Here at MMORPG.com we are a community, a collective, a group of people brought together by one unyielding truth: we adore the genre of the massively multiplayer. To go alongside this sentiment however, is an unnerving and forever burning hatred from those that scorn, scam or cheat us. Last week my fellow colleague, Garrett Fuller, gave an articulate and well-thought-out impression of a certain sandbox MMO - today I am here to give a second opinion, one fuelled by the aforementioned emotion of smouldering and self-righteous anger. Grab your torch and pitchforks and let's get ready to stick the boot in.
For those unaware, Earthrise is a sandbox MMO in a similar vein to that of Star Wars Galaxies and Anarchy Online. The game features full loot PvP and all manner of paths and non-linear directions: in essence, this is the game that many have dreamt of but not until now have we had the pleasure of seeing in reality. Developed by a small Bulgarian studio, Earthrise suffers from that old truth that non-publishing-giant companies just don't have the resources to keep up in the modern MMO market. Where we should have an interesting and engrossing game to discuss, instead we are led to that age old argument of potential versus awful launch.
Let's get it out in the open, regardless of game-play or potential for game-play, Earthrise's launch is an on-going disaster. The client itself is a buggy mess filled with performance issues, random crashes, lag, de-sync and all manner of debilitating errors - and this wouldn't be quite the sore issue if people were not paying out hard earned cash for this product.
A digital copy of Masthead's title will set you back $50 or 50 Euros. Now being an English gent, I am unaware of how much a normal MMO would set back a player over the pond, but 50 Euros roughly sets my pocket back £42 which is just short of $70. A normal triple-A MMORPG in the land of Albion would set me back usually around £30 and even less if my local game shop is feeling rather generous - so when I have to pay over the odds prices for a game less than satisfactory in performance, my anger boils to a crescendo of rage.
Many players, including myself, just feel like we have purchased a product scantily out of the beta stages. The forums just a dozen weeks back were detailing the worrying state that the game was in before launch, and yet the developer decided to release this game anyway? Some say have patience, I say vendetta. So aside from spewing rage at my word processor, let's take a look over some of the game.
After watching a fairly engrossing cut-scene, players are introduced to the world of Earthrise through a tutorial that explains various concepts of the game. From the moment you are able to take control, you will be aware of the lag and performance issues that haunt the game, but hey it's launch, we continue, we fight on. After clicking through various chat bubbles, you will find yourself in some very lush and colourful environments. On a more positive note, the game itself is great to look at if not stunning at times. Masthead have created a wilderness which encapsulates the 'Extinct Earth' feel without going down the all too familiar 'Fallout' direction.
Aside from graphical niceties though, the tutorial will be a real sticking point for many players. While it does take you through how to engage in combat, it doesn't really do anything more - essentially after learning how to press 'alt' to switch to combat mode, you will be frantically trying to find your way off the newcomers rock but surprisingly the quests you get never really point you in which direction to go.
It was at this point in the game that somehow my character managed to become wedged within one of the teleport pads that are abundant throughout the game. While this may have not been quite the struggle with help on hand, it was at a time when the chat system in-game decided to disappear into oblivion for some period. I had to restart. I had to go through the tutorial again. I had to resist the urge to kill, kill, stab, kill.
So with the tutorial stages finally cleared, you then head into the refugee camp and into your new scavenging life. Again, the visuals on offer border on the amazing and the game admittedly does open-up from the lacklustre tutorial. There are quests on offer, crafting amenities, a bank, a broker, and the list goes on. In some ways you begin to forgo your once incensed feelings and begin to relax and enjoy the experience. That is until the server crashes for an hour or so.
When you finally do get to play the game without disconnecting or crashing, you will find yourself engaging in the quests on offer. These are essentially grind-tasks to collect Battle Points and Credits - it is simple but this is what I wanted from the game. The combat system on offer is actually quite fun and refreshing so grinding becomes something that isn't necessarily bad but quite enjoyable. The fact is, if you are interested in a game such as Earthrise, you have come from a background of hard laborious grind and it's something you enjoy. Earthrise isn't bad for doing this, just catering to a certain audience.
With definite positives noted about the aforementioned aspect of game play however, comes the all too familiar negatives. Masthead have some serious issues with lag to the point of engaging in a bit of ultra-violence becoming impossible. You can spend a good few minutes shooting a small rat creature only to realise that effectively you are seeing a representation of something 10 second previous. To add further insult to this is the fact the target system itself seems so finicky that when you manage to shoot an animal without lag, chances are you will miss if you are not dead-on precise.
Earthrise also suffers from issues regarding tethering and other such colourfully annoying problems. As the game mainly makes use of ranged weapons such as assault rifles, there is a degree of 'kiting' involved. This is all fine and well for the majority of the experience but every so often you will encounter a creature that will take around 50% of damage, scurry away in a cloak of invulnerability and reenergize to 100% health. It's just certain elements like this that really sour the whole experience of a game that could be so easily enjoyable.
It is at this point of blinding rage that most players will take to exploring the wilderness. Again, Masthead have created such a lush environment that adventuring and discovering is one the few real pleasures within the game, but this too comes with a caveat. At some point in your travels, you will come upon a set of murderous invisible bastards. Mobs that have transcended physical form roam the wilderness looking for hapless Columbus-types and basically haunt and kick several shades of excrement out of them. I suppose the question is: "who ya' gonna' call?"
Another problem is the exploits on offer - while I have not played enough of the crafting side to discover anything untoward in that area, when again we come to combat, players engaging in PvE or PvP alike are making use of a wonderfully idiotic command known as /unstuck. While its real use is pretty self-explanatory, this button teleports you immediately to the nearest respawn point without loss of life or equipment. Can you see where this might used in certain sticky situations with other players or NPCs?
Honestly I could go on all day about the issues and awful state that Earthrise is in, but to be quite honest, I gain no satisfaction from it. This is a game that I want to love and cherish, and I'm sure in time I will, but, as many people on this very community say, we are not here to evaluate potential but actual game play on present - and at this moment, Earthrise is being prevented from shining by a very shoddy release.
It is also an almost strange and wonderfully tragic thing that voicing these opinions in-game are met with responses of "go back to WoW carebear" or "Did you expect someone to hold your hand?" the community itself suffers from the kind of elitism that only sandbox MMOs seem to have but this also only angers disgruntled players more as there are those that blindly stay loyal to a product that isn't what it should be.
So the real question here is: should you try Earthrise? Sadly the answer is quite simple: no, not at present. The game-play itself is fine, the parts that are accessible are wonderfully addictive but the state of the game itself is too much of a barrier. My advice, stay clear for a few months and hang on to that cash - Earthrise isn't quite yet worth it.