Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
This has nothing to do with the popular FPS series, Unreal. It’s much more interesting. UnReal World has been a mainstay on various hard drives that I’ve owned since I first discovered it at some point in the mid-nineties. The first release was in 1992 and to describe the game as being ‘a bit ahead of its time’ would be like describing Usain Bolt as ‘quite fast’. Unfamiliar at the time, the elements of play are now a genre in and of themselves. It’s an RPG about wilderness survival, with borrowings from the roguelike ocean, and an enormous amount of things to craft.
It’s also, quite possibly, the best example of its type.
While the original release is twenty two years old, the latest update was this month. Two decades of development have paid off and UnReal World has the most intricate procedural worlds to explore and perish in. The setting isn’t the usual dungeon with a dragon in it – fantasy aspects are stripped back and the game takes place in the far north during the late Iron Age. You’ll spend your time hunting, trapping, fishing, building, trading, fighting and freezing to death. Sometimes you might bleed to death instead, if the mood takes you.
Animals and people are convincing, the world is full of wonders both mundane and extraordinary – the paw prints of quarry essential to your survival in the morning’s fresh snow, a sled piled high with human meat capsized by an abandoned village.
Most extraordinary of all is the price. Unreal World is free, as of 2013, although donations are gratefully received. Download it and lose yourself in a slice of history.
You can read more Survival Week articles over here.