Project Gorgon: Showing Serious Potential
As many do, I like to keep an eye on games being developed. Color me intrigued when I found one available to play during its Kickstarter that doesn’t require monetary participation to download and play it. That is exactly what Project Gorgon is doing. They are letting you get your hands on a very early build so you can see if it is something you want to be involved with and decide to support their Kickstarter. In the words of Eric Heimburg (Lead Developer), “Project Gorgon is a 3D fantasy MMORPG with the deep gameplay of the classics with all the features of a modern game and a unique immersive feel.”
Keeping in mind the Kickstarter is aimed at updating the graphics and music, I logged in as a Rakshasa (Cat Race). You can also play as a Human or Elf. My initial impression in the first few minutes of play was reminiscent of my early days in EverQuest and Irth. While there is a tutorial that helps to get you started and the UI is fairly intuitive,it still leaves room for discovery, immersing you into the world. It was nice to not have icons over NPC heads, no arrows pointing the way, no glowing objects on the ground. Being free to walk around and decide who to talk with, what to pick up and where to go without being forced to do anything to proceed was refreshing. To compensate for the lack of direction, there are little pop ups to advise you the first time you encounter or do something different, essentially letting you learn at your own pace. The longer I explored, the more I realized just how deep the systems are.
Classes and Combat
There are no classes and the weapons you hold determine what abilities you can use. Pick up a sword and you can swing it, put a bow in the other hand and shoot arrows. Want to go unarmed? Un-equip your weapons and swap to the unarmed hot bar. You can only have two weapon bars at a time, but you are free to swap between anything you get and can equip. You have to level your skills to unlock more abilities, and of course you do that by using them more and more. You can also earn abilities from equipment you wear. This adds numerous combinations of ways to play, which is important because different situations will require different tactics to emerge victorious. Only learning to swing a sword could make it impossible to complete some objects, so be flexible. Combat is a little clunky at the moment, but should improve as graphics and animations are tuned. Just be careful with your “Power” usage. Every combat action uses it and if not careful you could be standing there with no power left to attack since there are no Auto Attacks. This means it is time to run if you don’t have support or can’t wait for the power to regenerate.
The plethora of skills already in the game is staggering. Just in the short 3 hours that I have had to play, I have already come across 20 skills categories that I can level up and earn the abilities or bonuses they provide. Some abilities require a book or tome to unlock, sometimes you need to complete research through crafting. With the current 9 battle skills, you really define how you like to fight with your choose two to have equipped at the same time. I currently have Battle Chemistry and Swords, but you also have Archery, Fire magic, Mentalism, Necromancy, Psychology, Staff and Unarmed to choose from with more likely to come as the development progresses.
Beyond that you can also dabble in Beast Forms, which is its own skill that can be leveled. With Beast Form armor and abilities, you can run around the world as a Werewolf, Spider, Cow or any other form you can find. Utilizing Beast Form has its own challenges and penalties. Werewolf for example will be stuck in form for the 3 days of the full moon.
The depth of the skill system is impressive for this stage of the game. 24 crafting skills to keep you busy making items to assist with your combat skills. But there are even more miscellaneous skills to bring the world alive. Learn the art of anatomy and discover the mysteries of the creatures in the world. Pair this with Butchering so you can harvest the best parts. With Anatomy you can even get better at killing certain enemies, because you’ll know what parts to attack. How cool is that? Currently you can level all skills to 50 which is going to take some time.
Currently there are three large zones, seven dungeons and the new player cavern (tutorial zone) to traverse. But there is plenty to do already, whether it visiting a city or town, hunting down an elusive beast or searching for quests. Exploring and interacting with random creatures and objects throughout the world can easily set you off on a new activity just about anywhere. As an example, I was walking along a river and picked up a crab, discovering there was a fishing skill. Immediately I looked around for more crabs, totally distracted from where I was going and what I was doing. Another time I got set on fire and had to run to a nearby lake to jump in put the fire out. It is the little details that bring the world to life.
Throughout the world you will encounter puzzles as part of quests or just at random which are intriguing and make you think if you want to earn the reward. Some you will be able to complete immediately if you can decipher the riddle, others you may have to return with an item once you know what is needed. Many of the areas are designed in a way that you will want to return to them many times as you level up and revisit what can be done there.
