Since playing Wurm, when someone mentions sandbox MMOs, I yawn. It's one of those Pavlovian reflexes. Spending several nights watching to green progress bars filling up, then finally clicking on the "create axle" menu item, and watching as it fills up ever so slowly.. and fails. I still have nightmares about that.
This is what I relate to when I try a new sandbox MMO. Dawntide and EVE were better from this perspective, but EVE was too big and too slow for me, and I only played Dawntide when they did the first beta 4ish years ago, so it was pretty unsophisticated at that point of time, and didn't have much content either.
According to the game's site:
Another one of those sandbox games, isn't it? Yes, pretty much. But not one of those "I sit here and craft 60 pointed sticks" games; while playing, I was moving and exploring most of the time, and only stopped for crafting once or twice in a few hours.
Obviously, there are phases in this game: First, you explore a lot, learn survival, gathering, creating fires, etc. After that, you start building your own place, a basket, a fireplace, a woodworking table, a house. After that.. I don't know, I am still in the first phase. I have learned quite a few useful things already; I can create axes, fishing rods, a lot of different kinds of food, baskets, fires, sea monster masks. I think I even have a place to build my first house as well.. although I am not really sure about this. :)
You might wonder what makes this game interesting. I can't really say. It appeals to my exploration side, as it requires you to run around a lot (the world is HUGE) and find stuff to learn from. I also feel that the pace of getting new skills is just the right one - it's quick enough to get the sense of going somewhere, but slow enough to feel that you achieved something when you learn a new skill. Yet, it is very different from your normal MMO; after learning how to fight, equipped with TWO axes, I attacked a grasshopper. It knocked me out, which is the "little death": not an actual one, but you lose all items from your inventory and get teleported back to your starting point. My character is not a hero, it's as simple as that.
The most interesting part of the game is the skill learning system. As the last part of this blogpost, let's take a look at it.
To be able to learn a skill, you need to have a collected amount of lore in several fields. For example, to learn the skill "Survival Skills", you need to learn about Frontier & Wilderness, and Hunting & Gathering, 200 points in each. These are the so called proficiencies, and there are 15 of them. To learn about things, you need to collect or craft Inspirational items, for example, a smooth stone. To be able to study an item, you need to select it in your inventory, and select Study after pressing right click on it. This starts a learning process which will give you some points over time in a few of these proficiencies. But because studying destroys the item, you need to be careful. Every inspirational item gives you some points (from 50 to 1000+) in several proficiencies.
When you collect enough points in all of the required proficiencies, you can learn the skill. But here comes the second caveat: After you learn a skill, all collected points in all proficiencies will be reset to zero. So there is no way to trick the game with collecting a lot of points in all proficiencies, and learning several skills at once.
After a while (too soon) you get to a point when you notice that the new skills require you to have 600 or 700 points in one proficiency, but the maximum you can learn is 500. What you need to do here is very simple: if you fill up one proficiency to the maximum score and click on the score bar, your maximum is raised by 100 points, and (third caveat) your collected points in all proficiencies are reset to zero.
To make matters even more interesting, there is a diminishing return effect when learning several items without spending the collected points. You learn 100% from the first, 70% from the second, 50% from the third, 25% from the 4th.. etc. Basically, you need to try and use items which provide you the best scores for a given proficiency. It is not easy, especially that you are very much in the hands of the RNG in the first phase.
Still, the game is very interesting altogether, and it is a lot of fun. If you can secure a beta key, do it now, and join in.