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Life Is Feudal: Your Own

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Developer: Bitbox
Release Date: Nov. 17, 2015


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PC Preview - 'Life is Feudal'

by Thomas Wilde on July 8, 2015 @ 12:05 a.m. PDT

Life Is Feudal is a vast and immersive sandbox MMORPG set in a realistic medieval fictional world.

One of the funnier moments at E3 2015 for me was completely unintentional. The Life is Feudal booth was giving demos of the game from its open beta server, complete with a population of off-site testers and players. At some point before I got there, some of those players got together and mugged the character that the developers were using to show off the game, beating him unconscious and stealing everything he had on him. He then had to demonstrate the flexibility and systems of his open-world crafting game while his character was armed with a tree branch and dressed only in the ancient European equivalent of white boxer shorts.

I suppose that's as good as an endorsement for Life is Feudal; it offers such randomly emergent gameplay that the people showing the game at E3 have no idea what's going to happen.

Life is Feudal is a building game that's currently available for early access on Steam, and it puts you down in the middle of an unsettled patch of land in what could be medieval Europe without much more than your bare hands, a little bit of food, and the aforementioned ancient predecessor to underwear. If you want clothing, weapons, food, rideable horses, or a cool castle to hang out in, you have to work your way up to it. More accurately, you and a couple of dozen of your closest friends will have to work your way up to it.

Life is Feudal is built with a multiplayer focus in mind, and while you theoretically could master enough of its dozens of skills to build an entire castle by yourself, it would take an immense amount of time. It's really made for you to specialize in a particular skillset, of which there are dozens (if not a couple of hundred), and use the goods you gather or craft to trade with other players. One player can go out into the woods to catch and tame horses; another can build the stable to keep them in, so you can breed them once you have a pair; and a third can train them as war horses, ensuring that they won't rear up and throw you if you're riding them in combat. Then a fourth can forge and equip the horses with barding.

The idea is that eventually, you and up to 63 other players can build a relatively functional medieval society, with each player focusing on a skillset that enables them to occupy a role within it. Past that, the game doesn't hold your hand; it's a complete sandbox with no goals beyond those you set for yourself.

Aside from the occasional bear, the only real combat in Life is Feudal comes from other players. Given the aforementioned mugging, that was what I learned the most about, and it's an interesting way of implementing PvP while also penalizing griefers and gankers.

A given guild begins its settlement by claiming territory, and within that territory, members of that guild are the only ones allowed to gather resources or craft. If you wander within their city limits, you'll receive warning that you're in enemy lands and may pay the "blood price" (i.e., they can kill you without consequence). Unclaimed lands are considered a neutral, free-fire zone, and players can engage each other there in PvP. Since those neutral zones are also the only places where players can trade resources between rival communities, this can make venturing into them a nerve-wracking experience. Don't go alone, and if you're meeting a rival in the wilderness, bring a posse and weapons because they probably did.

"Bandit" guilds have already arisen in Life is Feudal, where they patrol the wilderness looking for players to ambush and loot. If you knock out another player or kill him — the game tracks lethal and non-lethal damage separately, and you can specifically attack the latter by using blunt weapons — you lose a point in a stat called Alignment. The next time you're killed, you lose a number of skill points based on how much Alignment you've lost. Since accumulating skill points is more or less the entire game — even bandits want to establish strongholds and forge weapons — it represents a massive risk. Randomly knocking out players can reduce your Alignment to a minimum of -49, but killing them can take it even lower than that.

At Piety scores of -49 and above, you can use the Pray command to beg God for forgiveness, which can be done once per in-game day to restore a single point of Alignment, eventually bringing you back to zero. If you've got a lower Piety score due to killing fellow players outright, the Pray command doesn't work, and you've condemned yourself to a life on the server as a wandering murderer, doomed to lose most of your skills the next time an enemy gets lucky.

To further game this system, however, a skill called Piety is scheduled to be introduced into the game, and at rank 100, a player acquires the rank of Cardinal. Cardinals can be elected as the Pope as part of a server-wide vote, which is not only hilarious in some indefinable way (and your mother thought these games would stunt your personal growth; well, up yours, Mom, I'm the Pope now) but is presently planned to give you an ability with a long cooldown that allows you to return a murderer's Alignment to zero. If a murderer seeks out the Pope of his server and has an attractive enough bribe — because it's feudal Europe and Popes have got to get paid — you can be absolved of all sins immediately and start stabbing random travelers again by sunset.

In conclusion, Life is Feudal is the game at E3 that lets you be a Pope so you can allow your friends to pay you so they can continue their ruthless campaigns of murder. It is also a massive, unstructured sandbox game that allows you to slowly build an unoccupied stretch of land up into an impregnable fortress, with hundreds of options and a community that's already devoted. That's probably more important to most people than the Pope thing, but I really want to be the Murder Pope. That's something I never knew I needed in my life until I was told it was possible.

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