French development studio Nevrax were seemingly brimming with ideas as this game was in development, alongside the unique and creative leveling system, and an in-game Internet browser we have certain other features such as spell crafting. This is a neat little system which enables the ability to design magic and techniques to fit your play style. For instance; if you have combined your efforts into the pursuit of sword trickery and fire magic you can create a technique or spell which combines the skills you have learned in these fields. It is a very creative and involving system which further adds to the feel of Ryzom's already epic sandbox. This theme continues as the game is bustling with ideas and imagination such as an approach to crafting which is essentially treated as an equal to the physical advancement of the player character in magic and melee. It is interesting to see a game take on the challenge of crafting and instead of reducing it down to a very remedial mini-game, it is as treated as a real facet of the games advancement and importantly worthwhile it terms of things that can be created.
Ryzom is a very impressive game but the inevitable faults do shine through. The inventory system is very lackluster and for the newcomer very hard to grapple with. When hovering over an items attributes and effects the player is awash with information none which seemingly making a great deal of sense. When crafting a new item it is a struggle to really differentiate between core stats and in turn it becomes increasingly harder to discover what items aren't worth your while. Questing also is a very tired and uninspired affair, it is seemingly a throwback to a time before questing was a valuable option to developers, most missions given to you are kill X of Y and mindless grind seems to be the better option most the time.
Ultimately Ryzom is a game of grind however, you grind for levels in magic, might, crafting and harvesting. While this is true of all games it becomes glaringly the case in Ryzom as all iterations of game play come in the form of gaining experience, be it killing a beast with a fire bolt or crafting an item with haste. The game simply boils down to one of unadulterated grind across the board and while this is in no means a bad thing, it can leave you a little desolate of fun distractions.
Issues of Performance
Unfortunately I ran into some serious issues trying to run Ryzom. The game seemingly wouldn't take to either of my machines and neither would it take to two separate Internet connections I tried to run it through. Whilst playing the game I was constantly bothered by connection problems, that to my knowledge didn't exist, and performance problems. Playing on a high end machine I struggled to get the game to stop juddering and jerking around and when I finally did I constantly found myself disconnected from the game server. When asking about this issue in-game I did receive help from a GM almost immediately and several people commented on how they also had similar problems but just persevered.
While my experiences with performance didn't necessarily ruin my experience with the game, it did hinder it slightly and I was very disappointed to see that the game would not run on a laptop which I use to play games of similar age and more often, of better technology and graphics. Overall while it may not be everyone's experience, Ryzom struggled at times performing the way it should have.
The Lights Are On But No One's Home
So with the formalities of game play dealt with it is time to really delve into the essence of the re-review as we examine the progress of the game as well as its community. Sadly with all of Ryzom glowing praise worthy imagination, the world of Atys is a desolate place bereft of population. Towns and cities are full of milling NPC citizens but increasingly destitute as the occurrence of running into another living thing is a rare sight indeed. During my tenure in Ryzom I saw no more than eight people together at one time; it was almost depressing as the game has so much potential and is yet so woefully ignored. The saving grace of the game it would seem is the community itself as they are extremely welcoming and helpful to those brave enough to venture forth into this unexplored country. The Universe chat tab is usually buzzing with one conversation or another and this really helps to quell the creeping sense of loneliness felt when adventuring through very deserted environments.
As stated previously you cannot help the wandering sense of futility at achieving anything in the game, the low population only adds to the feeling that the game is on shaky ground and without a serious injection of interest, no amount of helpful community can save the game. Starting out in the tutorial zones can feel very daunting as you discover that the amount of active players dwindles to very few and this can really hinder any future enjoyment of the game especially as elements such as Player Versus Player, Raids and other such high level content activities are limited to a small groups of organized individuals. For the common player it seems very difficult to break into the proceedings compared to likewise games on the market.
The sad fact of Ryzom is that it is a great game that has deserved so much more but unfortunately has not received the attention so desperately needed. The progress of the game over the last few years, aside from one or two events, hasn't amounted to much as no real new content has been added. While on a purely gaming basis I can unreservedly recommend Ryzom, as an MMORPG I cannot, the game simply does not have the required numbers to really make the game enjoyable and worthwhile. As I write this I feel a sense of conflict as my words could condemn the game even further but the truth is, Ryzom is a very empty, under populated game and unfortunately a lot of the content on offer seemingly would make use of a higher body count. To close; if you can cope with the low population, give Ryzom a try, you may find something you adore.