Bitbox's medieval sandbox MMO Life Is Feudal has been in closed betas for a while now, but I finally feel like I've seen enough of the game to properly review it. For the most part, it's a solid sandbox MMO set in a pretty standard medieval period. Which is kind of like your baseline fantasy setting isn't it? But Life is Feudal isn't so much fantasy as just straight up gut-wrenching reality.
The game tells you to prepare for "kingdom-to-kingdom trading and economics, huge siege battles against foes, and massive flourishing cities across the lands," and really, the reality of the game doesn't come far from the mark.
You've got your usual MMO RPG setup: skill trees, a mini-map, full crafting and gathering systems, etc. Crafting is pretty intuitive here, I've definitely seen clunkier crafting mechanics, though the actual visuals for it are a bit odd. Crafting brings up a small mini-window, rather than taking up your full screen.
The combat is pretty basic, nothing overly complicated like some where you've got to click in the right rhythm to launch your skills. It's relatively simple to figure out, and also not too impressive. No, the real impressive thing about Life is Feudal is how the game grows around you. In fact, the devs have a whole post on the game's forum about their tree growth algorithm. Yes, a whole in-depth discussion about an algorithm for how the trees grow. And you can take that example and extrapolate it to the rest of the game, and that'd be pretty much the level of detail Bitbox are putting into this.
Life is Feudal: MMO is clearly a labor of love. Sure, there might be more polished MMOs out there, but the game is still in it's closed beta rounds. And Bitbox isn't the largest publisher. But you can tell that the development team are working on this with everything they have. You can feel it as you walk through the world, and that is the part that gets me, every time. Regardless of any bugs or glitches – they all get reported and worked on, and you can discuss with the team how they get worked on – the fact that the people making it care so much is exceedingly obvious.
And the players are just as invested. The moment someone took to the forums to complain about how the whole project is a money grab, they were shot down by players who were more than happy to shell out a bit more money to support the project. That is possibly the single best defense of how games are a business that I've ever seen. And it was a player giving it. And sure, that then spawned a whole other conversation, but the fact remains that this game is clearly a passion project. You can browse around the forum yourself and see, if you don't want to take my word for it.
Seriously, if you didn't watch the first five hours recap when we first posted it, take a few minutes and watch this. Because it tells you everything you need to know about the game. And if you decide you want to join the beta tests, you can sign up here.
Personally, I plan to enjoy the hell out of the rest of the beta waves and get in on the action when the game finally goes live.