A gamer for over 25 years. I play cards, boardgames, table top games, PC stand alone but more than anything I am a huge MMO fan. I go by the name Chryses, I have been Guild leader, trooper and crafter. I am an avid writer and I welcome you to my blog.
Note: I like to write fiction when I get a chance. I wrote a short story based on a character called 'Bullet' set in the Fallen Earth world. After completing the short story I wanted to continue the character and I have completed 4 full chapters with the 5th being finished now. Have approximately 12 chapters in the pipeline. It does contain gore and some unpleasant scenes so if you don't like that stuff, then this may offend. Thanks for taking the time to read.
"Heaven for some, hell for others"
I have played FE for quite a few hours now and even though I have just hit level eight (takes ages to level) I feel I have experienced a great deal in the game already. A good sign from the outset is that I am always looking forward to logging in and exploring the barren world, which is FE.
FE in my opinion falls in between a main stream MMO and an indy game. It dares to be different in some key parts in the game but it still maintains enough mainstream elements to make it feel familiar and comfortable.
The most refreshing factor of the game is the skills system. In itself it’s not unique or original but it’s well thought out and even at this early stage of the game it comes across as being balanced without any obvious exploits. In short you earn Action Points that you can allocate throughout your attributes or skills directly. Attributes cost 5 points each whilst skills can be upgraded 1 point at a time. The skills have a direct affect on the access you have to weapons, armour, combat etc. The use of AP’s doesn’t finish there. Depending on your skill level you can gain access to purchasable skills that can be very useful. What this means is that you have complete control over how your character develops and having a hybrid is perfectly good option.
Moving on to an area always close to my heart is crafting. I don’t judge a game solely on this but if crafting is under par then I expect a great deal more from the rest of the game play. In FE the crafting is a core component to the game and I would be surprised if a player could manage without it. Once again I am not going to stand on the rafters and scream joy to the world due to a new and exciting system, because it’s not. However it is an in-depth varied system that incorporates another large element of the game, which is scavenging and salvaging. I have played too many MMO’s that have a similar crafting system but it feels bolted on as an afterthought and thus suffers from lack of resources or direction. FE has several categories and dozens of ingredients a player can collect. On the face of it I would be groaning but to support crafting a player can salvage and scavenge for ingredients. These are generally quite common and one of my favourite features of this game is the one seamless world with a massive exploration element. It can be a viable option to log into FE and just scoot or ride around looking for piles of wreckage ranging from garbage bags to forklift trucks.
By scavenging these wreckages and other mobs you will find more than enough ingredients. Unlike a lot of games where crafting is only useful once you hit upper skill limits or have access to rare minerals, FE has made it useful to craft right from the outset. First you need to craft to increase your skill in that area and of course once you reach a certain level you can craft more effective items. However I personally have found it quite useful to craft food items for buffs, weapon and ballistic repair kits and I have also made my first two melee weapons, a golf club, yes I used a golf club to beat the living hell out of my enemies and more recently a crude sword. To support this, the auction system seems robust enough to make it a generous money spinner, but I have to admit I have not spent a great deal of time on there but judging from the 20+ players standing around the auctioneer all the time I guess it’s working.
The more familiar part of FE is the mission system. You grab your missions from various NPC’s and they are generally kill, go to location, courier or another abstract version. The saving grace is that you have access to vehicles and or horses from the start of the game. I can’t believe how much better a game is when they give you mobility at the start because no matter how many pretty waterfalls I run by, after the first one or two times I start cursing the damn elf that has asked me to go to the same spot three freaking times, its beyond me why they can’t give me the whole story up front! Anyway in short I have not noticed mission fatigue setting in yet but then again I try and pace myself these days. It’s just a nice feeling when you can jump on your quad bike and drag off into the desert to knock of some job. Not to mention the substantial inventory and weight allowance they give you.
On to the big selling piece of the game...combat. I have to admit I really haven’t been following FE that much over the years because my attention has been on Jumpgate Evolution and a couple of other potential sci-fi gems. One of the key reasons for trying FE is the ability to have true FPS combat. Thankfully the game is true to its word and you really need to aim manually and hitting the head will generate a critical hit and do maximum damage. Shoot slightly off target and you will deal a glancing blow. This has given a different feel to the MMO genre because after so many auto aim, auto lock attack options in other MMO’s this combat system feels fresh. For the gamers who prefer to get up close and personal to see their victims face before drilling their golf club into their skull, melee combat is a viable option and will not put you at a disadvantage; both range and melee are used widely in this game.
On to the environment and social aspect of the game...The game is called Fallen Earth for a reason. Its post nuclear war and mankind as we know it, exists solely in the Grand Canyon. So when I see people moan in general chat about the landscape I wonder if they knew what game they were purchasing. FE is barren filled with desert shrubs and run down shanty towns. If you need a lot of colour in a game and thick lush forest then don’t buy FE. The game has a similar feel to the Fallout series and I am glad they didn’t shy away from this.
