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Len's Island Review - A Christmas Smash Hit?

Len's Island launched to massive praise from the game's followers. Flow Studio have delivered on their promises in this awesome open-world adventure.

 

Len's Island Review - A Christmas Smash Hit?

 

In an upcoming interview, we are going to be chatting with Flow Studio's Julian Ball, and as a precursor to this, we got our hands on a copy of Len's Island to see why it has been outselling Rede Dead Redemption and other AAA titles after it launched during the Steam Autumn Festival. With sales still climbing on Steam, and over 92% positive reviews, this game looks to be on track for great numbers during the Christmas period, when it's time to kick back and find an adventure in this beautiful, relaxing open-world base-building/crafting/adventure/survival indie masterpiece!

Getting Started In Len's Island

The first thing you notice from the loading screens of Len’s Island is how highly polished the audio and visuals are. The soundtrack, created by in-house composer, Lars Erik Fjøsne, lures you in with excitement and trepidation, sounding like you are in the throes of an adventure movie where the protagonist is poised to embark on some epic expedition. All of the sound effects and audio in the game were also made from scratch by Lars. The graphical presentation is a mixture of low-poly and highly detailed 3D overhead, so this Unity game runs very smoothly with very little gaming specification required.

MINIMUM: Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system OS: Windows 7 or higher (64-bit) Processor: 2.4 Ghz Dual Core CPU Memory: 8 GB RAM Graphics: 2 GB Dedicated Memory DirectX: Version 11 Storage: 4 GB available space

RECOMMENDED: Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system OS: Windows 10 (64-bit) Processor: 2.8 Ghz QuadCore CPU or faster Memory: 8 GB RAM Graphics: 4+ GB Dedicated Memory DirectX: Version 11 Storage: 4 GB available space

You start by customising your character, as all good games should. After a few days of swapping hairstyles and clothing, you will finally be ready to take on Len’s Island, with your small inventory that includes an axe and a pickaxe. Right away, with the beautiful lighting and Flow Studio’s attention to asset detail lets you know that this game was made by developers who cared about how the game looks. Too often we have seen voxel-based games or cookie-cutter releases that were launched on Steam with careless abandon, using free assets from Unity or Unreal marketplaces, and having very little substance. This game is as far removed from that mentality as you can get.

 

NPCs in Len's Island

 

Julian Ball, the lead developer of Len’s Island started his career as a self-taught designer and digital graphic artist, and all of the beautiful weapons, foliage and buildings have been designed by him from scratch. Julian is also partly responsible for programming the game mechanics along with two other full-time developers; a result of a passion for building a game he wanted to play, Len’s Island feels cohesive and solid in concept. Although Julian focused more on the design aspects, he rolled up his sleeves in the beginning and learned to code Len’s Island himself before expanding the team.

Intuitive UI And Controls

For those who have played crafting and survival games before, Len’s Island will be intuitive and a pleasure to play for the first time. The mouse operations allow you to hover over objects and view a pop-up menu for it. Items can be purchased and crafted right from the start of the game, and any item you select will not only show you the cost (if applicable) it will also show you what you need to craft the item from scratch.

The persistent inventory is available by pressing TAB, so there’s no need to go into a menu screen. This makes the game feel very fluid and keeps you in the action. You can keep the inventory open as you smack trees and grass to collect wood and fibres, which is especially useful if you are quickly crafting something on-the-fly.

This is not by accident, as Julian explains “That’s one of the really core things to Len’s Island. [..] I’ve tried to take out some of those really annoying, needless chores that you get with a lot of open-world survival crafting games,

If you are a fan of this type of game, you will already be grateful for this small, yet significant game mechanic improvement over games like DAY-Z, and Unturned, which continue to annoy gamers even though the game itself might have totally won them over in playability. As a pet hate, it can eventually put people off playing the game, as the survival and crafting inventory system is often a core aspect as you progress.

Len’s Weapons And Tools

As you wander, run, jump and roll your way around the island you have been dropped on, you step into the familiar, somewhat enjoyable territory of “Lumberjack Simulator”, and start to gather your materials to enable crafting. There are little nuances, such as when you bring down a tree, occasionally it will contain a beehive, so it’s best to roll away from the felled tree once you chop it down. This may seem like nothing but grinding specific materials over and over in a game can become repetitive and boring, so breaking it up with events like this really works. It’s testament to the fact that Julian is clearly a big fan of the genre he has made Len’s Island in, and understands how gamers want to feel while playing, and also what they don’t want to feel.

On the subject of bees - Julian alluded to the inclusion of pets in Len’s Island, which will enable the player to explore with the aid of airborne pets such as bees, fireflies and others, who will be able to help you against enemies or light your way in the dark caves and dungeons of the island. If we’ve learned anything from some of the most popular games, owning pets is a must have feature.

Critical hits will also display on your axe or other item as you use them in materials gathering or combat, and this mechanic is one of the core features of the game. Timing your next mouse-click when this critical hit – or “crit” - appears means you will do more damage.

