I will not tell you to buy this game. That is not possible. But I will try to give you my feelings and will try to objectively describe how the game works, what is good, what is bad and all the aspects of this new indie sandbox game. I was able to get the game earlier because KeenGamer has tight relationship with the man in charge - Martin Mastný. It is even possible that we will make a sort of competition in the future and give out some keys. Just check our site and be ready.
We also know more details and plans for the next development and we have seen some secret stuff. It means that I am previewing the current alpha build but will add some personal insights and details which I am allowed to reveal so you can get something extra and not described in other previews :-).
Check the official trailer and don't tell me that you stay calm with absolutely no wish to get the game :-)
I will not bother you with the story here. You can check our previous article or Steam where it is everything explained. Background of the game is not something brilliant however it easily fits to the world where you play and give endless possibilities how the game can be developed in the coming months. Which is great for the future updates. And honestly do you need story similar to Mass Effect or Metal Gear Solid for a sandbox game? I don't think so. BUT you can be sure that Martin will not stop with the story as a static text explaining the history. During the game the story will evolve and you can expect new aspects and features connected to the world where you live.
In one word. BEAUTIFUL! If I would have to put a score to audio then it will get 10/10. Tomáš Oliva (Facebook profile) made very, very good job. If you move around the Creators' tower, walk in the forest, rest at the beach listening the waves, visit barren desert, step into the dungeon or simply shiver in the rain during the cold, dark night with howls of wolves around, everything sounds like you are really there. Tomáš made "just" the music and sounds are bought from a soundbank. But everything fits perfectly. Just wait when you will be in a dark forest during the night and there will be storm raging. With loud thunders and lightnings all around you. Jesus, that was creepy I can tell you :-). To finish this part I can say that there is nothing wrong or really annoying. Of course some sounds are missing and it's not finished but in the current NI status it is one of the best polished part of the game.
You've seen it before at the official images. The game looks wonderful. Just take a look around at the pictures. I was playing at the maximum details and I must say that the best thing what really got me were lights and lighting effects. When you see will-o'-the-wisps in the night, anomaly entries turning and shining in the air, lightning in the storm, reflections on the water... Many AAA games could only quietly envy the details and quality. Of course the distant land is foggy and not sharp but that is understandable. For a one man game it's simply wonderful work. But let's get to the next part which could be more problematic.
Optimization - hw requirements
This could be a take or leave for many of you. I must admit that the requirements are really high if you want to play smoothly at the highest details. Accept it. I've got an older PC but it's still quite ok. I5 2500k, 3,3 GHz, 8 GB ram, Win 7 x64, GTX 760 and yes, I was playing with everything turned on at 1920*1080. But I wanted to make nice print-screens otherwise I would get lower details. My FPS was often around 21-25. That is because of the generated world which must be loaded fully to RAM and when you look around you must be able to see everything and go everywhere. The game takes very easily more than 5 GB of RAM. And as I tested it will take more than 5 GB all the time no matter the level of details. As I said it is because of the whole world around you. If you are in anomalies, dungeons or in a place where the game does not have to generate everything then it's much lower. But you must count that majority of the time you will stay on the common surface where everything is loaded and used.
I made some screens in the Very low settings so you can compare the quality. At this level I got around 45-55 FPS with my computer. So there is an increase of 20 FPS from the highest to the lowest settings.
From the perspective of present new games the requirements are not insane but if you wish to have a decent fun then invest in at least 8 GB of RAM.
This is the most questionable part of almost every game. After a while it can be the biggest issue for some of you or on the other hand the biggest plus. Novus Inceptio is a sandbox. And needs to provide you a lot of "toys" for your entertainment. Because you cannot simply follow the path from one NPC to another, increase your level by grinding mobs etc. I am sure that you all know this. Unfortunately lately even sandbox got degraded. At the beginning sandbox meant a hardcore gameplay. Not in terms of killing everything you see but in terms of the whole gameplay. Do some of you remember Star Wars Galaxies? Recently Xsyon? Or even ArcheAge? And what about Wurm Online? Martin was playing and researching all of these games and many more to find out what works and what not. But the main inspiration and ideas come from Wurm Online (video below).
Wurm Online was not perfect and is still missing a lot of common features. Animations for the beginning. Fight is static and you just read how much damage you did and received. The game is also made in Java. Martin did not want to create a copy of only one game. Not even a game copying other games. But to extract the best of them and add a list of ingredients he loves and thinks that would make the best recipe for him, fans and players and will be fun to play. And then mix all these features into one single title.
Let's get deeper into Novus Inceptio and what it can offer right now.
At the beginning you start as an almost naked clone. Above your head is always present your guardian angel robot A2-A. If you die then you simple fly to the nearest Creators tower and get a new clone. Of course later there are going to be death penalties, probably loss of some skills percentage, equipment etc. Now it's very friendly to die :-). But it is also hard to. You die probably only because of wolves. Water and food is all around and you don't have to fear that you starve to death.