Quests and Reputation
Remember the no hand holding? This is true for the quest system as well, which are actual favors done for NPCs. With no indications of who will offer you something to do to earn rep (a huge system unto itself) you will have to speak with everyone. When not in town you will need to explore far and wide to find someone to talk with and help them out. While the favors you do vary widely from NPC to NPC, they do follow the general pattern of normal quest systems. Though I do appreciate the ones that actually have me craft or find items for them more than the kill quests. It is refreshing to see the relationship between the NPCs desires and needs to what they do for a living. A farmer that likes seeds or a town guard asking you to kill wolves near the town gates make sense and places you into the world.
But why do the favors they ask of you? To get them to like you, of course! Each favor you do or gift you provide raises your Relationship status. As you progress your relationship from Neutral to Soulmate, you unlock the ability to access rewards such as purchasable items, abilities or increased revenue for items you sell them. The cool thing is they can also get pissed off or have buyer’s remorse when they purchase an item from you for too much money that doesn’t resell for much. Who you garner favor with will change how you proceed in the game, what skills you become proficient in and what other relationships you can affect. Spreading your social network too far can be just as bad and not spreading it wide enough. Some actions can affect the all the NPC’s in town, while others have to be on a personal level between you and them.
To continue with their systems of immersion and connection in all things, item management is very simple. Have an item you don’t want or need, drop it to the ground and anyone can pick it up. Sell items to a vendor and those items are available to be purchased by another player. But be careful, there are no pop ups telling you when you may get rid of something you need like a quest or skill item. You may not be able to finish what you were aiming to do once the item is lost.
Without an auction house type system, players need to coordinate more often to trade. This really helps develop the community to work together. With every merchant being its own mini auction house that can run out of goods to sell or run out of money to buy more goods from, players help to control the economy and keep people traveling all over.
There is a global banker to store items, but the available storage is limited. You can purchase more space from the Councilman Bankers, but it can get costly quick. This forces you to analyze what you really want to keep and what to put into the economy and make available for other players. To help with this lack of storage on the Banker, you can also store items on specific merchants once you are liked by them. So you can spread out your storage needs around town, but to get the item back, you will have to return to that specific merchant. Luckily there is a note system in game to help you remember where you put things, if you remember to write yourself one.
Death Penalty or Reward
Death has been given a facelift in Project Gorgon that can be considered a punishment or a reward depending on your goals and perspective. Each time you die in a new way, there is death experience, which especially important to Necromancy and some other skills. You level up death in the same way you do any skill, continue to do it, which won’t be hard for many. They have also re-introducing a high risk versus reward system against boss mobs to give that edge of excitement to encounters that is usually missing in the mainstream games of today.
The basic mode is simple, you die, and you respawn somewhere. However if it if you fall against a Boss type mob, then you may suffer a permanent curse. Curses can turn you into something else like a cow or spider. Being transformed is actually really cool as the forms may have their own armor to find and abilities you can learn for your character. Every Boss has the ability to do something horrific to you upon death, so choose wisely when you decide to take them on, as the stakes are worth it. Curses tend to be related to the Boss that defeats you and there may be curses you actually look forward to receiving. Don’t worry, you are warned by an intuition system when you approach a mob that has the high risk attached to them. You can remove the curse by subsequently defeating the same boss that cursed you or by finding a potion that can cleanse you.
Additionally you are given an option on how you want to have death affect you based on how hardcore you are. You can make it pretty much like any other death in recent years, or you can bump it up a notch of difficulty and some of your gear will break upon death and you have to return to where you died to get it fixed or it stays useless junk forever. There are also plans to take it a step further and have a no-respawn mode requiring another player to resurrect you or stay dead forever. This is where the community becomes important and planning for dungeon adventures and boss kills. How hardcore will you be when it comes to death?
Project Gorgon, for such an early build, is showing serious potential for a Sandbox PVE MMORPG that many have been longing to find and reignite the spark of the old days. While there is definitely work to be done, the number of hooks far out way the issues at hand. The depth of the skill system and the immersion of the world make this a project that I hope succeeds at its Kickstarter. But time is running short, give the game a try and then support them by September 27, 2014 if you want to see this one become a reality..
Want to see Project Gorgon without installing the game? You can watch my first two hours of learning to play the game here.