On a social level people are still getting to grips with the game and grouping is minimal as I can see. However when I post a question I have numerous responses and yesterday when I asked for help to kill a boss someone popped by and help me clobber him. I can see grouping being easier than most MMO’s due to travelling at high speeds and being able to drive through mobs without any real issue, no more dying on the way to a group impatiently waiting for you to join. The good news is that there is only one server so no more trying to work out which server you should pick out of the 200 available, only to then find out that all your mates have joined another. I believe another server is on the way for the EU, especially because the population is bursting when its EU and USA peak time on the weekend. When the towns fill up with a few dozen horses and quad bikes the lag sets in, which now brings me on to performance and customer service.
Performance on a whole is quite good for a new release. There will always be the odd person for whatever reason getting hammered with lag and they will generally become a constant troll on the forums or in game channels. What has been a big surprise is the FPS I am receiving when the game is on max settings. Outside of towns the FPS is hitting 60-150 FPS which is outstanding but it will drop down to 10-25 FPS in the main towns but it’s still possible to get around and do what I need to do. Based on the fact that there can easily be up to 100+ people jammed in a small area then this is still pretty decent. I may drop a few settings and see how go but for now max settings is quite feasible.
Another nice surprise is the customer support in-game. Most new launches the GM’s are rarely found and never heard from in the channels. FE has regular GM’s in the help channel answering questions whilst spanking the odd prat who decides using CAPS is a good idea. On a more serious note I lost 30 cogs, which took a while to save up and after writing a ticket the very next day the items and mission were corrected for me. So in general my experience has been a positive one. Known issues are picked up quickly and it’s nice to see a GM confirm that it was being addressed immediately and I have seen firsthand bugs being fixed in a minor patch the very next day. In general I feel this company really wants to remain hands on and keep on top of issues that pop up and the GM’s actively sought out the location and exact issue when players start complaining in channel. I for one will renew my sub and will continue to play until I can really experience the PvP element of the game and for once I don’t have a sour taste in my mouth after purchasing, yet another MMO.
Buy this game if you:
• Loved the Fallout Series or Mad max films (excluding no 3 because it was lame)
• Enjoy FPS in a Sci-Fi setting
• Enjoy open world with exploration and a deep crafting system.
• Inclined to sandbox games with a semi steep learning curve
• Prefer a classes system without pre-determined character types
Don’t buy this game if you:
• Only like fantasy
• Prefer colourful setting with a multitude of mobs to kill
• Prefer auto aim / auto hit in a familiar MMO setting
• Dislike a barren, cowboy like setting.
• Need a class system with titles and like to have lots of race options
Screenshots taken with pretty much max settings. Look a lot better in game but these hopefully give a good feel for it. I will take some more of me in combat later today. Also keep an eye on the FPS middle left of the screen. Mostly around 60-80 FPS.
END of review
PREVIOUS ONGOING NOTES
After a 6 months break from MMO's I decided to jump into Fallen Earth yesterday based on the fact it sounded interesting on paper and with the lack of Sci-fi MMO's in the marketplace I wanted to see what the title had to offer. Since the patch takes about 10-15hours to install I didnt get a lot of game time in so I will continue to add updates as I go along.
Character generation is interesting as it has set profiles but there are so many options you pretty much be one of a kind in the game. Better than most but not as advanced as AoC or similar. Much better than WAR or even LotRO in my opinion.
Graphics - I have to say that I was slightly concerned about the graphics after watching youtube footage and checking out the screenshots. But for those of you who are like me and a bit of a pixel whore, don't worry, the graphics are definitely modern, it aims for realism and carry the feel of a single player title like Fallout 3. However as in all MMO's the scenery has reduced detail to cope with the bandwidth.
Combat - This is an area I am quite impressed with so far. I bought Tabula Rasa and even though I enjoyed the game to a certain degree the combat auto aim did bother me slightly. If you are a sci-fi fan like myself and a FPS fan then Fallen Earth will be of interest. The aiming is totally manual and has a real FPS feel to it so even though I have not participated in PvP, I can finally see some PvP enjoyment in a Sci-fi MMO with. Better still, it has realism for drops, no more killing 10 creatures who are using shotguns and only looting a bowl of lettuce. Maybe it will change but so far killing humanoids will result in them mostly dropping the weapons they used and their ammo as well.
Skill system - This may be a good sign but I haven't worked it out yet but then again I have only started the game and not really tried working it out. However the openness it shows is exciting and it means I won't be pigeon holed into a class system.
General feel - The game looks polished for a brand new release. I know we shouldn’t be surprised because normally when I buy a new product it works well but hey, it’s an MMO. I have had one CTD but other than that blip, the FPS for me is very fast, smooth and without lag. The movement of the character is ok but not as fluid as Tabula Rasa, which is a shame but then again Fallen Earth finally looks like a Sci-fi game with depth and I will take that over a nice jump emote any day. A nice surprise is the voice overs and sound quality. I still need to get out of the starter mission, which is quite substantial, but it’s nice to see the extra touch and have voice overs for all NPC’s with dialogue.
