By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF)
Life is Feudal: Your Own is an up-and-coming sandbox game and the precursor to the MMO Sandbox of the same name. It is being developed by an Indie development studio based out of Russia. The primary difference between Your Own and the planned “MMO version” of the game is that Your Own will focus on a single player and privately owned server experience. The game features strong sandbox elements like hunger, terraforming, farming, and in-depth crafting. It also features a more action-based combat system that is often described as similar to Mount & Blade. Though it originally got off to a slow start, Life is Feudal is picking up and thousands of players have already bought the game, simultaneously testing and enjoying the game.
The graphics in Life is Feudal are awe-inspiring. The realistic style truly brings to life the game world in so many ways. Whoever worked on the art in this game deserves an award, in my opinion, as this is honestly the first time I have been so captivated with the graphics in a multiplayer, let alone MMO, game. The textures are of a high quality, the models are incredibly detailed, and the animations are smooth as anything I’ve seen. I hope this game works in support for the Oculus Rift because I can only imagine how amazing the game would be with VR. Heck, I already find myself logging on to simply walk through the game and admire the sights. It’s not that Life is Feudal has the highest quality graphics I’ve ever come across; its graphics are just composed more like a painting than a game.
I’ll get into greater detail on that later in this article, but first I need to talk about one of my favorite components of the game, the structures. They simply provide a look and feel for player cities that I’ve never seen in a sandbox MMO before. The trees are beautiful, too. All of the fauna is beautiful. I hope the level of quality currently available will survive the optimization phases of development later in the year. Right now, I can chug along at around 30 FPS at my preferred settings, but if I take part in larger servers, I can see myself needing to lower those settings.
In these types of games, namely games focused on offering maximum freedom and side ventures to tackle, a recurring issue of clunky controls always seems to bog down gameplay. A clunky UI often goes along as the icing on the dry carrot cake. Right now, I think the Life is Feudal UI is decent, there is definitely some chunkiness but I can live with it. For example, like Wurm Online (which literally gave me tendonitis when I played the game hardcore) there is a lot of right click menu use. This was honestly my biggest fear when starting up Life is Feudal for the first time – extensive, and required, use of the right-click menus.
There are some methods to get around the right click menu – such as the “Default” action that can be easily set. This is the action that is used when you left click and item, and you can set up the Default for each type of item. Most of the controls, even this early, are as smooth as can be. So, you could set the default action for logs to “carry” when you need to transport them, or “Saw out a board” when you need to mass produce boards for building. It comes in handy.
Stats & Skills
As with most sandbox games, Life is Feudal makes use of a skill system rather than a level system. However, the skill system is a bit more imaginative than the standard fare. As opposed to just having a single skill for each tool, weapon, or craft, there are skill “paths.” In these paths, you’ll need to reach a certain point in the previous skill to unlock the next skill. And, within each skill, there are multiple points you need to get to in order to unlock new abilities and bonuses.
Crafting skill tree.
The skills available are generally less than most other sandbox games. But this is because a lot of skills that would normally be spread out in other games are condensed in Life is Feudal. So, while your initial impression may be that there are less skills to choose from, the reality is “less is more.” Personally, though, I did find this system incredibly frustrating at first – it’s just so different from what I’m used to. It felt like I was forced into making certain choices in order to reach goals – such as using an armor I didn’t particularly like in order to get decent skills for a certain weapon.
This is the “minor” skill tree.
Stats are also pretty important. Unlike skills, stats will go up much slower (though, in the “Your Own” version of the game, the stat/skill gain is based on whatever the server admin wants). Both the stats and skills have a “cap” that you cannot go over. But, because stats go up so much slower, you feel like you don’t have so much freedom as you do when it comes to re-organizing and learning new skills. Also, both stats and skills make use of the plus, minus, or lock system from games like Ultima Online.
Notice the Up, Down, and Lock icons.
