Monday, 14 April 2014

Review: UnReal World


UnReal World (PC, v3.17) 


How long would you last if dropped into a Nordic wildland? What if you carried basic supplies: a knife, fur coat and axe? UnReal World challenges you to a game of survival, a game of meager beginnings turning into masterful accomplishments. Choose to become the cunning hunter, expert trapper, shrewd trader or lazy fisherman; use your wits and skills to tame the hostile land.

The UnReal World is a heavily modified roguelike; featuring procedural generation of the world and its inhabitants; heavy graphical representation of the player, the environment and its denizens; custom music and sound effects. When compared to other roguelikes it has a much more personable feel, but - just like every other roguelike - includes a decent learning curve for newcomers and death for the hasty player. New adventurers may assuage starting difficulty by choosing easier starting scenarios offered after character generation.

The game begins with character creation, lazy players have a quick-start option, but RPGs like UnReal World rewards players who carefully mold their character's strengths and weaknesses. You may be required to do a little reading throughout character creation, modern gamers beware. Information regarding many subjects in UnReal World is available via a handy in-game manual system.

Mastering a few skills is better than being spread out.
Selecting a starting tribe is probably the single most defining choice during character creation. With over ten tribes to choose from, each having their own specialties, with each belonging to a cultural subgroup, the choice generally determines strengths and weaknesses regarding survival skills. Players may further improve skills with creation points, making them either experts in a few skills (easy), or adequate in many (harder). Skills improve slowly when used throughout the game and common skills tend to increase at a much faster rate.

After character creation players may choose a starting scenario: lost in the woods, escaped slave, hunting accident, etc. Scenarios can make starting a little easier or much harder, adding to replayability. Players may then choose a "course", or string of little quests either in a beginner tutorial format or more advanced hunting challenge. Both starting scenarios and courses may be skipped for an open play, no-frills adventure.

Overland Map, and a heavily wounded Esko
The UnReal world is a sandbox game and everyone will play the game differently. Hunt by tracking animals using both local and overview maps, meanwhile setting up camp near a river allows for fishing and transport of heavy cargo down stream. Interacting with the world consists of the usual rogue top-down view, but with native graphical support. The main view is broken up between current character location and character overview window, showing character health information and other vital statistics. The main window cycles between an overland and local map, so large areas of land can be crossed without bypassing many screens.

Skills are used to perform actions like fishing and fighting, learning the basic hotkeys are a must for repeated actions. Determining future endeavors is paramount to survival; are you going to fish for food, or build some traps, kill that wandering red-armored raider, hunt the elk that left fresh tracks in the snow, or trade some fox furs for a better knife. A wasted day when you're on the edge of starvation is very painful indeed. Prioritizing daily needs and then branching out into a more adventurous routine would be most players common direction.

Wild spirits of the land watch over you during your adventure. Performing rituals and sacrificing to the spirits may increase your chances of catching food, surviving a fight or sleeping well during the night. Spiritual well-being and knowing when to sacrifice can help your virtual survivor immeasurably. Players learn rituals by meeting local village elders, after having strange dreams, or completing parts of a chosen course.

Another major aspect of UnReal World are the four seasons. Spring, being mild and bountiful of food is considered the easiest season; with winter being the harshest season for the ill-prepared. In the beginning, players may choose to start the game in winter or any season of the year. New players are advised to start in spring or summer to give them a long lead into the next winter season. Storing supplies, movement and building a home is a lot easier in the warmer months.

Esko - You should see the other guy!
As with most roguelikes, death is permanent and generally waits around every corner. Even the most experienced hunters face being mauled by an aggressive bear or slashed in the neck by an Njerpez warrior. Death can be quite frustrating because building a moderate homestead takes quite a time investment. Thankfully, you can generate a new character and reuse the old game map, allowing you to reclaim structures previously built.

UnReal World is an expansive and wonderful game. It allows new players an easy way into the wild, but also allows experienced veterans something different or potentially suicidal from the very beginning. Tough beginnings eking out a meager survival gives way to distant traveling, trade runs, quality furs and dangerous hunts. New players should probably do a little reading before jumping in, but as the game features an in-game manual, it shouldn't put too many modern gamers off.

UnReal World is currently free and is now ver. 3.18 (available Windows, Mac and Linux) and you can download it here: http://www.unrealworld.fi/ under the downloads section. If you enjoy playing UnReal World, I highly recommend donating to the project to show your support and help further development.

8.5/10

-Njerpez Warrior: Spears you in the back of the neck and the world goes dark.

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