*Editor's Note: The "Survivor Guy" series and this article in particular are NOT reviews of the game(s) in question, but rather the experiences of a single player in the game world. Technical issues will only be mentioned if the author feels that they are "game breaking" to his expereince.
There is sweat on my brow and blood on my hands. Behind me are the unmistakable sounds of horse’s hooves and the angry patter of running-feet. An arrow whizzes past my left cheek and shatters into a tree trunk. I am not running quick enough; my stamina is running low and my combatants know this. My pace stalls, breathless and aching from pursuit I slowly but surely come to a fearful halt. Before you could say ‘retribution’ my head is parted from my neck and three fellows are digging into what remains of my corpse. Apparently in Mortal Online a posse of angry players will form if you spend the majority of your time murdering and stealing things. Who knew?
Hello and welcome to Mortal Online Survivor Guy. I have survived the wilds of Eve Online and the varied virtual realms of many F2P games, and now I am back to face my greatest challenge yet. Mortal Online is a sandbox MMORPG in the same vein as Ultima Online. In this game there are no tutorials, no in-games tips, and certainly no hand-holding. Players can openly war against one another; look at someone too long and be prepared to taste the sharp side of his blade. This is going to be tough. This is going to push me to my breaking limit. This is Mortal Online Survivor Guy.
Those Sexy Europeans
The character creation of Mortal Online ultimately sets the tone of the whole game experience. Players must choose from a number of different races, and then further, pick four different sub-races as ancestors – these influence the attributes and look of your character. After making your choices, the avatar is moulded and what greets you is a nice, dangling penis. Oh I am but an immature man but at any time of the day, a naked character creation process will always strike me with fits of giggles. Throwing caution to the wind and getting a little bit saucy I flick the toggle to Female – my word, boobies and everything. This Survivor Guy is going to be a little bit raunchy.
Aside from all this full-frontal nudity, the character creation process is fairly complex and in-depth. There are no guides or real tips, players must simply choose whatever they like the look of most. Each race and sub-race comes with a small description but honestly, if you wish to survive in this game, a guide or forum post is surely your best bet. Purists will insist on trying to discover the game on your own terms. I admire their courage, but I am surely a lesser soul. And to cap off all of this freedom of choice, the character screen ends with an attribute selection – a system that strikes pain and fear into mere mortals. I made my decisions and now I am Marr, a huge, castle of a man with an exposed penis and a cheeky permanent grin.
Upon entering the game in the location of your choosing, players are plonked squarely in the middle of town. The game feels so old-school and 1999 that it sends goose bumps of excitement down my spine. When I arrive in Vaada it is night time, the stars are twinkling, and the moon hits my eyes-like-a-big-pizza-pie. I try to look around but I seem to be paralysed. Scrabbling around I try a few keyboard commands – it seems fine. My mouse must have broken I assume and so I set about dismantling my recently purchased Microsoft Sidewinder. Everything seems fine with the gorgeous little thing, strange. I head for the windows key and simply shut down the game, what an odd occurrence. I boot Mortal Online back up and try once again – Nothing - Either I have rolled a race with serious spinal injuries or something is amiss. I search the forums and finally find the answers I am looking for – you must press ‘Z’ to look around.
Now I am all for treating a player like they have an IQ more than that of a slightly inbred canine, but honestly, the developers should have added in blaring letters across the loading screen “PRESS Z IF YOU WISH TO MOVE YOUR HEAD”. I suppose however, this non-hands-on approach is reflective of the game. Star Vault has taken the miraculous step of treating the gamer as a gamer; they want us to discover the game and enjoy what they have created without them having to take us by the shoulders around every attraction like an over bearing parent “Look Adam, you like killing little rats don’t you? Go on, get out your sword and give ‘em a small whack...don’t forget to go rummaging around in its corpse either. That’s a good lad, now run to that dodgy-looking merchant man”.
So with the movement issues sorted out I finally got to some serious surviving. In Mortal Online I think that it is important to simply discover what you wish to do. The game doesn’t offer a traditional class system and takes influence from Ultima Online above all else. As all players start with a sword and a pickaxe it is wise to choose to either follow both or one of these disciplines. Heading into the inventory I equipped my sword and headed out of my bone-encrusted village and into the small woodland area surrounding it.
Sex, Drugs, and Woodcutting
Years ago I was once told that if you wished to play Ultima Online, you would first spent twenty hours in-game simply hacking at a tree to gain enough strength so that you could fell a small wolf. Now I am not sure if this was true (I opted to spend my meagre fees on EverQuest) or StarVault heard the same thing. My first excursion beyond the walls of the village saw me briskly walking up a grassy incline and finding the company of a lovely brown bear. With dreams of Azeroth and Norrath in my mind, I confidently strode alongside this beast and drew my weapon; I struck with terrible fury and was greeted by a splatter of blood and a thump; the bear, nonplussed by my actions, casually turned in my direction and threw a claw at my face. I hit the floor and sunk into death. As I rose in spirit form I saw my head rolling down the grassy incline. Perhaps months of WoW, LoTRO, and WaR had softened me up, survival wasn’t being taken too seriously. After the bear incident however, I was a broken man.