So far with my limited experience of the game I quite excited about what the game may deliver down the track. For gamers seeking a different genre to fantasy and enjoyed Fallout 3, then Fallen Earth may be an MMO of interest but for now I will restrain from giving it a score. More in a few days...
After thought...To set up the account it was relatively simple. However the patching will take a good 7+ hours. Continue to check it as it will occasionally hang. Don’t panic, if you close and restart it will continue patching files where it finished. The bar will show 1% but it hasn’t returned to the beginning, so don’t freak like I did!
5 DAYS LATER
5 days on I have managed to leave the tutorial, complete missions in the first town and end up in a much larger town called Oilville. My opinion of the game has varied from ok to liking it, possibly not a lot at this stage but definitely liking it. Amendment to the above. I mentioned that once you kill a creature its common for it to drop a weapon its using. Well post tutorial its a lot more random and pretty much standard for an MMO.
Some of the big plus's to date:
•Open world with no loading screens and I mean none. I drove for ages and its quite refreshing to feel like the world is one whole location. Something AoC desperately needed
•True FPS and aiming. I have been trying to judge the damage based on where the hit landed. The damage is quite realistic and you will get a 'glance' hit if your aim is bad. There is no auto aim or auto hit. So 'yes' you need to use both hands and do some work.
•Vehicles at the start. More games need to do this because it allows a player to explore freely and not get tied down with walking everywhere. There are plenty of incentives to acquire more vehicles but having a little quad bike at the start has been a great addition. (Horse is an option also)
•General crafting. Crafting in this game may not be ground breaking but its certainly in-depth. You can acquire new recipes from missions or vendors etc. There are literally dozens and dozens so you can pretty much get involved in anything you want. Also the balance is there at the start. At just level 2 I was crafting basic food items to use out in the field.
•Stable launch. Now this is up for debate but I cant believe I have this game on max settings and I still get a range between 50-150 FPS! Ok I have seen it dip as low as 15 FPS but that was standing in front of the Auction vendor with another 25 people. However a game with no loading screens and no zones performing at this level just a few days after launch its pretty special. I see he occassional moan about lag but its certainly not a common issue for the majority. I think they were smart by making such a big world then providing personal fast transport at the start, it has certainly spread the load a fair bit.
•Support. Once again open for debate but there are GMs in the chat channel answering questions and keeping an eye on the comms traffic. I have not seen this before and its nice to see some GMs offering help and advice after launch in a public environment. I did see some people moan when none where about but it was about 3am in the morning!!
•Exploration. I love an MMO that allows exploration and the chance of stumbling across something. Unfortunatley most MMO's don't cater for this. FE actually has quite a lot. If you kill a critter and have a skill to skin it then you can loot it and rummage through its guts to get another item or two. Running, driving or riding through the wilderness you come across scraps or plants that, if you possess the skill, you can salvage or harvest for random items. It brings variety to the game and it also means a player could almost build everything free if they wanted to spend the time searching for it. Oh, you also get real XP for salvaging, skinning and harvesting etc. Plus the skill you use increases allowing more options.
•This may not bother everyone but the landscape could be an issue for people who want a lot of greenery and forests etc. Its very...barren and post apocolyptic..funny that. There are some really nice structures that are detailed but the open land can be a little plain but then again I personally would buy that any day over loading screens and lag everywhere. There is always a trade off.
• update- Combat and non combat swap over. When you enter free mode or combat mode you push the 'tab' key. No big deal right. However once you kill the mob and want to loot it, you need to push the 'tab' key again to enter non combat mode to loot. Still doesn't sound like a big deal right? Well after a while it becomes tiresome pushing the 'tab' key for every single loot. Basically now I take a few mobs down then loot but I do feel they need a much easier option to loot in both modes. correction - prompted by the comment below I needed to correct the above concern. It is possible to scavenge in combat mode and its actually quite easy by pushing 'y'. So not a concern at all but I will leave it here as a point of reference.
•Learning curve. I don't have a problem with this but the game does have enough differences that make you ask loads of questions or spend time to work out the gameplay. I actually enjoy this learning process but if you are a player that wants to jump in and understand the game in 5 minutes then you may get frustrated.
•Not a concern but it will be if you don't like this genre of game. I can see Fallen Earth having a long term following but quite a selective group who like this genre. Its very close to Fallout 3 gameplay feel so if you hate or love that game then I would suggest basing your assumptions of Fallen Earth on that game if you are trying to decide to play or not.
Overall I am pretty happy right now with the game and looking forward to what has to come, especially PvP and factions. I wouldn't say the game is that niche but if you are into hunting trolls and goblins whilst running through pretty forests then this may be a rude shock. Something else of interest is that I have played for several hours and I am still level 5. No problem really but its quite slow compared to other MMO titles.
