Are you a fan of MMOs? Are you a fan of Survival and Sandbox titles? If your answer was yes, then do we have a game for you. Tree of Life, a new game by indie developer OddOne Games, is an innovative MMORPG incorporating several elements from sandbox and survival games, and it’s bound to be an instant hit amongst fans of the genre. Tree of Life, simply said, is one of those games that’s really easy to jump into, but has a surprising amount of depth. Some of the best features from popular games such as Runescape, Minecraft, Day-Z, Rust, Terraria, and others have found their way into this early access title.
Our group has already logged over 150 combined hours thus far. So, read on and find out about our experience thus far!
Tree of Life offers their players versatility in terms of what skills they would like to “master”. You can become a fisherman, a farmer, a warrior, or a carpenter. You’re only allowed to obtain so many skill levels before you no longer gain experience in other skills, but you can still level up skills for quite a while before you will run into this problem. Luckily, it is something that can be easily planned out in advance, so you don’t end up struggling with it later. This encourages players to find other players, form a community, and find a craft that would help them thrive in that community. To further encourage this, Tree of Life introduced a “guild” system to help players band together, and encourage this teamwork under a common name and banner. You can craft locks to put on storage facilities to ensure only players in your guild can access them. At this time, there is a limit on how many players can be in a guild, and you cannot remove players once you’ve added them. This, however, is something likely to be addressed by OddOne Games in the future.
DAY AND NIGHT CYCLES
One of the first features that will stand out to Tree of Life players is the addition of day and night cycles. The phases seem to be equal in terms of length, but the night cycles are particularly challenging to deal with. Most of the time in Survival and Sandbox games, you choose to gather and scavenge during the day, and return home to your base at night to craft until daylight, and safety, return. Unfortunately, in Tree of Life the night cycles may be a little too “hardcore” at the moment as you can see in the screenshot above. It’s surprising to see a game embrace challenging night cycles, as it is something that most games have just “done away with” in recent years. After speaking with several players, many find the night cycles too difficult to manage. If you light fire pits at night, they expire too quickly unless using coal or oil. I’m sure there’s a balance that can be found that can make nights still feel challenging, without forcing players to stumble through the darkness with a torch in their hands at all times. It can takes away from the crafting experience in your bases because of the lack of light, and attacks by monsters on your walls.
Exploration is key to MMOs, but it’s equally as integral to sandbox and survival games. You’ll be happy to know that Tree of Life has built a huge map for players to explore. There’s plenty of room for you to build your bases wherever you’d like, and make friends (or enemies).
Different regions have different wildlife, resources, and challenges to conquer. As an example, we chose to build our latest base in a snow biome. It’s further away from the starting areas, but resources are much more scarce, and the enemies we encounter are much more challenging than in forested or plains regions to the south. In the forest biome we encountered a great deal of players, but unfortunately not all of them were friendly — competition for land and for resources were a regular occurrence, even with the plentiful resources that were available. Challenges like this will be presented to you at all times and it’s invigorating to be apart of. You will have to decide where it’s best to plan out your base, but keep in mind the challenges that may come with the location you’ve chosen.
PvE and PvP
Tree of Life operates on a PvE/PvP system. Players can build towers, walls, and locks to defend their bases from being attacked by aggressive monsters and criminal players. Players names are normally yellow, so it’s very easy for players to spot the differences between a “neutral” player (yellow) and a vandal (red). Unfortunately, at this time it’s likely you’ll encounter many players that are “vandals”, and they’ll attempt to find ways to grief you and your base until these proper defenses are implemented. Costly materials on a lot of these defensive constructions encourages players to steal and destroy instead of working to build their own things.
On May 29, OddOne Games implemented a patch that introduced a few cheaper defensive structures to be built and harsher penalties to vandals, but it doesn’t seem to have corrected the problems just yet. It’s a step in the right the direction, however, and submitting more feedback will help them address the PvP/PvE imbalances. As of now, vandals are punished with a heavy penalty for committing crimes. If they die, they will lose all current experience towards the next level of skills they’re working on and all items that they were carrying at the time of their death. Lengthy timers are given for committing crimes, where the more severe crime you’ve committed the longer you’ll add to it. This time continues to stack regardless of whether you were the aggressor or simply defending your base.
To elaborate on how PvE and PvP actually operates: Players are free to police the game themselves. It’s important to be diplomatic when dealing with people, or at least as diplomatic as you can be. We’ve come into contact with several players who are friendly, while we’ve also encountered players that are incredibly hostile. Even with the harsher penalties that were implemented, it’s feels impossible at times for “friendly” players to succeed. If a vandal chooses to attack you or your base, you’ll be marked as a vandal even if you try to defend yourself or your belongings. The penalties are discouraging to receive and can “snowball” out of control if vandalism and banditry is your playstyle, or if you must fend off repeated attacks from other players. Ultimately, it shouldn’t affect players who are only trying to defend what they’ve spent hours on. It’s something that could be elaborated upon in the future to ensure that players attempting to play the game in a PvE fashion aren’t going to be bullied out by players seeking PvP.
Perhaps the only other aspect of the game that should be improved, and probably will be, is combat. The combat can feel clunky at times when fighting monsters, or other players. You’ll be aiming at an enemies, but you have to attack them at strange angles to deal damage to them at points. If other players try to help you with combat, you may accidentally strike them and incur a vandal penalty if it kills them. I’ve heard from others that it would be a good idea to implement a “Friendly Fire” feature in the future, and I wholeheartedly agree.
**UPDATE 6/1: there is a target-locking feature that assists with avoiding friendly fire.**
There are numerous weapon types that you can choose to equip and master, but, ultimately, you should try to specialize in whatever type you feel works best for you. It’s refreshing to know the game will be expanding upon these different specializations going forward, with magic potentially being added in the future, as there is an unimplemented mana stat next to health on your UI. There are also different sets of armor and clothing that can be created by players who specialize in Blacksmithing or Tailoring from resources you’ll find across the world in Tree of Life.
I can’t express this enough: this game is awesome. It’s one of the most progressed Early Access titles I’ve ever seen on Steam. Tree of Life isn’t even finished, and I’ve already played for twelve hours without realizing how much time has actually passed in the real world. Some of our colleagues have already played over twenty hours, with one logging over forty five hours. I can say definitively that you will not get bored easily with this game. Yes, there are some features that need to be reevaluated or modified, but with how fast OddOne Games has responded with patches and hotfixes thus far; I have full confidence in Tree of Life going forward. Now, if you’d excuse me, I have a guild to get back to in the north with my friends. I’ve adopted farming and fishing as my major skills, as we are always hungry, and Winter is coming.
Tree of Life is available now on Steam as an Early Access title. You can purchase the standard edition of the game for $20 USD, or you can purchase the game with the Adventurer’s Pack DLC (An additional bag with a few slots, food, and some starting supplies) for $25 USD.
Disclaimer: We were generously provided two keys of Tree of Life by OddOne Games. This has in no way influenced our opinion on the game. We’re eager to continue covering Tree of Life as it continues it’s development.