Folk Tale is currently on Steam’s Early Access and it is an alpha version! Keep this in mind when reading my post about the game.
I had first heard about Folk Tale when I had tried out Steam’s Greenlight for the first time and I was very happy to see it Greenlit. It had instantly reminded me of Cultures. Cultures was one of the first or maybe even the first PC game I bought. So naturally, there is a lot of nostalgia involved, but it’s not just that. I really like this genre where you are building your village (it’s not a city, really) and all your little inhabitants have names and you can direct them somewhere individually. It’s a bit like The Sims married The Settlers. ;)
I think Gamesfoundry explain their game a lot better in their latest video. They also include what they want to add for the release version, which is why I’m embedding it here.
What impresses me about the developers, Gamesfoundry, is that they are a from various different countries collaborating together. And they’re either all watching their social networks or have somebody awake 24/7 as they did reply to questions quite fast and regularly both on Facebook and Steam. This is what I usually like about independent or smaller developers in general. You can get “in touch” with them much more easily and it feels like they listen to your feedback. They may not agree with you and that’s fine, but at least, they listen. ;)
I’d eagerly awaited the game’s “release” on Early Access ever since they announced it. For those who don’t know what it is: Steam lets you publish your game on Early Access which means that potential costumers buy the game and get it “as it currently is”. In this case, it means that Folk Tale is still in alpha state. When you buy it, you get it for a discounted price ($19.99/16.99€) compared to the retail price later on. But you will have to live with the non-finished version in the beginning. Gamesfoundry already said that we will get updates in between now and the finished version and of course, by buying the Early Access version, you will get the release version without having to pay again! So, as an Early Access-customer, you will get to see, step by step, how the product gets closer to release. What you cannot expect, however, is to pay money and get a finished and polished product immediately, as this is not what Early Access is about. I much prefer that over the pre-purchase options that games have been doing more and more often lately (like Guild Wars 2, for example). In both cases, you pay money upfront, but with Early Access, you get something to play with already!
Having said that, it should be pretty clear that my impressions are not based on a product that will “ship” like this. Folk Tale currently offers you the tutorial and even within the tutorial, there are things that are probably not polished yet. They are working on adding the sandbox part of the game next. Missions and multiplayer will follow later on.
Gamesfoundry said that the tutorial, if you play through it perfectly, will take you about 1 to 2 hours to complete. I am never a person who runs through something like a horse with blinders. It took me five hours to get through the tutorial. There is currently no save option which means I decided to start over again at two points. That, however, is not a complaint. I’ve liked my first playthrough, but all my militia ended up dead, so I thought it was best to just start over again and do things a bit differently (like not sending one single guy into a pack of werewolves). But let’s start at the beginning.
First of all, the game has been very stable for me. The client did not crash, I did not get any black screens and so on. That is a big plus in my book! I know that a few people reported problems on the forums (mostly related with cut scenes, I would say) and the developers are on it. You can zoom in and out with your camera, move around the map with WASD, arrow keys or the mouse. Moving around worked fast and without any stuttering on my PC.
The game itself starts off with a cut scene. The poor squid! I loved the voice-acting and the game itself has a silly kind of humor which doesn’t take its setting too seriously. So it’s certainly not an accurate depiction of a medieval time – but who would expect that given that it features goblins, dwarven ghosts as well as magicians? ;)
You’ve got an advisor who gives you quests and tells you what to do. I liked that the advisor can be seen in the game itself and he’s actually walking to the “scenes of action”. When you’re asked to build a wheat field, he’s standing next to it watching its progress. You do not need to assign builders. Just click on “build a wheat farm” and peasants without a profession will arrive and build it. Once a building is finished, click on a peasant, then click on a building which will give that peasant the appropriate profession and he will start working there. I say “he”, as right now, only male peasants can take on jobs (with the exception of tavern keepers which is reserved for the female population only). I was a bit disappointed to see that: this is a fantasy setting, after all, and not a medieval one, so there is no reason at all not to let women take on all professions! However, it’s just because the art is not finished yet. Women and men will be able to take on each and every profession! So yay for that.
There I was, floating around and watching my advisor watch my peasants work and I decided to have a look at my little village. It already came with cottages, a store house and a tavern. Then there were placement slots for new buildings. As said in the video above, those will very likely disappear in the future and I’m all for that. Having certain placement slots makes games like this too limited, if you ask me.
