Craft of Gods, developed by the independent studio Cyberdemons and published by the Italian company Kalicanthus Entertainment, has the distinction of being the world’s first Slavic mythology-themed MMORPG. Now, that right there can probably set the tone for the rest of the article. CoG is not a game looking to burn down the successful juggernauts already commanding the market, but instead it is a game that hopes to provide a unique take on some of the genre’s standards and provide an engrossing PvE and PvP experience on a smaller budget than that of the industry’s larger titans. And while there are certainly some kinks that need to be worked out, and some archaic systems that could use updating, Craft of Gods seems to be offering quite a few things that today’s players are asking for. The problem is that Craft of Gods may have trouble convincing many of today’s players to fork over their cash unless a healthy dose of polish is added in the coming weeks.
Let’s get the least important factor out of the way first. Craft of Gods suffers from some seriously dated-looking visuals. The animations on characters seem to be well done enough, but the models and textures themselves are little more than a tribute or representation of a slightly more advanced Asheron’s Call. I know it’s a small quibble compared to the gameplay for many folks, but as a matter of taste I prefer that my 2010 games look like 2010 games. This was the first hurdle I had to get over during my initial play-through of the game’s beginning stages. But it wouldn’t be the last.
There is a general lack of polish present in Craft of Gods. I can appreciate that Cyberdemons is an independent MMO developer and that crafting such a massive game in today’s market without significant financial backing is an enormously challenging endeavor, but for the life of me I can’t understand why there is not more explanation present when creating one’s character. You are initially presented with the game’s two factional crests. One is dark and black and red, while the other is bright and blue and gold. There are no names or words to describe what each faction is, but you can probably safely assume that the former is “bad” and the latter is “good”. And it’s these kind of little touches that are found missing throughout the game. In a way it hearkens back to the days of Ultima Online and Everquest, but today it just reeks of “not enough time in the oven.”
That is not to say that Craft of Gods doesn’t have merits. In fact it has a great many fantastic ideas that keep me very interested in seeing where the game goes from here. Namely the game is bold enough to do away with classes and instead allow players to pick and choose what skills and spells they have at their disposal. There are fourteen schools players are allowed to pick skills from, ranging from traditional mage-like schools such as fire and water, to more dark arts-like demonology and necromancy, and of course the more martial arts-like melee and archery. And depending on how much players use the skills they select, determines how proficient they are in each school’s skills. Meaning if you select a bunch of fire spells but only use the skills from the defense school, you won’t ever be that good at taming the flame. The system is reminiscent to me of what Ultima Online would be like if it had traditional levels for its characters. Craft of Gods has an initial level cap of 100, and there are 210 skills and spells to choose from throughout the leveling process. But the question of how you’ll level might be the most important.
CoG seems, from my few hours spent playing so far, a very old school affair. There are quests. They will net you a sizable chunk of experience and meaty rewards upon completion, but there seem to be precious few when comparing the title to other more recent games. This leads me to believe, though I can’t be certain, that grinding will be a large part of how you attain levels and thereby skills in Craft of Gods. The questing system itself seems to be a throwback to an earlier era; perhaps an era we’ve long since forgotten existed. Quests give vague hints on where and what to look for (unless of course they’re the Kill 10 X variety), but by and large you’ll wind up having to do some real legwork rather than just stare at a spot on your mini-map until you’re in the designated “quest area”.
Honestly, I can’t decide if I’d prefer the modern method or the old “hunt for the answer” design of the 90s. I will say that in this case it almost feels refreshing. So many games take a lot of the exploration and thinking out of questing and that’s thankfully not the case with Craft of Gods. Still I’m not one for grinding mindlessly. The tried and true quest system that’s been kicking around may just be disguised grinding, but the sense of purpose it provides is well warranted and I’ll be a little disappointed if I should have to resort to slaying countless leopards to advance my character. As always, your mileage may vary.
Some other problems facing the game judging from my early hours? There doesn’t seem to be any real driving force keeping me playing. Even Sandbox games need to offer a story to make a player feel compelled to start a life in the world, and sadly Craft of Gods hasn’t shown me this aspect yet. Playing the game, I feel a bit lost in the great wide open expanses of the wilderness. They’ve created a truly massive world, and I’m told player housing is in the cards to help fill it up, but even with classic titles like Ultima Online where players themselves made most of the story there was still a driving lore behind the game to hook you. I’m no expert of Slavic mythology, but I’d reckon Cyberdemons would do well to find a way to inject more purpose and lore into their game through the questing system rather than just dropping players into the world, showing them how to kill some wolves and mine some ore and then telling them they’re on their own.
So far as I can surmise this early on, Craft of Gods is a compelling game that needs more time baking. It has an interesting world and lore to draw from, a great soundtrack to listen to, and plenty of interesting ideas going for it. But it also has some very dated looking visuals, a slew of things that are simply lacking polish, and feels lacking in true purpose or direction. There is a lot to like, and a lot to drive a player away. I have no doubt that the game will have some hardcore faithful who cherish its skill system and the freedom it offers. But will the greater MMO community accept the title despite its flaws? Time will tell, and we’ll have more in depth impressions as we dig further into the game.