This game has to be performance art
Life is Feudal: Your Own finally released on Steam last week after a hefty period in early access. The idea is great: take survival sims like Rust and The Forest, and add a pinch of Mount & Blade to make the ambitious medieval survival sandbox RPG I’ve been hoping for for a long time now.
It’s just a shame that Life is Feudal isn’t all that great. It performs incredibly poorly, it’s chock-full of bugs, and even the most populated servers feel like desolate wastelands. In my time with the game I’ve only ever swung between a vague sense of boredom and an inkling of frustration, with no hint of that thing called ‘fun’ to be seen anywhere.
Rather than focus on the negatives of Life is Feudal: Your Own, why not instead take a look at what is interesting about it? With games like this, it can sometimes be difficult to see a glittering sign of something good buried deep within, however I am up for the challenge.
And so, I give you uh… an exciting guided tour of the many, many loading screens and progress bars, and how they make a statement on the very fabric of our universe itself. Feudal may well be strange, but life is also art, and this game proves it.
Our utterly fascinating journey begins when entering a multiplayer server. I chose a heavily populated one (around 60 out of 64 potential players), and was treated to a nice, incredibly lengthy loading screen. But that’s alright, the loading screen taking the better part of five damn minutes isn’t a problem! Just take a look at those suave jet blacks and those imposing yellows as they come together beautifully in a visual feast slap bang in the middle of the screen. Isn’t it just delightful?
Note how the relevant information. such as how close the loading is to being complete, is relegated to being dark grey text on the black background. It’s a bold move that screams “I’m absolutely taking form over function, but when your form is as sweet as mine who really cares, eh?”
Now I know what you might be thinking: this piece isn’t technically a true loading screen. But don’t you worry, we’re accepting of all hangups, slowdowns, waiting periods and roadblocks here!
Look at this abstract art dancing around the screen. Look at how those blues and whites gently give way to a more rustic and earthy brown. You may have mistaken this for a delicious artisinal blueberry muffin, or maybe a painting by Johan Sebastian Mozart himself. In reality, this is actually the world popping in incredibly slowly all around you!
Unable to move, all you can do is stand and absorb the waves of colour as they cascade over you. You may have already sat through the initial loading screen, but Life is Feudal loves to just spoil you with how much waiting you’re allowed to do before having to play the game!
With time, those lighter areas might’ve gradually become a tree or a patch of grass, but in those few minutes it was something so much more: it was a discussion of the nature of reality, and the futility of seeking perfection. All I can describe it as is ‘inspiring’.
And now we come to the main event, the one I’ve been most eager to show you.
To do literally anything within Life is Feudal, you are rewarded with this low-key progress bar, slowly scrolling from left to right. Want to chop a tree, make an axe, or even just pick up some grass? Don’t be silly, nobody wants to do that, we all just want to gaze longingly at the progress bar in all of its sluggish, beige splendor.
Some critics might argue that this bar is a metaphor for the unyielding capitalist society we find ourselves in, where even the smallest and most insignificant of actions requires hard toil. Life may be feudal, but does it really need to be this difficult? Alas, the beige progress bar seems to suggest so.
And so here we are at last, the very end of our tour, and the thing that I believe might well be the most exciting statement Life is Feudal’s makes. Should you ever find yourself tiring of the artistic genius that is the game’s many loading screens, and should you ever want to to stumble wearily away from the deep philosophical questioning of its progress bars, Life is Feudal will leave you with one parting message: life is nothing but waiting.