In today’s Indietail, we’ll take a look at The Bonfire: Forsaken Lands, a somewhat minimalistic title that has an interesting concept to it… but it’s very poorly executed. In this game, you’re a wanderer from distant lands who settles down and starts chopping some wood. There’s some background story to it but I haven’t really understood it for the past few playthroughs. The game has a few different menus: Actions, Build, Craft, Workers.
Developer: Xigma Games
Publisher: Xigma Games
Genres: 2D, Strategy, Survival, Simulation
Release Date: March 9th, 2018
Reviewed on: PC
Available for: PC, Androids, iOs
Copy was purchased
You’ve got one character that you control by selecting an action to do, like chopping wood to get some wood. This takes a lot of time, usually, but once you’ve managed to get your hands on a few pieces of wood (I guess), you’re able to build a Bonfire which then will attract wanderers that then can work for you.
In the Build-menu the different buildings, you’re able to build, are listed. That includes farms, mines, huts, and other buildings to get more resources and workers. Once you build the first buildings, the next ones are available. For instance, you need food at the beginning and therefore have to build a farm first to nurture your workers. Afterwards, you can build an Iron Mine to craft iron tools and improve your workers’ efficiency. After that, there’re sheep-herding, a tannery, coal mines, steelworks, a shipyard and other buildings for other jobs and resources.
Your additional workers can be assigned to different jobs via the workers-menu, while you still can work at the different places via action menu. Workers will collect those materials automatically and bring them to your shed, one by one, day by day. Once they’re exhausted or once dusk arrives, they’ll head to the sheds or huts to go to sleep. During the night, you’re still able to work on your own since you apparently don’t need any sleep at all.
Here comes another mechanic into the game, though: During the night, monsters appear that try to kill your “villagers” aka workers. They range from wolves to giant spiders (ugh!) and even deer monsters. After you manage to kill them, you’re able to skin them for leather, gems and other materials (it seems to be random). To combat these monsters at night, you can also make wanderers guard the village at night. When they’re guards, they can’t work during the day but will stay awake at night and fight the beasts. However, this requires you to craft a torch per guard.
That’s where I’d like to introduce items. As already mentioned, there’s the crafting menu where you’re able to craft items for your work efficiency. By crafting a cart (10 wood), your workers can carry more resources before returning to the shed instead of getting, e.g., one wood, bringing it back to the shed, going back to the woods, chopping another piece of wood and repeating. Instead, they chop five pieces of wood before they return to empty their cart. There’s the torch for one piece of wood that is needed for guards. There are iron tools, later one, that improve the work speed and also allow you to clear paths to the coast. Later on, you’ll need to upgrade your guards’ gear, too, as the few guards, equipped with wooden spears and torches, won’t deal enough damage to the enemy hordes. Instead, you’ll give them iron or even steel swords and armour.
What I really liked about the game was its simplicity and the fact that there are still a few mechanics that require strategy. The atmosphere is great and overall the game feels quite relaxed. You later unlock trading, research, dungeon crawling and now and then you even encounter mysterious wanderers that need food and tell you stories in return or reward you with equipment. At some point, however, you notice the game’s flaws.
For instance, you can’t upgrade the protagonist. You’re able to give carts, tools and armour to everyone else but not use those yourselves? At some point, you’re short on wood or iron or something else and you click on that “mine iron” or “chop wood” button to only bring back one wood or one iron each time, which gets quite annoying. You’re not able to click on some “repeat until” or “repeat forever” button and let it run on for a bit but instead have to click on that button again and again and again. Quite repetitive. Also, you can’t work at the tannery or the coal mines or somewhere else and only are limited to three to five options.
And you can’t get more efficient at it. There are workers with different traits like “Strong”, “Honest”, “Wise”, “Quick Footwork”, “Hardworking”, and others but there is no explanation for those traits and there are no bad traits, either. Sure, hardworking is good for workers, I get that. Strong is really good for warriors (that don’t protect your town btw), brave is nice to have on guards but I have no clue if I’d rather have a wise or an honest trader. Also, in the beginning, I thought that “Quick Footwork” would make them walk faster, like in Grim Nights but it doesn’t. It seems like it’s just good for Scouts, which is quite disappointing, to be honest.
Another flaw that I noticed was the material list. You can’t move around the UI like in Banished at all and while the presentation of the game with its snowstorms and the snowy lands and all that is quite pretty, you sometimes can’t see your material list at all. Having it on a grey or darker background and just on the side of the screen instead of the top half of your monitor, would have been quite smart and handy. Instead, at night, I’ll just have to guess what resources I’ve got and what not.
Speaking of the UI, changing jobs is a pain in the butt! You need a few different clicks in a menu that sometimes assigns jobs while you’re scrolling through the horizontal list of jobs. Afterwards, you’ve got to re-assign stuff like pickaxes, carts, axes and other items. It would’ve been better if they just auto-assigned those.
There are also other UI choices that I can’t really support like the dungeon crawling having the retreat button on the left, even when you’re travelling from right to left (which in my brain doesn’t make sense, leading to me pressing on “retreat” instead of “forward”, hence leaving a dungeon instead of proceeding).
The sound design is horrible, too. The music is the same track all over again on days and a different one for combat. Sound and Music are often way too loud but you’re only able to turn it on or off in the settings. Once dusk arrives, you’ve got some time to work, still, before the beasts of the nights let out their demonic screech and visit your village for some tea with blood and sugar, as well as some villager-scones. That screech is even louder than the usual sounds. It’s so badly mixed that it’s too loud, even with it turned to the lowest settings in my windows sound mixer.
And for disclaimer purposes, I’d like to say that I don’t want to trash the game or anything but I personally find these flaws so annoying that I don’t really want to play the game for more than an hour or two..
When I bought the game, it was only 2€ but they raised it to ten bucks now, which is outrageous for a game with only three hours worth of gameplay and this many flaws. I still enjoyed the game for a bit for its “city-building”-aspects, I guess, but I would never have bought it for the ten bucks it costs now. It has its good sides but there’re some aspects and flaws that I can’t overlook when it comes to a review like this.
So, in the end, I can’t recommend this game at full price.
If you’re in it for the experience, wait for a sale to come and buy it for two bucks or so. And, as I said, I want to like the game but I can’t fully recommend it because of the poor execution, the horrible sound issues, the repetitive gameplay, the bad boss-fight at the end (that I haven’t even touched here btw) and all that.
BUT the sequel is in the works and it’s going for a rather isometric style with a different UI and some more city building-like aspects. From what I’ve seen it looks a lot better and less problematic, hence, I’m quite interested in that one and will probably do a review on that, too. I don’t want to bash that one but the dev seems to be quite excited about that one, too.
Anyways, have a nice one!