Impressions: Stomping On The The Stomping Land

By Graham Smith on June 6th, 2014 at 3:00 pm.

What the game looks like 50% of the time.

The Stomping Land is a game of co-operative survival and dinosaur hunting. Set on a heavily forested island, players spawn in the wild and then must craft shelter and weapons, scavenge and hunt for food, and form tribes with fellow players to accomplish both without being picked apart by the island’s larger dinosaurs.

Or at least, that’s the pitch which earned the game almost six times its Kickstarter target last year, and which saw it bounce immediately into the Steam best sellers list when it launched in Early Access last week. (At the time of writing, it’s still there, at number 5.) The reality of the game is, at this stage, something else.

Do you feel the constant dread and anxiety associated with having too many games to play? Do you feel as if you’re constantly lagging behind the zeitgeist, snapping at the heels of cultural relevancy? Then good news! You can strike The Stomping Land off your list of games you “need” to play for now.

Oh my stars.

Here was my first experience in the game. After fighting against its missing or near-invisible menu buttons to change resolution and join a server, I connected to a PvE game that was in the middle of a night cycle. It was pitch black, so I couldn’t see anything other than the sky and, when standing at the right elevation, the trees silhouetted against it.

I ran for a while, eventually seeing a small torch on the ground. I ran to pick it up but it vanished into thin air just as I reached it. I ran around in the dark some more, trying to find any of the other players on the server, but failed. I pressed the “Main Menu” button on the UI so I could switch to another server, and was instead booted back to my desktop.

Here was my second experience in The Stomping Land. I joined a PvP server and it was daytime, but I spawned inside a small wooden cage. I hit the stick-walls with my starting axe thirty or forty times to no result. There were other players outside the cage, roping and dragging each other around. I would later discover that those ropes, used to kidnap players, cannot be broken by prisoners. Neither can cages. Luckily, another player eventually spawned inside the cage with me and used their own axe to kill me.

I respawned on the beach and explored for a few more minutes before it became dark again. I ran straight through the forest for fifteen more minutes in the dark, finding no one, before disconnecting (back to desktop) again.

What the game look like the other 50% of the time.

My third, fourth and fifth experiences in The Stomping Land were the same. Darkness. Aimless jogging. No sight of the other players. Occasional dinosaurs.

Every player in The Stomping Land needs to eat. It’s this hunger which is supposed to lead your experience. In order to get food, you must hunt smaller dinosaurs or herbivores, or scavenge the remains of larger predators. Everything else hangs off this need: you craft a base to act as a place to store and cook food, team up with other players in order to take down larger prey, and form tribes to protect or steal food from other, rivalling players.

It sounds like a recipe for thrilling, dynamic experiences. There’s little glimpses of magical ideas, too. For example, each dinosaur on the island is represented by a star in the sky, and those stars are faintly visible even during the day. If you want to track a dinosaur, the first step is to look upwards and follow a nearby interstellar avatar.

But every single system in the game is currently unfinished, or ill-considered. For one example, you spawn with a full stomach, meaning there’s no great urgency to do anything inparticular when you connect to a server. It can feel aimless.

For a second example, it’s a third-person game. Looking up at the stars means positioning the camera between your legs.

“Is that two dinosaurs fighting?” “No, that’s my perineum.”

Tired of jogging fruitlessly in search of the island’s other inhabitants, I decided to instead engage with those mechanics I could experience alone. If you hit a tree with your axe four times, you get wood. If you hit a rock with your axe four times, you get stone. Items in the environment never deplete, so I picked a lakeside spot with a rock and a couple of trees and decided I’d set up a camp there.

I guess that's lava? There are no graphics settings, btw.

I built some torches, I built a fireplace, I crafted myself my own cage and some tombolas should I spot anyone who needs kidnapping. Every step of resource gathering and crafting is awkward too, though.

If you put two items on the ground, they combine into a wicker basket. Keep putting items inside and the wicker basket increases in size until it’s as big as you are. If you then click on that basket to craft a torch, the simplest in-game item, it’ll use every item in that basket to do it. If you’ve collected 20 pieces of wood by hitting a tree 80 times, losing all of it in an instant is infuriating.

