When Bill Murphy asked if I would review Eldevin by Hunted Cow, I first took a quick look at the website. I read the words “Story Driven” and was sold. I expected a slow casual romp and told him so. He agreed. So Sylvene was born in Eldevin.
Eldevin is name of the game and the name of the fantasy kingdom where my character was plopped down after a short and simple creation. I went through a mystical process and found myself on the outskirts of the city, bereft of memory – this is part of the story that you unravel as you travel, speaking to NPCs and doing quests.
Aesthetics – 7.5
The game is browser based and the view is a restrictive isometric one. Not a problem for those who grew up on Ultima or Runescape. Me? I died 10 times in the first hour, running into nasty critters because I got lost. Did I mention I am directionally challenged? Otherwise known as “I have no sense of direction, neither in real life, nor in game.” Thank goodness for newbie protection. I did get to see quite a bit of the Eldevin countryside as I selected different respawn points.
The graphics are pretty enough if somewhat blocky, but in compensation, the little touches to enhance your experience are marvelous. The rabbit that stops to look up at you as you run by, the flock of birds you startle in the forest, all give you a sense of immersion. Chairs and beds are interactive. Your character actually sits on a chair, or bench, perches on a bar stool and lies down on the bed. Some NPCs respond to you like the serving maid that asked what I wanted to drink when I sat down at a table. They don’t just walk around and stand about bouncing either. Farmers are raking and planting, recruits at the training ground are doing push-ups and sit-ups, guards are doing their rounds in formation, toughs in the bad part of town are lounging about. All combine to make the city and countryside come alive.
The sound design is also a delight. It is minimalist but what the designers have chosen to emphasize adds to the immersion. You hear flapping as the flock of birds you startle takes wing, the buzz of a table saw as you pass by the woodworking shop, and if you have a good sound card and speakers, the sounds are remarkably realistic.
Okay, so there isn’t a lot of character customization in terms of looks, but you do have two sets of paper doll clothing that shows – your combat armor and your vanity clothing.
Gameplay – 8/10
Eldevin is short on instructions but long on quests, content and things to do other than fight. I found myself distracted by the number of crafts I could do from the get go, and they open up at a low level. It also starts you off with one of each class skill. Melee, arcane and archery.
I leveled slowly because I had to try every skill from farming to forging before I could decide which I liked best to concentrate on. Even when I was on a kill quest, I found myself distracted. Wait! Copper ore! That goblin/spider killing can wait. I can skin a Goblin? Cool! And so it went that I took a week to get to level 5 to choose a class, and another day or two to level 6 and the unlocking of Eldevin City for advanced training and quest notice boards.
Once I entered the city, I was presented with advanced training for each skill. I decided to look into Advanced Arcane training first. Go. Ooooo… is that a mushroom? Forage, forage, forage! Oh look! Fish in the canal! Fish, fish, fish. Ahhh! A lime tree! Harvest, harvest, harvest. Oh, here’s a kitchen! Fortuitously close to the market place to purchase spices. Bake, bake, bake. I think it took me an hour to get to the trainer. That's the kind of freedom present here.
When I did run the quests and combat, I progressed quickly though, killing level appropriate mobs for XP, running my first group instance. You can totally do the usual – collecting every quest you can and killing all the critters in the same area for the rewards. Level appropriate armor and equipment are quest rewards and loot drops. Thankfully, the reward window remains open a danged long time, as I shuffled my crafting stuff around or destroyed old equipment in order to pick up the new while keeping up with the group running through the instance.
Eldevin has enough sandbox elements to make it something out of the ordinary, especially for a browser game. Character development is quite open. You may have to choose a class which determines the talent tree you have but you can equip all gear and so your Healer could have a fireball in his pocket or your Mage, a two-handed sword as backup when Mana runs out. Your advanced trainer tells you in game that you may choose to learn different skills, but no one can learn them all and advises you to make your choice wisely (although there is the ability to re-spec should you choose).
That said, the quests and storyline can be rather linear. All new players should do the explore Eldevin City quest by the way. Not only do you learn the city, you collect side quests along the way and unlock features – like your stash (bank). However as this is a “story-driven” game, nothing is just given to you. You have to unlock skills and abilities by performing quests. I quite like that actually. You unlock emotes by doing the stage performance quests, and I know I will find the pet quests somewhere! Maybe I just have to stop crafting and actually go kill something.
Travel is either hoofing it everywhere, or dragon flight to waypoints you’ve uncovered. A hearthstone or teleport scrolls are also available, as is the personal “town portal” Diablo players are familiar with.