MMO Weekend

I spent this weekend playing several different MMOs, plus a couple other games, so I figured I’d give brief rundowns of them. I haven’t forgotten about my Belize vacation. I’ll get to it this week.

TERA

You might have seen a lot of talk about this Korean import lately, because its release date in NA and EU is coming up in a few weeks. This weekend was an open beta, so I figured I’d finally see what all the fuss was about. Since people were saying this would be the MMO to end all MMOs, that it would blow Guild Wars 2 out of the water, that “OMG can you believe it I don’t have to tab-target enemies and the game is so pretty,” I figured I’d find out for myself.

First, I never had any intention of buying this game, for the simple reason that the female armors — ALL the female armors — are so hypersexualized it’s insulting and degrading. Not one single female character exists for any other reason than the pleasure of the straight male gaze. Don’t get me wrong. Many of the armors are actually beautiful. If I saw some celebrity wearing them on the red carpet, I’d think she looked fantastic. But these are action heroes. They’re doing things besides walking down a flat sidewalk. We should have the option of not dressing solely so men can go, “Can you please stop rolling females? It’s distracting. LOL.” (Real quote heard in the starter zone, though I cleaned up the grammar).

But I decided to push that aside and see for myself. For the record, I reached level 12 with my sorcerer (play time was Friday evening, about half of Saturday). I can honestly say this: TERA may be the single most beautifully designed MMO I’ve ever played. It’s simply gorgeous. Taking the pegasus for the first time presented me with vistas I’d never seen before in an MMO. But as you’ll see later in this post, graphics can’t sell me on a game.

Questing: typical EQ/WoW/LOTRO clone. Find the quest giver. Read quest to kill [x], collect [x], or talk to/deliver [x]. The quests were almost as uninteresting as those in LOTRO (seriously, LOTRO quests are dull). When you’re done, return to claim your reward, which is probably money, potions, or bind on pickup gear.  The quest titles are humorous, much like WoW. My favorite was, “It was a Rock … Crawler,” because I play “Rock Lobster” from the B-52s on Rock Band 3 a lot.

Combat: No tab-targeting means to a certain extent player skill actually makes a difference. Your ability to time dodges and attacks effectively means you could take on tougher encounters than in other MMOs where dodge and block attacks are dependent on percentages. Combat is as gorgeous to watch as it is fun to do, too. This is probably the biggest change from other theme park MMOs.

Crafting: harvest goods, find a crafting station, buy recipes, etc. You know the drill by now. Again, nothing that really stands out. You don’t appear to be limited in crafting or harvesting professions, and harvesting will sometimes give you things like potions and buffs, but it’s otherwise nothing special.

I’m trying to come up with anything that makes it something other than a prettier WoW, but to be honest, other than combat, that’s about it. Even if their view of women wasn’t horrible, the game still doesn’t offer anything that a hundred other MMOs aren’t already offering.

If you’re not already tired of the current model of theme park MMOs, and you aren’t bothered by their view of women, TERA is a polished, gorgeous game that you’d probably enjoy. It’s due out in early May.

Next up …

Mortal Online

Mortal Online is an indie sandbox fantasy title. It’s an open-world, full-loot PvP game with a detailed crafting system, housing, guild warfare, and even full-frontal nudity (that manages to be far less offensive than TERA’s idea of female “armor.”) Graphics are good enough, though I wouldn’t call them amazing.

I’m a week in to my trial. This is a game that offers no quests and very little direction. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my time, but I’m not going to subscribe until after their next expansion, Awakening, There’s no firm release date, but I would guess it’ll be out in about six weeks. Their biggest problem is that it’s a sandbox title that still lacks enough toys. They’re working on it, though.

Mostly this is a game about deciding for yourself what you want to be and what you want to do. For example, you could be a brigand, waylaying passing players on the roads. A pickpocket, slipping your dextrous fingers into pockets that aren’t your own. You could be an alchemist, researching secret recipes. A hunter. A tamer. A merc for hire, protecting traders as they travel from one town to the next. You could become your guild’s go-to chef. A master archer. A healer. And so on. And when Awakening comes out, there will be even more possibilities.

It’s not a game for everyone. You have to be comfortable with the idea that you could lose everything you’re carrying and the horse that carried you at any moment. The basic tenet of EVE Online is “don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose.” You have to follow the same rule. Bank often. Watch your back. And be at least a little wary of anyone you meet.

I think this game will be the fantasy indie sandbox title everyone’s looking for. (By everyone, I mean everyone who is into this kind of game).

And finally …

WURM Online

All right, I’m just gonna say it: this game is ugly. The world graphics are at best okay. They’re acceptable at least, and they do have some things like bump-mapping and anti-aliasing. But characters? Holy cow are they hideous. And they’re identical. Every single character looks the same. And they move in this strange, gliding way with legs that scissor open and close like LEGO Minifigs (or like Minecraft’s characters). I guess it makes sense. WURM is a game Notch (of Minecraft fame) helped develop. But these aren’t adorably stubby cartoon characters. These are supposed to look real. Oh, and there are apparently almost no animations either. Characters don’t even sit on horses. They stand on them. It’s ridiculous. If I were guessing, I’d say it’s probably the absolute #1 reason people don’t play this game.

And yet, WURM Online may well be the best game I played all weekend.

After going through a good tutorial that explained basics like movement and camera angles, along with details like how slope and ground type affect movement speed, and even more information the UI and so on, you get to choose your game server. WURM offers both PvE only and PvP servers. I chose a PvP server.

Then it drops you into the world. And … well, after that it’s up to you. You’re given some starter gear, mostly tools and a basic sword and shield, and it’s up to you to decide what you want to do. You could be an explorer, looking for decaying old houses and villages and salvaging anything of value. You could start building your own house. Become a master burglar. Try to become mayor of a village or king of the realm. Trader. Farmer. Murderer. Miner. You can terraform the land, craft furniture or toys for sale. And so on.

The crafting system is very detailed, but there’s great wiki information on just about everything you might need to know. If you right-click on anything and select “What’s This?” it’ll bring up the wiki. An example of making just one thing: I wanted to start building my house, and I found out I needed to make large nails. To make large nails, you first need to find an iron vein and mine iron. When you have some iron, then you need to heat the iron in a campfire or other heat source until you get lumps of iron. While those lumps of iron are still hot, you need to combine them until you have a big enough lump to craft them together to make an anvil. Oh, but wait, before you can craft the anvil, you need a wooden mallet to put it together. This involves cutting down a tree, then chopping it into logs, then making the parts of the mallet, then putting the mallet together. One you have the mallet, use it on the still hot iron to create an anvil. With the anvil, you can use more heated pieces of iron to craft nails. (I’m writing this from memory, so I might not be exactly right, but the process is fairly close).

And now that you have nails, you can use them to start the process of building your house. You can see the influence this game had on Notch when he was making Minecraft, even though Minecraft’s building system is very simple (in a good way).

The complexity of WURM will keep it a niche game, but it’s also what I’m loving about it. I haven’t yet decided whether I’m going to subscribe. It could be the lack of polish just turns me away in the end. For now, though, I’m having a blast, and this is the one I find myself most eager to get back to at the moment.

And that’s all for now. Busy weekend.

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