This is assuming that the crafting works at all, and doesn’t simply play a glitched animation to no result.

And this is assuming you can be bothered to craft in the first place, since there’s currently no working method of saving your items and progress is unavoidably transient.

Eventually night fell on my little camp. Even with my fireplace burning, there was so little light that I could barely see my own cage. No player ever came by, and it was too dark to hunt, so I waited a while before giving up and changing servers again.

This time, I spawned on a server where I had more than the starting axe. I also had a spear, and some sort of wooden board that looked like it was maybe a stretcher. I decided I’d go straight for the action; forget other players, forget crafting, let’s go hunt some dinosaurs.

There are great plans for how this should work: placing traps, or leading herds of smaller dinosaurs into predators so you can scavenge the scraps, or being able to use experience and herbs to take dinosaurs and turn them into mounts.

I don’t have traps or herbs yet, so my goal is only to bag my first kill. I pick a dot in the sky and head off into the forest, crouching but moving quickly till I start to hear telltale growling. There’s something close by, and I slowly pick through bushes till I spot a small carnivore with its back to me, moving away.

Still crouching, I move after it till I’m close enough to hit it with my spear. I lunge and… I don’t know, I sort of clip partly through it? I don’t seem to make contact, but I’m close enough now that it knows that I’m here. It turns around and… I don’t know, sort of walks directly through me? We tangle like this for a moment, passing through one another as it turns out there’s no bodily collision detection, until it lands two hits on me and I die.

I later successfully kill a herbivore and harvest its meat, but my every encounter with the game’s supposedly ferocious enemy is like this. Most of the dinosaurs can’t really hit you. They’ll give chase, but circle strangely behind you so that you can almost always outpace them even at walking speed. A lot of them struggle to land blows even if you’re standing still.

Stomped.

This is where my patience ends.

I played the DayZ mod early in its development and it was a rough sketch of a game, but there was something there. The need to eat was immediate, giving you an objective; the loot system pulled you around the map with urgency; the zombies were omnipresent, making the environment a constant threat; the items you collected were hard-won, persistent, and therefore imbued with meaning; encounters with other players were rare, but tense and terrifying.

In its current state, The Stomping Land is a child’s scrawl. I can see what it’s trying to be and I want it to get there, but there’s currently no single system in the game which is fun or even fully functional.

Given that it costs £19, I’d spare the expense and take the developer’s own advice:

“If you wish to jump into a more finalized gameplay experience, it is recommended to not purchase the game until release, as all features require balancing, bugfixing, and updates for smoother implementation.”

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53 Comments »

  1. Myrdinn says:

    I feel like they should combine all these crafting/zombie/dinosaur/survival/sandbox games and combine them into one universe. We need like a middleware for minecrafty sandbox games. Heck, we need our own OS and controller for this genre.

  2. frightlever says:

    As a journo for a reputable gaming website can you not just pop on to the forum and arrange to meet some other players?

    • sweeces says:

      But then the review would be worthless because it would be an experience that us lowly peasants could never have which kinda defeats the purpose of a review

      • Boothie says:

        Well its not that hard for regular people to do the same, /r/playdate for example

  3. novagoon says:

    suck my peter cream

  4. steviebops says:

    Can anyone who has played both give a suggestion on whether to buy this or The Forest? For my own taste, I don’t like the griefing that goes on in ‘survival’ sims.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      There is no griefing in The Forest – it’s single-player only. Co-op is planned, but not for some time, and the devs have said they’re currently not looking to implement versus. This is a big reason why I bought it.

    • Flank Sinatra says:

      The Forest is single player, but it’s so bugged and unfinished that it’s not worth playing. Unless you like laughing at weird glitches, like naked native women hovering in the air and perpetually bouncing tennis balls everywhere.

    • phreddo says:

      The Forest is pretty good in the state it is in. If you like building, you’ll be kept busier far longer than Stomping Land. You can easily build everything in Stomping Land in the first 10 minutes. Then all you can do is PvP or try and get a dinosaur, or try and avoid being griefed. That said, The Forest does have its set of bugs, but the developers have been pretty responsive so far.

