In Life is Feudal, Everyone Has A Role To Play

Medieval construction set

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If Sid Meier and Firaxis Games were ever to take their Civilization franchise to an exceptionally granular level, you might end up with Life is Feudal. It’s a simulator that offers the routine and tedium of medieval civilization-building without many of the unpleasantness and hardships of medieval life. There’s no Black Plague to worry about nor is there an oppressive class system (assuming you get along with your server mates). But this is a game after all, so it’s not surprising that Life is Feudal offers adversarial player versus player combat to spice things up in between world-building duties.

The PvP element plays out like the first 15 minutes of many movies and TV shows with medieval settings. Here you are, minding your own business, tending to the land when raiders show up to end your life. Death isn’t as forgiving as most deaths in RPGs; the victors in battle have every right to loot corpses.

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Life Is Feudal - Hunting and Building Gameplay
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It takes about 45 minutes to sprint from one end of the land to the other.
It takes about 45 minutes to sprint from one end of the land to the other.

It’s in moments of peace that Life is Feudal shows the most promise. Based off player-run servers with 64-player max capacities per server, Life is Feudal is a ripe sandbox of crafting and collaboration. At E3 2015, we explored a modest settlement, the result of four guys who worked a week and a half in eight-hour daily shifts. That’s over 300 man hours to create a town that’s barely larger than a gymnasium. Life is Feudal serves as a reminder that there’s an audience that wants to not only determine where a single brick is laid but also how to create that brick in the first place. And imagine having to prime the ground by leveling it into an even surface before you can lay the first brick. This is both a dream and a nightmare for obsessive compulsives.

This is where skills and planning come into play. If you’ve ever fancied yourself as a construction site foreman, Life is Feudal will give you a creative outlet. Depending on a given server’s skill cap, it’s often best to commit participants to specific roles early on. It also wouldn’t hurt to pull out a notebook and pre-plan the layout of your prospective town. No matter the job one takes, it is of value. The swordmaker depends on the carpenters to provide flammable materials to heat up forges. Everyone else depends on the swordmaker to provide weapons to defend the town. And you wouldn’t last long unless you have someone in your team who is learning to wrangle, tame, and breed animals for food. No man is an island in Life is Feudal.

Every home in Life is Feudal is hand-crafted.
Every home in Life is Feudal is hand-crafted.

If you choose to be a swordsmith, leveling up isn’t as simple as gaining XP with every slam of a forging hammer. You need to improve skills like prospecting, mining, and smelting. Then you have to build many, many swords over time in order become a master swordsmith. The same goes for carpenters, who cannot build stables right from the beginning. Not granular enough for you? You also have to consider the quality of the resources you gather. Every object in Life is Feudal is assigned its own quality value, right down to a block of dirt and each tree that can be chopped into wood.

Speaking of wood, there's a great deal of responsibility should you choose to excel in forestry. As in real life, clear-cutting a nearby wood will yield a ton of building materials, but you’ll also need to learn to grow new trees for long-term sustainability. One side benefit to aggressive forestry means fewer hiding places for invaders. And your citizens will value your discerning taste in growing high quality trees. This not only results in more durable buildings, but also more durable wood-based weapons like bows.

If this kind of workforce management and participation resembles your real life job, we wouldn’t blame you if you avoided Life is Feudal. Yet if you change your mind, this civilization-building simulator is highly friendly to latecomers. The need for raw resources never changes, no matter how well-developed a settlement is. You can never have enough people to gather wood and stone. Joining a community is as simple as strolling into town and asking someone, “How can I help?”. Any experienced Life is Feudal player should have an answer for you.

Invaders might be hiding in that forest in the distance.
Invaders might be hiding in that forest in the distance.

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