Monday, November 20, 2023

Always Look On The Bright Side - More Tarisland CB2 First Impressions

has a First Impressions piece up about the second Tarisland Open Beta that broadly correlates with my own experience so far. It's a tad more critical than I would have been but that's not surprising. These days, I often find reviews of just about anything - games, books, movies, albums, TV shows - harsher than I'd be.

It seems to me the older I get, the more tolerant I become, which I thought was the opposite of how that was meant to go. I can't tell if it's the wisdom of experience, slipping standards or just that I can't be bothered to get worked up about stuff that doesn't much matter the way I could when I was young sprat of fifty or so. 

Whichever it is, I like to think it's an improvement. Still, it's always worth bearing in mind, when you read anything here these days, I'm probably giving a pass to stuff more rigorous critics would call out - and that applies double to MMORPGs, where I find myself very easily pleased compared to how I would have felt a decade ago. So long as a game keeps me amused for an hour or two and doesn't make me swear at the screen I'm most likely good with it.

Which just about sums up my experience with Tarisland. Although I haven't been posting about it much, I have been playing the beta every day and enjoying it. Chris Neal at MOP calls Tarisland "middling but a solid and fun game" and that's about where I'm at wih it, too. 

One area where I would slightly disagree with Chris is in the localization, which he finds "as rushed and machine translated as most of the dialogue out of Black Desert. I haven't played Black Desert for a long time and I can't remember exactly what the English translation was like there but leaving specific game-by-game comparisons aside, I wouldn't say Tarisland's translation was bad.

It's not good. Don't get me wrong on that. It's inconsistent, for a start. It's apparent different individuals or teams have worked on different text delivery systems, so the feel and sound of in-game documents, quest dialog and voiceover can sometimes differ noticeably in both idiom and fluency. 

Also, Tarisland suffers from that somewhat annoying quirk common to almost all MMORPGs, translated or otherwise, that have both written dialog and someone speaking it, which is that the words you're hearing don't always mach the ones you see on the screen. It's perhaps unusual in that neither the written nor the spoken version has the edge over the other. They're both generally okay but it can be distracting all the same and it does look a little unprofessional, even if every game does do it.

By the general standards of English localizations of Korean and Chinese games, though, Tarisland comes in well above par. I can't think of a single time I literally couldn't understand the meaning and very few incidences of glaring grammatical errors or mangled syntax. Mostly it's that constant awareness that you're reading or listening to people saying things in a way that doesn't feel entirely natural or authentic.

And that's what's so weird about it, given Tarisland's unacknowledged but widely-recognized role model: I've always felt almost exactly the same way about the stiff, oddly formal sentence structure and inauthentic demotics of much of the quest text in World of Warcraft. That game often feels as if it's been written by a partiularly stuffy academic so in a peculiar way, Tarisland's stiff localization brings it closer to its source material than a springier, zingier, snappier conversational style ever could.

Chris is also a lot harder on the storyline than I would be, calling it "shoddy at the best of times". Well, it is. There's no arguing with that. Where I'd differ is in expecting anything better. Frankly, the story in almost every MMORPG I've ever played could quite reasonably be described as "shoddy at the best of times". The genre isn't the place to go for narrative depth, originality or nuance. I count myself lucky if the story even makes sense!

All the central stories in most MMORPGs are really there for is to act as a rack of hooks on which to hang combat instances and levelling opportunities. It's true some developers - Square Enix would be the first to come to mind - like to think of their games as story engines but the more successful at that goal they become, the more likely they are to drive players to skip the cut scenes or at least go make a sandwich while they wait for them to be over.

I've mellowed somewhat on story in MMORPGs, something I used to consider actively harmful to my enjoyment of the game, but I'm nowhere even close to wanting to have to wade through a sludge of ponderous, portentous, self-important narrative just to get to the next quest objective. I like my MMORPG stories to know their place and stick to the Three Fs - fast, functional and, if possible, funny.

Tarisland's questing gets two Fs on its report card. It zips along and it does a great job of getting me to new parts of the map I might not visit otherwise. As for funny, though, I couldn't exactly say it's a rib-tickler. I'm trying to remember a single intentionally amusing moment in either the MSQ or any of the many side-quests I'ver done and so far I'm coming up blank.

The MSQ is as melodramatic as you'd expect. It's one long existential crisis, studded with betrayals, revelations and dust-ups. As Chris suggests, it's main strength is some decently memorable NPCs - I really like Princess Catherine and Lorne's not bad - but the plot is pretty much the same plot as every MMORPG ever: everyone's relying on you, the player character, even though you just fell from the sky and no-one, least of all you, knows who or what you are. Now go find these McGuffins and save the world!

