Life is just one of those must-play experiences, with an unheard of addiction rate of 99.95% of anyone who's ever played it. However, merely because it is addicting does not make it good. Therefore, I present to you an in-depth review of Life.
Let's start from the very beginning: Life is played on 6 continents, five of which are spawning grounds for characters. These continents are vast -- approximately 100,000 - 150,000 times bigger than those in the second largest MMORPG, World of Warcraft. In order to play Life, however, one must be invited. This is not a game where the purchase guarantees entry to the game world itself; instead, two characters must decide that they will allow a third in, and complete an in-game ritual verifying this fact. But the nitty-gritty of character generation is a complete surprise to even the most hardened MMO veteran: it's completely and totally random. When you're invited to the game world, you have no say over your opening race, your stats such as strength, intelligence, soul, and ethics, faction, or starting location. Instead, these are determined by your invitees, just as when you invite someone in, your stats assist in the creation of their stats.
Life comes with an extensive tutorial period taking approximately 14 to 25 years to complete. This is simply massive in terms of a learning curve for any MMO. However, the characters who invited you in are also responsible for teaching you the basics of the game; their performance in tutorial delivery can be exceptional or non-existent, or they could just hand you off to someone else if they feel they can't do the job. Although the tutorial is widely considered to be the most difficult part of the game, the rest of the game is by all means worth it.
The graphics in Life are nothing short of stellar, complete with seamless anti-aliasing, bump mapping across millions of textures, and the detail is simply astounding. Best played at a resolution of 8192 x 6144 (termed 20/20 in game), even the very threads in a character's clothing are rendered with extreme accuracy. However, there is a catch. The way you handle your character and the events that happen to him or her can affect the graphics in game as well. The resolution in game can drop as low as 80 x 60, rendering you, the player unable to see virtually any detail in the game world at all; the visual component may even permanently turn off if enough damage is sustained to the eyes.
In the same fashion, the audio component is also easily adjustable. By experiencing high volumes, the in game volume will decrease, and inversely, low volumes will cause it to increase. As your character levels up, past audio experiences will affect the quality of future audio experiences, and if the audio is traumatic enough, the game may set the volume to 0, and since these options can't be reached by the player, there's nothing you can do.
Life is the first MMO to offer its own physics system, although this physics system does cover everything down to heat transfer at the atomic level (quite a departure from the inaccurate system of Half-Life 2), there is always an unaccountable error of about 3%. However, this physics system was worked out and formulated by players with in-game tools.
When Life was first released, the developers had guided the players through the game, supplying player tutorials, and creating the plot. However, over the beta of Life and all through the development cycle, the offerings of plot and events had gradually fell away, eventually leaving only the players interacting with the engine.
Because the entire world is now player driven, with players setting objectives and paying the respective rewards to each other upon completion of the goals (for example, receiving a set amount of one of many currencies depending on the player's region every month for working for another player). This results in a near-combatless environment, as most players are too preoccupied with inter-player interaction to grind the wildlife for levels.
In addition, since the developers are no longer supplying new content to Life, the new content is player driven. Some players can elect to be musicians, for example, and there are player controlled and created mechanisms in game to distribute and play music.
Life is not without its negatives, though. Oftentimes the player created campaign seems long and unnecessary, and once a player logs out, they can never log back in again. In addition, once a character dies, after three minutes the character can no longer be revived. Ever.
Life is a good game that makes itself available for people of all sorts and skill levels, crossing all sorts of genres. Life is a must play game.