Heads up: I have a hard time recommending this to anybody without a bit of insight before-hand, so otherwise I would honestly hit "NO" to recommend Villagers and Heroes for a vast majority, but I think the Steam rating deserves to be a little higher than just "Mixed".
Also understand that the energy-based system was taken out in April, I believe, so any reviews related to an energy system are ruled irrelevant.
Let me explain. I'm about 15 hours into this MMO, and it's been a very weird 15 hours. I have uninstalled this game COUNTLESS times prior to spending any more than maybe 15-20 minutes in each time. The game felt so broken and clunky that it was laughable. But it keeps coming up on websites as recommended for casual/sandbox MMOs. (and I've played big MMO titles since I was young, Archeage supposedly being one of the bigger "sandbox" types right now.) And people RAVE about this game to no end! So, I recently told myself just to push through what felt like torture... but this time, sitting down and trying not to laugh (or cringe), I actually was having FUN. And I spent 3 hours playing without a pause this time. I'll admit. It does feel a bit broken, it does feel a bit clunky. It has that sort of, Wizard 101ish feel to it, but what I'm finding out most about this game is that it's main focus isn't so much on PVE or combat itself. It's there, and it's how you'll start the game. But after the tutorial, your game will open up to so much more.
Housing, is instanced. It's in little player-populated villages with an elected mayor from the player base of your village. Each village has little projects like tailoring stations and what-have-you, and you can donate and help your village grow. You're asked if you'd like to befriend all your neighbors. (I did! I love a sense of community!) You're given 2 plots, one for farming and the other for ranching. As you level up your skills, you unlock new fruits, vegetables, flowers, and exotic whatnots to farm, or new animals (and new slots for more animals) to ranch. Housing is one thing that draws me to ANY MMO. This, unfortunately, is a game where your house, you cannot enter, and it serves as a vault. Although, with limited bag space (I tend to hoard items), the house-vault becomes essential, at least to my play-style. Housing is a nice, relaxed feel. It's at your own pace, as is the rest of the game.
Crafting is very simplistic. It's not hard to get majority of the lower level ingredients, and crafting is placed right into your hands as soon as you walk out of the tutorial, so you are able to do it as you progress through levels. (I balance out crafting and PVE so they stay side-by-side level-wise.)
Gathering is an incredibly fun aspect. But I'm not sure why. You see a node of iron, you click it, you gain it's materials. You click it 40 more times until you level up, then go to the next level-higher iron node, and click that another 40 times to gain those new, higher leveled items. There's something rewarding about it. There's something simple about it. You can do it as a primary goal, or you can do it as you're hunting. It's always an option, as is anything in this game.
But what I love most is the sense of freedom. You're never bogged down with this heavy pressure to hit end game content. (Right now, "Spooky Town" is in for Halloween, and it's supposedly levels 1-75, but it just raises you to the enemy level so you're free to join in the festivities!) You can fight and level your character if you want. You're free to gather materials for crafting if you want. You're free to harvest, gather, and fish until your heart explodes and your fingers ache. It doesn't feel so linear that you're following a pre-determined path.
If you can manage to get over some of it's very obvious flaws, and you want a sweet casual game with a great sense of freedom and community, it's definitely worth a shot. It's free after all.
And while we're talking about free, or in this case, a F2P---it's primarily a F2P. There /is/ a cash shop, but some items you can buy off the auction house for in-game currency. As for bag slots, if the game entertains me enough, I might drop a penny or two and grab a slot because it's getting a little tight over here at level 15. Extra space, XP boosts, outfits, alternate house styles, etc., are what primarily make up the item shop though, so it's nothing that's going to be crawling down your throat. There isn't any sort of intense creeping pressure that forces you to even look at it or acknowledge that it's there. And I like this, since I've played a few games in particular where it's big gold item shop sign flashes with pop ups and ads every few seconds. There is, actually, an in-game membership you can buy, but I particularly don't find this useful for the price that it's listed at. It seems a bit ridiculous, as I'd only want the vault space and not all these crazy bonuses and XP boosters and everything else...
Anyway, as a quick summary, I would say these are some major points to consider.
AND ALTHOUGH THE CONS LIST MAY BE LONGER, it is longer because I want people to be aware of the obvious flaws first. I believe that seeing the reality of it first may better the expectations!
- Fun, relaxing pace.
- Harvest Moon/Farmville housing feel.
- Great sense of community. Forums are still busy and there's a good number of people online.
- Gathering resources, materials, and crafting all feels solid and rewarding.
- Combat is a little loose, but still feels rewarding when leveling up.
- A game with a more REALISTIC (loosely used) medieval feel, rather than fantasy.
- Music is pretty dreadful at times. I only enjoy maybe one or two tracks, but the others feel cheap. At that point, I usually mute it and put on some authentic medieval background music.
- Controls feel horrendous at first glance. Jumping looks like gliding on ice, and you can dodge-roll while jumping.
- NPC's unfortunately greet you with a loud German "Hallo!". It's connected to the "Sound Effects" slider in the sound tab, but that is also linked to every sound effect in the game. I can't figure out a way to mute, or at least lessen the volume on NPC's, because the same two voices are killing me. But I'm trying hard to just pretend it's not there. So far it's working.
- PVE/Combat/skill tree is very simplistic! You're free to mess with your build, but it's still only a few active/passive selections. It feels fun, though, and never feels like a chore.
- Most of the quests are generic fetch quests, but they (seem to be at this point) very short and sweet.
- Graphically, the game isn't the best. It looks childish at times, but I've noticed it almost feels like a simplistic cel-shaded look at this point. For some reason, despite my i7 processor and brand new $300+ graphics card, it still bogs down in Ardent City at times. (I say "bogged" and mean 49 fps, but I'm picky and like my steady 60 fps.) I tried running this on my older can't-run-Minecraft-worthy laptop, and it would hardly get 15 fps on lowest settings. Take that into account, although you're not losing much but a game since the game's free.
I know it seems the cons outweigh the pros, and the pros seem far and few between when you load the game up, but if you push through it, Villagers and Heroes really delivers a one-of-a-kind simple, fun, happy, relaxing experience that I was looking for. For me, it falls somewhere between casual mobile gaming and a small indie MMO in regards to how it plays. You don't have much to lose, but go into it with an open mind, although with these problems in mind. The game is definitely shaping up to be something addictive.