Life is Feudal: Forest Village -- Is It Just a Graphically Superior Clone Game?
Lately, I have been very fond of city builder games as a way to relax and unwind in a way that is still mentally engaging. So I was excited to check out Life is Feudal: Forest Village -- a medieval sandbox city-builder game that is incredibly similar to another game out on the market.
After sinking several hours into it, I've found lots to like about Forest Village, but also a lot of reasons to call it something of a clone game. Let's dive into some specifics and talk about what this title is really offering to you as a player.
A Good Premise With Some Balancing Problems
You start the game off with a handful of villagers, some shacks, and storage for your materials and food. You also start off with a bit of food, which is important because your people eat like they have tapeworms. The game is pretty par for the course when it comes to this genre -- you can build farms, hunter's lodges, gather huts, and a dock to fish on.
That said, there's a pretty considerable balance issue here. Material costs for some of the more advanced buildings are a bit on the grindy side, and your population grows at a snail's pace -- though you'll have more luck with that aspect once you upgrade the crap shacks you start off with into small houses or a big house. Smalls can house 5 people, and bigs can house 10. And the nicer the house, the more likely people are going to do the good ole "no-pants dance" that'll keep your population growing. So at least it's realistic in that regard.
For the first few years, you're really going to have to micromanage your villagers -- which isn't so bad, because the bigger buildings are expensive and you're going to want to focus on keeping your food stocks up and resources flowing.
But just when things are going smoothly, the game will find a way to screw with you. Your villagers might eat up all the bread and potatoes you had in storage, for example, and then die from hypothermia because it takes forever to chop timber into firewood. Or maybe your only builder gives birth and dies in the process, leaving you with just enough worker-age citizens to keep food production up but nothing else.
This is also a slow game -- and I mean slooooow. I generally have to run it at 2x speed if I'm focusing solely on the game and nothing else. (Though a lot of the time I run it at 5x speed and pretend that I'm a God controlling the lives of a bunch of sprinters).
Is This a Throwback or a Carbon Copy?
They say that mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery. I personally find it less than endearing, but apparently "they" are cool with it. With that in mind, Forest Village feels very much like a graphically superior clone of Banished -- another city-builder sandbox game with a medieval feel that was developed by a different studio.
I'm not the only person to make this connection, as a number of other players have cited the extreme similarities between these two games on Forest Village's Steam page. But the developer at least seems to be aware of this, as the team has announced in their Steam updates that they were inspired by Banished -- and even made a jab at that game's developer while citing that their game has "many key differences" and "new features and gameplay options".
But at the time of this review, there are really only a few minor differences between the games -- the biggest of which is that you can take control of a villager in Forest Village. While the first-person view and a level of control over your villagers is really fun, it's also a bit buggy and has crashed my game on several occasions while trying to manually perform tasks like gathering resources or picking up animal hides.
Forest Village also prides itself on its better graphics, which I can somewhat agree with. That is, until you terraform the terrain -- then it just looks terrible because the textures get all stretched out and deformed. On top of that, the interior of the houses and some of the various buildings are also incredibly sparse. I'm not expecting hi-poly models or god rays, but some buildings are completely bare inside -- which kinda ruins an otherwise decent level of immersion.
And as far as the wild animals are currently concerned, the only dangerous one is the fox, who'll kill your chickens in their coop. I've had bears wandering around my village that have never once attacked my villagers. Hell, my hunter was basically walking up to wolves and stabbing them like he was Rambo. I'm not saying that I want to fire up the game and have little Sven get mauled to death by wolves or anything, but when you list "Wild Predators" as one of the things that makes your game better, you should probably have them act like predators.
Forest Village is a game that you play when you're doing something else, like writing a paper for college or Skyping with those relatives that have no idea how technology works. If it's your focus and actually keeps you entertained, then chances are you're a die-hard fan of the genre or possibly under the influence of mind-altering substances.
Here's the rundown of what you can expect:
- Graphics that are good but still have room for improvement
- Animals that should have more realistic A.I.
- Terraforming which needs texture work to keep from looking awful
- Lots of bragging about how this game is different, though the only features that would make it truly so are yet to be implemented (Viking incursions, expeditions, trade, etc.)
All things considered, I can't recommend the game at its full price of $24.99 on the Steam Marketplace. But if you catch it on sale, it might be worth getting once some more distinguishing features are added to it.
Note: A copy of this game was provided by the developer for this review.
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