Mortal Online has been out for over two years now, and this year marks a business model change for the game. Before we jump into our review, were giving you guys our first impressions of the sandbox indie title.
Developed and published by Swedish independent video game company, Star Vault, Mortal Online was inspired by the values in which Ultima Online introduced into MMORPGs and sought to return to the player-controlled, sandbox style design. Since its release, it has suffered a number of issues and upon my first few hours in the game, I experienced a number of bugs and annoyances.
Graphically this game is beautiful, Star Vault have put the Unreal Engine 3 to great use, sprawling cities and vast landscapes are gorgeously rendered and excellent lighting effects add to the atmosphere, with every inch of sunlight peeking through all the nooks and crannies.
With the sandbox nature of the game, upon logging in, you're prompted with a tutorial which teaches you the basics and a help channel in which you can ask questions for the first eight hours of play. Although it does not provide the players with that much depth, the mechanics of the game and how features such as crafting work is down to the players to determine and experiment with.
Character creation is something which I feel should be refined. You go through the motions of picking a race et cetera. But then you're required to pick two sub races, but each race only has two sub-races anyway. When picking these, you're provided with no lore whatsoever on them and all it seems to do is change the look of your character, which you can then proceed to change on the next screens. To me it just feels like a lot more could be done here. If there is more, please someone explain it to me. But the game should do a better job of it itself.
There is also no traditional leveling and class system. It is substituted with a skill and attribute system, much like the Elder Scrolls series; allowing players to experience a wide variety of play-styles and gameplay. You are also only able to create one character, even if you are a premium subscriber. Extra slots can be purchased, and only a maximum of four characters can be made.
Additionally it is worth mentioning that free players may only experience the basic gameplay and features found in Mortal Online, with skills being restricted to 60 from a possible 100. Although Star Vault do not outline exactly what these restrictions are, the word "basic" makes me think that it could be highly restrictive. We’ll have to see as I dive more in depth in the coming weeks.
The game plays in the first person perspective immersing you directly within your character and the world. Mechanics such as unsheathing your sword to go into combat and using the mouse to initiate attacks and blocks provide a sense of realism and put you right in the action.
Combat though, is not as enjoyable as it could be. Your movement is slowed down greatly while you have your weapon unsheathed and initiating attacks and blocks feels slow, clunky and eventually like a chore.
Character progression shies away from the norm with the attribute and skill leveling system as you use the skills. Simply blocking increases the your defensive skills and sprinting increases agility. It feels refreshing to experience something like this and being able to literally create your own story, feels exciting and new.
A short introduction to crafting is also provided. It seems simple enough: obtain the items you need, drag and drop the items into the interface, then you have the item you wanted. When you progress further this is where crafting becomes complicated and adds a huge amount of depth to the game. Recipes can be obtained from NPCs in-game, but MO's crafting system allows you to experiment with and research different items to create recipes that could be unknown to the world. Just to add a bit of context to crafting, there are approximately 142,662,774 different possible weapons to craft (that’s what I’m told anyway). These consist of two parts, a head and a handle. There are at least 50 different heads and 40 different materials you can use for them and at least 30 different handles which are made from two materials. The possibilities in which crafting can produce are almost limitless.
A few character bugs have come up so far, pictured above, and with nudity a feature in the game, players tend to “roam free” so to speak. MO carries a mature rating and utilizes this: nudity is frequent. Combat is gory and player brutality is also a staple, with player loot bags (yes you can loot folks you kill) containing a corpse and a named head. Corpses can be consumed, butchered or cooked, while heads can be collected as trophies and even sold for a good price.
My first impressions of Mortal Online are mixed. There are good and bad aspects that sway my view of the game. But I'm also enjoying the sandbox style of it. Look forward to our full review in the coming weeks, where we will discuss Mortal Online in depth and give it our final verdict.