowed 1 character (unless you multi-box), this lets you re-spec your skills should you need to.
Every castle will begin its life as a few twigs snapped off a tree, and a few rocks plucked from the gravel. Harvesting and crafting all takes place through a menu system. Look at a tree, right click, scroll down to Foresting, choose “Snap a branch” and then wait for the bar to fill as you preform the action.
Gonna Ply With a Little Help From My Friends
Every action will raise some associated stats and related skills. Of everything in the game though, I hope there is eventually an option implemented for speeding up some of this process as it is life-wastingly time-consuming without the cooperation of fellow players: Pick a bunch of trees for materials, soon you’ll be able to chop down the tree itself and plant new ones. Lay waste to a bunch of trees and soon you’ll be able to cut them up into usable logs and boards. Once you have a giant stack of boards, you should have the necessary skills to make some basic furniture, chairs, tables, etc. Realism is fun to test out and play around with, but one might consider that in a virtual setting it could be just a little quicker than the wetware version.
Once you can make some more advanced things like tables, you’ll start needing materials from other paths of crafting that your friends and neighbors should be doing. Once again stressing that this is a social game and needs to be played alongside friends and guildies. My only gripe about crafting is that without using the wiki, there is no list of things you can make before you’re able to make them, so you don’t know what it is you’re working towards until you’re already there. Then in addition to that, once you’re able to make something, you don’t know what it will take to complete it until you’re already setting down a foundation for it to be made.
A Mixed Bag
Your inventory is a loose bag, much like in Ultima Online: This means no grid, no menu, just objects in a big box that need to be sorted manually. Thankfully, your inventory recalls the placement of your objects, and with bags full of stuff you can place on the ground, organization is possible! Your only limit is weight. After a limit, you can no longer add objects to your inventory. Sometimes, however, you can slowly carry some overly large items like full-sized wooden logs, freshly cut down, over to your carpentry stash so that you don’t have to make multiple trips sawing out heavy boards and returning with a few loads at a time.
If no one in your group has a resource, and your neighbors don’t want to share…well then you might have to ‘convince’ them. Or, if a member of another settlement is caught stealing from your cache, well, then it might be time for war! Much of the larger implements of war, however, are not quite ready yet, but just keep in mind what this could ending up looking like on a well-populated server.
The Simple Life (For Now…)
There are still other things to be touched upon, like terra-forming, tunnel-digging, mining, farming, even alchemy…but they’re all just different sides of the same coin. The game is a work-in-progress, but – as we’ve seen from other crafting focused style games – players are not to be underestimated, and even the mundane can be squeezed for the sweet juices of enjoyment.
A few more technical aspects before I sign off: For an indie game, the overall visuals are decent-looking. But what is impressive is the draw distance; it’s awesome being able to walk up a hill and look over a sea of trees, or being able to see the top of a building across the valley peeking up just past the tree tops.
The music, however, is a bit overbearing. I ended up either listening to some other game’s soundtrack or watching a movie while I did some more time-consuming gathering.
Slow and Steady
This is a very slow-paced game, in very early development. Being aware of this, you can join a settlement on a server of your choice. I would actually be more interested in seeing the resulting MMO, but for the curious, getting this would raise the chances of the MMO happening and you’ll be able to get the feel for it early, in the earliest of access. Life is Feudal would be one for the people who enjoy crafting in games, games like Wyrm, Rust, and those crazies who create 1 to 1 scale recreations of Hoggsworth in MineCraft.
Watch the Promo Trailer for Life is Feudal:
[referring to RUST – Ed.]