Developer: Bitbox Ltd
Publisher: Bitbox Ltd
Genre: Action, RPG, Indie, Simulator
Platform: PC (Steam)
Rating: N/R (Changes with Multiple Players)
Release Date: September 19, 2014
I remember when Minecraft by Mojang was all the rage, and everyone I knew (or their kids, anyway) played it every day. Digging endless tunnels in the ground, punching trees for wood, crafting tools on workbenches, and so on. Building huge wood towers and stone castles to your heart’s desire. Fending off zombies, dodging fire from skeletons and trying not to be exploded by phallic shaped monsters called Creepers. Granted, it was all voxel-shaped; cubes as far as the eye could see.
So a lot of game designers saw how popular that was, and tried to capitalize on the trend by making their own sandbox crafting slash role-playing game. Some were interesting, a lot of them involving zombies or post-apocalypse environments. Not all of them were very good, though. Several years later, Bitbox Ltd began working on Life is Feudal; Your Own (or LiF). It is definitely the new obsession, gaining a lot of attention. I received my review version, and I gave it a go.
The game is made to be played with other people – massively multi-player online, or MMO. You can play with as many or as few as you want, and a lot of people have formed different games to encourage all sorts of behavior and building. There are games for new people, games for peaceful play, and games for slaying your glorious enemies in combat (after forging your own little stake on the map). For this review, I chose a map called Game for N00bs. It made for a very long and fun experience.
You start by building your character – picking a race (there are presently three), your look, then setting your attributes and skills. There are options still in the works, such as picking your gender. Right now, you can only play a male avatar, but Bitbox appears to be working on adding other details to customize your avatar in the future. Despite the limitations at the time of this review, don’t let that drive you away. The game has a lot more to offer.
As soon as you enter the game, you’re dropped in an area alone. You’re not wearing anything but your underwear, so you might want to open your inventory and put on the clothes you have. You also have some food/cookies to keep your Hunger bar from running out. That’s right – you can go hungry. You can also get tired (run out of Breath) and get injured treat with hydrocodone (you have Health). You can set up your HUD to show all your stats. You use the WASD to move, and hitting Tab will allow you Free Look around your environment. Hit Tab again to center your view. You can press Camera to move between first person view and third person view. There are other keys to use, and you can press F10 to see what they are.
To gather items, such as branches or metals, you right click on the object you want to interact with. Choose an action from the menu (if there is more than one) and your avatar will perform the action. You can also left click to perform a default action, although it is often not helpful. You collect items to craft more items to collect more materials to craft even more items. If you ever played Minecraft, then you’ll understand the lure and infinite loop of LiF. The difference is in the role-playing aspect. Forget the old school method – there are no levels here.
You begin with attributes and skills that represent a number of things you can do in the game – prospecting, building, fighting, farming, etc. Those skills improve your odds at performing those specific actions. Your attributes also help – raising your Strength, for example, allows you to hit harder in combat or perform successful actions that use Strength. The best way to raise these skills and attributes is to perform actions that involve the skills and attributes.Build a house to increase your Build skill. Attack another person to raise your Blade skill. There are also ceilings to skills and overall skill points, limiting how much you know at any given time. You can set what skills to focus on and gain points in. This adds a strategical element to the game other than just fighting and building.
The scope of the game is huge. You can literally harvest anything in the game and use it to craft all sorts of items. Armor, weapons, buildings, monuments, food and potions. In the map I was on, I stumbled upon the main group’s farming zone. There were fields of grain, beehives, chicken coops and fenced in animals to collect food and hides (to make more advanced meals and leather). You can mine the ground or into the mountains, to get stone and metal to craft into huts, stables, weapons and armor. Nearby, that same group had a small village with nice houses and a foundry/forge to do some black-smithing.
Since this game is multi-player, expect to run into other players. You can use text chat or voice chat, or a series of avatar motions to communicate. An avatar’s stance often reveals the other person’s intentions, whether they be peaceful or hostile. Normally, there’s rules of engagement established in the game’s description that new players should read. If you enter your aggressive stance, you are preparing yourself to fight. You click to swing/shoot/block. The game interprets your movements into attacks and defenses, and the animations are quite good. If you’re hit, your avatar is wounded. Press P to see what kind of wound it is, and where it is. Some attacks merely eliminate your soft health points (representing one’s resilience in battle), while others eliminate your real health points. Lose your soft health, you are knocked out. Lose all your health points, you die.
And here is where the game is very hardcore. Should someone knock you out, your body lies on the ground, waiting to recover (or for your friends to recover you). If you are killed, a headstone pops up where your avatar fell. Not only does this lower your skills, it also allows anyone in the area to loot your corpse. That’s right – you might return to your body and find your stuff all gone. Nothing can stop that, save your allies protecting your fallen body and gear. So you need to be careful who you team up with and who you fight. A single fight can lead to losing your best sword and weakening your Blade skill to use future swords. Group fights allow you to use Tactics, which improves your chances of victory in combat.
Of course, if you find a nice bunch of people playing on the same map/server as you, it makes for a totally different game. I ran into one such nice group. Trey Sven and Elyas Machera were kind enough to show me some of the ropes and how combat works. I was impressed by their prowess as well as their weapons. I had a weak branch and shovel in comparison. They also practiced together for a while, increasing their skills. You’ll want to do something similar, if you plan on playing on an open map. Later, on another map, I was ambushed and killed by a few people in leather armor and maces. Players will have to be careful – never travel alone without the proper armaments, and try to be friendly.
So how does the game look and feel? The game has a learning curve and the interface takes some time to master. It does scratch that gather/craft/build itch, and the graphics are very nice. I stood on a small stone cliff near my small hut and looked out over the island – I was impressed by how everything looked below me. It took me a bit to climb up there, but it was worth it. I am still deciding if I should build a house and craft barn up there, while creating a deep mine.
The game also provides a decent musical score – old fashioned flute and lute music. It switches between laid back, light music when running around the countryside; and martial, uplifting music when trying to kill a person or an animal. The VOIP and text chat are somewhat helpful, and all the avatar animations are well done. It lends to a fun, busy game. Just beware – if you’re not into MMOs or potential PvP games, you might want to avoid Life is Feudal. You can lose a lot in a battle that goes badly.
The game does have a few flaws – every now and then, some of the servers can kick you out when you aren’t ready. You can experience lag and graphical glitches. The skill and attribute caps can seem frustrating, since sometimes you might accidentally set your skills inappropriately for the task at hand (losing points in the wrong skill). I also had to watch a YouTube video to learn how to fight better, and how to raise skills to craft what I wanted. These things can be off-putting to picky gamers, but if you like a good crafting game that looks nice, LiF is a good match for you.
Bitbox Ltd. did a good job with Life is Feudal; Your Own. If they keep updating and tuning it, it might be the Minecraft killer. Until then, I’ll just work on expand my nearby farm so I’ll have plenty of food to survive while mining further and further underground. Whether there is an endgame or not, I do get a satisfying feeling playing this game.
Nathan is a 40-ish year-old gamer, father and programmer. His hobbies are board games, video games and watching his son. He wrote for http://www.ironmanmode.com/ for the years of 2012 and 2013 to make money for Child's Play. He has been basically playing games since the 1980's in one form or another. His very first favorite video game was actually an arcade game called Dig Dug. He has played every generation of video game console (including the Magnavox Odyssey)