Thursday, May 5, 2022

Elteria Endures

Just shy of a year ago, I received an invite to the alpha test of a sandbox mmorpg by the name of Elteria Adventures. I gave it a go and wrote a First Impressions post in which I described the game as being like "Landmark and Free Realms had a baby". I called it a "solid" and "convincing" start.

That was pretty much the last time I mentioned it until this February, when I wrote a catch-up post in which I went back and looked again at all the First Impressions posts I'd ever written to see how well my initial takes held up. Things didn't look all that promising:

"I went back and played a few times but I ran out of new things to do and stopped. Development seems to have stalled. The Steam page says "There's no recent activity from the developers of this title..." I might look into that later.

Turns out I was a tad premature in writing the game off. Yesterday I was browsing through my Steam library when I happened to notice that Elteria had received an update. I took a look at the notes to see what might have changed.

The first thing I saw was a massive Ukrainian flag with "We Stand With Ukraine" emblazoned across it. Beneath that was this statement:

"Greetings from the Elteria Adventures team!

Despite this difficult time, when half of our team is hiding in bombshelters, and another half is doing everything to help, we still decided to fulfill our promise and release this update in time. It contains several months of our work, so we hope you enjoy it.

We will continue working on this project for as long as we can.
No to war."

Elteria is being developed by the eponymous Elteria Team. I'm not sure if they're actually based in Ukraine or not since information about the company on the web seems unusually sparse. The publisher, Heatherglade Publishing, is based in Hungary, which is right next door.

There followed details of an update that would have been impressive in any circumstances, let alone with a war going on.  It includes a companion for your character, a new mechanic that allows you to expand and upgrade your personal island, a major revamp of mob AI, an expansion/progression mechanic for inventory, significant revamps to both combat and building mechanics, a new Adventure Journal and a "massive rework" of the landscape generation systems. 

Oh, and Raspberry Snails that you can catch and eat. Plus all the usual bug fixes you'd expect in an alpha, naturally.

I thought I'd log in and see things for myself. My old character was still there, something you can never take for granted in an alpha, but it seemed like a better idea to roll a new one and start fresh. There was a choice of North American or European servers and for once I decided to go Euro. The 11ms ping might have swayed my decision there.

As soon as I got in, any plans I had to focus on the new stuff disappeared. For one thing, I'd completely forgotten what a brutal game Elteria Adventures can be, right from the start. 

Looking back at my First Impressions piece, I think I rather glossed over the unforgiving nature of the early stages. I did make some comparisons with Valheim, but having recently gone back to that game as well, I'd have to say that Elteria Adventures makes the Viking afterlife look like a toddlers' tea party.

In Valheim, you might get killed by a skeleton once or twice before you get the hang of things. Maybe by a boar, if you're particularly inept. Last night I lost count of the number of times I was sent to my spawn point by both of them. 

As soon as night fell (And night in Elteria is dark.) the skeletons come out to play and the boars, benign and harmless by day, turn feral. I note with some concern that last year I said that once I'd worked out how to equip a staff and fight with it I had few problems staying alive. Either I've gotten worse since then or the game's gotten tougher because having a stick in my hand didn't really help all that much this time around.

In the end I got so ticked off with pigs and animated bonepiles lunging at me out of the darkness I built myself a shelter. It didn't help much but at least it was something to do with the endless stacks of sand and rubies clogging up my bags.

As I wrote last time, the tutorial takes you through the basics up to the point where you have to make a portal to take you from your personal island to the public areas, where most of the resources are. I got so wrapped doing all that, I lost track of time. 

When I finally got my portal done and logged out, Steam told me I'd been playing for two and a half hours. As I've mentioned before, I have a real problem with games where you can build houses and terraform the landscape. It's as close as I ever get to feeling addicted to a game, which is why I'm wary of getting sucked in. 

I logged in to check a couple of things for this post and found I'd played another hour and a half. It's a yellow flag for me but a recommendation for the game. Clearly it has something going for it if it can set a hook like that.

Of the listed changes, the most immediately noticeable was the Personal Sidekick, a floating bot that accompanies you from your first moments. It neatly fixes a problem I noted last time, namely the ridiculous survival genre convention of punching trees and rocks to get started. The Sidekick does that for you with some kind of ray and it also acts as an attack droid if you haven't made yourself a weapon.

Once I had a stick the Sidekick didn't seem to atack any more. It might be nice if it joined in the fight as well. Other than that, I was very happy to have it's company. You can upgrade it, too, although I didn't quite figure out how.

About the only other changes listed in the update that I spotted were the hives from which you can get restorative honey. That was a lifesaver - literally. Until I got my hands on a honeycomb I couldn't find any way of recovering health, which was one of the reasons I kept dying.

It seemed to me the world looked more detailed and visually richer but looking at the old screenshots and the new I'm not sure I could stand that observation up. The forests do look denser but that's about it.

One difference I definitely did spot was a change to the recipe for the portal that gets you off your Personal Island. In the old post I make mention of needing "Deep Gold" and having to spend some considerable time and effort delving the caves for it. This time round I only needed iron, not that that was particularly easy to come by, either.

If I get a moment, I'm going to log my original character in and see if there's anything new for her to do. As the passage I quoted earlier confirms, the main reason I stopped last time was that I ran out of options. Maybe the new Adventure Journal will have some suggestions.

It's very good to see that development on the game is still progressing, especially given the circumstances. I hope everyone at Elteria Team, including Alice, who was kind enough to drop by and leave a comment on the original post, is safe and well. Let's hope for calmer, brighter days ahead, when the team behind Elteria Adventures can put all their efforts into making something we can all enjoy, rather than playing their own real life survival game.

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