When a player dies in Mortal Online, their body is open-season to anyone who happens to be passing. So unless you happened to be murdered by another player, dying in the wilderness is usually followed by a panicked rush to the NPC who resurrects. It was lucky that my bear-stricken avatar had nothing of worth as I spent the majority of my time heading to huge beams of light (signals for the nearest NPC resurrect fellow) and failing to reach any of them.
After finally gaining back my physical form, I decided that combat was probably something I should give a wide-berth and so I equipped my pickaxe. In Mortal Online any tree or rock formation is an available resource node. There is something quite groundbreaking in the ability to simply approach any tree and collect some sort of resource from it and in doing so you gain certain related skills. So with my axe prepared I set about chopping wood. Each weapon you equip has durability and depending on your skill this will deplete. After gather 1,000 wood my axe disappeared from my inventory and had to make the short distance back to my village to purchase a replacement.
Whilst attacking the tree with lumberjack venom I noticed a couple of other players like me. Some were slaying weasels, some were simply exploring and others were running around with trousers off and penis exposed. One player however, kept circling my tree and coming back at regular intervals. I thought nothing of this chap, perhaps he wanted to be chums?
On my way back to my village (a short, minute or so, journey) I was laden with a bounty of wood and a number of strength, constitution, and gathering attributes. While a dozen or so metres away from the village, my would-be chum approached me and uttered a greeting. Excited at the chance of socialising I typed back a “hello” and waited for his response. Would you believe that this fellow drew his sword? Before I could say “bastard” the player was chopping away at me like a serial-killer and I was fleeing back to my village. Before I could make it however, I was slain. I lost everything, this guy didn’t have the decency to wait while I made my sad journey away from my corpse, and he simply tucked into the woodcutting delights of my once physical form. Mortal Online is full of unspeakable gits.
After this incident, I didn’t step outside my village too much. After reading a number of guides, I learnt that players could kill each other but when in the vicinity of a town’s borders a player could shout guards and have any attacker duly punished. The key to Mortal Online is to simply know the basics; setting out into the world with reckless abandon will see you simply beaten-up for your trouble. For the next few hours I took to woodcutting and gaining strength. I was like Rocky Balboa preparing for his fight with Ivan Drago; every tree chop and collected coin was my training montage. In real life I liked to think that a few bristles of hair had sprouted upon my chin and I was becoming a real man; I even thought about climbing a tree in my back garden to simply throw my hands up in victory.
Revenge Is Sweet
Everything in Star Vault’s game takes time. Chopping trees for attributes and wood will see you the best part of half an hour for a stack of one thousand. Buying skill books from merchants to read passively will probably engulf 10 hours of your playing time. When I had enough money, I bought one of these skill books and duly started training myself in the ways of the sword. Before long I had gained enough courage to venture out into the wilds in pursuit of weasels. I spent a number of hours felling these little critters, I was committing weasel genocide, the landscape was awash with the guts of these small animals; all the while my skill with swords and combat manoeuvring was growing. A hunger burned within, nobody puts this baby in a corner.
There is something about killing a small weasel that inspires confidence within me. I had approached something like 40 in skills of sword and other such related items and so I decided it was time to strike. Sheathing my sword I hung around the outskirts of my village in search for unsuspecting newbies - Remember in the words of Rambo “they drew first blood”. In Mortal Online most people set a woodcutting session going and then simply wander away from their PC’s trusting that some fool from Northern England will leave them alone. Wrong today Jack.
Taking influence from my previous tormentor, I was now to become the enemy of the state. Scoping out prospective victims I would wait a few moments to see if there was any change in their movement. When I was confident enough in their state of inactivity I would approach from behind, silently draw my sword and begin my campaign of hate. Sometimes it would take a dozen or so hits, sometimes it would take one great swing. Woodcutting will slowly reduce your health so those who had been pursuing this activity for some time were simply asking to be killed. I murdered countless innocents in all but an hour. Some had 200 wood stacked, some had nice items of armour, and one even had an almighty axe. I had hit the jackpot.
After marauding my way through the wilderness I decided to head back to the village with my ill-gotten-gains. Something was a little different within the village when i returned. There was a small crowd of players gathered around the centre and one even yelled my name. What was all of this about I wondered? Cautiously approaching I noticed something. Each player has a small shield on their top hot bar, this denotes their status to other players: Blue signifying neutral, gray being allowed, and red denoting murderer. Guess which colour I was? I quickly turned on my heels and headed out of the village as someone misspelt “guards”.
There is sweat on my brow and blood on my hands. Behind me are the unmistakable sounds of horse’s hooves and the angry patter of running-feet. An arrow whizzes past my left cheek and shatters into a tree trunk. I am not running quickly enough; my stamina is running low and my combatants know this. My pace stalls, breathless and aching from pursuit I slowly but surely come to a fearful halt. Before you could say ‘retribution’ my head is parted from my neck and three fellows are digging into what remains of my corpse.
The life of a bandit was a tough one indeed. After I was slain, I had nothing to my name except a sword, a grudge and a dozen or so silver coins in the store house; the latter would have to wait however, I wouldn’t get into the village while I was flagged as a murderer and so I fled Vaada in search of a pirate haven. Before I left, I cautiously approached the village walls and yelled “this isn’t the last you have heard of Marre, I will be back and become the scourge of this place!” Silence followed, these guys were scared and I knew it. I would be back.
Join me next week as Mortal Online Survivor Guy continues!