Folk Tale has been in development and in Steam Early Access for a long time already and this is where a lot of the negative reviews are coming from. The developer, GamesFoundry, has steadily been working on the game and there have been regular updates (game updates as well as communication!) in all that time (please note: I’m using the experimental build which gets updated even more often). So I personally never thought the game to be abandoned (but I do understand people getting impatient). However, this is not going to be the focus of my blog post. What has been or what will be one day isn’t important if you are now sitting here wondering: Should I buy this game? So I will instead focus on this: “What do you get for your money right now?”
For those of you who have never even heard of Folk Tale before: It’s a kind of city-builder / simulation game with some RPG features set in a medieval-fantasy world. Kind of like the Settlers or Cultures. It’s in real-time and apart from managing your city, you also need to defend it from beasts and enemies. So it is not like Cities: Skylines where you focus on building but never have to worry about getting attacked. The game is in its alpha stage on Steam Early access and costs $19.99€. If this is too much for you, you can also wait for a sale.
Folk Tale offers a tutorial, a campaign, a sandbox mode and the editor. The FAQ says that Act I of the campaign is already finished with Act II “nearing completion”. I will try to avoid spoilers here for the story campaign, of course! But let’s start with the bit that a new player would probably start with as well:
Folk Tale has one, despite being in Early Access, and it’s even voiced already! The tutorial is quite long and detailed and as far as I can tell (as somebody who isn’t new to the genre), it explains everything you need to know.
It is basically a little campaign with some nice humour introducing you to the game and the setting. You start by slowly building the foundation of your village. It’s the typical way of doing things in such games: You have a build menu where you can choose certain buildings like the woodcutter hut or the fishing hut. You need free, peasants (unoccupied villagers) to build a building and you need a certain amount of resources (wood, stone etc. depending on what you want to build). The buildings need villagers who work there and you can choose which of them is the lucky one to get the job. You increase your population by building more huts. If your villagers are happy in general, then new villagers will come when you have the capacity (that is, when you’ve got enough huts). Villagers can also be dissatisfied (e. g., when they’re hungry) and I guess this means no new villagers are coming or they will come very slowly. Either way, your villagers can apparently also revolt and the crime increases. I read something about villagers burning down buildings when that happens… Speaking of burning: Make sure to build a well soon! I didn’t do that (though that wasn’t in the tutorial, but in a sandbox game) and then I could do nothing but watch three buildings burn down. If a fire breaks out, the building slowly burns down unless you have a well and a peasant to run to the well, grab water, run to the building and extinguish the fire. Fire can also travel to nearby buildings. In other words, if extinguishing doesn’t happen or takes too long, more houses will start to burn. That’s why I lost three buildings at once.
Back to the tutorial village: You’re asked to build a windmill, wheat fields and a bakery after the woodcutter hut. Once that is done, your village’s needs are basically covered as they won’t freeze or starve. That’s when Ser Gregory appears! Folk Tale isn’t the peaceful city-building game. It features mobs to kill and loot to gain! Ser Gregory is one of the heroes that you get who will fight for you against the various enemies on your map. More on these heroes later, though. For now, it’s time to leave the tutorial and take a look at the other parts of the game…
As I mentioned above, the campaign isn’t finished yet, but the first act is there already. In the campaign, you get quests that guide you through a story. This part reminds me a lot of the Cultures series. Regular readers are probably going to roll their eyes at me now, because I keep throwing in this game series whenever anything even remotely similar appears in the gaming world. :p But here it just fits! Cultures 2 also had heroes on top of the regular soldiers you could have. And I actually almost exclusively played the campaign in these games. It was engaging and fun and I liked following their stories. As I said, I will not give you any spoilers here, so I will keep it rather short. You get a story, you follow it and the heroes play an important role in there. Also, the characters are voiced and the voices are really well done!
At one point, my hero was asked to enter a cave. After entering, I was inside that cave (well, duh!), with no easy access to my village anymore. At least, not on that map. I didn’t look whether I could switch back to the map at that point. Once I finished the quest (again, no spoilers), I had the option to leave again and then I was on the main map again which housed my village, too. But it’s a very nice feature as it feels a bit like a game within a game. Diablo-light maybe? And again, it lets you get closer to the heroes and get to know them better.
But that’s all I’m saying about the campaign now.
You can play freely here with no quests telling you what to do. The heroes and villagers are still talking every once in a while which makes it more lively than if they’re all silent. You start with nothing but a handful of villagers, Ser Gregory and Willow. The latter are two heroes who can fight and protect your village. Before you can do anything, you have to set your supply wagon on the ground. I guess it’s best to have a look around the near area to check for a good place. Don’t ask me what a good place for it is, though. I don’t really know… I usually choose something that’s probably going to be the centre of my village, but I also try not to use the only open space as that’s probably better suited for the mill later which requires wheat fields nearby and thus, needs quite a bit of open space!
