Deepworld is Bytebin’s take on the sandbox MMO. It’s a terra-forming game that riffs off on impressions of Terraria and Minecraft. Variations on a theme as you mine for resources, move blocks of earth and craft new things with the resources you mine. Set in a post-apocalyptic Steam Punk world, you wander about exploring, dodging acid rain, strange underground octopi and rogue clockworks, and you build. Fantastical underground chambers or traditional above ground houses complete with glass windows, fireplaces and fancy ironwork.
Deepworld is playable on the MAC and the iOS tablet and I reviewed the game on the iPad2. A 2-D game, movement is via a virtual joystick at the left bottom of the screen, but you game centers on your character and character actions such as mining and shooting enemies require tapping the screen - which makes it hard to actually hold the iPad and play at the same time. Other functions like inventory and crafting are accessed through a menu on the right side of the screen. On a MAC, no problem, but on the iPad, I found the only easy way to play was to set the tablet down or propped on a stand. This becomes important when you are fighting the aggressive creatures you encounter as you have to switch out the pick in your hand for a weapon in your inventory, then move and fire at the same time as the creature moves around and takes a hunk out of you each time – generally faster than you can maneuver with the iPad in your hand.
Besides walking / running, you have a jet-pack to fly with, but the controls are poor. You generally fly up. The best you can do with that is to move diagonally, then you drift downwards into something you could not see while up in the air (like that pool of molten lava) and are desperately trying to fly out of again. You can also teleport to different areas and that’s what you want to do anyway, to get to the regions that are less explored as the resources have not been mined out of them – and the world is huge. Players also place teleporters to get to their homes and anyone can use them as well.
Crafting and building is the name of this game and you build by highlighting blocks of crafted or gathered material on your tool bar and then tapping the ground and on top of each other. The irritating thing about the method of building is that you can’t pick it up again if you placed the wrong item. You have to mine it by tap, tapping it until you’ve got it back in your inventory. Fortunately, it shows back up in your inventory whole, not in its component parts.
Achievements are how you advance in this game. As you gain them, you gain a skill point to place in a skill of your choice. However, there isn’t an in-game tracking system, just a window that shows up when you’ve attained an achievement that shows a couple of others that’s available, and your profile shows your skills and achievements. On the one hand, it encourages you to just enjoy the game. Explore, mine, craft and build. On the other, it can make advancement slow and frustrating, and all you seem to be doing is mining, mining and more mining - endless tapping on the ground under your feet.
Deepworld features a 2-D post-apocalyptic Steampunk world. That said, Bytebin has done an excellent job in conveying the feel of the world. It’s a dark world with a palette that’s mainly made up of earthen hues, yet it has lovely contrasts as shown in the light of candle and lamps. There is gleaming brasswork and pipes that can be built, fancy iron scrollwork fences and wall paper of Victorian patterns. Your avatar may start off as a bearded man in a checked shirt, but once you build a mirror (or encounter one) you can change hair. Build a wardrobe and you can put on a skirt and boobs (Really! Well, profiled top piece anyway.) – voila, instant gal.
Sound effects are sparse – the sound of rain, the birds you encounter, the lonely tack-a-tack of your pick as you mine may be the only sounds you hear, but even those are appropriate for this world.
The world hasn’t got the bling of 3-D mobile games with full character animations, voice-overs, and waving grass, but it is a 107 MB download, not 600 MB. For a 2-D game, they’ve managed to pull the pieces together and the world looks seamless. But for a plaque with the builder’s name or protectors which prevent the structure from being taken down, you would not be able to tell if you’ve encountered a long abandoned part of the world or one that has been built by a player. As the game progresses and environmental effects (acid rain) begin to erode buildings, unless maintained, player buildings will also show wear.
DeepWorld is a sandbox MMO. It’s a crafting and building game that incorporates player-made items into the world and through those items you can interact with and change things. Not just your avatar through crafted items, but the world itself. You can clean the world, stop up the underground vents that are leaking poison into the world and causes the acid rain. In short, you can clean up the world and make it safe. Birds will fly around in a cleaned up world but not a toxic one and clean rain will fall.
DeepWorld is an Indie game. For that, I have to give kudos for the looks and immersive feel of the game. However, the game lacks cues and clues for players. A pop-up to let them know if something they are doing is futile. I dropped a block accidentally and tapped on it fruitlessly trying to mine it back into my inventory. Did I drop it in the radius of a safe zone? I don’t know. Another time, I mined myself into a corner – it was the edge of the zone. Luckily there was something I did that hurt – no idea what – but I continued tapping until my character died and respawned. The tutorial is repeatable, which is nice, but there isn’t an achievement tracker, or journal to help you keep track of them, nor an NPC to point you in the right direction by giving you a quest.
Sadly, I do not see how long this game will continue. It is very much a niche game. A 2-D game in a world where many gamers judge games by their aesthetics, and there’s a long and sometimes, frustrating leveling path. Hours and hours of tap-tapping to gain enough resources to build a few things, hours and hours more to gain enough levels to raise skills in order to build more things, and that’s all you really do in this game. Despite the initial draw of its aesthetics, there is little to hold anyone but the most dedicated of crafters. But you know what? I hope I am proven wrong.
Trading currently is player to player. Finding other players are tough. Lurking on the forums, I know there are other players out there. I’ve seen their fabulous creations and I’ve even seen one run by with a mucking big ray gun, saving my newbie ass. There’s even a place where they congregate to trade. I’d just like to find more of them in game so I can actually be social.
Well, it’s free to download and play, and Bytebin doesn’t ding you for inventory space or character customization. However, you need an infusion of crowns if you want to build and not have some other player come behind you and mine off pieces and parts of your building. Crowns are not expensive. You can get 250 of them for $4.99. Building protectors run from 20 to 125 crowns and player teleports are 40 each. There’s also a premium world you can buy that’s your own private piece of the world that you can invite your friends in to. It may seem like it kind of defeats the purpose of an MMO, but it’s nice to have!
In the end, the DeepWorld is that of the post-apocalyptic survivor. You are almost alone in this world. You travel and gather resources, you find remnants of civilizations and you encounter the buildings of others. I only wish there was some way to leave them a note. A chalkboard you could build for a visitor to say. “Leroy was here, friend me?”