Ah, the sandbox MMO. It’s hard to imagine how these appeal to massively multiplayer gamers. For instance, that shiny new helm you spent so long crafting, or that brand new sword you pulled off a freshly slain NPC, can just as soon be plucked off your dead corpse by another player who fancied it more than you did. Or, maybe a clan of bandits have decided to surround the town you’re in, killing everyone who tries to leave unless they call themselves a “poopy pants” (actually happened to me in Mortal Online). Whatever your sandbox horror story is, it’s clear that these games still have a certain allure to a niche of MMO players (including myself) who don’t want their experience to follow a single path, or any path whatsoever – despite how hardcore things can get.
Enter Life is Feudal, an in-development MMO that combines Darkfall’s PVP mentality, Wurm’s world building ideology, and the player generated politics of Eve. This ambitious project began as crowd-sourced pipedream, but soon received enough backers (both public and private) to be able to concentrate a full-time effort on development.
Build for alliances.
The world is your canvas, a whole 450 square km of canvas – accompanied by realistic landscapes and weather conditions. You will truly live the life of an individual in the post-medieval, pre-gunpowder era. Sure, you could just roam the lands as a dastardly bandit – plundering other players and utilizing the full loot feature upon their deaths. But, that would just be snippet of what the game has to offer.
Building, of course, is the real meat and potatoes of this game, and claiming land to build upon offers enticing incentives. First, players are shown the basic tools and how to use them. Let’s say you’ve found a nice secluded plot of land, and wish to build a rustic log cabin there to retire to after a hard day of adventuring. To begin, you need to find yourself some trees; easy enough. Next, chop said trees, and haul the freshly cut log to the plot where you wish construct on – and when I say haul, your player literally has to lift the log and carry it, no doubt leaving you in a complete state of vulnerability. 200 logs later, you have enough to build the base of your dream home. But wait, you still need windows, sheet metal for insulation, doors, and few ropes. Hardcore crafting aspects like this, really give new meaning to the term “sandbox.”
So, you’ve successfully built your house, and even some neighbors have begun cropping up; perhaps it’s time to create a realm. Life is Feudal offers three tiers of player organizations within communities: an order, a realm, and a kingdom. An order contains players with no stakes in any land – like that roving dastardly bandit mentioned earlier. Think of a realm like a village – within it, a collection of members from orders – the more members with land in your realm, the bigger you will be. Finally, a kingdom, is a group of realms with one in charge, and others serving below it as vassals. Get a big enough capital, and you could build yourself a nice, fortified, city.
Because resources don’t re-spawn throughout the world, one kingdom could have an abundance of a certain crafting material that another kingdom might require. Thus, the game of thrones – or player driven politics – is set in motion. Imagine being a major player in a kingdom that is in dire need of wool, and your neighbors to north are stockpiling it just to spite you. Will you spill blood in The War of The Wool? If you’ve ever experienced EVE, then you know how intense and exciting these player inspired events can turn out to be.
A game where crafters are more valued than fighters.
We all know you can’t construct a kingdom with just swords and arrows. For the first time in any MMO I can think of, crafters will be the deciding factor for success. Instead of just clicking nodes in the wilderness and then dully watching your character loot it, Life is Feudal will introduce crafting mini-games, that when done, will result in optimal outputs and hopefully keep the full-time crafter engaged. However, you don’t have choose between being a crafter or a fighter and have it be set in stone, as this game’s leveling is based solely off of the skills you choose to use.
Perhaps the most exciting world-crafting feature in Life Is Feudal, is the unlimited terraforming possibilities. Why construct your Kingdom on a hill or by river, when you could build it underground? Feudal’s terraforming feature doesn’t just stop and raising and lowering the soil, in fact, you can literally dig tunnels, mines, and moats in real-time, allowing you to expand on them in any direction. Can you say “super-secret underground lair,” anyone?
While crafting is probably the piÃ¨ce de rÃ©sistance of the game, Life is Feudal does not shy away from combat. After all, the feudal ages were not just a time of peace and building log cabins. Say goodbye to the monotony of grinding levels, as this game measured in skills (such as cooking, swords, archery, etc.) from 1-100. Also, traditional targeting will be eliminated, as the combat is physics based – with realistic body damage, factors, and stats.
To keep this game as real as possible, survival aspects will also need to be met to ensure a player’s prosperity. These include everyday tasks such as feeding yourself, to actually patching up that flesh wound – instead of just “resting” it away like in other games. Also, In game, when you see other players there will be no floating names or HP bars — just the way would actually see them in real life.
When you want to take a fight to larger scale, enlist the required amount of players within your kingdom for a siege, and set forth onto the battlefield and fight for your cause — weather it be for rare or depleting resources, a disputed settlement, or even wool!
How will all this function?
Mixing these detailed aspects of the real world, and the worlds you would normally find in MMO’s is a risky combination. Sure, you can put in place all of these mechanisms to build a living, breathing, kingdom, but who’s to say that’s going to stop some facetious player from building a village full of outhouses, or a long shapely tunnel modeled after a phallic object? I’m interested in seeing how the developers behind Life is Feudal plan on making this work with a populated player base. Either way though, from what I’ve seen, this game may have topped ESO as my most anticipated MMO title of 2014.
For a full two-hour look at the game’s pre-alpha state, watch the video below. The gameplay seems pretty rough at this point, and the narrator sounds a little like Ivan Drago, but it’s still pretty interesting.