You’ve probably played or heard of online survival games and they normally follow the same, tired formula. Collect things, build things and get killed by someone or something, then do it all over again. When I was tasked with doing a CardLife Preview, I instantly imagined the repetitive survival game formula. However, after spending over 12 hours with CardLife, which is still in its alpha stage and heading to Steam Early Access on 9 October, I fell in love with its charm.
Related: Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey Review
As mentioned above, the game is still in its Alpha stage and the indie developers are working hard to bring the cardboard, fully edible world to PC gamers on Steam. Therefore, I want to make some things clear first. Yes, there are bugs and glitches. No, there aren’t a lot of players online at all right now and finally, the game is by no means finished.
With that out of the way, I’m pretty addicted to CardLife after playing the game for over 15 hours, both alone and with some random players on the servers. The game has all the bells and whistles of a survival title, where you craft, collect resources, fight a large variety of enemies and build some living quarters in various locations. You’ve seen it all before, but the game does bring one awesome new aspect to the table.
Since everything is made out of cardboard, you can cut shapes out of objects, weapons and even your character to make it unique with a “connect-the-dots” system. At first, I thought it was only for character creation as I cut out a little guy with a frown on his face (still not convinced about yet another survival game) and entered the glorious, Minecraft-like world.
What transpired next was nothing short of a pleasant surprise, as I found I could customize everything, from a piece of armour to a pickaxe and everything in between. Every time I crafted a new weapon or even a piece of a building, I customized it cutting pieces out. One example of what I really loved doing was adding what I imagined in my mind to be spikes on weapons and their hilts.
Armour, weapons and just about everything else also has different parts and you can customize each one of them by in a process that feels a lot like cutting things in Windows Paint. It might sound a bit simplistic if I put it that way, but it’s not. The game just gives the player so much creative freedom in every aspect of building and crafting.
Quite honestly, I’m not the most creative person out there, or probably even in my family, so I took a tour on some servers to see what other players got up to so far. The results were, without a doubt, spectacular. One player built a cabin for newcomers to the server to enjoy, even adding a little signpost that tells you it is a safe place. Another built a massive stone tower on a hill and another built a modern-looking mansion to live in.
Speaking of servers, it is always good to know that a game runs well when playing from South Africa. CardLife seems to have some great coding as building, collecting materials and combat felt responsive on the international servers. At the time of writing, there are no local servers but it is still very early days.
The basics of CardLife’s gameplay have already been nailed down and they work, very well in fact. Basically, what you do is harvest materials, from plants to trees (you chop out little cardboard chunks until it falls down) and a variety of minerals in the ground. To mine minerals, you obviously need different types of equipment and stronger pickaxes the further you go down. Everything you collect can be used in some way or another and you can even build stuff like a furnace to smelt minerals you have acquired.
Building a structure is also very easy and at the same time, robust. The User Interface works well and I never felt the need to change up any keys or tinker too much. It simply works without any hassle. There are also two RPG elements to CardLife in the form of quests that you complete. These are straightforward, such as building a specific item and getting rewards instantly from a journal.
The coolest of the RPG elements, however, is what the developers call Soul-based Progression. You see, there are a tonne of creatures in the world, from giant spiders to dinosaurs, imps and even golems (found below the earth if you dig deep enough) to fight. Sometimes, you will spot an “Elite” version of a creature and if you do manage to take it down you will get its golden soul. You can equip a soul and boost a variety of your character’s stats, becoming stronger and stronger. Using a nice combination of souls and finding a good balance is key if you want to take on some of the game’s strongest creatures and it gives you a great sense of progression as well.
There are only a couple of things I can fault the game on. First of all, my jump button didn’t seem to work from time to time. Secondly, the combat needs some improvement as it feels a bit clunky when you strike enemies or shoot them with a bow. Again, one has to remember this is pre-Early Access, so issues are to be expected.
The game also features a day/night cycle and as with other survival games, you will need to watch your hunger. In CardLife, everything you do, from sprinting to fighting and even just collecting resources drains your hunger meter faster. I feel as if it should drain a little bit slower but maybe that’s just me, as I didn’t like having to constantly eat stuff to keep my character in top shape.
From my experience with the game for over 12 hours, I felt as if the developers have a game with a tonne of potential. It almost doesn’t feel like an alpha version and to think that CardLife is only coming to Steam Early Access next week and then remembering all the fun I’ve already had, makes me extremely positive about the game’s future. Best of all is that the developers continue to openly communicate with the game’s community and make massive improvements, with a lot more content planned for the future, including reactive worlds.
If you are looking for a new survival game to enjoy, then CardLife might just be the game for you. At the time of writing, the local pricing on Steam has not been revealed just yet, but we will update you when the pricing does appear and take a cardboard journey as the game continues to grow.
You can wishlist the game on Steam right now.
This preview was conducted from a code provided to us by Freejam
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