How many times have you wished you could go back and change something in your life? Taken a different path or simply said something differently? No matter how hard one tries, life will always be full of some sort of regret. Too many variables make it impossible to get things right every time. Remember Me is a game entirely about how small changes can make the world of difference, set in a futuristic vision of Paris where the manipulation of memories are possible, both for good and nefarious reasons. …
Fallen Earth is an MMO quite unlike other more mainstream titles of late. This is exactly why more people need to play it. Initially it seems to be just your regular, clunky and drab looking MMO. Actually it is at times, but it’s also so much more than just its looks. We’ve all seen the bleak wastelands and zombie infested future which games seem to adore showing us but it’s the way that Fallen Earth portrays it that makes it so much fun. Persevere through a slightly mundane tutorial section and it doesn’t take long to realise just what is so compelling and unique about this post-apocalyptic MMO.
There’s not a huge amount that can be said about the tutorial. It’s functional at best with nothing particularly grabbing me. In fact my expectations were very low initially thanks to my experiences with a very clunky combat system. I suspect my over reliance on auto attack modes has made me lazy when it comes to MMO combat, so having to aim at my opponent myself felt quite unnatural and awkward. Once the game opens up away from the instanced tutorial, things become very different. There’s no sign of the hand holding that is apparent in other MMOs in recent years. This is both a curse and a blessing as I can see many people giving up far too quickly in favour of easier, but less rewarding, games. It’s worth sticking by Fallen Earth though as you’ll be eventually rewarded with an experience that gives you more choices than nearly any other MMO in years. The desolation of the bleak wastelands around you are intimidating in their vastness and it’ll be many hours until you adjust your expectations appropriately and simply enjoy the fact that there’s no ‘set’ path to take. This really is an MMO that makes you feel entirely free in your options, something I haven’t experienced since my infatuation with space based MMO, Eve Online.
Unlike more conventional MMOs there is not even a class system to be confined to. There are templates that you can choose to follow but for the most part you can mix and match your skills however you want. This really opens up a lot of options and it’s refreshing to see a game treat its players so maturely, allowing them to really mould their character into a bespoke model. This is demonstrated even further by the impressively complex crafting system. As you would expect in a post-apocalyptic world, useful items are hard to come by in their complete form, so you’ll quickly rely on the items that you can create yourself. To create such items can take quite a while as initially core materials must be found amongst the rubble, before you even start to form more useful items. That’s not forgetting the matter of acquiring blueprints to know exactly how to make said item. After this the actual crafting element can take a long time, comprising of hours sometimes, but fortunately this can be left to finish while you are offline. Something that was used to great effect in the past by Eve Online’s skill system. Crafting is immensely rewarding but much like the rest of the game, players do need to be committed to the effort. At least if you’re the lazy sort of MMO player, you can always buy items from other players through an auction house system, although the snob in me can’t help but see that as cheating.
The crafting system was what really drew me into Fallen Earth. Being able to craft all my weaponry and even build my own vehicles felt like a great accomplishment, much more so than ever levelling up in other, more mainstream MMOs. It made things feel less like a grind and more like a battle for survival, which is surely exactly what should be felt when playing an RPG set in a bleak world. Frequently Fallen Earth felt more like a single player RPG experience by my own continuous self-reliance on myself rather than others. Despite this I still found the online community as mature as the game’s content, being (for the most part at least) extremely helpful and supportive.
It’s not all plain sailing for Fallen Earth. As mentioned previously, it does have a steep learning curve at times which is sure to put some players off persevering. However give it the respect it deserves and it becomes an extremely rewarding experience. It’s a culmination of small, initially mundane sounding things that make it so enjoyable. The fact that it explains your ‘respawning’ upon death by showing that you are a clone, or the fact that you can have horses or motor vehicles to travel with but they all need maintaining in some way. It gives the allure of true independence and choice, something that too many MMOs don’t bother with even though surely that’s the entire point of having an entire virtual world at your disposal.
Fallen Earth isn’t for everyone and I can see why some players will be disappointed by the lack of strong structure here, and the unconventional manner of the game. However others will thrive upon its openness and complexity. It’s the nearest you’ll get to a Fallout MMO which is surely high praise in itself. Just don’t expect an easy ride at first, good things come to those who persevere.
