By Terris Harned (NWOrpheus)
There’s no lacking in survival crafting games these days. We’ve got 3D games like Rust, ARK, and Conan Exiles, and zombie survival games like H1Z1 and 7 Days to Die. Then there are 2D offerings like Terraria, Starbound, and Don’t Starve/Don’t Starve Together. Each of those titles has its own elements that make it unique and bring something new to the survival genre. None of them have an element quite as unique or niche as Jason Rohrer’s new title, One Hour, One Life.
What’s so special about this one you ask? Well the title should tell it all. In this very ambitious game, every time you log onto a server is a new life. If you’re the first on a server, you will be the primogenitor of humanity – think Eve. You will be alone on this world until another player logs onto the server, in the form of your child. This helpless bundle of nekkidness will spawn and begin crying hungrily. When I say helpless, I mean it. It will be up to you (or the person who spawned you if you are the baby in question) to pick up the child to feed it breastmilk. This is how all new players on a server, aside from the very first, begin. After a few moments the child will be self sufficient and you can then begin putting them to work.
Thankfully the very first time you log on you will be offered a comprehensive tutorial as an adult. The tutorial will teach you about all sorts of important things, like eating. Seeing as 1 minute of real time = 1 year of game time, you’re basically always eating. No really, it’s almost constant. In fact your ability to supply food to yourself and your tribe is ultimately what’s going to determine your success or failure, which I think is fantastic and accurate for a survival game. There are a variety of ways to do this in the early game, the easiest of which is to find berries on bushes and eat them. This requires zero tools at all, and makes the gooseberry plants vital to your early survival.
Another vital aspect of your survival is your temperature. Being hot or cold won’t in and of itself kill you, that I’ve noticed, but it will increase the rate at which your sustenance meter depletes. If you’re too cold or too hot you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time supplying yourself food, which will reduce your effectiveness in advancing your tribe along the tech tree. To this end you can build fires or craft clothes out of a variety of materials. In point of fact, this game boasts having over 10,000 craftable items. Mind you, some of these items are “hot rock with uncooked tortilla”, which will shortly become “hot rock with cooked tortilla”. All the same, the crafting system is far more extensive than its simple foundations might make it look.
For example: you may only hold one item at a time. On the ground in any given space may only be one item. The exception to this is stacks of items, or items contained within other items. Early on you can make a basket, which is a monumental game changer, considering you can normally only carry one of a given thing at a time. Crafting is done quite simply by adding one item, in your hands, to another item, on the ground. While this might seem like the most basic of actions it gets a bit more complicated. To make a hatchet you need a sharp stone and a tied short haft. To get a tied short haft you need rope and a short haft. Each of those has components, but I’ll leave their discovery to you. Wouldn’t want to spoil all the fun.
Once you’ve got the basics down, you’ll begin wanting to find more complicated ways to feed your tribe, rather than simply the gatherer mechanics. Building a hoe will let you till the ground into rows of plantable soil, beginning the agricultural era. A bow and arrows will prove handy for hunting horses, goats, and bears (if you’re insane). A simple snare will catch a rabbit by placing it on a rabbit hole. Remember, this is all done using one item on another item, or creature, at a time. It adds another very interesting twist. Unless you have a basket, wheelbarrow, mine cart or some other form of conveyance, moving things around can be challenging.
I’m pretty sure it mauled me and made my arms not work.
Oh, and the art style: It’s fairly rudimentary. Stick figures essentially. And I’m okay with that. Despite the art, the game has a certain immersion quality. The sounds in the game are almost all onomatopoeia, presumably made by the game’s designer. This too has its own charm, and it fits very well with the art style. I found both to be quite enjoyable.
Something that is important in a game like this is the community. I’ve seen in other games how a bad community can ruin the game for everyone, whether by some people griefing to cause problems or by people becoming overzealous in how things must be done. I didn’t delve too deeply into the community of One Hour, One Life, but I did go far enough to see that its players love the game, and on the servers they tend to be very helpful.
Except this one. Maybe not mother of the year.
Communication can be tricky, because younger players are less able to communicate. Babies can only input one letter at a time. Young adults might be able to chat three to four words worth. Again, this tends to more enhance the experience than detract from it, so it works out okay, and people find ways to communicate. For example, I was taught by one mother that if I wanted food, to type “F” as a baby. Which is good, because mostly I was just standing around crying and being angry at the world, like a real baby.
If anything, I’d say the potential pitfall you’re going to see from this community is being a tad too passionate. We’re talking spreadsheets and flowcharts here. People have mapped out the ‘meta’ and have worked extensively to find out precisely how the game is played, many of them having played from alpha stages of the game all the way through the release. The problem with this is, they expect everyone else to understand their level of play, and if you spawn into a server as a new player there could be frustration on their part. If they handle the frustration well, no problem. If not? Well, let’s just hope they do.
This one had babies just falling out all over the place.
One Hour, One Life isn’t going to be for everyone. I’m also not sure how long I could sit down and play it back to back. That being said, jumping on for a life or two has a great deal of appeal. This is one of those titles that I won’t be deleting now that the review is done. I look forward to learning how to engage a given tribe at the technology level they’re at and contribute, rather than just taking up resources. I have a feeling it’s going to take a little more than an hour, but hopefully not an entire life.
Note: A game key was provided for review purposes.