The Stomping Land Early Access Review

Island of the lost.

GameSpot's early access reviews evaluate unfinished games that are nonetheless available for purchase by the public. While the games in question are not considered finished by their creators, you may still devote money, time, and bandwidth for the privilege of playing them before they are complete. The review below critiques a work in progress, and represents a snapshot of the game at the time of the review's publication.

Several hours into my run with The Stomping Land, I stopped short of my sprint through a dense jungle--a scene I was quickly growing tired of--and realized something: there was nothing left for me to do. I had set up a camp by a lake where I went spearfishing, and I had explored a branching cave and stalked wild dinosaurs. I had even tamed one as a pet until another player snuck up from behind and killed it with an axe. I had fought other tribes, killed, and was killed myself many, many times. I had traveled the entirety of the available world; I had seen it all, and I was bored.

You will feel a little overwhelmed when you first begin your quest onto the large jungle island, but its depth is superficial. Peeling away the surface of this survival sim reveals mechanics that are either surprisingly limited in scope or otherwise broken or woefully incomplete. It is a game with a short laundry list of activities, all of which can be ticked off in a few hours. The Stomping Land lets you hunt and ride dinosaurs, from the quick-footed gallimimus to the massive carnotaurus. Indeed, while the dinos of Capa Island are large, it's unfortunate that everything else feels so small.

Fight for survival against other players and dinosaurs on an untamed island.

If you manage to find a welcoming server right away (the chances are about fifty-fifty), you will find yourself dropped either onto a sandy beach or in a dense jungle, armed with only a hatchet. You have several initial tasks you can pursue after spawn: collect resources for crafting, hunt for food, or explore. If you go the crafting route, you will find it a frustrating and often baffling experience. Wood and stone dot the island in abundance. But unlike in other games, resources, trees, and rocks don't deplete, effectively removing any system of risk and reward through exploration. Dropping more than one resource on the ground combines the items into a small wicker basket that grows as you add more supplies. There is no inventory system, so moving the basket requires you to pull it with a rope.

Interacting with a basket of resources displays a short list of tools and structures you can create with the gathered materials. As you add more materials to the basket, the list grows, tempting you to add as much as possible before you start crafting. That, as it turns out, is a bad idea, because the creation process burns up all your resources during creation, leaving nothing behind. Since the game doesn't show how many materials each item requires, crafting becomes a time-consuming test of patience, where the best course is to gather a small number of resources at a time and check the list over and over until you find what you need.

Hunting and spearfishing are necessary to find food.

Even if you do have the patience, crafting culminates in only a handful of tools and necessary structures. Tools include a bow with arrows, which is great for taking out dinos or hostile humans from a distance. You can also craft a spear, a shield to protect yourself, and bolas, which tie up players and prevent them from escaping. Structures include a tepee, which creates a respawn point; a fire pit for cooking food; and a totem pole if you fancy creating your own tribe.

In its current state, the game doesn't offer anything else in terms of structures or ways to protect what you have. Without walls or traps to protect them, many times I returned to find my stockpile of food swiped or my tepee destroyed. Where other survival games, even those in early access, let you save the progress you make and protect your stuff, The Stomping Land leaves your fate to the elements. But it doesn't matter in the end; everything you build gets deleted when you log off anyhow.

When you're not busy crafting, you spend the game doing an inordinate amount of aimless jogging. Most available servers allow for no more than 16 players at once, yet few of those have more than 10 people online. You could run around for several day-and-night cycles before coming across anyone else. And when you do find other players, it has been my experience that their first reaction is to either stab you in the gut with a spear or tie you up with a bola and then drag you into the ocean while chanting "sacrifice him to the sea goddess!" To clarify, the latter happened during one of my earliest attempts at making friends with a three-player tribe. I also learned that you can't break the bindings once you're hit by a bola. After running into so many players flinging the darn things, I hope a way to cut yourself free materializes soon.

I did experience a few brief moments of excitement. Not long after my brush with the sea goddess clan, I discovered a cave on the beach. As I peered in, I spotted a small object glowing green. Delighted at the chance of discovery, I built a torch and delved into the inky blackness. It turned out the glowing object was called a healing herb, and it's used in taming dinosaurs. This was something that I wanted, but I decided to explore the cave further. I followed a twisting path of rock, bordered by pools of deep azure water. After some time twisting and turning, I entered a chamber to find a large Mayan-inspired painting on the floor. As I stepped onto it, the painting started to glow green and spin.

Visiting the neighbors can be risky.

