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A Brief Look at Mortal Online

Phil Penman Posted:
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Star Vault have been developing a new MMO for the past four years which is entering the final stages of Beta readiness, Mortal Online.

Utilising the third generation Unreal Engine the game looks stunning, with some fantastic alpha screenshots and excellent in-game preview movies released for public viewing. So graphically at least, they appear to be on the right track. However as with all MMOs, success will depend on more than eye-candy. The devs at Star Vault are well aware of this and are blending well proven elements from existing MMOs with some neat new features.

As the public beta nears, it's time we had a quick look at a few of the reasons you should be paying attention to this promisingly brutal new MMO:

First Person Perspective only

This will no doubt come as a shock to the system for most MMO players of late, who are use to an invisible security camera floating around their character's head. Perhaps the most controversial decision by Star Vault, many heated debates have been raging for months over the merits of such a restricted view. Some players like the idea, but many others are disheartened and calling for the inclusion of a third person view.

There are pros and cons to both first and third person views. Immersion isn't a factor for most people, but third person does arguably make life easier in PvP based games, whereas first person would allow for more sneaky back-stabbing encounters and arguably requires greater player concentration due to the restricted field of vision. The debate will rumble on, probably well past release.

No levels

With this feature, Star Vault has taken the plunge and ensured that we never need to congratulate 10 people in guild chat a day each time they level.

On a more serious note, I've grown tired of the straight forward levelling grind which has become such an integrated feature of most MMOs over the past few years. In Mortal Online, end-game content starts from day one, there is no need to grind to the maximum level to participate with established veterans, or indeed have a go at sticking them in the back with your newbie sword of foolishness. Over time your character will be developed, but you'll never be excluded purely because you're a lowbie.

No compulsory class selections

There are NPC class guilds, but the decision to define your character within the boundaries of one of these guilds is entirely up to you. You'll have benefits if you do, for example, a Mage's guild will increase your ability and power with magic, but there will be restrictions placed upon you. You're also free to leave and join guilds as you please, without starting over as long as you meet any guild prerequisites for membership. These prerequisites may well vary, from stats to your wealth or reputations.

The lack of clearly defined and pigeon-holed classes may leave some players feeling bewildered and confused when they're not faced with a classes selection during character creation. However, there are those who feel that this is a far more realistic method of character development and hopefully there will be as few restrictions as possible, allowing as much character customisation as possible and taking full advantage of the skill system.

The skill system

It's neither glamorous nor sexy, but at the heart of all MMOs is the skill system and like it or not, the better your understanding of it, the more powerful your character will become.

Over the past few years, we've seen a plethora of online games using character levels and point allocations to allow gamers to customise their characters, but Mortal Online provides players a return to the older, "use and improve" system.

MMOs are all about player to player interaction, whether it's verbal, written or with the business end of a sword. This is the primary reason all MMOs have some restrictions on skills and abilities. If your character is a master of all skills, you have no need for other players, which would make an MMO rather lonely. Mortal Online is attempting to circumvent this problem with relaxed prerequisites and skill caps, whilst not being overly zealous from character creation and locking even a new character into a life of robe wearing and staff wielding.

Mortal Online has primary and secondary skills, making up the familiar MMO skill tree with prerequisites and caps on abilities. However, these skills are also split into three categories: action, learning and deva skills:

Action skills are essentially "use and improve", much as you would in real life, the more frequently you repeat something, the better you become. i.e. Arming a sword, combat, blocking, stealing.

Learning skills are generally passively learned but can be boosted by your character's interaction and observations in-game. i.e. zoology might be boosted by discovering a new creature.

Deva or "shared soul" skills can affect all of the characters on your account. These will be trained to the same level for all characters on your account, but may only become available to a particular character once some prerequisites are met. Details on the exact skills are still sketchy but are likely to be minor skills only.

This more natural and flowing method of character development will ultimately be far more rewarding to players, with greater variation between characters and far fewer cookie-cutter templates.

Real-time combat

The planned combat system in Mortal Online relies mostly on the player's reactions and actions to determine the outcome of combat. There's no luck based roll and very little automatic combat carried out on your behalf. In short, if you're not paying attention, you have no chance in a fight.

Each attack that you initiate will leave you open for a counter attack, each successful block will in turn leave an opening for you to strike, but at no point will random button mashing and mouse clicking get you ahead. Star Vault are trying to make combat far more instant, immersive and interactive. The player's own ability to read their opponent will be crucial, no longer can be hide behind the thin veil of excuses made up of cool down timers, low evade rates and auto-attack DPS ratings.

You are truly free

Free PvP? Yes, the game mechanics will never stop one player from attacking another and unlike MMORPGs which claim to be "full" PvP, there are no areas where players are entirely safe from attack. Even when in town and under the protection of the town guard, players can still freely engage in bloody combat. There are consequences to breaking the town laws, but the game won't prevent you from doing so.

You are free to steal from other players, anything, anywhere and at any time. The game developers are currently discussing the possibly of stealing mounts and have already confirmed that a player's house key could be stolen, in effect meaning so is the house. The idea of stealing in MMOs has been somewhat frowned upon over the past few years, with players investing such a huge amount of time into the accumulation of in-game wealth and items. However, with stealing being a core part of the game along with anytime, anywhere combat, perhaps it's only fitting that there should be very few, if any, limits on what can be stolen.

This level of freedom will be new to many players who have for so many years been used to the security afforded by their character's inventory, mount's saddlebags and house vault. Players who are used to going AFK for long periods in the wilderness, only to return and pick up where they left off. Doing so in Mortal Online, that same player may find their character naked, penniless and very, very dead.


Phil Penman