It is a year on from now, and the world has changed drastically. Gone is civilization, gone are cars, factories, sitcoms, and Piers Morgan. The world is fresh, brand new, and ready to inhabit once again. And do you know what the best part to all this is? You can fashion clothes out of grass. Not even kidding.
I think you can tell immediately if a game is good by the amount of names it has, and Xyson: Earth 2012 - The Prelude is no exception. This MMORPG comes from the minds at Notorious Games, and will have anyone looking for a sandbox-come-survival simulator clutching at their crotch trying to stem the waves of orgasmic joy.
Xyson officially entered pre-launch on the 18th of February, and while the game has been experiencing one or two problems with its server, I had chance to sit down and get my sandbox on with it for a few days.
A Brave New World
Much like any online game, character creation is the first port of call and this offers one or two interesting ideas. Aside from making your onscreen self into a bearded hermit, there a plethora of stats to play around with and further, a small number of choices as to what your avatar will specialise in from: hiding, logging, scavenging, fishing, terraforming, and crafting. Essentially what this does is dictate roughly what tools you will begin with and this forms the style in which you will initially proceed.
After deciding on the suitable name of Morrissey, I headed to the "enter world" button and found myself in the location of my choosing. The game takes place in the surrounding areas of Lake Tahoe, and after first popping into the world, I couldn't help but stumble to higher ground to take a better look at everything.
There is a tendency within "post apocalyptic" titles to go for browns and greys (cough, Fallout, cough) but Xyson's playing-space is filled with lush and vivid colours that inhabit a range of areas from quaint woodland areas to foreboding mountainous peaks. It is a varied and exciting looking wilderness that will have you itching with enthusiasm to find that little patch of land to call your own.
After surveying the landscape for a short while, I decided to head into the interior of the wilds in search for a place to make camp. While there are roads and paths that run throughout the world, the greatest sense of discovery comes from simply exploring the small rivers, waterfalls, pits and various other little nuances to the map.
After a journeying for a little while I came across fire light in the distance and decided to investigate. As I drew closer I could make out the shapes of tents and various other structures, and further, I could see players sporting grass-tailored pouches whilst swinging axes at falling trees or crouching by the river bank to catch fish. It all seemed so idyllic.
Into the Wild
So moving onto the actual gameplay experience itself, Xyson doesn't feel a million miles away from A Tale in the Desert-meets-The Sims. Essentially, Notorious Games have created a survival simulator which calls upon a player to "live off the land" and within this are certain needs and desires from your avatar such as hunger, thirst, and energy. What is very apparent about the game is that it is filled with immersion, animations portray certain actions, real-life urges are accounted for, and even collecting resources will reflect upon the world with trees crashing down and scavenge pits depleting to nothing once used up.
The inventory system is also fairly interesting as your character is not the human pack-mule that we have all come to know and love but actually a human with real strengths and deficiencies. Every tool you carry which is larger than say a hammer, is carried upon your back, and there are limited spaces on which to hang these items from yourself. And further, bigger resources such as scrap metal, cloth, and plastic are also placed upon your back making repeat trips for whatever object necessary. To some this may be an annoyance but for anyone looking for that emergent experience that really encapsulates the endurance of living in the wilds, it is a very interesting concept.
Resource collection is also one of the major points of the game. Every scrap of land will mostly contain something that can be collected or used. A patch of grass land can picked clean and further the spoils can be woven into clothing or item carriers. Trees also yield logs, large or small, and all manner of resource can be delivered from these. The aforementioned scavenge piles are also interesting in that they are basically mounds of waste from the world that was - plastics, metals, and cloth can be found which after a few clicks can be transformed into all manner of different items.
The games progression system also takes a turn away from the traditional in that players "skill-up" by simply attempting such actions, not unlike Darkfall; running from place to place will increase your speed, making certain objects will gradually increase your knowledge, and so on and so forth. And while the game is without classes, the tools that start with your avatar dictate your role to begin with and this comes in to further importance with the Tribe system.
You are going to have a difficult time playing Xyson alone. While it is not impossible to solo the game, aside from trading or making a few lonesome acquaintances, this survive-'em-up calls upon the ability to make a few friends and create some sort of commune with them. Being a hardy British gent with a knack for saying "WHO WANTS ME IN THEIR TRIBE!?" on global, I found myself talking to a friendly chap who invited me to his newly formed settlement.
The world of Xyson is pretty huge, so picking that the nearest spawn to your would-be-tribe is something that is probably best sorted during forum discussions; luckily I happened to be quite near the headquarters of my newly-made friends and so I set about scuttling up hills and inclines to meet them; and after one or two missteps, falling down a waterfall and running in terror from a bear, I found them.
The camp was a low key affair, a few tents littered a small patch of grass that ran by a river; mountains loomed large to the north; a path connecting us to the rest of humanity to the south; we even had a quaint camp fire and a master angler on hand. Xyson is very much a community game in that it you will find yourself collecting resources hurriedly in an attempt to help your fellow Tribesman erect a wall or a fence or whatever structure.
And there always seems something to do, while the tribe area itself is a protected area from others, meaning that you can't be attacked or bothered, there is still a need to create a place for larger resources, a place for baskets for more precious tools, and more importantly, a little cloth shelter to call your own.
Soon our camp went from a rag-tag Scout post to something majestic and beautifully crafted. We had walls of branches and twine, two pieces of a limestone wall with an air that said "To be finished soon.." and a stockpile that would make the most hardcore Stronghold player weep. There is a fascination with the game that comes from collecting certain resources and becoming a reliable member of the team. A trip to sort nails from scrap metal turns into also searching for a few small metal plates for one member and even a few rivets for another.
From my experiences it feels pretty much essential to play with others, as playing without them would be missing a huge portion of what Xyson has to offer. My tribe became teachers and objective creators, the sandbox and freeform element of the game, which would normally see me defeated to confusion, was an engrossing and engaging affair because of the people around me.
Xyson is shaping up to be something fairly unique in the MMORPG genre. The current pre-launch issues aside, the immersive and emergent gameplay on offer is something that will appeal to many and is very easy to recommend at this point. My only major worry with the experience is the lack of a tutorial other than those found on YouTube. Xyson is a big, complex game, and I will admit that starting out was a very daunting task without a few nudges in the right directions and a few explanations of how to carry out certain actions. Perhaps this is something the developers might look into? Time will tell.
If you are looking for a non-linear, freeform sandbox which asks nothing of you but to survive and socialize, Xyson: Earth 2012 - The Prelude is shaping up to be something very special indeed. Watch out for the launch on the 15th of March and remember to stay away from the bears.