I like survival games. Games like Minecraft and Terraria can captivate me for hours and days, letting me explore strange worlds and build monuments to my overwhelming greatness. However, playing these games for long lengths of time can rob me of that sense of wonder and thrill of survival, especially when I know exactly what to do and when to do it. Familiarity can breed contempt, in other words, and I often find myself burning out on the same thing that brought me in in the first place, like gorging yourself on ice cream; it’s so good, but too much can put you off it for a while. That said, let's take a look at YLands.
YLands is a 3D world survivor-gatherer builder game, complete with building tools crafted out of sticks and stones, and houses made out of what appears to be linkin logs. The crafting inventory is simple to understand; you collect items like wood, clay, dirt, rock etc. and the game gives you a list of what you can build with what you've scavenged, as well as what you need to finish other items. You build structures, explore the island, stave off wildlife and boss-creatures and try to figure out how to thrive.
The Story & Flow
There is no real story in YLands. You assume the role of a castaway who has been thrown into a perilous situation, alone on an island with just your wits in the middle of a vast ocean. There’s not much more to the story than that, but it does give you the opportunity to fill in your own story’s “blanks”. Personally, I imagined that the island was some kind of twisted scientific survival experiment where clones of myself were dropped in every time my character dies. But that’s just me.
This game can either be super easy or extremely hard, depending on your patience and speed. If you take your time and ease your way through the experience, you'll be fine, almost to the point of monotony. If you try to rush into some things before you're ready, you'll get eaten by a wolf. Or a puma. Or any of the other deadly things that you encounter in YLands. Unless you have armor and shelter and a good weapon, your chances of surviving an encounter with the island’s wildlife are low. You will be unceremoniously eaten, and on top of that embarrassing death, you’ll also lose all your stuff.
Creating and customizing your character is pretty limited at this point, but the game is still in early access, so it can be excused. You have a 'class' of castaway, 2 facial options and a basic color palate for your hair. Luckily, the rest of the game isn't so basic, and the inventory tab is huge, allowing you to pick up all kinds of items, which in turn can be used to craft a great many things. The downside of this, is that there's no way to easily organize your inventory. Adding items to the hotbar involves clicking and dragging items from your inventory, and the items that are in your inventory are all numbered, but the whole thing can be a little confusing and could use some streamlining.
There are currently Explore and Creative modes of play, including a way to join another player's world, in addition to an Editor Mode, where you can build a world and upload it for others to enjoy, which is a pretty cool feature if you want to show off all your hard work. Being in the BETA stage, there are some glitches here and there, and I found some frustrating issues with the lighting from time to time, but overall I didn't heavily run into most of the usual problems I encounter with a lot of early access titles.
YLands has a lot of good ideas, and there's a lot of variety in the buildings, caves and other environments to explore, but some of the ideas here aren't executed well. I really enjoy exploring the world and gathering materials, however I'm not a fan of everything hinging on a single resource that you may have a hard time finding, due to the way said resources are presented in-game. For example, when I needed to find clay, it took me forever, since the only indicator of the wet mush was a slightly different shade of gray earth amongst a sea of gray earth. This adds to the challenge of the game and the feeling that nothing on the island is here to help you out, but it would have been nice to see some kind of indicators that stood out a bit more.
Graphics & Sound
YLands is a big heap of polygons in an animated world. Some will say that it takes the Minecraft route of "the less graphics the better", and they wouldn't be wrong. That said, the game definitely has its own sense of style that sets it apart from the Minecraft world, but I actually ended up turning down the quality, as the rough polygon shapes stood out more in a fun, almost cartoonish way. As it is, the game's visual style is pretty and works well with the gameplay, even if some clipping problems and graphical issues marred the overall experience.
The sound selection and quality is your typical ambiance, nothing groundbreaking in terms of BGM.