More to come once I level up some more...until then I may see you in Oilville
THE CHRONICLES OF SPELLBORN – Initial thoughts
In light of the fact I am becoming increasingly tired with my current list of games (still enjoying LotRO but I need some PvP in my life). I decided to download the trial for The Chronicles of Spellborn. I never expected to do this as I am not a fan of the artwork in the screenshots and I read that the EU server would be separate from the UK one (however this is not the case) but for those who are interested here are my thoughts after 2 hours of game time.
September 13th - FINAL SUMMARY (high teens, several hours)
I felt like I have left this blog hanging a bit and I wanted to wrap it up, even if nobody reads this, at least its closure for me. I played Spellborn to high teens and my thoughts had not dramatically changed from my initial views. However I did stop my sub after approxmiately 2 months. Mostly due to real life and not having the time to learn another game. Spellborn may not be for everyone but it has brought in a lot of new concepts and ideas, this however may be its downfall. Have they stretched the boundaries too far from the typical model? Who knows but I feel with the lack of publicity and mass marketing (unfortunately not everyone has a budget the size of AoC or WAR) the game may end up becoming a very niche game or fall over like TR did. Either way it would be unfortunate as I saw some real potential in the game and it seems that indy titles either need mass viral marketing like Darkfall or get picked up by SoE for a buck after they completely crash. In all honesty I have been offline for 3 months so I should check if the game is still running or not but if its still downloadable and gives 10+ day trial period then its a no brainer, try the game and at the very least you had a chance to experience a new combat system and view some pretty freaked out worlds...that somehow grow on you.
April 26th - UPDATE
First of all thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on this game and making comments. I have decided to give another update on my experiences in the past 2 days and focus on community, combat and performance.
It's hard to comment on a community in any game as it's so subjective and on most occasions it comes down to pure luck who you bump into on your MMO travels. However if you see a constant level of maturity in the channels with people willing to discuss the game and help others, then I believe it's fair to make judgement. In TCOS I have been pleasantly surprised with the community as a whole. Taking into account I am playing on a PvP server I was expecting to see the usual slanging matches on global chat and the usual, 'STFU!', 'F.....g NOOB!' etc. Although amusing it reduces the RPG and the overall lore feel of the game and unfortunately this is something I have just come to accept in other titles such as AoC and EVE. Yesterday I was invited to a guild, which I accepted and on a purely functional level the interface is completely intuitive just like the chat channels. I still can't believe how many companies get this wrong when it really should be this easy, so well done to them for getting this right at least. Yesterday I took the time to interview a few high level guild members about the game and their overall thoughts are:
Major areas they liked
Major areas they didn't like:
I still need to play this game a lot more to really gauge the culture but if I was asked to make a comparison then I would say it is like LotRO.
After two days I am now starting to understand how the combat in this game shines. They have managed to pull off a system that requires skill but is not cumbersome or takes a PhD to understand. It really is like Oblivion where it's all about positioning and timing. Before you start thinking this is a hack and slash game let me add that you also learn skills and can arrange them how you want. What this means is that you could face off against another player and you really have no clue what they are using or how they fight. I am holding myself back from saying this is one of the most exciting combat engines I have seen, but it's certainly looking that way. I have enjoyed AoC a fair bit but the combat does require a lot of button pushing and sometimes I feel like I am losing the experience of combat because I am concentrating too much on hitting 10 keys at once. TCOS feels like I still have the same amount of freedom during combat but the awkward key pushing has been removed. I still stand by my initial thoughts that this game feels like Tabula Rasa in movement and fluidity, yet it requires a lot of skill. Unfortunately I have only had 30 minutes in a group so its hard to judge group combat but I have to say I am almost tempted to sign up jus so I can experience this later on. Large PvP combat must be insane.
This is where I now have an issue. I accidentally downloaded the US client and played on that for the first day and even though the morning was very stable I started to have disconnects every two minutes in the afternoon. I decided to install the EU client since I am based in the EU and the issue has remained and even worsened. In fact I could only manage 2 minutes of game time in a sitting last night. Before this turns you off I have spoken at length with players in game and on a whole most have had very few discos. There were a few others that had the same problem as me but this morning I logged on for about 1-2 hours and had no issues. I believe it may have something to do with the security or my firewall but you can imagine my frustration when I am starting to enjoy the game and I crash mid combat.
I am seriously considering signing up to this game because there are features I have not found in any other MMO. The unique feature PeP is in my opinion one of the best thought out bonus / death penalty mechanics. Basically you have two XP levels. One is the standard level 1,2,3,4 and so on but for each kill you also gain PeP XP, which then gives buffs like speed etc. Once you die you lose a whole PeP level. It is slightly left field but its a fabulous idea and although harsh in some ways, it works. From talking with high level players in my guild about the lore and the different houses you can join it seems there is a lot of potential for end content as there is mention of house vs house PvP over land etc. Yes I miss some of the finer elements in other MMO's such as voice overs on missions etc. But I have found myself missing these less or not at all since the game brings something new and fresh to the MMO genre. I will still reserve judgment until I have played to level 20 or so, which does imply I will be subbing but this unfortunately will be determined based on the disco issue.
