WoodZone preview

by Nil
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WoodZone, eh? I wonder if I can write this entire piece without making some sort of sensual lumberjack innuendo?

I’ve had an enticing peek behind the doors of WoodZone in its early days, and it’s promising me the big wide wood-y world. I could start my own logging company, or climb the corporate ladder elsewhere. Really, I just want to build a cabin in the woods and recklessly endanger hikers and wildlife, but there doesn’t seem to be a mode dedicated to that just yet.

The demo had two options available – tutorial and sandbox mode. The tutorial runs you through basic interactions with the world, how to equip tools, order stuff from the internet, how to… look at things. It’s frustrating at times because those interactions can be so janky, and the controls don’t unlock until the narrator decides you can use them. Why are there huge, un-signposted drops in this wood warehouse employees have to jump over to get to work? OSHA would have a field day with this.

WoodZone

The tutorial voice-over is smug but charming in a way, like the devs are aware of how rough around the edges the demo is and they’re offsetting it with a bit of smarmy humour. The world is vivid and colourful, providing clear distinction between different elements of the environment and doing a pretty good job of looking nice using as few polygons as possible. There’s been a real sincere effort with the graphics, and it would look even better with extra time and polish.

You could probably say the same for the gameplay itself, which is currently a massive weak point. It’s basic to the extreme, and filled with buggy little niggles and unfinished mechanics. You can’t interact with anything else in the world if you’re holding a tool, but the only way I could find to unequip whatever I was holding was dropping it entirely. For some bizarre reason, this included the head-mounted flashlight, which would only turn on and off from the inventory wheel and still block any other actions until dropped.

In all honesty, it’s really hard to form any concrete opinions on WoodZone in the incredibly limited glimpse the demo offers. It was offered up as a reward for a Kickstarter campaign that sadly fell quite short of its target, and now there isn’t really much information about as to the game’s future. Apparently they’re still working hard on development, but who’s to say what sort of damage this has done to their established and still visible roadmap?

The roadmap speaks of huge ambitions for this wandering, wood-cutting simulator. It looks like they were hoping to have the game in early access by now, with large, themed updates adding new zones and equipment throughout the next two years. There’s even an “Adventure Update” right at the end which speaks of DeSand‘s lofty goals, promising a co-op quest filled with puzzles and mythical places. This seems like some serious blue-sky thinking at the moment, but the raw potential is there if the devs can refine it.

WoodZone preview overall thoughts

WoodZone does not have an easy path before it. It could blink out of existence tomorrow if a few more hurdles fell before it. They could get it to early access and join the ranks of all those titles, lost to development limbo, unable to gain the necessary traction to pull forwards and get the game done. It’s a good idea, and they’ve tackled it valiantly. There’s clearly a lot of passion for lumberjacking over at DeSand, and I really hope it’s enough to get their baby off the ground.

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