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OP 9/05/13 7:38:46 AM#1
I have been playing Salem a bit more recently. I initially checked it out months ago and didn't get the hang of it. It seemed interesting, but days of wandering around it didn't dawn on me what I was supposed to be doing. I had the wiki open, and found random things to check out, but really had no direction.
This is where most players, like myself, leave the game and never come back. There is almost no handholding besides the NPCs that give you a homestead at the start. So after that, with no friends, no one who knows 'what to do'... Salem is forgotten.
But, I have come back. Why I am not sure. I am having great fun in some other games, but I find myself loading Salem up more often now as I have played more.
You see, at the start, I had no idea what to do. I wandered around and found things. I used the items to level up skills, yet had no idea what the skills meant. I would get a crafting item, and go to see if I could craft it, and realize it would take me hours to find those ingredients, as I had no idea how to get them in the first place. The wiki, although useful, is created by people who will take the time to add the in-game text for an item, but never describe what that item is actually good for, or its common use, leaving everything up to you, this wandering, click-happy character in a world of unknown size.
After wandering a lot, I came upon some old settlements. Some abandoned buildings left by people long ago. Sometimes I would cross a settlement and see a skeleton there; proof that someone has died, and that is has been a while. This is where I, as a free-to-play only player, found it getting interesting. These settlements had food in them, crafting items, and some other buildings which I knew would take me days or weeks as a free player to build up to being able to use them. So they provided me with a way to advance beyond my initial wandering state. I basically found a home in the rubble of someone else's house.
From there, it has been adventurous. I do not have a 'claim' - or land that people must commit a crime to come upon - as I do not have enough silver yet. I don't know if I will make one, as I don't want to remain 'permanent' to any one area. After running out of usage of one abandoned settlement, I move on. I recently found an abandoned settlement which had at the time almost everything I could want to get going. It had a mine which was barely used, an ore smelter, some farming equipment, and a bunch of tools and items that I knew took someone weeks to get. All available to me because someone decided to break down the front gate and raid the place at some point.
So here I am, with my gate locked, knowing that at any time someone can come along and break down the wall (if they are a veteran player, thankfully these walls are noob-proof), and knowing that at any time someone can destroy all those buildings and items I now have should they want to.
But that doesn't matter. What matters, and why I write this, is because Salem's systems are actually very impressive. The lack of information is one because it is so hard to understand, that not many people 'get it' enough to explain it. There is a system in 'leveling up' so to speak, in that the more you play, the more you learn, the quicker the ramp up is to being 'high level'. Unlike games where you level up quick the first 10 levels and then it slows way down until being a month long process to level up later on, Salem is the complete opposite. At first, not knowing anything in the game, nothing seems doable, everything seems out of reach. The potential is there, but you know it will take days and days to do what you want to do. But you persevere, and build the basic items you can, and you keep building off of your successes. Soon, you realize that the systems in place are meant to be this way, to support each other. You need an axe to chop a tree, a tree log to cut into boards, and boards to make a compost pile, and a compost pile to create humus, and humus to begin crop planting. And then, you realize, you need seeds! And so you have to learn how to go about doing that...
After you begin on this middle-level area, you notice how everything is now 'work' to maintain. You have to keep the fields going. You have to mine the mine, and chip away at the ore, and smelt iron, and chop wood for coal, and wow, there's so much to do all of a sudden - you smile. Survival and wandering has turned into thriving. There is now a plan. The game mechanics are making sense. The 30 minutes it used to take to fill an ore smelter and light it is now a 1-2 minute operation. And you start to become efficient, efficient in your placement of things, efficient in your processes and pre-planning. And then your crops bloom! You get flour, and seeds, and now you can make food, so no longer do you even have to leave your walls to live. You can see Self Sustainment in the near future... if no one murders you.
Salem is often overlooked for the features it provides. I want to really point out some of the amazing things that you literally do not find in other games.
1. Permanency - Things you do in the game are permanent on a full open world. There are no instances, or map reloads. If someone built a building weeks ago and left it, it is still there. If someone tilled a field and left the crops at full bloom, they are open for you to harvest. If you dig down in the dirt, the landscape actually changes shape. If you chop down a tree, it does not grow back or magically respawn. If you pave the ground, it stays paved until someone digs it up. This and more permanency features mean that what you do in game matters, and that is something missing from almost every single game out there. If you see someone built a little settlement for themselves, and then decide to cut them off by building a wall around their settlement, just so you can mess with them, you can do so. If you want to fill the land high enough to smooth out the highest cliffs, you can do so. If you want to build a super-highway from town across the mountains to your settlement area, you can do it, and it will remain in the game permanently (this one is a possible task I may do!).
2. Decay - Items decay over time. This means more than just items decay, actually. Things change in the game world. If you come across a settlement and it looks in good condition, chances are someone is around, at some point, at that settlement. If you come across a rubble of a settlement, chances are no one is going to be back for any good reason anytime soon. In addition, if you dig dirt in the middle of some grass, over time the grass will grow back over the dirt. If you plant a tree in those grassy plains, over time the ground will change to reflect leaves that have fallen upon the ground. The decay on items actually comes into play later on as you maintain your settlement, and realize you have to keep your buildings and tools in good condition so they don't die off on you.
3. World Size - There is a way to accumulate a map of sorts to Salem. How do I describe this... well, let's put it like this. I wanted to see how far I was from the main town, so I went to town and started walking towards my home. After the third hour, I was unsure if I made a good choice in trying to do this. I finally did make it back after some adventure which amazingly ended up with me finding a row-boat sitting in the water from someone else (see permanency), but wow was that a walk. And the entire time I ran into different settlements and interesting areas. I compiled my map, and realize the tiny fragment of the map I have means that I have literally hundreds of hours of walking - just walking - to explore all the tiles. A world where if someone leaves something in an old oak stump somewhere, I can come along months later and find that item.
4. Crafting - Crafting and character building go hand in hand, as the crafting yields a better character. This is because cooking food yields your 'humours' such as health and endurance to rise to a higher max number. You start out at 5, and although I am sure there is some theoretical cap based upon item availability, there is no set max to how high you can go on these stats. I remember hearing of some people fighting who tallied the health of a character they killed to be ~400. That is no easy process, and you see where larger towns filled with people working are needed to literally focus food into a single warrior who will protect the town. If you are a solo hermit like myself, it will take a long long time to get those stats, but it is so fun seeing the ramping up of production once you get it going.
Well, I'd love to write more, but really Salem is a good game. It has its flaws, but they are worth ignoring while you learn the game - and when you do learn it, you will be glad everything is hard and meaningful.
I strongly wish there was a more interested population, which is one of the reason I am writing this. Salem has a lot of high-thought game design elements in it that are unmatched in other games. If you give this a try, you will be bewildered at first, but find some friends or dig in and go it alone; it will be worth it.
Thanks if anyone read all this; I am now super tired, goodnight.