APRIL 24TH - INITIAL THOUGHTS
• Amazingly it was so simple to download. Took around 2 hours, created account in 1 minute and boom I was in the game. Just a side note to those major companies out there who make this process so difficult, “Why can’t you make it this easy!”
• No credit details either
I am not sure if it’s the trial but there are only 2 races you can pick from and male or female. So that gives you a whopping 4 choices. Thereafter it’s the usual pick armour, face, body type etc. It’s extremely limited compared to other games but funny enough not everyone looks alike. If you are the type of player that loves to tweak eyebrows and ears etc, you will be disappointed as its all set options.
There is a handy little tutorial that runs you through the movements and basic combat. You get to fight very early on and to give you a taster for the games lore; you defend a flying ship against a massive looking puff fish creature that spews little puff like creatures that fly around attacking you. Strange hey!? Well yes…but stick with me.
ENTERING YOUR FIRST ZONE
Once you defend against the horde of flying puff fish you enter a land where you can pick up missions and gather your bearings. It seems the land is floating with flying ships moving around in the distance. I am not sure if I am more concerned about this or my complete acceptance of it! Either way I venture off and I am pleasantly surprised to see a multitude of players running around and global chat being very active, a good start. Better still chat is intuitive and quite easy to use, I can never understand how companies get this part so wrong but luckily it’s not the case here.
Within 10 minutes I am killing bears and picking turnips off the ground. The missions are the standard, kill this, pick that up, find that person or get to that place. However they have thankfully avoided the trap of making each poor gamer kill 20 bears and then get asked to collect 20 claws from 20 new bears! *sigh* the most I was asked to do is kill 5 creatures. I could sense a couple of digs at other MMO’s when upon completion of one mission the NPC stated that he could still hear creatures but then proceeded to tell me, “Don’t worry! I am not going to ask you to go and kill more for me!” Very funny indeed… I gather from the game they are focused on combat lasting longer than normal so it makes sense to reduce the number of kills. Jumping on to combat now…
I don’t want to turn this into a tutorial so I won’t go into specifics here. However I was quite surprised by the combat. It felt a lot like Tabula Rasa in movement and feel as in it was fluid and very easy to move about. To kill 1 bear it took about 1-2 minutes and this is quite a long time considering the time it takes to kill a bear in say, LotRO or even AoC. Combat was more like Oblivion since you swing to hit and you can move, jump out of the way and circle. At this point I started to notice the graphics less and began to enjoy the game. I know MMO’s can not compete with single player games but at least in this MMO they give the player the ability to win a fight based on how they actually fight, crazy idea I know! The other area that seems unique is how the skills are used. You get to select which ones you want to use on a bar that rotates on the bottom and for each kill you get something called PEP that increases and starts to give buffs. You lose this once you die.
I am sure people will have different experiences with this but I was slightly shocked at how stable it was. I played on 1680x1050, all settings on high and AA x2 to start with. I figure the FPS was around 30-40 and in a 2 hour game period I had 2 crashes to login screen but I was right back in 1 minute later. Take into account I am in a noob area with every other player and the game has just launched, this is pretty impressive. There was a tiny delay after hitting a key or attacking but it was hardly noticeable. Above all it didn’t feel like a Beta.
From the limited time I had in the game I was impressed with people I came across. As mentioned global chat was very chatty and a good sign is the lack of complaints. Someone jumped in and asked how the game was and a few responses came back, “amazing!” “Awesome!” “Best MMO ever!” now that may be taking it a little far but what was interesting is that no one jumped in to disagree. I was pleasantly surprised to see guilds already advertising for players and see groups forming and even a few jokes being thrown around. Thankfully there was a lack of foul language for the sake of it or juveniles trying to get noticed by screaming pointless crap. So thumbs up for the community.
I am still not a fan of the graphics or design of the game but then again I am not a fan of the style in WAR or WOW either. My initial reaction was to uninstall the game after the first 5 minutes but now it really has grabbed my attention enough to see it through the 10 day trial and I would like to level up to around 10th level to see how the game unravels, especially in the PvP area. I can actually see some great PvP moments and enough options in combat style to make things very interesting. I don’t know how the game evolves past the noob area but from the initial signs I think we have a dark horse here that could become a strong contender in its own right. Will it pull in 1 million subs? No…but then again WAR and AoC have proven that even with mass marketing and hype the subs are barely past 250k. What the Chronicles of Spellborn will do is give another option for gamers like me who are getting a little tired of the usual big 2-3 MMO’s and it could become a solid title.