    • Premium User Badge

      Martel says:

      “Sir, you are being hunted” is the game you should buy, unless you already have it.

      • Arkhonist says:

        You are absolutely right, out of all these ridiculously buggy and unfinished survival games, Sir, You Are Being Hunted is the only one I could recommend.

  5. Einhaender says:

    After buying Day-Z and sitting here, waiting forever that the game reaches it’s goals and/or promises, and finally, sadly realizing that it’s already there – I won’t buy another early access “survival” game without the devs saying “Yes, we’re there!”.

    And if, like Bohemia they prove to be too cowardly to do so, and hide behind the alpha/beta curtain, then the game won’t be worth my attention.

    On the other hand it’s nice thing when davs come out and say “don’t buy it yet”, it shows that they don’t overestimate their own game.

    • steviebops says:

      Space Engineers is probably a safe bet, DayZ really reeks. It may have been the poster-child, but Dean Hall seems less like a game designer, and more like a one-hit wonder who who doesn’t put the work in. (Has he left the team yet?)

      • Jewtown85 says:

        Space engi is by far the best Early Access game you can get. (Assuming you want a game of it’s genre that is)

        • Alfius says:

          Kerbal Space Program is still *technically* in early access and that’s a cracking game by any metric.

          DayZ will be worth a shot eventually. I’ve now put 60 hours into the alpha and I think I’m probably done with it until there have been a good few more content patches. I’m scratching my survival itch with the Arma 3 Breaking Point mod these days, altogether a less ambitious affair than DayZ standalone, but hey, at least it works for the most part.

          • J. Cosmo Cohen says:

            Dungeonmans is my favorite Early Access game (although, admittedly, I only have a couple).

          • Leb says:

            I own a fair bit of EA titles. Out of all of them It’s really Space Engies, KSP, and Prison architect that have been worth playing in their states and leave a lot to look forward to in each update. Hell in Prison architect their update videos are so entertaining I look forward to watching them each month!

  6. Jewtown85 says:

    I do not agree at all with this writing. You reviewed this as if you didn’t want to play it in the first place. Complaining about everything, even though it’s the first 2 weeks of Alpha. I played it, had some of the issues you listed, but had a great time. Although I bought the game cause I wanted to hunt, I wanted pitch black nights/caves, I wanted to be captive/captor.

    Oh and the reason you spawned in a cage…seemed a clever person found the spawn point and took advantage.

    I dunno, just seems like you tried to play this game, when you were not in the mood for it, yet had to anyways.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Oh and the reason you spawned in a cage…seemed a clever person found the spawn point and took advantage.

      Spawn fuckery like that should be prevented by game mechanics. If I wanted to have the possibility of being screwed before I even existed, I’d play real life.

      • spamenigma says:

        I’m sure it will get fixed, like many things as they get found and mentioned by the alpha testers!

      • Jewtown85 says:

        Yeah, you can’t seriously expect this to make it to a gold version of the game.

        • Arkhonist says:

          Gold version? Is that how people call normal release versions these days?

          • Armante says:

            Back in the day of games being released on actual CDs, “going gold’ meant the game was finished, quality checked, approved and sent to the manufacturer for duplication. This Master Copy would be the source for creating all the CDs shipped out in boxes to stores. The gold CDs are better quality than plain silver (actually aluminium) CDs, so gold ones were used.

            Now I just feel really old for knowing this, and thinking you must be fairly young to not know about gold master CDs. Especially seeing as CDs are relatively recent, and I started playing games LONG BEFORE CDs came along…

          • Premium User Badge

            Devan says:

            Nah, you’re not old, Armante. It’s understandable that some people wouldn’t have heard that term. What’s not understandable to me is that people will post to mock or call out some “new” name without checking to see if it is actually new. I mean, you’re already on the internet; enlightenment is mere seconds away.

    • spamenigma says:

      I agree this is less about this early access game (which isn’t clear enough in this article) and more about you pulling apart the game for having bugs?? Well duh!

