The Saga of Ryzom has been out for over a year now, and it's time to take another look at the game after such a long time. A lot can change for a game in a year and Saga of Ryzom is no exception. Ryzom has seen many ups and downs, but who knows what the future will bring?
The lore and story of Ryzom has always been rich, but in the last year we've seen it develop further still. Last year saw Tryton, (the leader of a 'rogue' faction), gathering together the most well known players to tell them of Jena's coming to Atys; probably the most momentous announcement to date. Episode 2 saw the 'old lands' brought to life with players working hard to dig materials for the Kami and Karavan temples. All the while the opposition and Kitin, (an 'insect' enemy), were trying to stop them from succeeding.
A lot has happened with the story for Ryzom, and the players are taking an active part in the events that will shape the future. This involvement is part of what sets Ryzom apart from other MMOs. Players setting the mood and decisions in events can bring the story to new levels and shape it into something that the players want. This can only be a good thing for Ryzom and is the reason why it won the MMORPG.com Best Story award.
The skill system hasn't changed since release but it has gone through some rebalancing. Harvesting in particular had a major reworking just after Patch 1 after the retail release. This changed how the harvesting skill worked and was definitely an improvement. Other changes included the balancing of melee in PvE, a complete rebalance of the Healing skill tree, and some basic combat balancing for PvP.
If you ask the players, there are many mixed opinions on these changes, but I personally find most of the skill changes to have been a good improvement for the game in general.
Unfortunately there is still a downside to the skills system. The learning curve is still quite steep and can take some getting used to. The starter island still lacks a good tutorial explaining how actions and stanzas work, (stanzas being the building blocks of actions), making it very hard to figure out if you're brand new to the game. Once you get a handle on the stanza system it's the same for all skills, but in the meantime this can really turn people off to the game as it is confusing if you don't know what you're doing. A better tutorial during the starter area would definitely help this and is something Ryzom is definitely lacking. The starter lands for each race are sparsely populated. This can be discouraging to new players trying to learn how the skill system and stanzas work. Hopefully this will change in the future.
Editor's Note: In between the writing and publication of this article, Nevrax has changed and improved their newbie experience, replacing the starter island that the author mentions, with a new area known as the "Ruins of Silan". The ruins, according to Nevrax, contain a number of quests, explanations, exclusive rewards, and the like. The area not only serves as a tutorial area, but also as a free trial area as well. MMORPG.com will take a look at this soon and report back to you, the readers.
The community of Ryzom has got to be the best I've ever seen. Whether in game or on the forums, the players are always willing to give a helping hand to new and old players alike. I've been playing MMOs for about 5 years and I've never seen a community that inspires such greatness in people. Need help getting to another land? Need help getting some nice armour? Got a question about those confusing stanzas? Just ask and pretty much any player will be right there helping you out. The helpful spirit of the community is infectious too. It makes the game come to life. It is what keeps a lot of players coming back again and again.
The detail of the landscape is some of the best I've ever seen. I could wander around for days just looking at all there is. As the seasons change, so does the land around you. In the winter you'll have snow covering the ground, but in the summer you'll see flowers in bloom all over. Details are not forgotten in the graphics for Ryzom. Instead of a simple plain ground cover you have plants sprouting up from the ground. You can control how much detail you see in the ground detail, but if your computer can handle it, I would suggest turning it on. The details in Ryzom are stylised to a loving degree. From the snakes in the desert, to the little frogs hopping around in the forest, a lot of time has been put into the detail of the visuals for Ryzom.
This level of attention to detail shows in the characters too. During character creation you have complete command over your facial and body details. If you want to be a short fat Tryker, you can. If you want to be the tallest and skinniest Fyros on all of Atys, then you can. Facial details are fully customisable also. From how long your nose is to how pointy your chin is, you have control. This gives you a very high level of control over how you look, a feature more games should think about when creating the character creation phase of the game.
