The first game I ever saved up my own money for was SimCity on the SNES. The game was colourful, interesting, and unlike anything I had played up to that point. It was my first city builder and probably the first simulation game I had played. It’s still a genre I still love to this day. Now, years later, I look at Life is Feudal Forest Village and I start to wonder where the best balance between fun and tedium lies.
Like I said, I love a good sim, but I fully accept that the genre is an elaborate trick to make us believe that work is fun. Simulations celebrate the mundane and the minute, and Life is Feudal Forest Village is no different. The game asks the player to establish a settlement in a heavily wooded area and make it and its people thrive. This is mostly accomplished by ordering the construction of buildings and assigning people gainful employment within those buildings.
There really is little more to the game than that. Build a town, keep your townsmen fed and warm through the winter and hope you’ll be able to make life a little better for your people throughout the year. Life is Feudal does its best to simulate climate shifts throughout the year, adjusting crop growth and wildlife appropriately. Like most city builders, this is a game about managing numbers. Managing the number of each resource, managing supplies of clothes and tools, managing professions, happiness, and hostile wildlife. The player has no end to the number of things to keep them up at night, not to mention all the lazy teenagers who won’t go out and get a job.
Once you have people set up with something to do, they’ll typically do their thing fairly effectively. If, for some reason, you feel like you could do someone’s job better than them, you can jump into a character and control them in first person, and even make them work harder. I found this to be unnecessary and clunky in most cases. When I’m governing a whole city and trying to improve clothing quality across the board I don’t really notice that Jimmy is the dumbest fisherman, and controlling him directly seems more annoying than useful, especially if his coworkers are competent.
While sitting down with Life is Feudal Forest Village I couldn’t help but ask myself a very important question: “Am I having fun,” and, in the end, I wasn’t sure. The game is solidly built with few real bugs and the simulation is interesting to say the least. I enjoy the concept of providing your population with a variety of food sources, the concept of feeding my whole village with nothing but honey is amusing, though untenable, and the game suggests that each of these food sources provided different nutrients was proposed, but I never noticed much of a difference during the actual game. There is a tutorial that covers the basics well enough for new players, but there really is no guidance outside of that. Don’t let your people freeze, don’t let them starve—lather, rinse and repeat. More challenge or even a campaign would go a long way in keeping players engaged here, or even just give them a sense of purpose.
Life is Feudal Forest Village has some interesting ideas and provides players with a fairly novel simulation. Hardcore fans of the genre will find something to enjoy in the endless management, but I doubt even they will stick with this for very long.