      I actually quite like the game, granted its not yet got any long term playability since as the developer has already stated its light on features to begin with so they can test and fix without too many things being a potential cause for issue. Which is fine, this is early access/alpha!

      I’ve been killed by the dino’s plenty of times, kidnapped a few and done some exploring of what looks to be a very nicely made island, some good detail and design.

      I actually found it to be fun and funny already and can see a lot of potential in this game as it gets fixed up and fleshed out. This looks like it has potential and a direction and I’m not feeling like I’ll be disappointed in the long term for buying into this early. The complete opposite to what I saw in vids of ‘beasts of pray’ yesterday which does look like one to avoid for now, terrible looking world and to me looked like a rushed up variation of garys mod?!

      Not all early access/alpha’s are going to be like dayz mod?? which should not have even been a comparison!

      • Jewtown85 says:

        My point exactly! thank you, well put.

      • spamenigma says:

        Also: “If you then click on that basket to craft a torch, the simplest in-game item, it’ll use every item in that basket to do it. If you’ve collected 20 pieces of wood by hitting a tree 80 times, losing all of it in an instant is infuriating.”

        For anyone reading that, I’ll help explain what the writer hasn’t helped to elaborate on.. The need to learn to only put the items you need in a basket when you craft, you can create multiple baskets of items and you can move things around.

        Once you realise its not an issue.

    • JimboDeany says:

      The bugs he lists do make it sound kind of shit though.

      • spamenigma says:

        Half of what he mentioned has not happened to me. however this does not make this game shit. it makes it a work in progress. If you don’t want to play games that are unfinished, don’t buy games that are unfinished?! Every game by your logic was shit at some point in its development cycle…

        Unfortunately this article is written with the expectation that this should be close to a finished game. Its not, and far from it, but I advise you read up on what the dev’s say about the game and look at some vids… to decide if you think its going to be shit down the line or if it looks like its worth a punt!

        • Premium User Badge

          nasKo says:

          I don’t think it’s written with any expectations. The article is an impression of what the game currently is; what people who decide to jump in now might experience.
          Being early in alpha does not mean the game cannot be criticized for what it currently is. Any game in Early Access should have to face “reviews” like this one, especially when Early Access is a construct that *requires* people who don’t want to or can’t fork over X amount of money for a promise to do their own research on the current state of the game.
          Keeping in mind that there is no guaranteee the game will ever be finished (as with every other Early Access game), it *has* to be reviewed for what it currently is.
          I am sure RPS will go back to it at a later point and give an impression of what it is then.
          Can’t review a game for what it will be but for what it is.

          • spamenigma says:

            Maybe, but its what the reviewer has failed to mention about this game that has skewed this review into what appears to be, and reads to be from someone looking to make it sound rubbish from the off. I rarely worry about commenting but the fact I’ve played this and properly read what the developer said about this release is what puts me in a more informed position to say this review is still very poor.

  7. Crainey says:

    You seemed to have a rather rough experience, but then again this game is rather rough itself. I watched the livestreamer Lirik play this while chatting with the developers prior to its early access debut and I could see the potential and thought process of the developers, I respected that, but I knew there is no way in hell I was going to buy it for a while.

    On the other hand I bought The Forest thinking it had a bueaitful world and was a good single-player survival game I could get immersed in. Silly me, you’d think DayZ’s alpha state would have taught me the gamebreaking bugs of alpha games ruin any chance of immersion.

    I may sound bitter but really I’m fine with waiting and I enjoy the patch process, but there are a lot of people who don’t see it that way and to an extent I can see their point when Early Access games are dominating the top sellers of Steam.

  8. spamenigma says:

    People need to stop looking at Early Access/Alphas as game demo’s or final games and see them as what they are.. most likely a bug riddled mess (with some exceptions like space engineers to be fair to them) with an early look at the development process and the opportunity to contribute (financially, testing, feedback, ideas etc..). I’ve contributed to a few early access or kickstarter or alpha access games.. and I’m sure the ratio of money wasted is probably still less than money I’ve wasted on final released games!

    • Shooop says:

      And the privilege to have bought nothing more than a bug-ridden demo should the developers decide they can’t finish the game!