Speaking of details, this isn't missed out in the sound for the game. The game is missing ambient music, but this is a plus in my eyes, and ears. If there was ambient music throughout the game you'd miss all the sounds of the world. Nevrax have instead opted for a natural ambient sound palette. As you wander through this amazing landscape you'll hear the sounds of the animals, trees and weather. I personally would say that playing with your sound turned off puts you at a distinct disadvantage in Ryzom. Creatures make sounds not only from their own mouths, but some also when they move. Hearing an aggro creature close by or running at you could save your life and the lives of your team. Soon you will be able to identify the sounds of creatures without having to look at them and this only adds to the immersion of the game.
The game isn't completely without music though. As you walk into the capital cities in each land a rousing bit of music will start up. Each land has its own piece of music that fits very well to the feel of the city. For example, the Pyr, (Fyros land capital), music is a strong tribal kind of sound it. While the music for Fairhaven, (the Aeden Aqueous capital), the music is light and cheery. Both are very fitting for their location and give a feeling of a grand entrance as you venture into the city in question.
The attention to the details of the sound and visuals has been very well thought through for Ryzom. I really enjoy all aspects of them and think that Nevrax have done an amazing job with them.
One of the few drawbacks of Ryzom is that it is very heavy on your memory and video. The game requirements suggest a minimum of a 64mb video card, and technically that is enough. I'd suggest more though. Also they suggest only 512mb of RAM as a minimum. Again the game will run on that little, but more is always better. The reason I suggest not going by the minimum specifications that they give is partially because of the detail I mentioned earlier in the graphics. The other reason is simple, lag. You can help this some by turning down the level of detail and such, but you may still experience lag problems as your computer struggles to load the amount of detail needed. In heavily congested areas you'll notice the lag problems a lot more.
Ryzom is lovely, but it really is a demanding program that will push the limits of your computer. You don't need to have a top of the line machine, just a good one. The demands that Ryzom puts are your computer is a bit of a drawback in comparison to other games that are less demanding on the computer's video and memory, but in the end it's worth it.
I've been playing MMORPGs for around 5 years now and I've never in all that time seen such a good customer service team that is present in Ryzom. If you log a ticket to the support team you're almost guaranteed to have a response within 10 minutes or less. I've never seen a team so on top of things. It's refreshing to see in an online game as problems can sometimes stop you from playing at all. Of course they aren't perfect, but they give it a pretty good go.
The events team is not to be overlooked though. Whether these are the same people doing the support, I don't know. Still they hold themselves to the same kind of high standard that the CSR team does. Well run events that involve the players and expand on the story. Sure some of the events aren't so good and everyone can't like every event that is run, but in general this team is doing wonderfully. And as of late they have been improving as the events have becoming more involved with the story and expanding on player involvement. I'm really excited to see what the future holds for the events in Ryzom.
No one can predict what the future may hold for an online game, especially an MMO. Changes are constant, but Ryzom has two very interesting things on its horizon.
The first is Spires. This will basically be a faction defining item. The Kami and Karavan factions will be able to control areas of the world. How this will work exactly hasn't been explained in a lot of detail, but it could be a very interesting time for the factions. Of course the Spires could cause problems too, but until we know more about how they will work we can only guess.
The second is a lot more exciting and is Ryzom Ring, (www.ryzom-ring.com). This is going to be a free expansion to the game for players. Essentially it's the tools to make your own instanced areas. You can host these maps on your own computer so they are live when you're logged in, or you can pay a nominal fee to have them hosted so they are always live whether you're logged in or not. The exact details of the tools aren't completely clear yet, but the possibilities are endless. From areas for weddings to areas you can have big PvP battles; your imagination is the limit. Nevrax have said that in the beginning no experience or items will come from these new areas, but there is a chance that they may do later. Also Nevrax have said that there is slight possibility that player made areas may be taken on by Nevrax themselves and integrated into the game world.
I'd definitely say Ryzom is worth the time and energy to play. I may be biased because I have been playing since beta, but that doesn't blind me to its faults. Every game has problems and faults though. Nevrax have learned to listen to Ryzom's players though and this can only bode well for the future of the game. We are shaping the world, and for once the game company is listening.