As my time shows, I haven't played a huge amount, but have followed this game with great (near obsessive, morbid) interest since near its first announcement. I know more about the game than my play time may suggest. After reading other user reviews, you'll probably realize that this meager game time is well enough to pass judgement on the game anyway. It continually mystifies me how a few reviewers have clocked up over 10 hours on this game. I can't even begin to imagine how they filled all that play time even in a year. I suspect accidentally leaving it running and going to sleep is the only real answer.
1) Bad performance. Unoptimized code. Unrealistic goals. Tell-tale evidence from blogs / game of severe misunderstanding of the most basic of 3D game programming principles resulting in some rather wacky solutions to non-problems like ludicrous 'World Refresh' system (look it up) that shouldn't be necessary and no game programmer worth their salt would come up with such a solution. Less be proud of it and make videos boasting of it.
2) There is little actual gameplay in this title, just some vague unfinished hints at gameplay and a ton of glitches and bugs that far surpass what is reasonable for an Early Access title. The devs and supporters alike use 'alpha' as a crutch to excuse an awful and badly made game by people who are not capable of delivering on their promises. And its their promises alone that sell copies of this game. They have an admittedly extensive and well formatted roadmap that details every planned feature of the game. This is used in 99% of defenses of the game in the face of any criticism. Steam Early Access rules state that you should sell (and price) your game based on how it stands NOW, not what it may (or may not) become in future, as this leaves customers open to not getting their moneys worth if the project falls flat. Their high price, and their insistence on pushing a roadmap in the face of anyone who complains about the appauling state of the game and lack of anything to do, is all presuming that we are paying money for some incredible game in the future. For its 'potential'. Sadly anyone with any real knowledge of game dev can see this game has no potential and is heading for near certain crashing in flames. It's another negative Early Access news story waiting to happen. This game will never reach its supposed 'potential', and complete its roadmap (to any level of quality in any case) and thus it is not morally right for it to be used to sell the game so heavily. Sadly some gamers don't understand the dev process and eat up the BS the devs come out with to excuse the state of the game, assuming all great games go through this 'awful and not fun to play' phase. No they don't. Only bad games by inexperienced devs go through the 'awful and not fun to play' phase after they are already available to purchase.
3) Devs have changed engines twice now. First before they came on Steam, essentially having to restart to change from Ogre to Unity. Then just recently its become apparent (at time of review) that they are changing from Unity to Unreal. This means that all code developed over the past year will be scrapped (just a year was scrapped of course, because the previous year or two's work (dev time funded by kickstarter backers) was already scrapped a year ago before it launched on Steam ;)). Don't expect any new features in next six months to a year, and if the Ogre->Unity switch is anything to go by, expect the first Unreal version to have LESS features and MORE bugs than the current one. Their Steam release was a joke since they changed the game engine, rewrote the game, and put the first ever (completely broken) version up as their initial Steam Early Access release
. Seriously. They launched it on Steam right after a complete rewrite, without any kind of public beta version on their forums. Crazy!
They use the excuse for engine changes that whatever engine they are on is not 'cut out' to make TDL in, when in fact its their own inexperience and Unity is perfectly capable of making this game. Its rather disgusting and disrespectful toward Unity, its devs, and community, that they would point the blame at Unity for not 'cutting it' despite it being used on many similar procedurally generated map projects (Sir, You Are Being Hunted anyone?) when the culprit is actually their own inexperience, having to rely on off the shelf Unity plugins that don't support what they need to do and being incapable of writing their own. Bad workman blames their tools.
Worse, even if their claims are accurate, and Unity simply couldn't handle their game, then they didn't clearly research Unity well enough before spending months rewriting game in it last year, if they have now decided they need Unreal and Unity isn't going to work out. Should they not have gone from Ogre to Unreal? Why were they using Ogre in the first place? Are they going to discover in a year's time that Unreal is somehow incapable of handling their grandiose game design and that Cry Engine is the right choice for 2016? The fact that they would change engine and rewrite the entire game a year after being on EA, and that this wasn't even the first time since they started selling the game, in itself, should be evidence enough that buying this game would be a huge mistake. They are incapable of organizing a big game dev project like this, of planning ahead and preempting issues in development because they have no experience of such a big game project. Simple as that. Yet they are quick to boast of their extensive experience and knowledge at every turn (often saying demonstrably false technobabbley things that make any 3D programmers eyes pop out on stalks). Which brings me to....
4) Devs are well meaning and are dedicated to the game and community, but are arrogant beyond belief and suffer severe self-delusion of their own ability
, and this is infectious to the core community. They will not take on any criticism, waving off well meaning critics like flies with a derisive snort, and despite the user reviews and numerous complaints seem to be under the delusion that they have the skills necessary to make this game, and what they have is fun to play - which is clearly not the case. If the developers of the game are unable to objectively judge their own work, its merits and problems, then how can we trust them to work in the best interests of the game and community? It's like someone who is tone deaf being responsible for conducting an orchestra, and is only going to lead to a big mess. As evident in the past two or three years.
5) Their one and only big Unique Selling Point was their procedurally generated planet sized world. Despite this being a silly feature if you really
start to think about the implications, a lot of people bought the game because of this. In the past two years they have slowly distanced themselves from this, ditching random buildings, then ditching random map chunks, and recently ditching random terrain. This would be smart if decided right at the start, but after selling a kickstarter and an early access game based on this as their biggest selling point to set them apart from competition, then to get rid of it without any sense of contrition (a common thing with them) is not right. Their blog post announcing ditching this almost implied anyone who wanted this feature in first place were stupid and wrong.
6) I would bet body parts this game will be dead long long before it ever leaves Early Access. It was plain as day to me right from the start. Every word the developers uttered screamed naivety and deluded self-belief and everything since has just reinforced my suspicions. I have to credit them with more staying power than I expected though. It's possible they will continue to limp on longer than I would expect. This will never be a good game though. The talent and experience is just not there. Sad but true.