      • spamenigma says:

        Those are the ‘obvious’ risks… and plenty of so called ‘finished’ games remain unfinished too! so what’s your point?

        • Chuckleluck says:

          I’m siding with Shooop here. Steam has explicitly stated to buy the game based on its current merits. Therefore RPS has done good reviewing Stomping Land in its current stats.

          • spamenigma says:

            And got a lot of it wrong!

          • The Random One says:

            Unless you’re implying G-Smith invented the events in the post, they got nothing wrong. This is a true recounting of one man’s experience of the game.

          • spamenigma says:

            I’m implying the review is wrong, and taken from the perspective of someone looking to find fault in an alpha release.

            As mentioned elsewhere in one case rather than accept the basket system requires you to only have the items you need it to make things, he instead just dismissed it as infuriating rather than consider this is currently how the game works so only put the items you need in a basket! I’m not saying its right, or a design choice, I don’t know if that is a bug but what was written about it is missing out how the inventory system works and instead just slates it.

            He compares an early access alpha game with a mod for a fully released game?

            Its wrong that he’s neglected to go into anything about the look of the game, no mention of swimming, fishing, caves etc.. He complains you start off with a full stomach.. yet neglects to mention it doesn’t take long for that situation to change!

            The developer has very clearly stated that this is a bare bones release to test the basics of the game first… the backend engine/multiplayer etc.. for testing before adding the content. But instead of mentioning that the game is slated for things being “unfinished, or ill-considered”… this in my opinion is WRONG!

  9. ScottTFrazer says:

    “No that’s my perineum” is the name of my Rockbitch cover band.

  10. Dodj33 says:

    Any impressions of the other early access Dino game, Beasts of Prey?

    • Premium User Badge

      Craig Pearson says:

      It makes Tresspasser look well made. You can have fun with The Stomping Land, but Beasts of Prey is broken in every conceivable way: a laggy, glitchy, confusing mess.,

  11. Blackcompany says:

    The negative aspect of Early Access: You only get one chance to make a first impression. developers need to think about that before deciding just how early to release a game.

    • spamenigma says:

      That’s a consideration but to be fair in this case the game isn’t as bad an experience as being suggested…

  12. Chuckleluck says:

    I’ll give Stomping Land points for shying away from the tired postapocalyptic setting and going for exciting dinosaurs. I’ll then take those points away for wasted potential and so far appearing to be another torture simulator.

  13. SillyWizard says:

    I love how old and crotchety (most of) the RPS staff is. Never change, guys!

  14. ANtY says:

    Sounds exactly like Rust when I played it 2 months ago. Sucks

  15. Coops07 says:

    While you are right about the game currently lacking features, it IS in early alpha and me being an original KS backer for this project – I can say that I am not disappointed at this point. I have quite enjoyed the stuff that is in game and really enjoy the feel/ambiance of the game.
    I hope the devs continue with updates as they have been doing and I really look forward to more of the planned features being PROPERLY implemented (as opposed to half-ass-implementation).

    Do I want everything ‘now’? Ofc, but I’m not going to whine and complain like some (on steam forums) about the game’s current state.

    I backed this project to support it’s development and hopefully see a really fun game come into fruition and I knew full well going in what that would entail. I just hope others can realize this and choose to be supportive, otherwise just leave it on the wishlist until more features are implemented.

    • spamenigma says:

      Nice to meet you, someone around here with sense is rare these days!

  16. waltC says:

    KickStarter needs to display the following disclaimer prominently on every project page:

    A successfully funded KickStarter project does not support any of the following assumptions:

    1) That the game will ever be completed.
    2) That the individuals programming the game have any actual programming talent.
    3) That the individuals programming the game have any actual prior experience.
    4) That backers of the game, if and when it is completed, will derive any pleasure from the game.
    5) That the stated intentions of any of the project programmers as to game content should be taken literally.
    6) That in the event a funded project fails to complete backers will receive refunds

    None of the above assumptions applies to a successfully funded KickStarter project.

