Presented as a Sandbox MMO that is truly open, to the point of placing the game world in the hands of players (granted, with certain restrictions regarding the PvP), Tree of Life is most likely one of the most promising MMORPGs of 2015. Right as they dive into the game, players feel a true sense of freedom in a world that will evolve according to their actions. Within weeks, entire forests have been brought down, while new one, created by the players, popped up in unexpected areas.
Jack of all trades, master of none
In Tree of Life, players also choose among the 24 available professions/masteries (blacksmith, carpenter, archery, etc), being able to reach the maximum level in 8 of them at the moment. Of course, it is also possible for players to scatter their skill points in more than 8 masteries, with the price of being unable to craft the high level items, however.
The masteries are also very interdependent, requiring each other to advance at a decent speed and for higher quality crafts. The carpenter, for example, will be one of the most important masteries in the game, creating weapon molds for blacksmiths, rulers for tailors, carts for farmers to carry animals, etc.
Thus, to be able to erect a village, or even a kingdom, the cooperation of players that have mastered the different crafting professions will be essential. Obviously, not everyone will be ready to cooperate, and some may even prefer to take up arms to conquer the neighboring towns. Indeed, in Tree of Life the PvP is open over the whole map and no one is safe, even within the apparent safety of their own walls.
A constantly evolving world
But the true originality of Tree of Life lies in its dynamic and evolving universe. Every minute that passes sees some changes happen in the universe, with plants growing, forest being destroyed, wildlife multiplying. The atypical nature of the day/night cycle will also surprise in many ways thanks to its hostile and frightening atmosphere. While the darkness affects the gameplay strongly enough, it is further emphasized by the appearance of night mobs, including aggressive zombies and skeleton knights that not only attack players, but also their constructions.
Your first day in Tree of Life will be full of discoveries, as well as trial and error experiences. What creatures should be avoided? How to make and use weapons? And above all, who can you trust. Because if Tree of Life is before anything else a game of cooperation, it won't stop your so-called new friends to backstab you in the various possible ways.
After that first day in this world, you will have a prompt reminder that you need to fill your stomach, if you haven't done so yet. A gauge on the lower right of the screen always shows the state of your hunger. Once it starts to empty, the movement speed of your character will be greatly reduced. If early on the apples obtained by logging trees will be enough to keep your character satiated, it will soon start to feel tedious. Thankfully, there are other ways to obtain higher quality food, either by fishing, or by hunting animals like cows for their meat.
Once past the first days of survival, it will be time to consider the next step of your adventure. How to progress? How to become stronger to face the trials that await with more enthusiasm? The simplest solution often takes the form of a cleverly placed camp. Because your base's location will greatly affect the close availability of certain resources and animals. Settling down near a beach guarantees the presence of food in the form of fish and whales, while placing the base in the middle of a forest provides a large amount of wood. The possibilities are enormous and each location you choose for a base may take a different turn depending on wildlife, but also on the evolution of a world that changes constantly, for better and sometimes for the worse.
Tree of Griefing? Not for long.
This world is thus rich and vast, but, unfortunately, not without a few kinks that can ruin the experience a tad bit for some players. Like with any game of the genre that allows non-consensual PvP, a small part of community will be more aggressive than the rest, if not toxic. Killing. Looting. Destroying. Name it, they'll do it. Start your game in the wrong zone, and it can quickly make room for the most cruel injustice, which has lead to those unfortunate victims renaming the game as Tree of Griefing. Moreover, certain crafts may seem like a grind of the moment, requiring hours of repeating the same movements over and over.
Nevertheless, and despite the presence of these few annoying elements, OddOneGames has been constantly updating the game to create a better balancing, and are slowly tweaking the crime system to try and eliminate any form of unfair griefing that exploits the current state of the game.
Thus, if you are joining the game hoping for a full-loot PvP-friendly adventure similar to Rust, DayZ or H1Z1, you might want to think again, although the games do share some similar sandbox features.
Embarking on Tree of Life is an experience that wont leave many indifferent. Once overwhelmed by the freedom and wonders of this world, it is extremely difficult to take your eyes off the screen. Successfully building the largest base possible, crafting a legendary weapon and armor, there is always a reason travel, people to fight, new things to see, regions to explore. Moreover, while the end-game may seem boring for some, remember that the game is merely in Early Access, and that the developers plan to include numerous features in the game in the future, including dungeons and more diverse monster behaviors.