Love Impressions — A Game That Rewards Dedication

Love is complex. Love is confusing. Love can hurt if you don’t pay it enough attention.

For a game created by a single guy, Love, the MMO-ish first-person shooter-like Minecraft-esque adventure game has a lot going on. It’s also beautiful, with watercolor-inspired visuals that set it apart from most first-person titles out there. Though the graphics are low-res, much like Mojang’s monster building-stuff game, Love takes an approach to visualizations that gives its world a great deal of character and style. Energy beams criss-cross the sky; bubbling particles rise up from the ground. Giant totems and monoliths are key to the game’s progression, and you’ll gather them and add them to your settlement.

What the hell is Love, even? It’s a little hard to explain. Created by one man, Eskil Steenberg, Love is a game in which the world is alive around you. Players take on the role of a tribe tasked with building a settlement on the procedurally generated game planet, and then using that base of operations to fight back other, AI-controlled tribes. The AI tribes aren’t necessarily hostile, but they’re controlled by a certain object known as The Artifact. AI characters are inexplicably drawn to The Artifact, and once a tribe has it, that tribe becomes aggressive and attempts to take over and dominate the rest of the world. You have to stop that from happening.

But there’s also a hefty application of Building Stuff, not unlike what’s seen in Minecraft. When you’re not actively fighting enemy AI with various tools, including a “blaster” and explosives, you’ll be building your settlement. It’s not a game world in which you’ll spend a lot of time creating grand castles, replica train stations or scale models of the U.S.S. Enterprise, however — players need to be more pragmatic in Love.

At least, that’s the impression I get. The game’s super-steep learning curve means that actually getting into it and playing it is a bit of a challenge.

Visually, Love is stunning in its way. If Picasso or Monet were to sit down and build a game like Minecraft, it might look a little something like Love. That’s not to say Love isn’t populated by rough edges and strange conglomerations of geometrical shapes, but the bright colors and fading textures present an alien world that both begs to be explored and presents foreboding feeling.

New players are encouraged to drop into Love’s “Beginner Server,” where they can screw around with the tools without getting shot by enemy AI. Doing this gives you a chance to run around and explore, and while there are helpful tips that pop up periodically on the screen, it’s a place that’s confusing at best. Luckily, your HUD includes a few useful bits of information — like a compass that can point you back to your settlement from wherever you are, or to find the nearest token you might need. But for the most part, Love starts out a a bit of a confusing mess.

Here’s the way the game is supposed to flow, at least in broad strokes: When you start out, if there’s no settlement for human players, you’ll get a chance to drop your “Monolith” and make one. This object is your home base and you need to protect it — often players will bury it some to keep it out of the line of fire.

Once the Monolith is placed, you’ll need to start heading out into the world to find “tokens.” Tokens are big rocks you can place around your Monolith, and once you have them, they’ll bestow power upon you — for example, the first token you’ll find is always the “blaster” token, which gives you the ability to shoot guys. Next is the “Smooth Edit Tool,” which allows you to manipulate the world around by building the ground up or tearing it down.

After hunting down the basic tokens from around the world (they generally spawn in interior areas, but each has its own rules, it seems), you can start base-building. There are a number of elements that you’ll need to get to know when playing Love. One good example is the cable relay system, which are poles you’ll find around the world and can place. Connecting two of these poles creates a cable between them, not unlike a ski lift. You can then use that cable to progress from one location to another.

Cable relays and other devices need power, so you’ll need to find and secure “power wells.” These project power in beams in straight lines, which you can bounce off special power relay poles, which will redirect the power beams elsewhere. Using that power, you can start to build things like turrets and teleporters.

There are also special abilities called “pods” that you can gather. Each player can handle four powers at a time, each slotted to a different spot. Your first two powers generally should be the blaster and the smooth edit tool, and the last two can be a number of things, like bombs you can throw, wind gusts you can create (and ride) and a whole lot of other things.

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