From the information in the game you can learn 171 recipes. I was able to find 59 but was not trying hard. To get all of the recipes you must search in anomalies and have luck finding chests and blueprints inside.
But even with 59 recipes I was able to spend many hours of wandering around, trying to find the materials and items needed for crafting. I have a little feeling that right now it is not even necessary to craft all the possible items because there are missing reasons to do so. For example armour and weapons are fine. But damage and armour according to your equipment is not working at this moment. Also is it essential to have an iron axe? Why to bother if you can have a stone axe and it works the same way and there are no better tiers yet? Or why to have cloth or leather pack? You have no problems with weight because A2-A can carry everything. But I am more than sure that it will change soon. This is the day one, right?
And now imagine that you are crafting as hell and want to have better items. In the future it will be a necessity. You won't be able to craft higher tiers of items without higher tiers of tools. And everything, really everything has its quality. So it will be very different if you work with a tool of quality level (QL) 90 or only 20. I suppose that it will influence also crafting speed, harvesting, building, repairing etc. And of course you will not be able to craft high QL with low QL tools. Add to all of this decay for all the items, buildings and things around and you are getting a little bit the idea what is behind the scene. Higher tiers will make items and buildings of better material. From wood, stone, to iron etc. Higher QL will make things better, faster, stronger. And forget that you will be able to craft QL 100 of all items in one week. No way. I made many items and your skill and therefore the possible quality was increasing by 0.01 per one crafted item. It could be changed, of course. But I am sure that Martin does not want a game where everyone will have everything in few weeks. There will be a necessity to specialize and buy things you cannot make yourself.
At this time there is a lot of things you can craft. And if you would like to gather all the blueprints, create all the available items and improve your skills then you can easily spend tens of hours in the game. My estimation is around 20-40 hours if you start as a newbie without any knowledge about the game and would like to enjoy everything. And 15-20 if you know what you are doing and how to do it efficiently. Not bad for an early access, is it?
You can find blueprints for wooden and stone parts. So for now you are stuck in the first two tiers of materials. Of course there are more tiers almost ready to be put online but not now at the beginning. To be able to build your house you need to gather logs, stones etc. To cut down a tree you need an axe. So here we are moving into another level of the gameplay. You make your tools and then you can start to gather materials for your new home. If you know the blueprints of course.
The building process is not very user friendly but it is possible to figure out how it works. You must first prepare the design which is blue and transparent. You can walk over it and blueprints already works as physical items in the world. But they are still something that is not really built and must be constructed. So in the next step after you design your building, you must gather logs, ropes, stones and other material. Then come to each piece and build it up.
Only after all of these steps are done and every piece of the building is finished then you can finally get a shelter against the wind and often rainy weather.
It is like a Lego. If you want to build a huge mansion and spent 100 hours of doing so then go for it. However do not compare this game to Minecraft. Minecraft is a child's toy versus this kind of game. You cannot go here like a robot and gather thousand of cubes to build a castle and then have a clickfest doing so. No, here you must really plan, make tools, use tools, find trees, stones, iron etc. and it all takes a lot of time. Therefore if you love complexity you will be in heaven.
What is also important to mention is that you cannot loose anything which was already built. Right now you will live in a single player game and you can create your own kingdom without any fears that someone will come and destroy it. You should be able to trade items but you will not be able to visit other players and do some bad, bad things to them. This is not a PvP game. Not yet.
For now there are only three anomalies. Desert, dungeon and frozen land. Desert and frozen land is always the same, dungeons are randomly generated like in Diablo. There are other anomalies almost ready to launch, for example volcano (see the picture below). But they are not live yet.
You cannot distinguish now which entrance is leading to which anomaly. It will be also implemented probably later on. In every anomaly is at least one chest with some items and sometimes with new blueprints which you can learn. This way you get the knowledge to craft, cook and build new stuff. It's necessary then to visit anomalies to progress further. Unfortunately they are often unfinished. For example in the desert you move through cactus and trees in general and cannot interact with the environment. But you can at least see a dragon statue :-)
There is not much to say about the fight. There are only rabbits, crabs, roes, wolves. Only wolves are aggressive and attacks often in a group. The animations are not very polished, wolves movement is strange and very slow. If you will learn a little bit how to hit them it will become very easy to kill them. I killed pack of maybe 5 wolves in 5 minutes. There is also no difference between weapons or amours so right now it doesn't matter if you are naked or not. However you should know that fight was implemented very recently after a survey where the majority of fans wanted to have it in the game at the release date. So the quality presents only the amount of time which could be spent at this part of the game. And that is not a lot. Don't expect adrenaline from the fights. Although if you will be alone in the night with wolves howling around then you will get a very intense feeling of danger :-).
