The Black Death is a dark medieval themed, survival MMO, developed by Greenman Loaded and only available on PC. This game recently got released on Steam in early access on April 19th, this game is also available for PC download at Green Man Gaming and the Humble Store. On Steam you can pick up this title for £14.99.
IntroductionThe Black Death is an MMO, open world survival game set in a dark medieval Europe. The player has to chose from an eventual 10 classes (as of 4th May only three classes) these classes will include Militia, Merchant, Peasant, Smith, Monk and Hunter with more to be announced in the future. All of these classes will offer a different play style for players which will offer different routes to take throughout the game to get a range of rewards. Not only this but it will keep the gameplay interesting for the player to avoid a stale gaming experience. Each class has both strengths and weaknesses that will aid or hinder the player based upon play style, so choosing the right role for your play style is essential for survival. Along with classes there are also important things players must understand about the combat in The Black Death. Combat in this game isn't just clicking the mouse and you swing your sword and occasionally block with a shield. This game has a directional strike and parry system. There is also a gathering and crafting system in this game, at this point in time it is very bare bones but still offers players to option to craft rudimentary weapons and items. Overall I feel as though in its current early access state players will find enjoyment in the exploring aspect and also the general world of The Black Death, but other then that there just isn't a lot to offer the player to make them want to come back for hours and hours.
GameplayThe overall story for this game is down to the player to carve out themselves. The Black Death is a sandbox game so don't expect question marks over heads of NPCs. You must live your life and try to survive in the harsh world of Medieval Europe where the plague is the biggest threat for everyone. Each class you can choose will give a different path through this world which can mean a player can have 3 different characters and experience an entirely new game. If you die you loose right now all your unspent skill points but you can still choose another character and continue newly in your adventure.
Going into more detail about the combat system in The Black Death, as mentioned above it's a directional based combat and defense system. When attempting to strike someone with a weapon the player must decide to use the middle mouse button to strike straight down, the left mouse button to strike left and the right mouse button to strike right. This also goes for the defending player, he has to try and guess which side his attacker will strike from and defend accordingly. This system is a refreshing take on this type of close quarters combat that most games don't try to take risks with, its challenging and gives a great amount of satisfaction when you manage to decapitate someone's head. This combat system is a big positive straight away for this title, pair this type of combat with the stunning visuals and this title is off to a great start already. The crafting at the moment as mentioned above is very basic, only being able to craft things such as bandages and a sharp stick t fight off enemies. In the future this crafting system ill be vastly expanded and may even see changes in the later stages of development. This also goes for the gathering system, as of right now you can gather a variety of berries, sticks for weapons and items and cotton that you can use to sell to traders. As of right now the content in The Black Death is rather underwhelming, but as time passes and development makes more and more progress, this game will have deeper mechanics and more variety of items to craft and gather.
GraphicsThe Black Death has a dark, gritty and realistic art style and it pulls it off very well. The art style really compliments the time period in which the game is set, a disease stricken medieval Europe. The visuals of this game are extremely immersive. It looks the part, the villages you come across are either healthy looking or are so rundown or completely abandoned because they have been massacred by the black plague. When roaming around the map the player should be aware of their surroundings. In some villages buildings are marked with a red cross which means that the village has been overrun with the plague. This can lead to the player actually catching an infection which can get worse over time. This is another reason the immersion in this game is so great, the attention to detail the developers have taken, even in this very early stage is amazing. The Black Death also offers a wide amount of graphical options for the player to play with to get the best performance and best visuals for a variety of systems.
SoundThe sound quality in this game is the biggest downfall of it so far. There are very few sound effects that you can hear when in the open world which makes you feel as if your playing with the game muted which really takes away the immersion. Also when choosing to have the music play or not in the pause menu that option seems to do nothing as the music still plays while in game. In my opinion sounds in a game are one of, if not the biggest form of immersion. With the amazing visuals of this game the sound just isn't up to par. This is a big shame as the game is immersive with the visuals alone, but if the sound was there this game would be on a whole different level.
TechnicalThe Black Death has pretty good performance for an early access game, I run on high settings and get 50 - 60 frames per second, sometimes dropping to the 40's in big towns. On lower end PCs some might find pretty poor performance in city areas. Also this game suffers from a lot of screen tearing. Even when putting V sync on in the settings it didn't really fix the problem. This can be extremely jarring to the player and needs to be fixed. Overall the performance for an early access game is fairly good. Over time as development progresses then the devs should be able to fix these problems and better optimize the game.
My overall experienceOverall I had a fairly enjoyable experience with The Black Death. I was really impressed with the graphical fidelity, the environment and setting. I was very disappointed with the quality of sound and lack of variety of sound. It really did take away from the experience, in small villages and towns the lack of sound didn't make anything feel alive. The combat in this game looks very promising, and if pulled off right will be a big positive for this title. The crafting in this early version of the game isn't great but does show that they are bringing in a crafting system which again could be very interesting. There are are few option and visual glitches that need to be sorted out and I think defiantly will be as development progresses. I truly believe this game has a lot of potential to be a big name game and really shake up the survival genre in video games.
Pros+ Great visuals
+ Very immersive visually
+ A fresh, challenging take on combat
+ Large map area
Cons- Poor sound affects
- Bad screen tearing
- Some options don't change anything
- Performance can get choppy in big towns