I wake up on a beach, and turn my character toward the trees. Because everybody knows that your first task in a survival sandbox is to punch a tree until you have wood. But Life is Feudal: Your Own (LiF:YO) takes the expectations of its players and raises the bar. I find that I have a number of options when I come upon a tree, and none of them involve beating them until my fists bleed. Instead, I snap off a branch, which I can use to make an axe. It’s only a small detail, but the realism is immediately striking.
Open world sandboxes have boomed in the past few years, with titles such as ARK: Survival Evolved and DayZ and, of course, the timeless classic that is Minecraft proving more popular than ever expected. LiF is a medieval themed take on the genre, and it is extremely complex. The tutorial is extensive, but I found myself repeating it twice before I felt I had a decent grasp on all of the elements of survival in this game. And I still ended up in the general chat with a plea for help when I forgot a crucial piece of information, such as how to forage for plant matter. There is a great deal that is barely even touched upon in the tutorial, and you must learn for yourself. As aforementioned, interacting with a simple object such as a tree or fauna gives you a drop-down list with subcategories of options, allowing you to interact with it in a particular way to achieve a particular result. LiF is, therefore, an exciting and sometimes punishing journey of discovery.
Thankfully, the community in the server I chose (out of enormous lists of servers, holding up to 64 players each) was very approachable and forthcoming with information and help. Although it is still very much a ‘survival of the fittest’ game, and any one of my fellow members would attack me if they saw fit, I had no trouble in my first few hours of gameplay. There seemed to be an unspoken understanding that attacking newbies is a pretty crappy thing to do.
Bitbox Ltd, describe their crafting system as ‘rich’, and that is an understatement. As in most sandboxes, the first few hours are spent gathering items to create primitive tools, and to form a base. If you are a sandbox veteran, you will expect these tedious initial steps while you are vulnerable and weak, and have but a wooden shanty to protect you. The interface is a little fiddly to get to grips with at first. It certainly isn’t beginner friendly, and involves a fair bit of experimental clicking and button-pressing until you open the correct tab, but it becomes more comfortable and intuitive as I play on. The notifications are somewhat garish, flashing up in bright colours every time you gain skill points or collect a new resource. They happen unnecessarily frequently too, with a notification for seemingly every tiny move you make, resulting in an enormous backlog of alerts on your screen.is proud to show off its claims to ‘realistic’ crafting, and it is fair to say that they deserve to. Crafting is an arduous task, with progress bars and a system which gradually allows you access to better resources and craft materials. Crafting is an integral aspect of the game; in my initial steps, I had no experience with combat at all, and was totally immersed in my craftwork. You can even terraform the land, which is a wonderful addition; flattening out ground, or creating hills to literally mould the perfect base for your living quarters. Every item I created felt like an enormous achievement. And performing a certain crafting action a number of times increases your skill and proficiency in that area, so the game basically evolves around your own gameplay.
As with many multiplayer sandboxes, the community often changes the entire scope of the game. When playing with friends, or a kindlier community (as I did), you may team up to gather resources and build a village to defend yourself from other players. You may end up waging war, and battling enemy guilds, in true medieval style. It is hard to feel alone at any point, even when playing solo. Protecting your hard earned resources is a priority. Skill points can be spent on your character in an RPG style, so you can specialise in crafting or combat, lending yourself to a particular specialty depending on the needs of your guild or community.
There is also an in-game karma system that punishes ‘criminal’ activity. Although a life of murdering and pillaging is possible, it drastically changes the way the game plays out. Cooperation is therefore much more encouraged, or even a more merciful way to rob players of their precious belonging; knocking players unconscious and taking their things is an acceptable crime, apparently. If you are killed, you lose skill points. The more of a criminal your character, the more skill points you lose. Virtuous characters do not take too much of a hit after death, unlike criminals, who may find themselves losing an enormous amount of skill. Murdering other characters seriously affects your karma, and so if you choose to slaughter the players around you and create an evil reputation for yourself, you better make sure nobody gets you back!
There will be times you must fight for your life, or for your territory against other players, and so the combat system is likely to come into play eventually. Combat is heavily physics based; the angle at which you swing, and the part of your weapon which makes contact with your enemy, all affects the damage you inflict. Button-mashing is discouraged, as you are significantly more successful if you respond to your enemies attack with care and precision. Slamming your axe into the face of an enemy as they run towards you, for example, does a lot more damage to them than if they were stationary. The pace is much slower than in other sandboxes where you may find yourself wildly swinging and leaping, but it is much more engaging. The game is hugely player driven, and so combat is PvP based. There are animal NPCs to help fill out the world, but other than that, there is little AI to speak of.
The graphics are as realistic as the gameplay. I appreciated the glitter of the ocean, and the distant trees stretching up to the beautifully textured clouds for all of the two minutes it took for me to sadly turn the graphics down to their most basic levels. They take an enormous toll, and my average PC just couldn’t take it.
Life is Feudal: Your Own (Reviewed on Windows)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
In all, Life is Feudal is a beautifully balanced, realistic medieval sandbox. Although it may be tedious if played alone, forming a team with friends or the server’s community is rewarding and will result in a richly diverse gaming experience. Crafting is intricate and gruelling, but gratifying and combat is equally as thoroughly constructed. There is a very steep learning curve, but once mastered, hours can tick by immersed in this beautiful world.