• Stability / Polish
• Learning curve
Not impressed with:
• Overall art style
• I will be finishing the 10 day trial and after my limited time in-game I am 60% certain of trying it out past one month. The trial is up so every MMO fan should check it out, even for curiosity.
Sitting comfortably in my mid 30’s I would like to think that I have grown into a mature adult that has a pretty good grip on, who I am, what I like and especially what I don’t like. So imagine the frustration when I find myself enjoying an MMO, which on closer inspection should be struck off my list of potential games. I am not even sure why I am writing this blog but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s a way for me to explore the reasons why I am enjoying a game that on paper shouldn’t even be allowed near my rig.
The game I am talking about is Lord of the Rings Online. Before all the fanbois begin battering down my door screaming for my heathen blood, just bear with me!
Over the past 25 years I have come to the realisation that I prefer Sci-Fi over Fantasy, love PvP and steer clear of PvE, I need a complex combat and crafting system, much prefer Sandbox over the traditional model, hate cartoon graphics and yes I admit, I attend pixel whores anonymous. If a game doesn’t have pixels to die for then I am ashamed to admit that I pretty much click ‘start menu’, ‘my computer’, ‘add / remove’ programs and kill the mother where it stands. I even run the antivirus to make sure the bastard is gone. Consider me a snob but I don’t spend thousands of pounds on a PC that can run 3 small countries just to play a crappy graphic engine fast. If I feel like retro then I can always fire up the Wii.
Looking at LotRO it’s a PvE centric game with virtually zero sandbox elements, has no PvP (yes I know there is monster combat… but seriously?), has very nice graphics but it is borderline cartoonish with bold coloured scenery. To top it all off the combat is clunky and I can play the whole game using one hand. So why would a game with the exact opposite of everything I want, grab my attention so much? I wish I had the answer…
What I do like about the game is the deed and trait engine with the epic storyline running in the background. I feel that most games suffer the long dry barren wasteland known as levelling and all of us have been there way too much. Codemasters has been clever with this game by adding in little wins along the way. For those that are not aware of the deed system, in short you can complete deeds throughout middle earth and once finished you are awarded a new title and trait, this can be equipped to give you bonus’s in different categories. The epic storyline idea is not unique as I have also seen it in Age of Conan. However in LotRO you can participate in the epic storyline a lot as opposed to AoC where you can only interact at certain levels. So I admit, there has been some clever programming going on and even though LotRO suffers from fatigue like all games, it does have enough routes that a gamer can follow to keep things lively. The next big win for me is the grouping. I would consider myself a hardcore gamer who plays casually…a demanding real life will do that to a guy, sadly gaming comes under the ‘non essential’ activities when organising a family and career. Unfortunately some great games have fallen victim to this (EVE Online I am looking at you) and I find myself measuring my gaming time in 30 minute slots. Shed a tear for a fallen gamer…
I am sure a lot of people can relate to my biggest issue with MMO’s, which is completing the group missions. Most firms develop group missions that need a freaking camp over and intravenous drip pumping coffee into your veins just so you can make it through. Not to mention the hours standing around screaming, “lvl 50 Cleric LFG, you know you want me!!” You then have to deal with players asking idiotic questions like, “do you have a healer? I’m a tank but don’t want to tank is that ok? Can I just do the first part? Is 30 min enough to do it? About to have dinner can you wait?” etc… you kidding? Why don’t you just come here so I can stick my epic + 40 morale sword through your skull!
In almost every MMO I feel that I am missing out on the best parts since I don’t have a time pit that I can sink half a day into. It bugs me and I am not suggesting companies change their entire methodology to suit me but Codemasters has almost cracked it. When I first started LotRO I ignored group missions as I expected them to be epic with multiple levels. However over the past week or so I noticed that nearly all group missions can be done within 10-20 minutes, even the epic storyline ones. What this means is that players are more willing to quickly join up and even jump in for the ride.
To top it all off the game still has a very healthy population with crafting and trade being an integral part of the community. However a friend of mine did leave after his trial because he didn’t like the idea of trading for components to finish an item, I think he misunderstood the word ‘community’. *smacks forehead*
LotRO probably won’t live with me for years to come but it has certainly taught me a very valuable lesson. No matter how much you think you know the gamer within you, there are always exceptions. So I for one will now hesitate before saying I will never play a game purely based on its features. If you are reading this and are currently stuck in gaming limbo, maybe trial an older game or two and you might just find an unlikely MMO grabbing your attention. If you do let us know!
Tabula Rasa is a game that only receives hate or love postings on these forums. I have been a gamer for over 20 years and I decided to purchase Tabula Rasa today to find out first hand what this game has to offer and tell it how it is...
PC specs: 2 gig Corsair ram, SB FX-i Audio 5.1, AMD 4400 dual, 2x7600GT Nvidia, old hdd. Game runs at 30-40 fps on 1024x960 and everything on high. At very high it drops to 20fps but this only adds some lighting effects.