    As far as this game in particular is concerned, I found the following quotes from this article to be almost revelatory in their scientific importance (National Geographic needs to ponder this):

    Still crouching, I move after it till I’m close enough to hit it with my spear. I lunge and… I don’t know, I sort of clip partly through it? I don’t seem to make contact, but I’m close enough now that it knows that I’m here. It turns around and… I don’t know, sort of walks directly through me? We tangle like this for a moment, passing through one another as it turns out there’s no bodily collision detection, until it lands two hits on me and I die.

    I later successfully kill a herbivore and harvest its meat, but my every encounter with the game’s supposedly ferocious enemy is like this. Most of the dinosaurs can’t really hit you. They’ll give chase, but circle strangely behind you so that you can almost always outpace them even at walking speed. A lot of them struggle to land blows even if you’re standing still.

    Don’t you see? It *had* to have actually been this way! It’s the only way to competently and scientifically explain how man (and indeed, animal) survived to present day! There was never any danger of man or beast killing each other off because in the early days both were very incompetent hunters that often failed to make contact with their intended quarry! It’s perfect. What they ate that enabled them to survive is, I believe, a separate question, although for early man, the abstract thought he was incapable of had to go something like this:

    “I see food; I hungry. If food taste and smell good, I eat. If food smell and taste bad, I eat; but then, sometimes I get sick and die, so sometimes I not eat, if food smell and taste bad.” Again, how early man had such thoughts in the absence of a language, is also a separate question, and unimportant for our consideration.

    Yes, yes…it all makes perfect sense. The only screwy thing about the game from a scientific standpoint is obviously the “rising Star of Dinosaur in the East” bit. There is no evidence that either early man, or early animal, were astrologers and could hunt their prey by gauging the position of the stars. But then again, maybe there is! Maybe this is yet One More Plausible Reason why early man and animal did not massacre each other into extinction! Trying to “hunt by the stars” (paint by number?) they’d wind up lost, most of the time! Gosh, isn’t science fun?

    • Entitled says:

      This disclaimer of yours would make crowdfunding a lot less accountable than it already is.

      Why not put up one that is closer to it’s current legal status, based on the Terms of Use?

      https://www.kickstarter.com/terms-of-use

      1) Kickstarter does not offer refunds. A Project Creator is not required to grant a Backer’s request for a refund unless the Project Creator is unable or unwilling to fulfill the reward.

      2) Project Creators are required to fulfill all rewards of their successful fundraising campaigns or refund any Backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill.

      3) The Estimated Delivery Date listed on each reward is not a promise to fulfill by that date, but is merely an estimate of when the Project Creator hopes to fulfill by.

      4) Kickstarter is under no obligation to become involved in disputes between any Users, or between Users and any third party arising in connection with the use of the Service. This includes, but is not limited to, delivery of goods and services, and any other terms, conditions, warranties, or representations associated with campaigns on the Site. Kickstarter does not oversee the performance or punctuality of projects.

      That would do a lot more to accurately educate backers about how much right they have to fulfilled projects, yet how it is their responsibility to enforce it.

    • spamenigma says:

      I don’t disagree with having warnings but I don’t agree they should be emphasised to apply in any way to this game yet. you appear to me like another idiot who assumes once a game is downloadable it should meet every expectation of a fully complete and polished game. Instead you have just said what is just common sense and so you’re disrespecting anyone who can’t thing for themselves… shame on you!

  17. Premium User Badge

    Chaz says:

    I think a few people are missing the tone of this article, which is if you have £20 in your pocket and you want a new game to play, then don’t buy this, because it’s very buggy and unfinished. You want a good game to spend your £20 on right now, then go else where, is what’s being said. Which is fair enough and I’d totally agree with that.

    This isn’t being written from the stand point of someone who has £20 that wants to “invest” in a game with the hopes that it will mature and improve over time. Perhaps have a quick tinker now and then maybe shelve it for a few months. Nothing wrong with that, I have a few EA games like that in my Steam list. However if a friend wanted to buy a new game and asked me for a recommendation I certainly wouldn’t point him towards any of the EA games I have. They’re not really games to play now. They’re works in progress.

    Note, these are his “impressions” and not a review. It’s in the name at the top.