Legends of Aria just released an Early Access on Steam. Right from the start you’re simply able to go anywhere you want. There is no overarching quest early on to give you direction - you are the story and you make up the journey as you play Along your journey there are many skills that you can level to make your character unique and fit whatever play style you want as you adventure.
Legends of Aria (LoA) is a refreshing addition to the sandbox MMORPG genre. Citadel Studios has set out to let you control a lot of what you do in the game. From creating your character, which city you start in, to everything you do after you first appear in town, it is all up to you. There is no guide that tells you where to go. Your journey starts as a blank page waiting for you to take those first steps.
One of the first things you’ll do is create your character. While there are a few customization options available to you such as hairstyle, the character creator is a bit limited. However, the character creation is so much more than simple looks. The real bulk of creation comes in choosing your skills.
You can choose to start with a preset build for skills or customize your own build from a wide range of skills. The presets are of traditional archetypes like warrior, mage, archer, bard and blacksmith. Each preset has the four main skills that build would need. Now if rolling a preset is not your style, you can customize your own.
There are 32 skills to choose from but you can only choose four to start with during the creation process. You can hover over the skills to see an explanation of what each does that way you can start your character off right. Will you go for a crafting type like being a carpenter? Then you may need to take up the Lumberjack skill to chop your own trees. You will also need the Carpentry skill as that is the main skill to be a carpenter. Afterward you are left with two blank slots and can choose to fill it with any other skill you want. I would recommend a battle skill such as Slashing so you can defend yourself should be attacked by creature when out chopping trees.
Having 100 skill points to spread out over the four starting skills gave a chance to make sure whatever my main skill was starts out at a high enough level. For my character, I wanted to make a rogue type so I chose Stealth, Hiding, Lockpicking and Brawler for my first skills.
Choosing the right starting point has a little bit of a benefit. If you are wanting to be a blacksmith there is a mining town you can start from called, “Helm”. When I landed in the town of my choosing, Valus, I noticed I had a quest already that said to train a profession and follow it step by step. This is the starting point and everything from here out is up to you. There are many professions to choose from, Rogue being one. The rogue profession was unfortunately not located in Valus and I had to get to the town he was in. Using the wiki to see which towns have the profession NPC you are looking for will help you choose a favorable starting location.
The movement in the game was very interesting as you have three options to choose from. You can click to move , set it to WASD, or click hold to move which is the default. I did not enjoy the click hold so I went with the WASD controls. The camera is situated in top down view. The reason I did not like the click hold to move was because I like to rotate the camera with the mouse while I move. Trying to move and rotate the camera with the mouse at the same time just lead to problems. Luckily Legends of Aria has many options with which to choose from to suit your style.
If you don’t have the chosen skill for the profession you want to do you can always go learn it from an NPC. Being able to train extra skills over time to make the type of character I want is nice. Overall as a player there are 600 skill points maximum for leveling skills. Each skill has a max rank of 100, so pick and choose what your focus will be. Being able to cap skills so they don’t go past a certain point is great so you don’t accidentally invest points in a skill you don’t want. I would like more games to do the same but it’s understandable why LoA has it as it is very easy to accidentally invest points in other skills.
At most you can only have 6 skills maxed to 100. Now you can spread that out to other skills but in the long run it could cripple your build. Now I can only base this off of a crafting build as I have not reached higher levels yet in other skills to find out what they do. High ranking crafting skills allow you to craft better gear, just as high level gathering skills allow you to gather different tier material. If you did not max those out and instead cap those at 50, you would not be able to craft higher tier armor. Any skills you don’t want anymore you can set the cap lower than the acquired skill points to be refunded the points. However, be wary as you'll need to retrain those skills again if you decide to go back.
After landing I choose to train the rogue profession, which that npc I found out from the wiki, was in another city. For Legends of Aria, the wiki is your friend. It does not hold your hand and tell you everything. It does literally drop you in and let you figure the rest out. Use it so you don’t end up trying to walk to another city like me. I had no idea where to get a mount as I saw everyone riding on one. In time though I figured it out from the wiki. Every profession has a purpose even if it might not seem like it at first.
Took some time for me to figure out the only way to rest was to listen to a bard play music. Your character will need to rest after doing things for long periods of time or else you will start losing vitality points. Resting gains them all back. It’s a very interesting mechanic to have making player bards a necessity. I learned from the wiki that your fatigue can be recovered from listening to a player Bard. It is good that a lot of this can be learned on the wiki but for that it would have been nice if I saw some kind of hint in game.
Not really having any direction to go I spent a lot of my time trying out other skills seeing what they were like. They all take work to level. It’s not bad that they take time and effort to level but it would be nice if there was a better experience rate, especially at the higher levels. After getting some skills to rank 30, the skills started gaining experience at a paltry pace. At that rate, trying to level the skills such as the Hide skill can feel like a bit of a chore.
Now I did run into trouble while giving the Fabrication profession a go. For the starter quest I needed to gather 50 cotton. In all of the cities I visited there were two that had a field of cotton. All the cotton was already picked because there were 4-5 people in each field also doing the profession quest or just collecting cotton. The respawn rates on that resource were not fast and really made trying to complete that first quest for Fabrication hard. Cotton can also be located outside of the towns here and there but that would incur searching all over hoping to find them sticking out. Additionally, as far as I can tell there is no farming profession to speed it up, which is a shame. it would be nice if there were simply more resource nodes or a way to supplement the profession with another profession - being able to fabricate the resources I need would be a great path to level - but also build an emergent player economy.
Legends of Aria is in Early Access so it is expected that the game still has some polishing that needs to be done in that area. Another thing that I found was there were some creatures that were invisible. I kept running into invisible coyotes. The name would pop up if I could manage to click on it when it attacked me but there was nobody there. So if you are fishing at a river be wary, one could sneak up on you.
Overall I feel Legends of Aria has a ton to offer but needs a little more polish. While the character creation is roboust enough that I can create a character from the ground up the way I want to play, it does feel lacking in other areas. And while It is not bad to have no clear direction, it would be nice to have a little bit of a lead in just to introduce players to certain mechanics of the game. As its still in its early stages, Legends of Aria has a chance to really become something special, and I definitely look forward to watching it evolve as time goes on.
[Editor's Note] Full Disclosure: Legends of Aria is represented by Team Critical Hit, a games PR company co-founded by former MMORPG Managing Editor Bill Murphy