** Please note: I have not played Beta. My only exposure to this game is reading threads, official postings and looking at screenshots and small clips. My expectations right now are average to below average.
I purchased the box at my local game shop. Instructions very simple and even though I had to set the account up it was a straight forward process. Installation is around 4-5 gig and prepare to wait approximately 1 hour for patching if its downloading around 133KBs.
Box contains instructions (probably wont use as its not that extensive, pure fundamentals) a quick reference card and map that will be very helpful. The standard 1 month free still applies and I decided to purchase a 3 month sub so all in all it will cost around 53 pounds for 4 months.
Day 1 review score - 70/100 (Pretty much what I expected but slightly impressed it was so easy)
(Playing time approximately 4-5 hours / level 5)
Please note this is a longer post as its the first day and I want to give a quick snapshot. I will talk about gameplay tomorrow...
Last night I finally jumped into TR and I am glad to say installation was very straight forward and it was only about 1.5 hours for the initial patch. Creating a character was relatively fast since you can not fully customise your avatar. Don't worry though there are plenty of options but if you insist on changing the size of your nostrils or eyebrows then you will be dissapointed.
Your rookie avatar starts in a drop zone where you receive some basic training and your first mission is to defend a base. My first reaction was of dismay due to the graghics looking slightly dated and colours rather neutral but this was sorted quickly after tweaking graghic options. Then the fun started...
Heading towards the base I really felt like I was in a war zone. The Bane land from drop ships and this created a sense of panic on the battlefield so I opened fire along with the other 5 NPC's who were supporting me. About 30 minutes later and after some training missions I am standing on the ramparts blowing away bane with a big smile on my face.
Graghics - If you love flowing fields of flowers and sandy beaches with red crabs then this may not be for you. Its gritty, futuristic, lots of battlements and very war torn. Avatar's look great and my system runs the game at a pretty high spec so no complaints at all.
Sound - Normally I don't even mention sound but I just have to on this occassion. Its the best sound I have heard in an MMO. You don't have elvish ghosts wailing on in the background or some orc grunting while he is thumping a head against a wall. This is sound on the immersion level. As you play TR you will hear gun fire in the distance with troops yelling for backup, drop ships flying over head and the Bane yelling that they smell human etc. Also the mission givers actually do talk which helps with the overall RPG element. Picture yourself and several allies crouching behind sandbags firing multiple rounds into an invasion force with NPC's yelling out orders etc. Enough said...
Gameplay - I want to talk about this in more detail on my 3rd day. However I want to get some things straight here. I read too many posts about people saying combat is boring since its 'auto lock', fire and that there is no difference in cover etc. For the record cover does makes a big difference to the damage you inflict and take. If you crouch and fire you will do maximum damage as opposed to running and firing where you do a lot less. They state this in the game and several NPC's tell you this and if you flick over to the damage log you can see it in black and white. So that is the official line so don't listen to idiots who say otherwise.
Crafting - I thought I would touch on crafting even though I have not tried it. I am a hardcore crafter at heart and in almost every MMO I am the one making items for myself, friends and clan members. I have recently seen some threads on how bad crafting is in TR. Personally I don't care either way. The game is too fast paced and full of action and the idea of having to craft for hours on end like Vanguard doesn't make sense. I have found recipes from kills so I will discuss this more later.
Community - I have not spoken to anyone in-game yet however TR is setup so you don't feel bad when attacking the same creature. In fact the game is about jumping in and helping others out and it seems the XP is split depending on damage done so I can't see any issues over stealing kills. I personally loved crouching behind ramparts and using my rifle to assist other players. Unfortunately there are the usual fools in chat spamming about lag and how nothing works. Today when they announced downtime (also advertised on their website) you had people mouthing off. Shame really as I know this game will slowly develop into a niche game for a mature gamers so hopefully this will dissapear.
Day 2 review score - 80/100 (Game delivered more than I expected, no obvious bugs or performance issues and above all I had a load of fun)
(Playing time approximately 9-10 hours / level 9)
Tomorrow I am going to talk about the environment, missions and playability of TR. I really wanted to give it a good go before doing so.
Day 3 review score - 84/100 (Game continues to deliver more than I expected. The battles to defend or reclaim human bases have really made this game stand out for me and I hope there will be additonal content I have not seen or is coming that will keep me playing for many months.)
(Playing time approximately 11-13 hours / level 11)
In danger of sounding like a fanboy I really want to put down what I love about the gameplay and what I don't like about it. Here goes...
