The experience of going out on your own and doing whatever you want has become a greater commodity since the term ‘open world’ became a vital part of modern video game development. But there are few games, despite the concept, that really do feel like you can go out there and make your own life within it. Minecraft obviously comes to mind, Stardew Valley perhaps, but now an Aussie indie wants to take things a step further and provide an even deeper level of personalisation to your own journey. If my preview of its early access release on Steam is anything to go by, Len’s Island has a lot going for it.
From the outset, you appear stranded on a small island with only a handful of tools to get you by. A quick glance around reveals plenty of trees to chop down, berries to pick in order to sustain your health and vitality and a few rocks to smash for general supplies. It doesn’t take long to gather what you need to subsist, and Len’s Island does a good job of allowing you to discover what you need instead of hand-holding you through it, though I did find myself in a panic when trying to find berries to fill my health bar.
You’re probably wondering how I got here
Much like Minecraft, it’s all about exploration and experimentation. I eventually figured out how to create my own little berry garden, since food is a premium in the early going, before venturing into a nearby cave in search of some coal. Hacking my way through some rather spiffy looking monsters, I achieved my first personal task and ran back to my still unfinished house to light a fire. A few hours later I had a two-story house, having figured out the true beauty of the game’s building mechanics.
It’s safe to say Len’s Island borrows plenty of ideas from various franchises but melds them together efficiently. Beside the already mentioned open world games, there’s a hint of The Sims when it comes to building your humble home, almost down to a very similar UI experience that allows you to choose which level of the house to build upon or how to place walls and such. There’s a few things that do need cleaning up, either that or I just couldn’t figure out how to move my placed bed from one side of the room to the other without blocking the doorway or deleting it and rebuilding it entirely. Honestly, that’s probably just me, as otherwise the interface (though maybe a little bit on the small side) is easy enough to figure out with a little time.
There’s an incredible sense of calm on the surface, watching time slowly drift by from day into night. One could easily lose hours just scavenging and building, let alone exploring the other areas that can be opened up once you fix a few broken bridges. Once you do venture away from the island, things start to open up in a big way, allowing you to trade with merchants and discover new equipment types, foods to plant and grow or just decorative items to craft and place within your home.
Humble berry farm is humble
Speaking of, the dungeon crawling aspects of Len’s Island are a highlight so far. I’m not even close to discovering all the ins and outs yet, nor have I crafted some of the better weapons and tools to make my life underground a little easier, but I’m keen to find out what secrets lurk in the dark or what (if any) story or lore there may be surrounding the island itself. The monsters don’t quite match up to the variety of Minecraft’s critters, but so far I’ve come across a few areas that are just littered with them, making for a solid challenge. I can see myself putting the most hours into this area of the game, and that’s exactly what it’s all about, choosing the simple life of a farmer or the dangerous life of a hero. It can be as exciting or as quiet as you want it to be.
Being an early access title, Len’s Island has laid out a well crafted framework, but there’s plenty that the team at Flow Studio can expand upon. Right now there’s plenty to see and do, but flora and fauna are lacking (specifically in the fishing department) and the lack of true NPC interaction is telling, though that’s a promised update in the future. There’s also a lack of controller support right now, though I must admit the mouse and keyboard options are smart and well implemented. One thing it absolutely does nail, though, is in its presentation, from the stunning lighting and colour of the world to the wonderful score that brings out the wonders of nature. It’s genuinely beautiful to watch.
The dungeon crawling has a ton of potential
If you’ve been hanging out for the next Stardew Valley to get lost within, or perhaps you want to test your building skills elsewhere, Len’s Island is definitely one to watch. I went into the preview not even close to expecting the levels of depth to its building and monster encounters, and that’s a welcome surprise for this seasoned adventurer. I look forward to seeing Len’s Island grow, and for the eventual showdown with the big bad that awaits.
Previewed on PC // Early Access code supplied by publisher