Title: Len’s Island
Developer: Flow Studio
Publisher: Flow Studio
Platforms: PC (reviewed on)
Release Date: November 26, 2021
One of the most underrated genres in modern gaming is non-linear survival games. Rust, ARK, and Raft have all fallen under the radar, overshadowed by the mega-giant that is Minecraft, Some titles in the genre have even begun weaving interesting and enjoyable stories, like The Forest and Subnautica.
Len’s Island started its life as a Kickstarter campaign made by Julian Ball. That campaign was so successful and popular that Ball would be put in the position to hire a small number of developers from around the world to bring his vision to life. Len’s Island’s first demo was released as part of Steam’s “Next Fest” game festival and immediately won the attention of millions of gamers around the world.
A non-linear survival game, Len’s Island is an entertaining journey into the unknown. Giving players just enough information to get started, the game leaves the players alone to their own devices fairly early on. Armed with just an ax and an understanding of the controls, the player has to figure out the rest on their own.
After chopping down some trees and breaking a few rocks, the player will find their way to the crafting menu, where they can begin working on building a shelter. Houses are not required in Len’s Island, but it is always nice to have a place to call your own and centralize all of your tools. As you explore your crafting menu, there will be a need for iron shards and coal, which will lead players into a nearby cave (which is easily found by following a dirt path near the spawn area).
That gameplay loop is extremely entertaining, although it does not last very long.
In non-linear survival games, crafting systems are supposed to push players to go to new places and see new places. Then enemies and NPCs can be used to push a player in a different direction. It is not a path being paved by quests or story beats like in an RPG but is a path that is paved through environmental and technical methods.
Len’s Island does this a little bit at the beginning of the adventure but does not follow through to push the player very far. After you find the necessary iron and coal from the cave, which is not very hard, there is no more reason to go to the cave. Sure, maybe curiosity strikes and leads the player deeper into the cave, but with the punishing nature of death in Len’s Island, that seems unlikely.
It’s a beautiful world
The game’s visuals and atmosphere are stunning. The beautiful green of the grass, littered with the occasional blue of a berry or red of a flower. The water of the seas and the streams, reflecting light and becoming more golden and beautiful later into the day cycle. The animations are all smooth and look great, the enemies and NPCs are well designed. Everything in this title is great to look at.
Those graphics are used very well in the environment to communicate information to the player. The different colors in the grass signify food, a rare and important resource. The dirt path that led the player to the cave can also lead them to a broken bridge that can be fixed and lead the player to a nearby town of NPCs. In the caves, the different types of architecture can imply the presence of some secrets..
Speaking of the underworld, that is where the game’s beauty fades a bit. The caves are very mono-chromatic, which could be used as an effective thematic or story-telling device, but is not. The NPCs are black, the walls are gray, the marble structures are white. The caves are undeniably the most interesting areas in the game to be in, but they are so ugly to look at that it is not nearly as exciting as it should be.
While Len’s Island has quite a bit going for it, but there are several things that hold it back. A great genre but poor communication and not properly using the environment or circumstances to fully teach the player necessary things about the game. A beautiful overworld, and underwhelming underworld. A fast paced and engaging crafting system that does not go far enough and is fairly shallow.
Len’s Island (PC) Score: 7.5
Len’s Island is a good game that has a ton of great ideas working for it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t push those ideas to the limit and instead much to be desired. But it comes from a wonderful team that hopefully keeps making games.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.