What sets Life is Feudal apart from a lot of other sandbox games is the ability to terraform. Until recently, only Xsyon and Wurm Online (to my knowledge) allowed for the kind of “land sculpting” that Life is Feudal offers. Of course, now we also have EverQuest Landmark with Next on the horizon. This terraforming literally means that hills can be flattened or raised by the players’ hard work and dedication. It also includes the ability to tunnel into rock to mine or create an underground safe haven.
The terraforming system used in Life is Feudal is a bit different than what I’m used to. Most of my experience comes from Wurm Online, which uses a border tile and corner system that allows for some pretty exact detailing when it comes to terraforming. In contrast, Life is Feudal uses an Up Slope, Down Slope, and flatten system. The way this works is that the command is based on the tile you are standing on – if you’re standing on a flat tile next to a sloped tile and use the “Flatten” command, the game will do actions that try to flatten the target tile in comparison to the tile you stand on. It sounds simple enough at first, but if you’re like me and are used to other systems, it may take a while for you to wrap your head around the new concept. Heck, if you’re new you might find it a bit difficult to pick up as well – my guild had to hold a “mini-class” on terraforming to get us all on the same page.
It’s almost relaxing, tunneling.
Another aspect of terraforming is mining and tunneling. In Life is Feudal, tunneling is the process of creating tunnels through rock. Therefore, it is also the method with which you can get rock for things like stone structures. Mining, however, is a separate action and skill and is used to extract ore from mineral veins – like iron. Both take a decent time investment – it takes lots of actions to go through a solid rock wall or ore vein, and each action will take a few seconds at least. This, I feel, provides a sense that things take effort to achieve while not completely requiring people quit their day job.
Life is Feudal makes use of a pre-fabricated building system. That is, you won’t be able to design your own buildings like you can do in certain other games (*cough* Wurm *cough*). This isn’t all bad though. While you don’t have freedom in choosing what the house looks like, the model for the house is a LOT more detailed and beautiful looking. I cannot fully relay to you how mind-blowingly real the town my guild created on our Life is Feudal: Your Own server felt. After we had completed it, we stared in awe at our housing district and workshops surrounding a small keep. It’s something you need to experience yourself, preferably on a high-end PC so the looks of the game can truly shine.
Doesn’t that look fantastic? One of the larger houses available.
There are a wide assortment of buildings to make use of in the game already. From carpentry shops, to blacksmiths, keeps, and even small kilns. One thing I love about all this is each thing you come across in the game is built by player efforts. The Bloomery you’re using was created by another player, using resources that they or someone else gathered. Hey, maybe you gathered the resources and they made it for you because your skills weren’t up to snuff. That tree you just cut down was potentially planted by another player. And if not, you at least know that it went through a growth process to get to where it was before you killed it with your axe. It puts so much more weight into everything you come across in the game world.
That wheelbarrow and all of those containers can be used, picked up, and moved by players.
Each building serves a purpose – a house you can place beds, furniture, storage containers, etc… in. A Blacksmith Shop will enable you to do blacksmithing, a warehouse will store large amounts of items. And they all look so great together. Another neat thing is that once the building is created, I do have some control over customization. For example, I can fill the Blacksmith Shop I just mentioned with crates to store resources and finished products in. When I first came across a building, I got the impression that the furniture and containers were just for show because they literally looked like they were part of the house model, but nope each one was created and placed by a player and can be interacted with. I could even put it on my back and make off with it, if I wanted.
Excuse me while I steel this bed for my own home.
Crafting & Gathering
The crafting system in Life is Feudal is interesting, to say the least. There’s a nice amount of options, with time and effort resulting in rewards. The higher your skills and tool quality, the higher quality of your output. Which gets me into the resource gathering system, which is essentially the same – the higher your skill and tools (if applicable) the higher quality resources you’ll end up getting. Personally, I’ve found myself leaning towards the resource gathering aspect of the game – I find mining rewarding as I can get valuable resource for my group while watching movies or reading a book.
