Early Access: Life is Feudal

LiFFirst up is our disclaimer.  We received this software for review purposes only, and as such all opinions in this article are our own. No money has been exchanged for this review.

Trending…the term is almost a parody of itself. During the past decade, if you don’t trend then you’re relegated to the back of the bus; and it seems the retail gaming world agrees. One such trend is “early access” availability. Projects non-existent in a retail sense are attaining major acclaim (a certain open world zombie title comes to mind); and they’re profiting as much now in alpha/beta as they likely will upon release! Another developing trend in gaming is the “Sandbox RPG”, which requires players to mine, hunt, craft, explore and build to ensure survival.

Enter Life is Feudal from BITBOX, Ltd. This beautifully rendered product fits into both the aforementioned trends, and I’m currently posting an ongoing series for it on the HeroesOfGamersHaven YouTube channel. There are two versions of Life is Feudal (LiF) in progress: A small-server edition called “Your Own” (LiF:YO), as well as a full MMORPG (LiF:MMO).

SellingPoints1Currently, only the early alpha stage of LiF:YO is available. The projected release is TBA, but early 2016 is likely. LiF:MMO is somewhat trickier to predict, as closed testing isn’t scheduled to begin until the “first half” of 2016, according to the developer.

There are two major differences between LiF:YO and LiF:MMO:
1. Map size (3 square kilometers vs. 21 square kilometers, respectively)
2. Maximum number of players (64 people vs. 10,000+ people, respectively)

Don’t let the seemingly smaller scope fool you…3×3 km is huge! The game started me off at the extreme southern shore of the map, and I decided to hoof it to more interesting landmarks on the northern side. It took over 30 minutes to trek the following path:
LiFRoute1LiF focuses on three major activities:

Exploring: Walk, sprint and mouse-look your way to victory. Basic movement is fairly straightforward, but here in the alpha the interface occasionally trips over itself. When you close a dialog box for instance, the Windows cursor sometimes fails to disappear. This means that mouse-look is frozen until you press a certain key to release the cursor. One of the first things you’ll want to seek out are apple trees, as they will be your primary source of food for a while:

Inventory1Acquiring: I’m using this term loosely to refer to the collection of resources, whether it be foraging, fishing, mining or any other such general gathering. It all begins by opening the “Context Menu”, which I have bound to my left mouse button. Simply point to any object in your environment (yes, even the ground) and click. This brings up a list of actions that directly relate to various skills your character has thus far mastered:

Skills1Building: I use this term to reflect improvement; not only to your eventual homestead, but also to your character’s physical prowess. Press the “Skills” key to see a complete list of abilities. On the left-facing page in the diagram below, each horizontal row represents a unique skill, while vertical columns denote increasing levels of mastery. The right-facing page describes abilities earned after reaching important milestones of learning:

LiFSkillsAlthough there are several goal-oriented play modes available in LiF:YO, the easiest way to learn the game is in “basic sandbox” mode. Here there is no hurry; I simply enjoy taking in the sights. I also turn my air conditioning up nice and breezy for full effect! As you explore, day turns to night…and back to day…perhaps a little too quickly. It would be nice to directly control the length of each; maybe even sync it to your local time zone. Other than that, the environment is quite realistic; especially with the Ultra graphics settings enabled. For my video series I use Medium, but periodically switch to both High and Ultra when key vistas present themselves. Below are a couple of screenshots for reference. The forest scene is in High-res; the mountain shot is in Medium-res:LiFScreenshot1aLiFScreenshot1bBy now you may be wondering about the huts, farms, houses and eventual mega-keeps and castles supposedly featured in LiF. You should understand that this is a slow, deliberate process (Rome wasn’t built in a day, etc.). You will, and should spend hours in discovery before constructing things. Additionally, take time to understand your status bars. Pop quiz: What’s the difference between “hard” and “soft” stamina…or between hard and soft hit points? Which character stat allows you to carry inventory in slight excess of your weight allowance?

My YouTube series progresses just like this; as anyone would, tossed almost naked (and somewhat afraid) into the wilderness! Indeed, we will eventually build a homestead replete with chickens, steam baths and fire pits. Until then, we wander.

I will write a complete Haven Review upon LiF:YO‘s release, including breakdowns and scoring…and then again next year when the MMO debuts! I eagerly await both.

-Chris Roberts-