Aion comes from South Korean based MMO powerhouse, NCsoft. You may recognise the name from titles such as City of Heroes, Guild Wars and Lineage 2. All enjoyable MMOs but all lacking a certain something that would propel them to greatness. Aion on the other hand certainly has a hell of a lot of promise for such a new MMO. It’s worth noting now before I begin that I adore MMOs, they provide ultimate escapism. I’m not just playing a game with a linear storyline, I’m living in a world full of people who are as human as me and I can finally feel like a pioneer. Sure this escapist’s world tends to involve a lot of teenagers with aspirations to be ‘l33t’ but make friends with the right people, and there’s something truly special about the experience. Aion reminds me of this vision very much.
A lot of MMOs are reminiscent of modern society; they all seem to thrive upon instant gratification. Everybody wants everything right now, right this second. Understandable really considering life being so fast now. Long gone are the days where it took hours of playing to level up and then one simple death put you right back where you were five hours ago. These days we are used to the likes of World of Warcraft where you can reach level 60 on your own in a mere 2 weeks of gaming, even less with the recruit a friend scheme. Aion is rather different from this instead focusing on the levelling journey itself as well as the destination.
I found out quickly that this meant that players actually stuck together, just like they used to. When it takes a while to level up in the 20s or 30s (Aion has a level cap of 50), it made sense to form groups to complete quests and gain experience. That’s not to say that it is a slow ‘grind’ to level up in Aion. Sure it might not be as fast to level up as World of Warcraft is, but nor is it as slow or as torturous as Everquest 1 or Dark Ages of Camelot. It’s great middle ground ensuring that levelling up felt like an achievement but not a slog. The first 10 levels or so are quite simple to gain meaning that it’s not long before you’ve got some power under your belt.
The class system might look a little limited at first but it opens up nicely. The initial choices comprise of the scout, mage, warrior and priest classes. Anyone who has played an MMO before will recognise these archetypes: damage dealer, caster, tank and healer. Each class then opens up further at level 9 adding specialisations to each, so that one can become a gladiator (a strong tank), a spiritmaster (a pet class) or an assassin (sneaky damage dealer). This is simplifying things quite a bit but with MMOs being so huge, it would be quite easy to write an entire essay on each class. From experience, I found that pretty much all the class types could solo when required but this really is a game that’s engineered more for group encounters than lone ranger style exploring. This is made even more vital with the presence of the much anticipated PvP elements of Aion.
At level 25, the option to enter the Abyss opens up. This is where flying (I did mention flying, right? Yes you can fly in Aion, but only in select areas) comes into its own and so does sticking together. It’s a pure PvP area which not only unites the two player based races, Elyos and Asmodians, but also an NPC based race the Baluar which is also out to get you. It’s an intense experience, made all the more so by the fact that you must fly across from platform to platform but it certainly sticks in your mind, and is a great experience. The game really does open up once you reach the midway level point with group instances becoming near essential to gain better items and to level up effectively.
After playing such a solo friendly game as World of Warcraft, it was a slight culture shock to suddenly need to devote time to grouping together to achieve a common goal but it also quickly reminded me just how much fun it is to do so. You can’t underestimate camaraderie and I’ve always found it is the friends I make in an MMO that keep me playing for longer than any amount of content offered to me.
I spent much of my time in the city areas, such as Sanctum and Verteron, building up my crafting skills. Not only did they provide me with experience but I’ve always been a sucker for tradeskills in MMOs. Aion offered me plenty of choices with the likes of cooking, handiwork, weaponsmithing, sewing, alchemy and armoursmithing. In the early levels, the experience gains from such tradeskill related quests were particularly beneficial. While spending time in the city areas, it becomes quickly apparent that they are bustling hives of activity: full of quests and NPCs, but also full of excited new players keen to join together.
To be cynical for a moment, I do wonder if this excitement will last longer than these early first months, but it does seem to have a strong chance of it. With increasingly strong legions (guilds) emerging across all servers, the community certainly seems to be powerful enough to maintain the momentum that the launch of Aion has produced. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its faults. Besides the incessant gold spammers plaguing all servers, some quests are perhaps a trifle dull at times. The combat although initially involving, eventually turns into a slight monotony of hitting the same few buttons in sequence to ensure an adequate combo is performed.
Overlooking these flaws however, Aion was a great experience and one that has enthused me to levels that I haven’t felt in a long while. I don’t have a crystal ball so can’t tell if it will reach the heady heights of the likes of World of Warcraft or Ultima Online, but it is certainly well worth a look if you fancy something a bit more group orientated than previous MMOs.