I've been falling behind in these; other games have taken the place of free (or near-free) trials. With Ryzom recently transitioning to a pay-to-lay model under its latest owners, now seemed like a good time to check this MMO out.
Pity I didn't make it past my first few minutes out of the tutorial. Or even finish the tutorial itself, for that matter.
ADHD Summary: Despite having a number of nice design approaches, the ultimate grind of a sandbox turns me off this game.
Ryzom is something interesting by virtue of being something different. It is meant to be a more realistic world than many seen in MMOs, with animals flocking together, predators eating carnivores and a generally 'different' fantasy setting available to play in. There are four player races - three human-like races and one in a mask. I picked the masked race and have to admit the mask customisation (namely 'how pointy do you want it to be and what pattern?') was a nice touch.
Have boxing gloves, will beat up the local wildlife.
The tutorial sets out to teach you the four different experience paths available in Ryzom - Fight, Magic, Crafting and Harvesting. Each system is an entirely different XP path, so that if you fight a creature using magic and combat weapons, you'll gain both magic and fight XP. Crafting items often requires you to harvest materials you find in the environment, so you can gain harvest XP while going on a crafting session. It's nice to see (at the early stages, anyway) these four systems being equal.
The tutorial sends you off to four different places to learn each of these systems and initially this is fun. But it doesn't take long for a rather extensive grind to kick in. Really, if you feel you are grinding out the tutorial, things are very wrong in design-land.
The crafting tutorial sends you out to gather mushrooms from a creature that sets off an area-effect poison when it dies as well as not always dropping the mushrooms - between having to rest between fighting mobs that didn't drop what I needed and generally feeling uninspired, I gave up on this task. A mission given by the combat tutor was worse: go off and defeat multiple opponents who were all much stronger than you could get in the tutorial. Perhaps this was meant to inspire me to team up; all it did was drive me to other missions. The harvest tutor sent me off to only gather Fine quality ingredients from a certain location that were 'hidden' and required my character to wait about 12 seconds for every search, the majority of which turned up empty handed.
I gave up on the tutorial, went to the starting village for my race, then looked at the initial quests for the area. They were a bunch of crafting, harvesting and combat quests I couldn't do, plus delivery quests for characters I couldn't find. Bye bye, Ryzom.
Ryzom gets some points from me for looking different to everything else out there.
This is a real pity, because Ryzom does have some excellent features. The skill customisation functionality is fantastic, where you can build your own skills out of options and costs (which have to balance out, so that adding extra accuracy to an attack will mean you have to add an additional stamina cost or even a hitpoint cost). Even early on I could see how flexible such a system could be. In crafting, you'd actually add this to your base skill, not your item, so that everything you produced would have this bonus(es). The outputs of crafting also depended on the materials you had to put in, so that the same pair of boots would have different stats depending on what materials you used in each location of the item.
Those are some pretty big shoulderpads. Not WoW big, but still pretty big.
The look of Ryzom is also distinctive - although not blessed with the latest graphics, the graphical and location styling is not a copy of yet another fantasy game, which has to stand for something. A large number of things can be displayed on the screen at once, as herds of creatures pass by or flock together - Ryzom does a good job of looking like a pseudo-world, rather than mobs just aggressively loitering in place waiting for death-by-player.
Other big plus for Ryzom is the Ring of Ryzom - a separate system where players can craft their own scenarios. Scenario-building was pretty easy for a beginner to get a hold on - my amateur-hour fumblings produced a small village where two groups of opposing forces would come in and fight for my entertainment - but apparently also contain a lot of depth so that complex situations can be planned out. Player-made content is, in my opinion, a way of the future for MMOs, so it was good to see a title like Ryzom with such functionality (although I think its separate-ness from the true game probably hurt its true value).
One final thing - Ryzom's community is very good and friendly to newbs. I asked a few questions and got answers back quickly. (Of course, I didn't go around spamming how WoW was the greatest MMO evah, so those who do might find their Ryzom community experience a bit different.)
Without doubt, Ryzom is a niche title. It's a sandbox that tries a number of different things, all related to letting a player customise their character's advancement and abilities. It's player-made content facilties are very good and a step in the right direction. But the action play experience during the tutorial was anything but fun. It was a grind to get through and in no way made me want to fork out money to play this game. My understanding is that the tutorial is actually a bad representation of the Ryzom experience. Be that as it may, I'm not willing to pay any money to find out.