What is Black Death and Where did it come from?
Now hold on a minute before you switch pages, this isn’t a history lesson on The Black Death (or bubonic plague) that spread through London and most of Europe in 1348…No seriously it isn’t!! Although some aspect might seem like it, what better way to learn than getting into the nitty-gritty of a game that is based on such an event!
The Black Death, the game, was developed by Small Impact Games & Syrin Studios. Published by Greenman Gaming and is currently in early access on steam for $14.99 ($19.99 for our American friends and €19.99 for our European friends) and it has been on my wishlist for a few months! Fast forward those and WOOHOO Review key! Love it! Also, I should point out its still early access.
Ok…but WHAT IS IT?!
Ok, I’ll tell you! The Black Death is a multiplayer survival game that allows you to choose your own path in this dark, medieval land, complete with a diverse population of villagers, wildlife, and plague victims. Create your own story from a range of different play styles – become a blacksmith; hunt down your enemies as a Militia; or earn your living as a merchant. The wealthier, the richer, the stronger you become, the better your chance of survival What? No, I didn’t copy that direct from their website…which is this, The Black Death in case you were wondering.
How they sold it to me!
So What Do I Do?
What don’t you do?! Well, don’t catch the plague. That’s always a great start. Cure the plague! All the while being one of the following medieval professions Cook, Huntsman, Militia, Blacksmith, Peasant, Artisan, Bandits! So once you’ve finished cooking for the village you can go back to your autopsies on beasts and man alike to find a cure, apparently, the local populace doesn’t like that much, however. Also, they let you buy houses and live like medieval life! What’s not to like?! Apart from the plague, bandits, fleas, local populace (apparently) and I’m sure many other things that will want to chew you up and spit you out.
Is there a Storyline?
Great question…It’s about…umm…The Black DEATH! I’m assuming. And how you’ll survive, and cure the plague, and not get beaten up and killed by bandits (I really think that’s a thing!)
Brilliant seems worth playing. What about Sound?
I dunno yet. I’ll tell you once I’ve played! Jeez!
Ok, fair enough what does it look like, Graphically?
Looks AMAZING! I love games that look like this, I mean seriously, look!
Look at the guy toiling the field with…the thing…on his back. And the spade in the dirt and the one section of wheat and the bag of flour. He’s not even sweating, what a pro! I do seriously hope it looks like this in-game.
Is it easy to pick up? What are the mechanics like?
Again Not sure. However, I’m getting a LiF sort of feel. As long as the progression is infinitely faster then I won’t mind if it isn’t…meh!
I’ve now played it, let’s compare!
So, what do you ACTUALLY do?
Try and live! Like seriously. Try! It took me a while to make it past a day! It’s an MMO effectively, you have the NPCs and I found a friend really early. Now I say friend I mean more someone I was flooding the chat with talking about rubbish. I should really have asked for help I think. It seems the game is built with social in mind which I wasn’t expecting, so that’s nice. But being early access means there aren’t a lot of people for a long time. The max pop I saw on a server was 3, and I couldn’t find them in game, or they were staying quiet on purpose…maybe they thought I had the PLAGUE…Truth is, I did a few times.
You have to start as a begger! Which I thought was a nice touch and you unlock starting classes later on after you have invested some time and skill into that profession. When you die you can then pick that class again, and you will die, lots. I mean really. Lots.
The process of levelling up takes a few attempts to figure out as well. What do you need and in what order? I found that if I had sat and looked first I might have spent a few points differently. You get 1 point per level and that can be spent on skills or attributes. So it’s a tough decision right from the start. Hit things harder or craft some more stuff, either way, you’re going to die! Oh, and you lose the unspent points if you do die. So if you level up in combat! Spend it or lose it!!
Can you tell us what it sounds like now?
Fair, I think the atmosphere is well constructed using the sounds. There is always a dark tone to the music, then it messes with you as it’ll change and you don’t know why… the other sounds, NPCs, wolves, boars, rats! Bloody rats! Are all generic, as you’d expect from early access, having said that, I’m not sure you can get that much variety in those sounds, and after a while you recognise certain things by their sounds and can go in search of them. At least they are there! The combat sound effects are decent enough. I suspect this is something else that will be fleshed out a little more. Slight changes for different weapons which is always a good touch.
They have also gone into the effort of changing the sounds of being in a building and whatever you’re walking on! It’s the trivial things like that that I really enjoy. I mean I was running between 3 ground types for about 5 minutes just to try and see if it kept up…it did!
Does it look like the picture?
Yes! Graphics, for me, are a big thing. And I’m happy with what we have currently. It’s a dark game, and it’s VERY easy to overlook things. They have been able to counter this by putting a lovely yellow glow around certain items, I’m not a fan of this and would like to be able to toggle it off maybe? Mind you, it’s helpful when you’re learning. Especially when you’re dying from hunger and the plague and need to find cotton, chamomile and something to eat…still working on the finding something to eat. Everything I have found so far that’s not from a vendor or I have cooked myself, seems to help me on my merry way to death!
It’s a rich environment with an abundant number of paths, trees, and gibbets, you know the cages at the side of the road that people got put in and hung from a light-post or something. Although, as I ventured further from the starting area, I started to notice a white haze over things. Not sure if it was meant to be fog or it was just a graphical issue, either way, it didn’t have an overbearing effect on the game.
How does it play?
It’s quite clunky. Of all the thing that needs work, I think it’s the movement, NPC movement and combat could do with a little more fluid with some more variety.
There could be some more emphasis on what to do. You’re thrown into a medieval setting and effectively told to get on with it. There is a tutorial of sorts presently, but you spend more time focused on that, then you’ll die of dehydration, die of hunger, die of being beaten by a bandit with his fists, die of being beaten with a bandit with a club, die of being beaten by a bandit with a rock – at least I’m pretty sure that happened. I told you bandits were a thing, didn’t I! That’s not to mention, wolves, boars, guards. Almost like Reaper’s Ult in Overwatch, “DIE! DIE! DIE!” And you do until you learn from all your mistakes, or you miraculously manage to run away!
Ok, so will you play it again?
Yes! It’s got a niche that I’ve needed to scratch for some time. Leveling up is a bit quicker and crafting things doesn’t take forever. It ticks the boxes that I found lacking in LiF. There is soo much to do that you can play it and focus on different things. I imagine after release you’ll get Roleplayers having a crack. And why not! The setting is different, and it’s well made. I’ll certainly be getting some friends together to set up a guild and go build a town. It’s something that I think wouldn’t take all that much time working together. The Bandits aren’t all that troublesome on their own, once you figure out combat and with more than one of you, it should be easy pickings.
Again…be prepared to die lots in the name of experience. The only thing that I did find a little annoying as it seems to only support single monitors. I had a terrible time trying to get it to move to my main screen, as they are different resolutions, in the end, I just went to a single monitor…BUT, it’s still early access, so I don’t think that will be an issue on release.