The quality system is the crux of the whole thing. It’s the driving force that makes crafting an important part of the game – you want to have the highest quality items, so you’ll spend the time and effort to work towards creating them. The reason you will want those higher quality items is to make things easier, to do more damage in combat or receive higher skill gain bonuses when consuming food. And that demand for high quality items will power the economy. From mining and logging to blacksmithing and alchemy, quality impacts all aspects of your life. Needless to say, I’m a big fan of the quality system available in Life is Feudal. It makes sense to me and has a clear purpose in the game.
Like I said in the introduction, combat is similar to Mount & Blade. This means multiple strikes to make use of, third and first person perspectives, ranged, and mounted combat. It’s not exactly the same – especially considering that (in my opinion) the combat system still requires a lot of polish. But, after participating in the combat, Mount & Blade is the game that popped into my head immediately.
Practicing my thrusts with my trusty pickaxe.
There’s a number of different weapon types – from one-handed swords, to spears, to maces and more. I love the variety offered, but I do have an issue. Like I mentioned under the “skills” section, in order to learn some skills you’ll need to reach a minimum in other skills. Because of the way the skill system is set up, you’ll have to invest points – even if it’s a minimum – into weapon or armor skills you don’t want to use or have. I find this frustrating at times. But then again, the game is still in Early Access and there’s definitely time for things to change. I’ll still play the game either way, though.
I’d like to use spears with Chainmail, but I’d also have to learn Militia Weapons and Padded Armor.
There are also ranged weapons to go along with the melee. Starting the basic sling, it goes up to crossbows and bows. The ranged weapons feel a lot like Mount & Blade ranged weapons, as well. Personally, I fell in love with the sling right away – even though the animations for it are currently kinda buggy and it’s definitely not the “best” out of the lot. It’s still a fun weapon for me. Mounted combat is also planned, though not yet released. So I can’t quite comment on that yet.
My trusty sling.
There are some survival features in Life is Feudal. They’re not near as apparent or complete as an actual “survival” game, but they play such a role that each group will want at least one person capable of creating high quality food. For example, with the way the game currently works, there is a substantial skill gain bonus for consuming food. There’s (currently) no drink system, but there is a “hunger” bar. The negative for not keeping that bar full seems to be slower stamina regeneration.
Another aspect of survival is the need for protection. Essentially, you’re going to want to wall in what’s yours. If not, you may find predators wandering into your place to kill you or your domesticated animals. This isn’t quite apparent in the current iteration of the game, but you can definitely tell that this is the way the game will go. And, if you play on a public server, you’ll want to have palisades to keep out hostile players.
Now, if only there was a way to lock the front gate…
State of the Game
If you play the game, you’ll definitely notice that Life is Feudal: Your Own is in Early Access/Alpha. Even though a lot of features are present, there are still a decent handful missing and a lot of polish needed on the ones that are already in. For example, a decent portion of the skills available are not fully implemented at this time. My biggest issue, really my only current issue, is that the game is not optimized yet and the optimization isn’t planned until April. On a server where a decent number of people play and a lot of terraforming has been going on, you’ll find it can take you ten minutes or more to actually load into the server. This encourages smaller groups, frequent server resets, and very restrictive server rules. All three of which can severely hinder your fun.
Don’t take this as me saying that you shouldn’t get the game. If you like the concept, I encourage you to buy the game right now even. Just don’t come into it expecting a complete experience – you’ll just have a bad time with that mentality. If you do decide to buy, know what you’re getting into. You may be happy to know that updates come frequently and so far the devs have been keeping up with their Roadmap. Personally, I’m looking forward to February’s update which will introduce the Claim system. My guild has been keeping our server private because there is currently no way to control who can open or interact with our stuff – if we had it public, a random person could just hop into a house and take everything out of the chest. With the Claim system, that will no longer be an issue and we can invite others to join us.
Life is Feudal doesn’t just have potential, it’s proven that potential. The game is already a blast to play with a ton of great features. Updates come frequently and there’s a clear plan to release in September of this year as long as everything sticks to schedule. If you don’t come into the game with false impressions or hopes for a complete game, I can safely say you’ll enjoy your time and get your money’s worth. Be sure to check the game out on