My initial expectations for Life Is Feudal: MMO, I’ll admit, were pretty high after seeing the trailer and hearing about how servers can hold several times more players than the original Life Is Feudal: Your Own. Who could not be a little jazzed when Sean Bean does the intro to a medieval MMO? I remember playing the original Life Is Feudal, which is a bit like this game, only with smaller-scale worlds, like Rust, or Conan, and it had some pretty glaring accessibility issues which I had hoped had been addressed, but I suppose not. Immediately upon entering the world, I realized the first, and most inefficient game mechanics still existed:
Free Look Versus Cursor Mode
You literally have to press the tab key after performing every action to revert back to being able to control your character. This would be tedious for an able-bodied player, but makes the game nearly unplayable for me. Having this extra input requirement seems unnecessary but I should have expected it having played Life Is Feudal: Your Own. On the other hand, every other MMO from Warcraft to Archeage seem to have no trouble with automatically determining the appropriate mode based on elements In the game environment, so why the developers decided that players should be required to repeatedly tap a button just to alternate between whether their mouse controls the camera or a cursor, especially given after each in-game action, the game defaults to the inconvenient cursor mode. I have died many times because I couldn’t switch to a free look mode fast enough to run from my attacker, an experience I found frustrating because I couldn’t learn anything watching my repeated demise.
On top of all this, there is still “Combat” mode: Again, for some reason, you need to press a button to get into “War Stance” (R by default), which is completely separate from the aforementioned free look/cursor mode. In this mode, you have to hold down the V key if you’d like to rotate the camera with the mouse, and not only are there separate inputs for attack, block, and shield bash, but also inputs for sword thrusts, overhead swings, left swings, and right swings. I’m sure someone with more dexterous fingers than my own would be more than capable of elaborately dancing through a battlefield with combos and evades galore, but I truly have a hard time imagining anyone being able to effectively fight with all of these different keystrokes required.
The game gives me no idea why I can’t do certain things: the tutorial tells me to go right click on a tree to get branches, but all I can do to that tree is examine it, which only tells me how much the tree has in resources. Same goes for trying to collect grass fibers to complete my basic axe, although my ability to pick up pieces of flint is unparalleled. What’s important, here, is that the game should at the very least provide me with the information I need to do the thing I want to do. I’m not asking for much, maybe when right clicking a tree to access its context menu, show all the things a person could do and simply gray out the ones I can’t (bonus points if a tooltip explains what skill I need to do the thing to the tree).
Solving my own problems
After resorting to Google, I discovered you can’t harvest materials near the point where characters spawn. So I used the run command, then the Sprint command, and I was running toward some mountains near where I had been able to pick up some flint, found a spot where there was a rocky mountainside near grass and a small grove of trees, and thought to myself that my problems would be over as soon as I could make a set of basic tools! So I first started gathering plant fibers. The game has a wonderful feature called mass production, where you can collect plant fibers, or nearly any other material, over and over again until your eyes bleed.
However, by the time I was sitting near the mountainside, gathering flint, I realized that I was mining. Not so much in the literal sense, but rather in the sense that fans of Eve Online would appreciate: a monotonous, yet necessary task, usually resulting in large quantities of low value items. At this point I had made myself a stone axe, a stone hammer, several coils of rope, and a sling with 50 bullets. Keep in mind that this required many different keystrokes, all of which had to be bound to a specific voice command, a situation to which I’m definitely accustomed as a disabled gamer using voice recognition software, but there were so many extra commands that just didn’t need to be there. Having to say “switch view” just to be able to control my character normally after every action started to wear on me after a while.
And it was something of a relief when I was carrying a single giant log to where I intended to turn my campsite into a cottage when a wild boar came upon me and gave me the Robert Baratheon Special. I like to think I tried to put up a fight, though I had to say “combat” twice before I could start punching things. I wanted to use my stone ax or my hammer or even my sling, but I couldn’t even equip them, apparently, and I died a true Viking warrior’s death: swinging my fist at a pig.
But just because I had a poor experience with the game doesn’t mean that it lacks value. It’s clear that the developers want to create an experience where large amounts of players interact in the same world with a well-designed medieval aesthetic, where everything not natural is made by a player from materials harvested, extracted, or refined by other players. Action and PVP does happen, (though it’s not something that is instant or nonstop, like other MMOs), and I’ve seen videos of people sneaking up on players picking grass and cutting their throats. Come to think of it, I could probably recommend this game to fans of Eve Online, assuming they have fast enough fingers and a few friends to help with the complex industrial skill and material requirements to establish themselves in the world of Life is feudal: MMO… Provided they can overcome the skill curve.