After the long period of tedium I had endured to get to this point, I was thrilled with my discovery, and felt surprised that the game held such a secret. A few seconds later, my reward flashed onscreen: "Expertise +20." Oh, I thought, that's it? In The Stomping Land, expertise is the single role-playing game element and is rewarded for staying alive. Expertise, which I calculated was doled out about one point per minute, is used to tame dinosaurs. The more points you have, the larger the animal you can befriend. I had half expected to find something special with the painting, but felt utterly disappointed when all it did was shave off about 20 minutes of gameplay.

A few seconds later, three torches lit up the cave from the other side of a rock. It was my sea goddess friends, and apparently the cave was part of their turf. In my haste to escape another ritual, I accidently fell into a pool of water, extinguishing my torch. The need for an inventory system never seemed so desperate. After fruitlessly hopping around looking for an exit, I eventually gave up and drowned myself.

There are many more issues that make The Stomping Land such an unsatisfying experience. Walking over small hills or rocks causes your character to clip and sputter through objects; the camera, which floats behind your character's back, stutters wildly whenever you enter water; and even one of the primary attractions of the game, riding dinosaurs, is unwieldy, and, in the end, just one other way to fumble through emotionless terrain. The game is in early access, and many of these shortcomings could be gone by the time it's finished. But when it will get finished is unclear. The road ahead of The Stomping Land stretches out so far that I can't foresee when, or if, that day will come. And with an asking price of $24.99 on Steam, The Stomping Land should be avoided like a charging styracosaurus--for now, anyway.

What's There?

Multiplayer survival on a jungle island where you fight to stay alive alongside several species of dinosaurs to hunt or tame.


What's To Come?

More dinosaur species, as well as a larger island to explore.

What Does it Cost?

$24.99, available via the Steam store.

When Will it Be Finished?

Unknown, but judging by what's available currently, it could be a long time before an official release.

What's the Verdict?

At this stage, The Stomping Land more closely resembles a tech demo than anything close to a finalized product. It is far from its end goal, and I have no idea when, or if, that goal will ever be reached.



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Discussion

28 comments
prince__vlad
prince__vlad

another proof that more and more developers went utterly IDIOTS.
 Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of a dinosaur hunting game , but not this...kind of abomination made by them.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@chikken21 

Really? There are players who go all the way to make up some fictitious pagan culture in-game?

Damn, this game has some die-hard supporters. :/

chikken21
chikken21

If you tamed one dino (and didn't even ride it!) and claim to have seen it all, then you clearly are not playing correctly. The game is not about how much content there is or how many structures you can build. Both of these things will increase over time. They have already implemented an inventory template. The game is about survival, dinosaur hunting, and, primarily, social interaction. I STILL haven't managed to tame a carnotaurus because staying alive long enough to gain the expertise is very difficult. Once I do that, perhaps I will consider saying that I have exhausted all there is to do. However, even that would be a mistake considering how many awesome and unique situations I have witnessed at this early stage of development. 


My favorite moment so far: I was captured within twenty minutes of landing on the island by a tribe of insane ocean worshippers who placed me in a cage and began placing ceremonial torches around me. My cries for help enlisted a slew of kind-hearted strangers from across the island who tried in vain to free me to spite the evil tribe that took me hostage. Just before I died of starvation and all hope looked lost, a herd of ankylosaurus seemed to appear from the ocean and take revenge on my captors. I watched the assholes fall to the bony tails of the beasts as I collapsed from mal-nourishment. Even my captors agreed that the ocean god had forsaken them.


I have witnessed tribes survive long enough to tame an infantry of large dinosaurs, using them to wage war on other players and tribes. I have helped a group of strangers navigate their way through the pitch black of the caves after one of them dropped their torch and cried out for help. I have been chased through the forest by a carnotaurus, only escaping by leading it into the impermeable backside of an ankylosaurus. I then returned to harvest the remains of the ensuing battle. To write this game off just because you ran out of things to craft, is a mistake in my opinion. I would give it another go! If you love dinosaurs or even just survival games, this one has some great promise (as others have said).

mattcake
mattcake

Once upon a time devs had to pay people to alpha/beta test their games. How on earth did we end up the other way around? I could understand it for AAA games bragging rights, but guy-in-his-basement games? Pff.

grecluse
grecluse

Mr. Woolsey seems like an alpha-version of an Early-Access-Game-Reviewer, and this review is far from fair to prospective supporters.

While it is obvious that the developer gets income from your $25, they have also stated that the price is also intended to sort those who are most interested in the game's concepts.

It is clearly described as "Early Access" in Steam, and upon starting the game it shows that it is "Alpha v.0.5.3" (as of June 16, 2014). That should alert a knowledgeable Early Adopter that there is much still to do, much to be added later, and glitches are to be expected - Glitches which a responsive tester will report to developers so they get worked out. 

Before laying down your 25 bucks, do some homework. Search youTube, both official and fan-made. There are exciting adventures to be seen. Then join the Official Forum and wiki, perhaps even the Reddit section. Then you will know if this journey is for you.