WHAT I LOVE AND HATE ABOUT TR
LOVE - Tabula Rasa has 'in my view' the potential to really be a massive success and although not challenging some of the giants such as WOW (sorry for using that word in this blog) it will definitely capture a mass audience that will remain for a considerable amount of time. Why? Because its different and there is no other game out there that really competes with it and for SCI-FI boys like me its our only release from Pippin and Frodo etc. The game does not try and be everything to everyone (Vanguard anyone?) instead it focuses all its raw potential at combat and the battle environment you and your fellow players are raging in. Grinding, we all hate it and generally it stinks so much it can drive you to insanity. In TR combat is so much fun you don't even realise you are completing missions. Today I actually spent 2 hours smashing the hell out of the Bane while crouched behind sandbags on a hill side. If you want to get up close and personal you can and with level 3 hand-2-hand you can do some serious damage. Not to mention the very cool animation showing you kicking the guts out of a bane, seriously you do! So there you have it in a nutshell, TR does what it says on the tin. Want a SCI-FI that is gritty, fast paced and with multiple enemies dropping all around? Fancy fighting off a horde of Bane on top of a rampart all the while sniping at long distances and then jumping off the wall to rifle butt a critter in the face. BOOM! TR is your game.
HATE - Ok hate is a pretty strong word but hey I am trying to be fair here. As I don't really 'hate' anything about TR I am going to try and look at the game from a different view. The game does not have a crafting system to speak of. In fact its almost exactly the same as EVE Online. Find or buy a Blue Print and you can make that item at any station for a cost as long as you have the parts. Personally it fits into the fast paced side of the game but for the hard core crafters out there it just may not be enough. Environment can also be an issue for players that... well...just want to be left alone sometimes. I remember my days in Vanguard exploring rolling hills and deep forests and not really having too many issues. Outside the 'small' bases you are literally a stone throw from a Bane wanting to share your liver with his kids. Will this game have enough for the non SCI-FI fan? Not sure...I can see a lot of people enjoying the combat for a week or two then hating the fact that there are no downtime moments with other players such as taverns, Crafting Station, merchants etc. The game is a FPS with a great RPG element therefore I personally will continue to play EVE Online and possibly WAR when it comes out as I will utilise TR for my 'I want to shoot the s$%^ out of everything' mood.
Day 4 review score - 85/100 (Today I managed to semi-complete an instance that gained me additional Logos. Unfortunately the Mortar and a huge spider managed to make my life miserable. This is important because the game does not fall over just so you can level. I really had to work my butt off for it and you can definitely gain a sense of achievement. Either way that Spider has my name written on its forehead...Enough writing now, back to TR.
Unfortunately a quite large disturbance known as work has finally beaten every minute of game time out of me and I could not log on to TR for a couple of nights. I have however in that time convinced 2 colleagues to purchase the game and hopefully I will be able to experience some grouping which I will then discuss here over the weekend.
Day 5-6 review score - 86/100 (So why have I added another point to my review score since I just stated that I haven't played since Day 4? TR gets an additional point because all I want to do is log on and play the damn game. So in my book that is worth at least 1 point!
For the past couple of days I have really focused on grouping with fellow players and completing every Instance on the starting map. So far I can say the experience has been good.
INSTANCES AND GROUPING
I for one never liked Instances as most other MMO’s I have played that contained them tended to have very little public space and personally I like to roam. Fortunately TR does not have this problem and for those that are concerned don’t be. TR has a huge public space where you complete most of your missions and defend or attack ‘Landing Zones’. In the starter map there are approximately 3 instances and instead of them being a necessary burden they are immersive, roughly 45 minutes long, continue to develop the storyline and above all very different from each other. It is obvious a lot of time and effort has been put into each Instance and it shows. I have managed to almost complete one solo but I would suggest having at least one additional squadie. One of my favourite Instances so far is when you have been given the task to find out why your allies have been turned into human killing zombies. Upon entering an ‘Aliens’ like base you see the poor bastards being churned out on a production line. Obviously you only do the right thing which is to blow most of them away and the machine that is creating them. May they rest in peace…
Grouping is the main reason why I gave up on Vanguard since the game is too group heavy and when you mix that with a small population it allows two options, grinding skeletons or crafting and neither is that exciting after any amount of time. That’s why for all upcoming games like TR, grouping has been my only real concern. Thankfully the developers at TR have found a nice balance and created a game that by its very nature encourages players to group up at certain locations and work as a team even if your are not officially part of one (A key point I have suggested for Vanguard in previous threads). When I decided to embark on my first Instance I put a call out in the LFG channel and I found myself fighting alongside fellow players within a few minutes. The population obviously has something to do with it but I believe there are some key points why it’s not a burden to find a group:
For the healers out there TR does need you! In 2 of the Instances our group would have taken heavy casualties if it wasn’t for the specialist repairing our shields and health.
For the healers out there TR does need you! In 2 of the Instances our group would have taken heavy casualties if it wasn’t for the specialist repairing our shields and health.
Day 7 review score - 86/100 (The developers at TR have really made an effort to make instances enjoyable and immersive. Coupled with easy grouping and relatively short completion time TR has continued to draw me in and as a casual gamer (these days)it suits me perfectly. Is TR big enough (yet) to be the 'only' game for a serious gamer? I am not sure but as a big EVE Online fan it has turned out to be the perfect companion.