Posted: February 21
Early Access Review
One popular theory seems to be that the devs of this particular title are ripping people off. I do no not believe that they are... at least not intentionally.
I was so enthusiastic about this project when it popped up on my radar a while back; the ambition alone made me salivate. Finally, I had a developer who felt just as strongly about the progression of gaming as I did. It did not occur to me, in my blind eagerness toward Early Access at the time, that the features planned may simply never come about; I was unfamiliar with just how small some of these companies were, ignorant to the fact that for many developers this is a hobby, not a job, or even a commitment. As certain projects one-by-one began to show the darker side of Early Access, I held my faith in this.
More than a year after my purchase of this title, I load the game and see little more changed than zombies wearing different clothes. The houses are all the same color, the combat feels the same, just as clumsy, the poor clipping and hit detection hasn't seen an inch of progress. The game hasn't even been optimized and runs just as poorly on a high end PC as it did then. Where I expected to see some big features in the time that has passed, all I have seen are concessions: the dev admitting he bit off more than he could chew and backtracking on the promises that made this company all the money we gave to it; not to mention the constant resetting of the game's engine.
The revoking of plans for a generated world was an especially personal blow to me.
My best memory playing this game was looking into an evening horizon, large cliffs in the background, a forest ahead of me, a farm and miles of open land behind me. I felt almost in a trance, standing in this serenity, watching the daylight spill across the sky into darkness. More than that, it felt mine; I knew that this exact expanse was something nobody else had; nobody knew what was beyond those cliffs: there was no map, no wiki, no strategy guide--- it was an utter mystery. All I could do was leave this place behind, perhaps forever, and discover it.
Now we have Pepper Valley, a "whopping 360 square kilometers yep we're dead serious" instead of the original "whopping 32,000 square kilometers yep we're dead serious" according to their website (yes, they kept the same wording, just changed the number).
"The world's expansive size is fully in game and is therefore marked here as complete."
That line got under my skin.
Note: I see on the road map it still includes a bit on seed-based generation. If it comes out at all, it won't be as it was originally meant to be--- I'm guessing a small multiplayer map. I get the feeling that the introduction of Pepper Valley was a way of easing us into giving up the complete removal of seed-based generation. I can't imagine why else it would be there. I'll have to update this portion of my review as things become more clear (if they do). It seems more likely to me that the "seed-based" portion of the road map will one day simply no longer be there.
Again, I do not believe that this, like other projects out there, was an attempt at a quick buck. I do believe that there is passion in Sandswept Studios, if not a whole lot else. I will be, as I have been, on the lookout for any reason to justify my investment. If ten years from now I have a good game, I'll come back here and say so. Alas, I do not see that happening. This is, to date, my biggest disappointment in the Early Access experience, a situation that unfortunately will take away from others who truly have the ability to turn a great game using this approach.
Here's hoping I am proven wrong, and that it won't take ten years.