 

Crit Hits
Crit Hits in Len's Island

 

 

There’s also no limit to the number of uses for weapons and tools, and unlike other games in the genre, these items last forever. Len’s Island has a plethora of beautifully designed weapons, and these are classified in sets. Collecting a full set of a particular weapon will enable you to obtain the “Legendary” version of the weapon. Levelling up your weapons is a must if you want to explore the dungeons further, and there’s lots of opportunities to do so.

 

Levelling up in Len's Island

 

Crits play a big part in the game, as every weapon or tool is different in what you receive for hitting a well-timed mouse-click. Some of the higher tier weapons, for example, will deal more damage, or will determine how quickly your attack is performed.

Exploration And Adventure

As with most games of this genre, you are going to need to investigate everything. Swipe your axe at it and see what happens. Click on it and see what options you have. Explore and leave no stone unturned. Whilst some things will be more obvious – berries from a bush, for example – others will be more obscure, and you’ll find yourself stopping to check out anything that looks like it might offer loot. Gathering materials, you will find the obvious staples like wood and fibre, but you will also come across “salvaged metals” from items like barrels, which are useful in terms of crafting structures like a house or a refinery. Also, with a house comes a crafting bench, and this is where you will begin to make significant progress with your inventory and structures. With the ability to purchase items from villagers and item scrolls that allow more intricate crafting, you are never stuck for the next shiny item to add to your collection.

There are also plenty of big and small mysteries in the world of Len’s Island keeping you engaged and the keeping the game feeling fresh with each play. Julian has buried lots of secrets in the game that give you a major sense of achievement when you find them. Whether it’s a small, hidden island that can only be reached by parkouring across dart-firing traps or discovering a chest that is carefully placed in a dungeon, requiring a little ingenuity to reach. These little treasures you come across in the first hour of the game can be sold for gold, giving you a kick start in game progression. This is a superb bonus for players who will feel a sense of achievement very early in the game.

 

Caves in Open-World Len's Island

 

At the very start, the basic necessities are going to be a torch and a sword, which can be crafted by clearing out the initial area you begin the game. Having these two items will give you a fighting chance in the caves and dungeons, where natural resources such as coal can be found. Unfortunately, you will also find enemies, so you’ll be swapping between your sword and pickaxe like all good multi-tasking dungeon crawling survivalists. As enemies appear, you will begin to understand the critical hit system much better, where timing your next hit will result in a speedier and more powerful dispatch of the creatures attacking you. Abilities will also be available to you with weapons, enabling more acrobatic, powerful attacks.

Mining for coal and other resources like iron ore will not be your only task in the caves, however, as you will find lots of items you can loot and/or destroy for resources. Barrels are plentiful in the dungeons, and the salvaged metal you recover will come in handy for future crafting. You will notice quickly that using a sword for destroying objects is faster, making light work of barrels, foliage and other stuff you come across on the island.

Making A House A Home

As you journey through the game, building the house of your dreams and levelling up your weaponry, you will soon see that there are two diverse aspects of Len’s Island that you can enjoy. The first is the meditative side of the game; taking an evening stroll in the birchwood forest, gathering resources for crafting new items, soaking up the glorious visuals, and constructing your idyllic home. The second is the fast-paced combat and dungeon crawling, seeking out puzzles and treasures and uncovering the secrets of the game. Having the dichotomy of these game styles is essential for any game’s success, and Len’s Island hooks you on both counts.

 

Building Bases in Len's island

 

Building your home will take up a considerable amount of your time, and you’ll have options to build out of wood or stone, and even opt for an ornate structure if you prefer, like the one above. As you move through your new structure, walls will disappear so you can see things easier, much the same as tree foliage disappears as you near it. Whilst you are building your home, you’ll notice that resources begin to respawn over a few day cycles, enabling you to pretty much stay put and build as much as possible from your inventory and surrounding area, without having to travel too far during construction. This is the same for resources in the caves and dungeons; as these resources tend to be more valuable, revisiting to do a bit of mining is recommended (though enemies will also respawn).

Once you have the basics of your home built, you will want a refinery in place to begin smelting your stone. You will then want to begin the farming aspect of Len’s Island, which is highly detailed and simple to perform using the intuitive UI that pops up, allowing you to plant and water your greenery and see Len’s horticultural side come out. Having a self-contained food source means you no longer have to stray very far from your home, and you’ll find yourself looking for little jobs and projects to improve on your residence.

 

Trading and crafting

 

As with other games, there’s a real sense of “home”, after you have been out exploring and thrashing your way through hordes of enemies in the pursuit of adventure. Baking yourself some freshly baked bread and enjoying a hot evening meal after a long time in the wilderness will offer you some much needed R&R and bring your game experience full circle. Some games miss the critical requirement for this duality, but Len’s Island hits the nail on the head.

The Future Of Len’s Island

Julian pledged to his followers that Flow Studio will continue adding to Len’s Island in the coming years. On the subject of multiplayer, Julian said that this is something the team might explore, but for now there is so much to do with the single player game, it is unlikely they would build in anything too complex. The concept of playing with friends did seem to excite Julian, but as a small team there is only so much they can do. Though the success of the game seems almost certain, the business case for creating a whole new game within Len’s Island may prove to be too costly in time and revenue. It would appear multiplayer is a feature worth checking back in on with Flow Studio, due to the developers’ close relationship with their fanbase.