UnReal World is a survival roguelike that has been twenty years in the making. Developed by the Finnish indie group, Enormous Elk, UnReal World invites you to live your life in an ancient and unforgiving wilderness inspired by Finnish history and folklore.
Unlike more traditional RPGs, UnReal World places emphasis on merely surviving in the wild. The majority of skills you can utilise and improve are non-combat skills such as cooking, timber-craft, and agriculture. Players can stake out any kind of existence they want so long as they can acquire the skills necessary, whether they want to be a survivalist hermit living off the land or an adventurer travelling in the company of those you invite to join you.
When you create a new character you can select their heritage and background, as well as improve five of their starting skills by a single point each. You can choose to have your character come from one of the various cultures that will inhabit the world you explore, including Islanders the Owl-Tribe. Each tribe offers their own starting benefits for your skills. Or, if you enjoy the randomised elements of roguelikes you can simply have the game randomly create the character for you and place them anywhere in the new world.
At its core surviving revolves around you finding water, food, and shelter. Water is plentiful in the game, but the others require you to make the best use of your skills. Food must first be caught, whether by fishing, harvesting, or hunting animals, and then cooked using a fire. Performing tasks like felling trees for wood and fishing take time, meaning you must always be monitoring your character’s well being. Right from the get go this game is punishing. If you do not find a reliable way to feed yourself then things can go down hill very quickly. Actions such as attacking, fishing, and even lighting a fire have a chance of failure if your skills are not up to snuff.
Travelling in the world takes place on two levels. Firstly you have the world map where your characters can traverse long distances without having worm their way around every obstacle. Then you have the local map which zooms in one a tile and lets your character explore specific areas. These two maps can be swapped between at any time so long as your character is not engaged in hunting, fighting, or in a settlement. This easy to use map means your characters will have no trouble exploring the vast world and finding a place to set up as home. Be warned however that a character’s hunger and thirst increase faster while travelling on the world map.
The combat is turn-based, allowing you decide what kind of attack you want to perform and which part of your enemy to try and strike. While the fighting does nothing else too impressive it is no holds bar. This I discovered when fighting a group of vagabond adventures. Even the children will come out to take a kick at your character, and you are allowed to hit back (something I’m sure the Daily Mail would like to know about).
UnReal World features the two staples of roguelike game-play, permanent death as well as randomly generated content. When your character dies, whether it be through battle or starvation, they are recorded and honoured in the ancestors section of the opening menu and you can never play them again, so you are advised to think carefully before making any decisions. The worlds you play in take the same basic shape, heavily forested with a coastline, marshes, and scattered settlements. The starting location the details of the terrain are different each time. While each world is truly vast, there may be a small feeling of repetitiveness as you wander through endless forests.
The game has some rather unintuitive controls which are certain to throw off those who are unprepared for roguelikes. Even moving around on the map is more complex compared to your run of the mill RPG. You are required to use arrow keys to turn your character around before moving them forwards or backwards, and you are only capable of seeing what is ahead of you. The game relies heavily on remembering hotkeys, and even goes as far as to implement the use of capital letter keys. For example, pressing ‘e’ brings up some extended commands, where as holding shift and then ‘E’ is required for eating. The game does offer “Living in the wild” and “Advanced adventure” modes which give tutorials on different tasks and the controls needed to perform them. New players are best off playing through at least some of the “Living in the wild” mode in order to grasp the basics of survival.
While the game has gone through a graphical evolution during its years of development do not expect anything to wow you. In typical roguelike fashion the game features simple looks with a combination of sprites alongside photographic imagery to display the faces of various characters. The photo images do add a sense of charm in helping players better envision the scenery. Difficulty may be experienced when travelling on mountains, where you may struggle to tell the different between the white snow and the grey area indicated what you cannot see.
UnReal World is a very acquired taste. Roguelike veterans looking for new experience in their genre or those looking for a RPG with a down to earth atmosphere might want to consider looking at this game. The slow pace of the game and the lack of end goal beyond survival however might be a turn off for others.
The game is free to play for PC – so I see no reasons for RPG fans not to give this a quick whirl – and is now running on donations. If you enjoy this game or just want to support small developers then consider dropping a bit of currency their way. A donation of $35 or more will give you access to the lifetime membership, which will grant access to pre-releases and extra content.
Check out the game’s website at: http://www.unrealworld.fi/