There are many bugs. Count with it. This is not a finished game. And won't be for a long time. Just during my playing I experienced several bugs. The game never crashed but I had to relog few times to resynchronise my work and world. GUI is not very polished. You cannot move windows around by holding their borders, only by the written text at the top left corner. You cannot resize them. The font seems too small for me and some words were hard to read. Moving and using items in the inventory, dropping them, assign them to the quick slots etc. is a little bit problematic and not smooth. Window locations are not saved after relogging. Sometimes you cannot open a chest if you already have another chest opened. Logout is the same as exit. Building was chaotic and I couldn't connect stairs to the ground and they were simply floating in the air. Some of the house pieces were not possible to remove, building one piece of a house was finishing another one. You can encounter also graphical glitches, missing walls and others. Also quite a big amount of words or system announcement is in Czech language and not in English.
But on the other hand I have not encountered a single bug that would be a blocker. The game never crashed. I was always able to continue and play independently on the bugs. And for a first day of the Early release that is something worth noting.
Let's recapitulate. One developer. Around 5 years of development from the idea to the current status. Thousands and thousands hours of work. Awesome music, great graphics, promising gameplay, not game breaking bugs. It looks like a big hit, doesn't it? Honestly, it does. But...
There is a lot of work which must be done. The biggest downside for me personally is the fact that there is a lack of next steps in the development of your character and many things are simply not implemented. You cannot terraform land, you cannot dig holes into the land, mountain. You have no reason to improve your skills right now. And for me personally I miss A LOT interaction and cooperation with other players. Maybe I am wrong and the game will get a lot of fans of the Ghost version. But for me the lack of MMO is the biggest downside. I would love to build a town with my friends, improve our fighting skills and raid other villages. But that will not be available for at least a year.
THIS IS AN EARLY ACCESS. Don't forget it. I think that the game includes maybe 30% of all the things that should be implemented. But putting the rest 70% in the game will be a hell of a work. No doubt about it.
However even the 30% are worth your money if you like this kind of game. You must be patient and don't want the whole game from the beginning. It is only Alpha and Martin means it. Alpha for Novus Inceptio is really the very beginning and not half of the game. Or almost finished game. It is not.
buy or not to buy?
you like sandbox, buy this game.
you want to support the developer and get the game better asap, buy this game.
you are rich, buy this game :-)
it is enough for you to try new mechanics, craft and build a house, explore surroundings and simply play with a new toy for tens of hours, buy this game.
you are curious and don't care about bugs, buy this game, it could surprise you.
you like what you see around and feel that it could be worth a try, buy this game
you read the whole article up to this point, buy this game, because you are interested in it :-)
do not buy if
you don't know hardcore sandboxes like Wurm Online, Xsyon, Star Wars Galaxies and others and want to play without any problems, get new items, buildings and progress fast like in a theme-park then do not buy this game.
you need to cooperate with other players, see them in the game and have a real MMO feeling, do not buy this game.
you have a low end PC with 4 or less GB of ram, do not buy this game.
you want to spend 15 hours a day in Novus Inceptio for the next 2 months and still have something to do, do not buy this game.
you think that Early Access means: "Hey, new game! Let's play it, it's done!" Do not buy this game. It's NOT done.
you want to kill other players, destroy their buildings and troll them, do not buy this game.
you want to try it and return back during the 2 hours period, do not buy this game.
history of the development
You can check also some historical videos and screens from the development.
June 3th 2013 - really prehistoric screen how it all began
June 12th 2013
June 19th 2013
June 28th 2013 - First video available
I can dig out many similar screens and if you will be interested I can make a whole article full of these images, videos and also very interesting comments during the development phase :-). I will ask for a permission to do so and hopefully you can expect something really, really unique!
I'm also planning to make an interview with Martin and people involved in the development in few weeks when the most stressing days for him will be over.
Advice for the start of the game - spoilers!!!!!
Do not read the following lines if you wish to find out everything for yourself!!!!
1. You will need tons of grass. Botanize the ground and get at least 200 grass.
2. Your A2-A has unlimited inventory. Not just 100 kg. Give him everything and don't care about your weight anymore. Simply open your inventory "I" and A2-A's "N". Click on the items and give them to the bot.
3. If you need iron, forage the dungeons. It's the fastest way how to get it.
4. Don't be afraid of thirst and hunger. You can eat even raw meat. Eat whatever you want and be full and happy.
5. If you must die then die. You loose nothing of your items and equipment.
6. You don't have to go far away from the first tower. Stay there, play, craft and build around. And you will be always easily resurrected if needed.
7. Day and night last 30 minutes both. Night is annoying. It is better to craft during the night at a safe spot or visit anomalies where is different time. Anomalies are more visible during the night when they shine quite far away so you can spot them better than during the day. So harvest material during the day, craft during the night.
8. READ tutorials! Really! They help a lot at the beginning!