With my 2-year-old rig I did not experience the crippling flaws that Woolsey reports, although when underwater 'up' can be uncertain, but it didn't kill me. 

After five hours of play I have found most of the 'recipes' and activities possible at this point. Still, I remain eager to watch TSL as it grows; it seems to hold great promise.



jecomans
jecomans

If a game like this was completely finished and polished $25 would still be the high mark of what was acceptable to charge, let alone an early access stage game. 

hystavito
hystavito

I think there is one cool standout feature, and that is capturing other players as opposed to most games where your only PvP option would be to kill them.  Yes in other games like Rust, you could technically entice someone to enter a room and lock them in, but that's very different from a tool/mechanic that actually allows capturing on the fly.


I guess that alone isn't enough to say the game is good, but I think it's a cool feature, and also opens up more roleplaying opportunities.

BamaGoatt
BamaGoatt

Bad review you tell me to stay away but also tell me I can drag people into the ocean chanting sacrifice to the sea goddess! I am conflicted the game currently sounds poor but my dark evil fantasies can be realized in here if they add cannibalism I won't be able to resist temptation lol.

sot84
sot84

I second what chikken has said! Ive had the same experiences.

camachine
camachine staff

@chikken21 Sorry for the late reply! I realize that things will change over time, and not everything planned will be implemented right away. Such is the caveat of buying into early access. If there is an inventory system, then it must be a new feature.


I did meet people who had taken over land and watched some small-scale battles. But the fights are not as interesting as you described. I've also met people riding on the carnotaurus, but they told me it couldn't attack. And what's the point of riding an immense meat-eating dinosaur if you can't walk around biting people!


The game may become something grand. But, as I said, it doesn't appear it will happen for a good, long while. 

hitomo
hitomo

@chikken21  honestly, sounds like Mortal.Online ... pure sandbox can be mindbending, but you also need a high frsustration treshhold ... and not much to do in real.life for some time to justify playin those games ^^


regards

BamaGoatt
BamaGoatt

@mattcake  some of these companies lack money to hire testers so the release it early for multiple reasons. 1 is word of mouth advertisement the other is so they can release something that is well received by the early adopters. I don't have a problem with this however it does get abused by people who have a good idea but just can't finish it. Steam is good about refunding games that fall into the later category. I have only bought 1 early release and had a blast with it and still enjoy it. I am looking at this game and space engineers though only because they gave good prices instead of those asking $100 upfront. 

camachine
camachine staff

@grecluse As I mentioned before, yes, the game is in early access, and, yes, things will change over time. That much has been clearly stated. I also didn't report performance issues, certainly nothing "crippling," but there are absolutely problems with navigation. 

Caldrin
Caldrin

@jecomans not really if this game was finished and polished it would be well worth the asking price... also if you want to get involved with it now then its worth the asknig price... if oyu want a fully finished game then of coruse dont bother buying it now.

BamaGoatt
BamaGoatt

@jecomans good point but steam usually puts early access games on special for $14.99 that is why I bought double fine's spacebase df-9 which is really good but it also released 3 years ago.

BamaGoatt
BamaGoatt

@hystavito don't forget the sea goddess she is real and eats the flesh of the captured.

Caldrin
Caldrin

@BamaGoatt the game is at the very stat of early access/alpa.. as for any game at this stage its not going to be fun to play all the time as its in development... but if you want to help shape the game and get involved then jump in now test and report bugs..

If you want a fully finished game to have fun in then stay away until its finished :)



Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

For anyone else who has read the article and read the comment above, that "sea goddess" clan are just blokes who tie people up and drown them. There is no sea goddess.

There are players who act out unbelievable fantasies when they play games like this though.

Buyer beware.

jecomans
jecomans

@BamaGoatt On Steam the price of a title, even during sales, is always up to the developer/publisher. Also, Double Fine rocks. 

BamaGoatt
BamaGoatt

@Caldrin @BamaGoatt sounds good might jump in and start my own cult of course they only have one job surround me as a human shield. 

camachine
camachine staff

@Gelugon_baat As you said, there are no deities as far as the game is concerned. I was being facetious with the sea worshipers because they were amusing :)

BamaGoatt
BamaGoatt

@Gelugon_baat lol how dare you doubt the sea goddess next you are going to tell me mars attacks was a work of fiction.

BamaGoatt
BamaGoatt

@jecomans @BamaGoatt yeah they do! My spacebase game was on sale but double fine is good for doing things like that I remember they gave ps3 owners stacking for free even if you don't keep ps+ you can still play it they are awesome!

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@Principian 

Maybe you are the one who has to "lighten up" if you think that I am somehow "hating".