Unfortunately, once your advisor has explained something, it won’t appear again. Or at least, I couldn’t find a way to get the tutorial text to show up again. I would definitely love that as I had looked away from the screen and missed the section about capturing resources. Additionally, I had put one of my villagers close to a resource and then watched in awe how a flag near the resource slowly disappeared in the ground and how another flag moved up the flag pole. Silly me didn’t realize this was my village’s flag and my villager doing the capturing. Cause and effect are tricky to understand sometimes. ;) Not long after that, I built a mine next to the iron resource. Not long after you have done that, some kobolds appear and your villagers have to kill them. Again, I had not paid attention – I really shouldn’t talk with my boyfriend, bookahnerk, while playing a tutorial that doesn’t have a save option yet – and had again missed the capturing of a resource and the appearance and killing of those NPCs. Oh well. I did eventually figure it out and that’s what counts, right? ;)
Then finally, we got to the combat action. Although when I say “finally”, I should probably say “unfortunately” as not only do I prefer peaceful settling, I also did get my behind handed to me on my first try. The tutorial said “one or more militia”, so I thought I would start with the careful option of just one militia, in case I needed peasants for something else. This poor guy did not stand a chance against the werewolves! The kobolds were no problem, though. I ran in, killed one, ran out, the kobolds followed and then reset after a while, running back to their spot. Then I waited until my militia had regained his health and sent him in again to fight the remaining kobolds. The werewolves, on the other hand, were much stronger. I think I had recruited a second or even a third militia at that point. The poor guys went in, fought against three werewolves and then I had them run out again, waiting for the werewolves to reset. But they’re definitely fiercer: They ran after them right into my village. I already saw my peasants hide in fear, but nope. They killed the militia and then peacefully walked out of the village again. Yeah, they’re beasts, but at least, they’re not completely inhuman by killing innocent bystanders. ;)
I looked all over the village and here’s my biggest problem with the game as it is right now: There are no statistics. You cannot find out where your peasants are, how many you have, etc. In fact, there is no statistic about any of your professions or buildings. I’m a fan of those. The more, the better! Give me my tables, overviews, diagrams, pleeease! I eventually looked in the tavern and sure enough, there was a lonely guy drinking mead. Lazy bum. But I would have needed much more than just one guy to get the werewolves down. As it had gotten rather late, though, I quit the game and decided I would start over the next day. On the forums, people reported that they would love to be able to find peasants much faster. Or militia that they have lost somewhere on the map. The reply from the developers is that they are working on this, so once again, I’m not worried. Did I already mention it’s in an alpha state? ;)
On my second try, I quit after a few minutes. I had placed a building at the wrong spot
and you cannot delete them at the moment. (Edit: You can actually delete buildings by selecting them and pressing “del” on your keyboard.) Oh well, it had only been 3 minutes or something like that, so no big deal. The third try went much better and smoother. I knew my way around and hey, I even figured out that the loot you get from killed enemies included equipment like axes, helmets and so on that your militia can wear. Additionally, I also found a lonely knight standing near three ogres that apparently belonged to me. He died before I got to the end boss, though. By the way, your soldiers can level up. If they do, they gain full health again, which saved my militia on numerous occasions. The magician I got at some point during the story and the militia I had recruited after the first few had died (again) finally managed to kill the “end boss” of the tutorial. Once again, brilliant cut scenes. I hadn’t expected those from an independent developer. They set the atmosphere of the game and it’s just fun watching them.
I also like the sounds and background music. I think the goblins, werewolves and your villagers have different theme songs. I didn’t pay too much attention, but it seemed like the songs changed with the different races/areas on the screen.
All in all, the game is a fun mix of a city-builder and RPG/adventure game. It is clearly in an unfinished state. Playable, stable, fun, but currently missing key features, UI elements and so on. If they had done a kickstarter campaign, I would have backed them. But if they had done Kickstarter instead of Early Access on Steam, I would have missed out on five hours of fun! So in short, I do not regret spending that money at all! I’ve had fun and enjoyed the short time it took me to play through the tutorial. It’s nice to see that it wasn’t too easy, but involved a learning curve.
Do I recommend it to others? That depends. If you know this is a kind of game that you love, and you don’t mind – or even love – playing an alpha version, seeing the game grow and develop over time, then yes, definitely! Go get it! If you’re unsure about any of these, then watch it at Steam (or on their own website – they also have newsletters) and follow its development from the outside.