You can order your peasants (the unoccupied townsfolk) to go gather resources, e. g., wood or berries. But this isn’t as good as having professionals, of course. I often look for the river and see if there is fish in there. You can see them swim, but it’s easier to open the building menu, choose the fishing hut and just look for the fish icons at the river. As soon as you give the order to build the fishing hut, peasants will come build it. As is often the case with such games, you can only order them to build that fishing hut if you’ve got enough resources for it! So, you hopefully sent your other peasants collecting some wood in the meantime. Also, don’t forget to assign somebody to work as a fisherman / fisherwoman from now on. The next thing on your agenda should be the woodcutter hut. One of the tooltips said the foresters also plant new trees, so you shouldn’t worry about running out of resources. I am not sure what happens with stone or iron mines. They obviously can’t just be refilled. Also, as I noticed in the tutorial: Don’t wait too long to build a well! I also learned that wells should not be too far away from my buildings as the peasants need to run to that well, get some water and run to the burning building. As you can see, these peasants actually do serve a very important purpose!
In general, I like that there are so many different things to build. You have the usual resource gathering buildings, the food production ones, but also a herbalist den which produces medicine for sick villagers. Each building can get upgraded or you can choose to invest in some “research” to improve productivity, for example. Some buildings also have crafting options, but I have nothing to craft yet. The tooltip mentions finding recipes as loot. Speaking of loot: When your heroes defeated enemies (spiders, for example), you can loot them. Sometimes, the enemies even drop some upgraded armor for your heroes. And not only do these items come with stats, they also have skins that change the way your characters look! Willow is a healer type of hero and she reminds me a lot of the Sylvari in Guild Wars 2. Some forest-loving fae-thingy, I assume. But with my fighting Ser Gregory and Willow, I have a nice strong pair of military to fight against the nearby bears, wolves, spiders and… I think they were goblins. Unfortunately, when my village got attacked, my villagers always ran to fight instead of running away. In Cultures, when attacks happened, the regular villagers tried to get away or, if it was enemy tribes, I could even ring an alarm bell which made all villagers run into the main building to hide there. That’s the much smarter choice, after all! Especially since my villagers have no weapons to defend themselves. Thankfully, new villagers arrive fast enough when the general happiness isn’t too low.
You can make your own maps if you like or you can load other people’s maps from the Steam workshop. I only loaded the editor, but did not feel like getting into the controls. I did play a lot with it back in the early days when the game wasn’t really there yet and the most you could do was create maps. It was fun, but in the long run, I lack the patience to really build like that. I just felt I should mention it if you happen to like making maps in games. And, of course, being able to load other people’s creations is always great because we can all benefit from others’ creativity that way!
General personal impressions
What I have seen so far is working very well. The game crashed only once so far and the loading time when I first start a game is really bad sometimes*. As in really really bad. Up to a couple of minutes, actually. However, once it has loaded, everything reacts fast – and it’s not always that slow. And hey, the developers probably have to worry about other things like optimizing the game loading times. If Folk Tale was released already, I’d say this is a negative point that’s annoying. Until then, it doesn’t count. Other than that, I really enjoy the game! The graphics are cute (“good” graphics aren’t important to me as long as the style fits to the game and it certainly does here if you ask me). The buildings are really neat and I like looking at all the details. I assume it takes quite a while to unlock everything for your village (buildings that can be upgraded, having all buildings filled with workers, doing all the research associated with the buildings and so on). The campaign seems to be quite entertaining, too. The characters’ voices are amazing if you ask me! They add a lot of personality to the characters and it all fits together. So, if I hadn’t already bought the game, I would definitely buy it now.
If you like what I’ve written here and you think this is worth 20 bucks, then go buy it! Or wait until it’s on sale… or check out YouTube videos (but make sure it’s more recent videos as the game is in development, after all) if you need more information or want to see the game in action. I think that right now, the game offers quite a lot already and it’s worth it – but I did buy the game at a cheaper price when it went into Early Access, so my “anchor” is lower than the current price.
However, do not buy it if you say “It will be worth it, once it has feature X or Y!” – If this is what you think, then wait until the game does have feature X or Y. And definitely don’t buy it if you only want to play a game that’s officially released. It is in its development stage, so bugs and everything related to it are to be expected.
Oh, and if you are now wondering whether you want to buy Folk Tale, but have unanswered questions about it: Feel free to ask them here. Maybe I can help you!
*The developers reacted to this part and let me know that they are working on load times, actually! Sweet. :D
Here’s what they said in their tweet:
We’re working on load times ready for the next patch. The crash was likely related (due to a mem issue in expermtal)