Wash up onto a strange island with a plethora of secrets and do your best to thrive in a new survival experience.
Developer: Flow Studio
Publisher: Flow Studio
Release date: 26 Nov, 2021
I’m always ready to go whenever I see a new survival experience releases whether it’s a more casual-friendly one like Stardew Valley or a more intense one like ARK: Survival Evolved. The combination of time and labor investment along with the challenge and satisfaction of your success is a good time when designed well. Whether it’s a farm, a primitive base, or a space station, I’m all in for diving right in especially if I can bring along a few friends.
Len’s Island is one of the most recent in the genre. It has a number of elements going for it that will be familiar to survival veterans with an atmosphere that feels quite unique, particularly when you start heading to the mysterious and dark subterranean caverns. However, it’s important to note that although multiplayer is planned for the future, it isn’t implemented yet so you’ll be experiencing it all on your lonesome for now.
Sticks and Stones and Reeds…
Len’s Island kicks off with you seemingly washing up on the shore of a mysterious island. Fortunately for you, the island has quite a bounty on it, ranging from delicious blueberries to beautiful flowers to towering trees. It will be up to you to take advantage of these resources to ensure your survival and your initial survival is likely to feel strikingly similar to other titles you’ve played if this isn’t your first foray into the genre. Chopping down trees, mining stone nodes, and building a home are likely to be some of the first adventures you’ll be going on. This is all pretty standard and you won’t have to pace yourself this time around either as all of these resources respawn regularly. Perhaps even more convenient, or casual as some might call it, all of the resources that you collect are gathered into your inventory with a seriously streamlined management system; you don’t need to store your logs, stone, clay, and so on, you simply have all that you’ve collected with you at all times as long as you have not hit the maximum capacity for a given type.
That said, Len’s Island does touch its image up a bit to differentiate itself from many of its peers. The island that you live on is your own, though there’s a town nearby that you can visit and trade with. The town isn’t as fleshed out as something like Stardew Valley and serves mostly as a trade hub currently. This means there’s a distinct lack of relationship building (friendship or otherwise) and each resident only has the vaguest hint of a personality. This may not be a deal-breaker for those who are more interested in their own back-breaking labors and constructions, but it’s important to note for those who are looking for a pleasant social experience. Len’s Island is a lonely game of survival, not one of a community pulling together.
Into the Dark
In a strangely similar-but-not-similar design choice, Len’s Island does resemble Stardew Valley with an underground cave system that adds danger to the otherwise peaceful world. Hazards such as bottomless pits and monstrous creatures of darkness populate it waiting to tear you limb from limb. As you explore, you’ll be lighting lanterns and braziers to push the darkness back and offer a safer place for you to recover your health. Crafting increasingly effective equipment from your workbenches is important to boost your odds in this dark realm that succeeds in establishing a much creepier atmosphere than the mines of Stardew which were still quite pleasant and in line with that title’s overall theme.
As far as progress is concerned, you’ll want to be plumbing these depths in order to collect resources that can only be found from slaying these beasts of darkness. This is most successfully done by employing the combat maneuvers that are available to you in Len’s Island. The aforementioned equipment is certainly a large part of it, ranging from one-handed swords and shields to giant axes, but it’s your own skill that will often determine life or death when everything hits the fan. Tactically used combat rolls are great for getting out of the way of an enemy attack that would otherwise rock your world while chained together times strikes will significantly increase your damage output and let you smash your foes instead. It’s not Dark Souls and it’s quite simplistic for an action-oriented title, but it touches on a gameplay element or two that aren’t as common in the survival genre.
Len’s Island is a promising Early Access release that still has a lot of room to grow. What it currently offers it does quite well with, though it does feel like something of a conglomerate of familiar parts rather than a new and unique experience. It has the classic grinding elements that we’ve become accustomed to, though it rarely impresses you with a new area that requires you to just sit back and take it in. This isn’t to say that the world isn’t enjoyable, you’ll just see the same assets rearranged for most of it. I’m optimistic for the future of Len’s Island, especially if it leans into defining itself with its own innovative features, though I wouldn’t recommend running to pick it up right away unless you want to support Flow Studio in the endeavor right out of the gate. I’ll likely be giving it another shot in the future when multiplayer has been added to the experience, though it’ll likely be collecting dust on my digital shelf in the meantime due to it not yet feeling like its found its soul.