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If you’re going to compete for gamers’ time – especially in the massively multiplayer space – you’re going to have to trump “World of Warcraft.” It’s something the makers of “Life,” the latest project to cross my desk, would do well to keep in mind.

Despite the derivative name, I quickly learned this isn’t a prequel to “Second Life,” but rather a first-person, open-world adventure in the mold of “Skyrim.”

When you first start out, you’re randomly generated in “Life’s” world. Far too much of your future success will hinge on that roll of the dice. Any semblance of balance is completely tossed out the window, as some players start out rich and healthy, while others are penniless and forced to deal with ailments or other debuffs right out of the gate. Those who find themselves in what are euphemistically called “developing” zones, are likely to have a brutish, nasty and short experience.

“Life” may be a free-to-play title, but you’ll quickly learn that even filling basic needs requires real-world cash – and endless grinding.

An even bigger knock against “Life” is the steep learning curve. The world of “Life” is so convoluted that players will have to sit though a tedious 12-plus years of unskippable tutorial just to learn the ropes – and even after that there’s no guarantee they’ll have any idea what to do. Also, the initial quests are tedious exercises, such as tying your shoe and learning not to crap in your pants – and you’ll have to keep at some tasks for months, or even years, to achieve success. 

Visually, however, “Life” really shines. From decaying urban hells and polluted lakes to beautiful sunsets and melting glaciers, “Life” conjures stunning effects for its myriad environments.

The open-world environment is huge – too huge – and there’s no fast travel system to help you get around. That means most players will find themselves going over the same section of road again and again ad nauseum.

There’s a truly vast amount of content here – even more than “The Orange Box” – and far more than you could ever hope to see on one play-though. There’s easily upwards of 630,000 hours worth of material, but the majority of that time will be spent doing mundane tasks, such as fetch quests, grinding and navigating crowded streets.

Unfortunately, the leveling system is completely broken. As it stands, you only get more powerful for the first 20 or 30 levels, after that it’s a slow decline, and toward the endgame, you’re more likely to die from falling over than heroically in battle. I hope this is addressed in an upcoming patch.

In addition, the death system is ridiculous – die once and it’s game over – permanently. Combine that with a lack of save points and you have a recipe for frustration.

“Life” is strictly for the hardcore. Casual players are likely to be completely left behind by both obsessive players who spend every waking moment in “Life” and those who have gotten lucky by virtue of their starting position.

I found “Life” to be a tedious, slow-paced experience, and a bit of a disappointment, considering all the hype. Between the wonky leveling system and the balance issues, “Life” looks like a product that was rushed to market.

Overall, I wasn’t very impressed. I’m going back to playing “World of Warcraft.”

 

Rating: C+

Pros:

  • “Life” is beautiful.
  • Variety is the spice of “Life”

Cons:

  • “Life” isn’t fair.
  • The best things in “Life” are most definitely not free.
  • He who dies with the most toys wins.

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