Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Chimeraland: Second First Impressions

Chimeraland is a curious game. Or I guess it might be. Too soon to tell for sure. Maybe it'll turn out to be ordinary in the end. Hard to say. 

From what I've seen so far, it seems to have a little of everything or maybe that should be a lot. When I first heard about it I imagined it would be a cheap knock-off of the Monster Hunter games. Not that I've played any of those but I've read a lot of posts by people who have. It also sounded a bit like Riders of Icarus, the mmorpg where you collect flying mounts. I know that one.

Backing away slowly...

Having played Chimeraland for five or six hours now, I'm not so sure it's like either of those. There certainly are some very large monsters wandering about but they mind their own business and nothing has yet prompted me to attack one. 

There's also absolutely no hint of any kind of story, quest or narative so far, no questgivers other than Bella, the woman who handholds you through the tutorial, the one I said yesterday the game doesn't have. It does, only it's one of the very old kind, where everything just happens in the game, not in some instance or on some island, so it took me a while to notice.

I think you're going to need to make that fence higher.

The tutorial is so laid back I'd done a chunk of it on my own just exploring and experimenting. I only found out about making campsites, cooking and building a base after I'd figured all three out for myself. Fortunately Bella's smart enough to give credit for work you've already done, so I didn't have to do it all twice.

Wandering around the world, or rather the very, very small corner of it I've seen since I fell out of the sky, I couldn't help but be reminded of Landmark. There are building plots everywhere, some of them beginning to sprout elaborate structures, others still bare rock and boards. 

Housing in Chimeraland is open plan. It seems you can put down marker just about anywhere the ground is flat enough and start building. I picked a spot close to the beach that looked too good to have been missed by all the other would-be homeowners. I think I might know why, now.

That's me, dead on the sand. It happened just before I was about to log out to come and write this post. I was in the middle of feeding an apple slushie to my horse when the screen filled with flame and we both caught on fire and fell over. I still don't really know what happened.

The "Starfall" message is misleading. You get that every time you die. I've died a lot, mostly attcking animals to see how tough they are. They do show their levels but some seem a lot easier than others and I got a drop off one, once, so I'm always hopeful.

It always tells you, in the top left corner, the name of what killed you. Wildfire got me. I think that's the name of a specific creature not just the proximate cause of death. My strong suspicion is it must be the fifty-foot glowing alligator that wallows in the river across the beach from where I built my honme. It would certainly explain why no-one else wanted to live there.

Looks like a nice spot. Wonder why no-one's nabbed it?

I say my "home". So far it's nothing more than a block of concrete with a bunch of crafting stations and services crammed wherever they'll fit. I spent a good while trying to figure out the building and crafting system by trial and error before I realised Bella was waiting to walk me through it.

It's an interesting system compared to several I've used recently, Valheim and New World particularly. At the extremely low level I'm operating it seems very straightforward and yet I still can't quite understand it. 

Currently I'm stymied by a Catch 22 I can't figure out. I need to have an upgraded house before I can progress a number of the crafting skills but I need to progress the crafting skills to make what I need to upgrade the house. I'm obviously missing something. There aren't a lot of guides around as yet but I'm sure I could find the answer somewhere, if it wasn't more fun trying to puzzle it out for myself.

I shall name him Midnight! Or maybe Dobbin.

I'm not sure I'd have found a way to get a mount had Bella not given me a horse to ride. I'm guessing you can tame a wild horse. I've seen one, walking along the beach. I imagine you can tame and ride all kinds of creatures, seeing as how it's a core part of the game but that whole aspect  is shrouded in mystery for me right now. 

I learned  the basics from my arcade machine. Oh yes, I have a video game in my video game. I crafted it. It's on the slab I call home. It has four mini-games that put you in an instance where you can fight things or shoot at targets for loot and it also lets you practice taming.

As in many games I've played, you have to beat an animal to within an inch of its life before you can capture it. I've never played one where you have to catch it with a crossbow that fires a net but that's a mere detail. Unfortunately, when I was in the instance trying to do that I didn't have a net-firing crossbow because I didn't realize I was supposed to have crafted one. I just had the regular one that shoots bolts so you can imagine how that went.

Who put you in that thing, kitty? Tell me and I'll get them for you!

From what I've read in the extensive in-game information, the creatures you tame that way aren't permanent pets anyway. More like the food you need to feed others to get a permanent companion. Or something. Honestly, I'll have to read it again. It was weird.

Not as weird as what happens almost every time I mine a rock or harvest a plant, though. Most times when I do that a small, cute animal appears. There's a cat wearing a backpack I've seen a bunch of time and a racoon. There was a frog, once. 

When one of these guys pops out, so does an icon telling me to press F to "Pet" it. Under that is a greyed-out icon marked "Tame". I've hammered the "F" key like crazy and filled half the screen with floating hearts to prove I'm doing something right but that other key never comes live. Eventually the little animals wander off and disappear.

Now we're cooking with wood!

It's all very mysterious. Cooking was a lot easier to figure out. I worked out how to craft a campsite, then how to place it, then I just started throwing in everything from my packs that looked like it might be edible and hoping for the best. At first all I got was something called "Dark Cuisine", which is basically inedible, burned gunk but eventually I managed to make some Orchid Soup and after that a whole load of recipes appeared, seemingly unrelated to what I was throwing into the pot.

I have yet to work out how eating restores health. There's a stat called "Fullness", which seems to be a hunger meter but I don't think it directly affects your hit points, which have to be restored separately. Some foods are supposed to do both but I can't reliably see my current hit point state without opening the stats page, so I don't always know whether eating something has made a difference. That's another reason for all the deaths.

Trying to make sense of it all is a huge amount of fun. It's like doing a puzzle, All the pieces are there, it's just getting them to fit together.

One thing that's very much in the game's favor in that respect is the English translation, which is excellent. There's a great deal of in-game information in the form of guides. tool-tips and explanatory text and it's all in good, clear, grammatically correct, culturally appropriate English, while still somehow managing to feel exotic at the same time. 

I haven't heard much in the way of voice-over yet but what there is has been good, too. As usual, it seems someone might have knocked over a couple of canisters of helium and nitrous oxide in the recording studio, but the high-pitched hilarity doesn't obscure the meaning. 

Visually, Chimeraland is oddly old-fashioned. After the hyper-detailed character creation, the world itself seems somewhat low-res but what it lacks in realism it makes up for in charm. 

The game's PR team like to make a big deal of the size of the world, which is supposedly vast but I suspect the size comes at the expense of detail. It's no Gensin Impact, that's for sure. Except in some strange way it does remind me of that groundbreaking game, if only the way that, for free to play, it seems to give you an awful lot of your fun up front. It's far too early to know how that's going to play out over time but I do feel the same kind of vibe I felt when I first started playing G.I.

Early days but a solid start. For the moment I can say that when I sit down at my PC, Chimeraland is the game I want to play and when I stop playing it's the game I want to write about. Both of those are common factors with a lot of fresh mmorpgs. Novelty counts for a lot. It's far easier to get fired up over new things than the same old same old even when the new is just the old with a thin coat of paint.

In this case, though, it's a whole bunch of old things, gussied up to look fresh and banded together. It's like one of those old Top of the Pops albums, with all the hits of the last few years redone by session musicians. Competent ones. 

It's familiar and peculiar all at the same time. I like it.

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