Journey of Life is a first-person survival game that has been in early-access since April 2018. I can’t speak to how far the game has come since launch, having only started to play over the past week. However, my first impressions of Journey of Life tell me that despite showing early signs of promise, it still has some ways to go before becoming a journey worth taking.
Despite completely understanding the appeal of open-world survival games, they have never really clicked with me. The closest I have come to gelling with this genre was when I played an early-access build of the The Forest in 2014. The Forest has since seen a full-release and 6 years worth of updates. Even so, what I played in 2014 it was a far more refined experienced than the portion of Journey of Life I have played so far, a game that been in early-access for almost 2 years.
Stripped Back Survival
With most survival games threatening the player with wildlife, zombies, etc. Journey of Life takes a more relaxed approach to its gameplay. Instead of distracting the player with external threats, the developers have opted instead to double down on their crafting system. On paper the wide selection of craftable items is impressive and the game offers an extensive upgrade tree. However, the issue lies in the fact that, unfortunately, none of it feels good to play.
Choosing to focus solely on crafting and exploration could eventually lead to Journey of Life being a unique experience. The developers have the opportunity to make a game that stands out from its competition. The crafting system offers players choice and variety not often seen to this extent. In its current state, however, there are too many things working against this system to make it worth investing in.
Early on, the game asks you to craft a series of tools. A pickaxe, a shovel, a hammer, and an axe. Your basic suite of survival items. Using the basic Wooden Pick Axe as a case study, we can break down the issues with the game’s crafting system in its current state.
Too Many Materials
A pick axe requires 1 fiber rope, 1 sharpened rock (s) and 1 straight solid stick. Harvesting the material required for the fiber rope requires you to approach a plant and repeatedly press the interact key. Why we can’t just hold this button-down is beyond me, or better still, click it once to harvest all. Making matters worse, harvesting 1 fiber takes roughly 2 seconds as the game makes you sit through an awkward animation.
Onto the rock. You may have noticed the recipe requires 1 sharpened rock (s) as opposed to just 1 rock. Within the first 20 minutes of playing, I came across no less than 6 types of rock. I understand the need for variety in these games to accommodate the amount of craftables. When the game has 3 sub-categories of sharpened rocks however, it feels like variety for varieties sake. Combined with the inability to pin recipes, this made for an extremely frustrating gameplay loop. I found myself constantly opening my menu to cross-reference the rock I needed with the one on the ground in front of me.
The sticks suffer from the same problems as the rock. There is no clear indication or tips in the game that guide you toward certain items. This is designed to encourage exploration. However, when the game has multiple variations of the same item you quickly resort to wildly swinging at plants to try and find the correct stick. Upon finally finding the required material, I wasn’t met with satisfaction, but rather just a cheap feeling of getting lucky.
Multiply these issues across every item in the game and you can begin to see how the crafting system is in need of some major TLC. If this was just one part of a larger game it might be easier to overlook these issues, seeing as it is an early-access title. Unfortunately, crafting and harvesting is the game. With multiple issues baked into the core gameplay loops, it’s hard to recommend Journey of Life in its current state.
More Road to Walk
I don’t believe in using the term early-access as an excuse to justify a broken game which, to its credit, isn’t. The game does work, it’s just that there are far too many hoops to jump through to make it enjoyable. If you are a die-hard survival game fan who is willing to overlook the aforementioned issues and general jank, then you may find some fun with Journey of Life. To the majority of players, however, there is too much working against it to justify a recommendation at the moment.
Luckily, the game has a fairly active community on a dedicated Discord server, which the three developers use to collate and respond to feedback. Despite the many issues I have with the title, my hope is that the developers manage to refine the game’s core systems and sand off the rough edges. If the regular updates the game has been seeing recently keep coming, Journey of Life could turn out to be an interesting survival game with a core focus on crafting.
I don’t enjoy being overly critical, however, in an effort to maintain honesty, I needed to be frank. If you’re an advocate of this genre then definitely keep it on your radar. But for now, Journey of Life isn’t a journey worth taking just yet.
A copy of the game was provided by the developers. If the game continues to see updates I will provide an updated preview.