A Quick Disclosure
Life is Feudal MMO is a game meant to be played with friends. In fact, it necessitates that in ways I will discuss. I played Life is Feudal alone. So many of my experiences are driven by me playing in a way that the developers didn’t entirely desire. This said I view playing Life is Feudal MMO with friends like I watching a bad movie with friends. It’s more fun, maybe even enjoyable, but that has nothing to do with the quality of the film.
Starting Off on an Odd Foot
When you first boot up LiF: MMO you are taken to the character creation screen. You have some meager options for character customization of the usual variety of hairstyles, faces, and skin colors. Then you set up your character’s starting stats.
Here is where my issues with Life is Feudal first begin. You distribute stat points between five categories (str, agi, con, will, int) with no indication of what these stats effect. This made it difficult to know how to set up your character. The next step is to decide what skills your character should start with. Again, with no indication of what attributes affect each skill, and there are a lot of skills so it’s not entirely obvious.
Before I even started exploring the video game itself, I dug around the wiki to figure out what to do. After a bit of research, I was off to the races. Quite curiously, I was directly transported to an island without picking a server. The game began to prompt me on how to play.
Playing a Game and Finishing a Book
LiF: MMO is a survival builder with RPG elements at its roots. You have a HP, stamina, and hunger meter which you must manage as you go about gathering, crafting, hunting, fishing, and building a settlement. The aforementioned skills and stat points determine what you can and can’t do and how easily you complete tasks.
For example, you need digging level 30 to dig a tunnel to get stone and other minerals. In order to level your digging, you can go to a plot and raise and lower the land level in order to get your digging skill up to snuff. Every action comes with a progress bar and these don’t move particularly quickly or with a 100% rate of success. When starting, you need to gather a lot of plant fiber which has you kneeling on the forest ground for around 20 minutes to get enough for what you want to do.
I spent two hours completing some quests and learning the ropes of the game. Eventually, I realized I was in a massive, poorly constructed tutorial so I teleported off of the island, picked an actual server and started finally playing. Oh and after those two hours I spent on this island, I lost everything and had to start over fresh.
Before I got out of the tutorial, I realized that the large majority of gameplay is automated. You find a gathering spot, right-click the object you want to interact with, a menu opens, you select the action you want and watch the progress bar fill up. I started reading a book. As a measurement of how much time I spent in eight hours, zoned out, I finished Katherine Lsbister’s 192 page book on games theory.
At the end of this effort, I had the lowest tier house available, a campfire, and a wicker basket. It was clear I was going to get nowhere fast when I decided to write this review. This brings me to what I mentioned in my disclaimer; you need to play Life is Feudal MMO with friends for it to be anything other than an unrewarding slog. At least an uninteresting, automated slog is less boring and faster going with extra hands. There’s open world, always-on PVP on every server to my understanding, though I thankfully never saw a soul in my entire time playing, even though the player cap is reportedly 10,000.
If another character killed me, all of my items would have dropped onto my grave. If my alignment was bad, due to killing other players etc, I’d lose skill points as well. In the interest of science, I tried to find something to kill me in the world, other than drowning. I couldn’t find a single wolf near my spawn point, which was on an island off the coast of the mainland. Aside from the constant threat of hunger, which wouldn’t immediately kill me, I didn’t feel much of a sense of danger while I played though I know that it’s probably out there.
And I still didn’t get to the topic of bugs. There are a lot of them. The game is in Early Access, so I expect some bugs but all of the games I’ve looked at for Old Grizzled Gamers have been in Early Access and none of them were flat out broken in the way this game is. These problems range from graphics rendering poorly, frame-skipping, crashes on crashes, getting stuck in terrain, jacked animations, etc.
An Alarming Lack of Clarity
Life is Feudal’s UI is incredibly clunky and lacking in information. For instance, when you build a house, you have to level the ground. After you dig through a menu for the level ground option it doesn’t tell you how it works. First, you have to have a certain proficiency in digging, which it doesn’t tell you, secondly, it will copy the level of the tile you are standing on to the level you are targeting, which it also doesn’t tell you.
In another situation, I cut down a tree and tried to saw it into building logs. It refused to work and I had no idea why. I checked the system menu for any sort of message and it said, “it didn’t work”. I had to tab out and read a forum post clarifying that you can only get building logs from high-quality trees and the reason I wasn’t able to get logs was that my tree’s quality was too low.
This was the main pattern of the game. I have no problem with games that don’t hold your hand. I have problems with games that don’t tell you why something works or, more importantly, why something doesn’t. If I fail at crafting something, I need to know why I failed or chances are I’m going to try it again, assuming it was some sort of RNG snafu. A lack of clarity leads to maddening wastes of time in a game that already doesn’t respect the player’s time.
Falling into A Rhythm
As much as I can’t say I enjoy the gameplay of LiF: MMO, I have to say, it’s somehow satisfying in the same way an idle phone game is. After I roughly figured out the timing for chopping wood, peeling bark off of trees, and leveling terrain, I could easily enjoy my book and know when to look up and find the next thing to do.
Something that I genuinely like is when occasionally a box pops up on the screen with a little description of something my character is feeling. Sometimes a feeling of hunger other times a scratch in the middle of their back that they can’t reach. It’s clever and strange in a way that makes me smile. Nothing else in the game comes close to eliciting that pleasure out of me.
After a while I even found Life is Feudal somewhat relaxing, when I wasn’t cursing under my breath about the game’s weird mechanics. These moments make me oddly fond of the game even while despising its many flaws.
Should You Buy it?
No. Life is Feudal: MMO is a game of many flaws, bugs, and weird design choices. While I understand the game is currently in Early Access and this is subject to change, if you get stuck with what the game is today, you’ll be rather upset. It’s best to wait.
Beyond that, there are some shady things going in the monetization model of the game. There is a pricy cash shop full of crafting speed boosters and cosmetics alike. For your money you get one disposable character slot. If you realize you don’t like the direction you took for your character you can’t recreate them. It also seems like some early adopters of the game got screwed by this when their characters became stranded on a server that they didn’t want to be on. Unless you really want to pay to be Bitbox’s game tester, I’d steer clear of this one.