Take the fight to the settlers and reclaim your ancestral territory as chief of a Native American tribe in this simulation-strategy sandbox set in the American frontier.
Genre: Action, RPG, Simulation, Strategy
Release date: 20 November, 2019
This Land Is My Land is a title that is full of interesting ideas that haven’t had enough time to cook yet. This isn’t a huge deal currently, as it’s only just hit Early Access, and I’d vouch for it having both the creativity and passion to succeed if its developers are devoted to seeing it through. Unfortunately, I did find it rather underwhelming in its current state in a number of ways.
Put On Your War Paint
First and foremost, This Land Is My Land has you taking up the mantle of a Native American chief who is fed up by the white man and his obsession with taking everything that he desires without regard for others. There are many systems in play that you’ll be using to secure advantages against the superior resources of the the settlers, including third-person action, tribe management, skill-based progression, resource acquisition and crafting, among others. Each of these mechanics already have quite a bit of depth to them and the combination could certainly make a unique experience in the future.
The sandbox nature of the game lets you decide how to use your time and which tasks to prioritize. As the player character, you’re the most efficient member of the tribe and can usually handle the big tasks adequately enough, but this doesn’t mean that the warriors of your tribe are just for decoration. As you build your tribe’s headcount and establish additional camps, you’ll acquire more and more allies to fight against the Americans, gather resources, and craft new gear and supplies. It should be noted that collecting resources is a time-consuming process and getting the AI to do it for you is a must unless you’re someone who loves to grind. Gear is varied and plentiful, adding to the experience with a variety of firearms, bows, traps, and so forth to keep things exciting with whatever play style that you choose.
Your chief gains skill points, both through accomplishments in the world and via the SOCIAL mechanics (more on that later). These can be used for perks that are purchased that improve your character (for example, reduced stamina consumption when sprinting) or your tribe (the ability to gather resources that previously couldn’t), and they are extremely important for keeping up with the progression of your foe. They are categorized into warrior, scout, chief, and hunter skills, though you can choose without restrictions as they aren’t skill trees, but collections. I found myself mixing and matching between several of them as they are useful no matter what build you might be going for, though some are for specific playstyles, and may depend on what kind of chief you’ve decided to be. Are you interrogating your foes for intel before scaring them out of your territory forever or are you cutting out the middle man and ending them where they stand?
The White Man Isn’t Your Only Problem
I found myself running into a number of flaws with This Land Is My Land that made my enjoyment of the title an uphill struggle, though only one of them was actually an intentional concept, which I consider a good sign for the future. This issue was the SOCIAL system. You’ll notice it immediately upon entering the game as a chat box that connects you with others who are playing, which is both a blessing and a curse. Without a doubt, this chat is the most effective learning tool in the form of experienced players, and it’s clear from reading it for only a few moments that many take advantage of it due to a lack of reasonable explanation in the game itself. Even more importantly, this is where you’ll learn the workarounds for many of the issues that the title still has that you may struggle with without even knowing about otherwise. I’d still be trying to wade through various bugs if it weren’t for the respectable and friendly community that has formed up. That said, there is an option to disable to social system altogether for a less MMO-feeling experience, but you’ll be losing out on the skill points that are rewarded to you through it and slow down your progression. I’m not entirely sure why it exists in a single-player sandbox, but at the same time I’m glad it was there or learning the game would have been a slog.
Though the social system is one that I’m not a fan of, the greatest factor that had a negative impact on my experience came from its optimization. I haven’t found a game that my PC hasn’t been able to play at ultra settings yet (although I’m sure it’s coming in the near future), though This Land Is My Land was unplayable until I dropped it down to medium, and even then the stuttering was bad enough that it grated on me. According to those in the social chat, it’s a widespread issue, but those who enjoy the concept of the game have accepted it for what it is for the moment. It’s this same optimization that led to me waiting for long periods of time (sometimes over a minute) at loading screens, as well as the game locking up for about that same length of time whenever I took a screenshot.
The controls are quite awkward as well, though nothing that you can’t get used to with a little time. However, it’ll be important to master them as quickly as possible as the laws of physics often take smoke breaks as you play. At one point, I was nearly pushed off a cliff by a rabbit while taking in the countryside, another time my horse inexplicably leaped into the sky before crashing back down to the earth, killing itself. The former I could find entertainment in, the latter, not so much.
Is The Territory Worth It?
The graphics of This Land Is My Land are impressive for an indie title, or at least they would be for those who can experience them at maximum settings. The world looks nice, even if it is a bit repetitive, though this is somewhat understandable considering the theme. Some additional biomes would be nice, as would landmarks that really differentiate one part of the territory from the next; the world, in general, tends to look very similar throughout.
The sound quality could certainly be improved and is in a very clear state of Early Access. Environmental sounds play seemingly randomly; sometimes they play when they shouldn’t, and sometimes they don’t when they should. Music is severely lacking and I’m not entirely sure that it exists at all. This may be intended as part of the simulation feel, but it certainly stands out when even the title screen is lacking it.
At the end of the day, I can’t say that This Land Is My Land is a bad game. However, I can say that I won’t be playing it until the experience is vastly improved in a number of ways. I was never really pulled in and immersed in it the way that I hoped I would be, and I’m not entirely sure whether it was the poor optimization, the lack of polish, or a combination of the two. Either way, I absolutely would not recommend picking this title up at its asking price of $40 unless you’re doing it specifically to support the developers in the project. I do believe that it has potential, and I’ll be keeping an eye on it with the hopes that it will develop into an indie success story that I won’t be able to peel myself away from, though I’m keeping a ‘wait and see’ attitude for now.