Get By with a Little Help From my Friends
As mentioned previously, Xsyon is not a game that can be played without the aid of others. While I have been assured it is entirely possible to progress to some degree as a lone-wolf, from my experiences of the game, this is a very daunting and difficult task.
Players are given a limited amount of tools at the beginning, and so, it becomes an almost jigsaw puzzle of trying to find either likewise players with items you need to advance, or, simply finding a tribe that can help you on your way with whichever project you wish to work on.
And while it is nice to be encouraged to play with others, it will put off certain players who wish to play casually without the added pressure of being part of a tribe, that may or may not wish for your daily input.
In my own experience I found it fairly difficult to find a tribe which suited my needs as a player, and when I had it did make my game a little easier, but it also funnelled me into certain actions which I did not wish to do. Rather than follow my own line of progression, you will find yourself helping out with certain projects or simply helping to gather resources.
And another aspect of Xsyon which causes some painfully boring grinds is the level advancement system itself. After many hours of continuous play and activity, the only skill to gain anything in the way of development will be the running speed of your player, most other skills take aeons before anything like advancement begins to happen. While some may like the more slower nature of the game, Xsyon crawls at snail's pace and it certainly feels at times that collecting 100 piles of scrap was a waste of effort.
Of course Xsyon does offer something in the way of entertainment after spending hours slogging around scrap piles, but alas, the systems for aggression in the game are an unfortunate yawn fest. Players equip a weapon from the conventional blades and axes to golf clubs and baseball bats - while it all sounds normal enough, engaging in combat with a player or NPC feels like stepping back in time around 10 years. Battles normally play out as a ballet of frantic left-clicking and run around in circular motions, it is standard and formulaic but you get the impression that Xsyon should be trying something more, something immersive, or at least unique.
The crafting system within the MMO however does bring some respite to the tedium of combat. All artisan pursuits are basically an exercise in finding raw materials and basic components to make certain items. Take for instance making a grass basket for storage, this process will see you picking grass, then turning this grass into thread, and twine, and so on and so forth. It is fun and engaging for anyone inclined to a spot of virtual-creation and surely one of the highlights of the game.
The game also allows for a high degree of customisation, for instance clothing can be made from a vast array of colours and the number of items that can be made seems endless to the point where I have yet to see any tribal with a comprehensive grasp on exactly what can be made.
Of course these systems of crafting also bleed into the building aspect of the game mentioned above with the pursuit for raw materials, and undoubtedly this is where most players will spend the majority of their time, finding a profession and finding use for themselves within a tribe or small community.
And another thing
Xsyon really fills me with confusing emotions. On the one hand it is a game which is easy to love, the graphics have a certain charm, it is immersive, the crafting elements are sublime - but on the other I really question just if there is an actual "game" to it all.
Ultimately Notorious Games’ creation feels just a little bit pointless. And before anyone screams murder and points out the futile objectives to any MMORPG, Xsyon just seems to take it further than any of its counterparts. The unstructured nature will no doubt attract many loyal followers, but for anyone looking for an experience more than a set of persistent building tools, this just isn't the game for you. Most elements are underdeveloped, and while there is a huge potential for greatness, there is as much potential for it to fail and fall into obscurity.
The big question is what players are really looking for, the game will set you back $40 and if you are looking for a new Ultima or any other such self-styled sandbox, then Xsyon isn't ready to fulfil such needs. If you do however want an entirely community-driven game with some great building functions and creativity, then check it out.