Lands of Livia is a title from solo developer Aaron Vernon that attempts to take all of the travel, questing and loot gathering of a large-scale WRPG and create a casual experience that is both relaxing and engaging. Starting out as a free to play model, the game more recently saw a sizable first ‘chapter’ drop that significantly increased content for a small one-off payment.
It’s hard to categorise Lands of Livia, but with its closest cousin in terms content (if not mechanics) being ‘Fallen London’ and its graphical light style we’ve chosen to place it in the text-based RPG subgenre. In all the ways that count however this is a Western RPG to its core, with many tropes of the genre on display and a healthy spoon full of ambition in its design.
Graphically, there isn’t a great deal to look at with Lands of Livia. No title screen to speak of that could splash up artwork, and no character art for NPCs or encounters, the lasting visual impression that the game leaves is a bare-bones chequered world map that slowly populates with lines and dots visualising towns and paths as you progressively unlock more locations through play. The HUD has a visual representation of your two key stats in two circles at the top right of the portrait-mode screen and your current level and gold on the top left. The bottom of the screen plays host to a small selection of icons for jumping between sub-screens but it’s a nicely uncluttered experience. Most of the games content is described in clear and simple text boxes through play, that pop up and can be read at your leisure.
Sadly there’s no in-game audio at all in Lands of Livia, which does add to the feel that this started life as a web-browser game before making the jump to iOS, but also handily means that you’re not being hounded by a single musical composition on a loop. Given that you never really leave the world map for long, dipping in and out to select quests, players would have to be happy to listen to a looping track indefinitely. Perhaps then silence was the right call, though the lack of sound effects for confirming choices and success/failure of a quest does feel odd.
The narrative of the game is its core purpose, and as such we won’t give too much away here – but suffice to say it starts with the relatively low-key mission to discover why the rain has stopped, yourself in the boots of a lowly half-blood potato farmer. The writing is well presented, rich in details and interesting without being long-winded. It’s also presented in small increments that never feels overwhelming, which makes for a pleasurable experience. Aaron Vernon is a competent writer and clearly has a good idea where his story if going and what kind of world you’re exploring at all times, which makes for a lot of enjoyment.
Gameplay is a deceptively simple series of systems that revolve primarily around timers. If waiting in real-time is a turnoff for you in your games then be warned, this is not the game for you. If however you are interested in a casual experience that you will drop in and out of then this quickly becomes one of the game’s strengths. You play through visiting locations on the map and selecting quests to complete, each quest having a clearly defined % chance of success based on your stats and a period of time it will take you. Completion of the quest bags you stat-boosting items and experience to make your percentage chance increase for subsequent attempts and quests, as well as bagging you small segments of information. Some of these will progress the story, unlocking potential routes and locations on the world map that are travelled in real time too. You can purchase mounts and items that will speed up these timers using in-game gold, and this will give you small but noticeable reductions to your waiting periods, but ultimately you’re slaved to the timers and have to learn to simply set a quest going and move on to another task. This is a drop in and out play experience and not one designed for lengthy single sessions. The gameplay does have a few wrinkles, especially in solving puzzles based on runes, but these are peppered around and not the meat of the game. There’s a sizable free demo that will take you perhaps a day or more to finish, and a massive amount of content hidden behind the first paid instalment.
Overall, Land of Livia is a fun title that could use a little presentation work to better feed an interesting world, but that relies a little too heavily on the patience of the casual gamer. It’s built with obvious love and an attention to detail that is admirable and is well worth downloading to play the free demo chapter and see if the style of play suits you.