The side quest are a bit more interesting, if only in how reliably mawkish and sentimental they can be. Every MMORPG has a quest where you have to re-unite estranged lovers or act as a matchmaker or help someone commemorate a dead loved one but Tarisland sometimes seems to have nothing else. Oh, wait, yes it does. It has numerous NPCs who've carelessly lost something and need you, a perfect stranger, to get it back.

It feels like those tropes cover about 80% of all the side-quests I've done in my 33 levels so far. And honestly, it's fine. I've read all the quest text - yes, ever word of every quest I've taken - and I can remember, oh, probably two or three of them. I was interested enough in the stories they tell for exactly as long as it took me to kill the mobs or grab the items and bring them back and then I wasn't remotely interested any more. And that's just how it should be. 

Another area of the game Chris dismisses as not really worth the time and effort is crafting and gathering. I was going to do a post about that part of the game at one point but now I'm not. 

The gathering is about the same as it is in most games. If you like it in WoW or EverQuest II, you'll like it here. If you don't, this isn't going to change your mind. Crafting also looks like it's going to be fairly boilerplate but also sufficiently slow and grindy that I'm not about to devote the time to it in a beta that would allow me to make any meaningful comments on how it works, let alone whether it's any fun.

One innovation I haven't seen elsewhere and which I thought was both useful and intriguing occurs right at the start of your crafting career. When you follow the quest that sends you to speak to the various Crafting Guilds so you can choose your tradeskill (There are five but you can only learn one.) the game tells you just how popular with other players on your server each of them is. 

Since Tarisland is aiming for a largely player-driven economy, in which crafted goods will play a major part, that's potentially a highly significant piece of information and one I can't recall any other game having told me before. Since this is a beta, I picked the least-popular, Artisan, which equates to Engineering in WoW or Tinkering in EQII.

If this was Live, I wouldn't have touched it with a ten-foot pole. I'd have gone for Tailoring so I could make my own bags. Instead, I was swayed by the notion of being able to craft my very own Invincible Kitten mount. Obviously, since that's a high-end luxury item, I was never actually going to be able to make one in practice but I liked the idea that I could in theory

All of which speculation and hypothesis raises the question of whether I will play Tarisland when it goes Live. And the answer is... I'm not sure. I'll certainly play it  - it's F2P so why wouldn't I? But will I play it? Or, as Chris puts it in that First Impressions piece, does it "feel like a home game"?

Hmm. Probably not but only in the same way WoW doesn't feel like a "home game" for me. What WoW feels like is a "holiday home game"; a place I know and like and where I'll always be happy to visit and stay for a while but not a place I'd ever plan on settling down for good. I have a fairly lengthy list of games like that and as of now I can't see any good reason not to add Tarisland to that list, when it launches.

It's a fun game and I think it's likely to be quite successful. I can imagine we'll be hearing about it for many years to come and I wouldn't be surprised if some of that chatter comes from me, on occasion. I don't think it has any chance of becoming my next Guild Wars 2 or even my next Noah's Heart (Yep. Still playing.) but I'm betting it'll be in the mix, somewhere.

And that's why I'm probably not going to do all that much more in this or any future beta. I've already played through the first thirty or so levels twice and while there has been new content the second time around, most of what I've been doing has been repeating quests I did last time. I don't want to reach the point where I'm already burned out on the first thirty levels before I even get a permanent character.

That said, I am having fun, so I'm not going to stop altogether. I might just be a bit more circumspect about playing the beta "as live", which is what everyone seems to be doing. I get a strong sense there are plenty of people who wish Tarisland would just get on and launch already and I might be one of them.


  1. "I can't tell if it's the wisdom of experience, slipping standards or just that I can't be bothered to get worked up about stuff that doesn't much matter the way I could when I was young sprat of fifty or so. "

    Oh my goodness I could not have put this better myself. I think in my case I lean towards "can't be bothered" but I still think all 3 reasons factor into it.

    1. Definitely a mix of all three for me although obviously I like to spin it as me getting more open-minded as I get older and having better judgment!

  2. To me Tarisland looks about as interesting as Runes of Magic, which is to say I might play it for a few evenings to take it for a spin but it's unlikely that it would ever become my home game for weeks or months.

    Lately I find that I am cycling between games that I have already played at some point. There are now enough of them that it takes me more than a year to cycle through games I am already familiar with and enjoy but haven't been to in a while. As far as new games, I'm much more likely to go for an offline game than a new MMO these days. Despite GW2, New World and some other "new to me" games I am damn near positive I would enjoy being out there.

    Not sure what that is about, save perhaps being more conservative with my spare time the less of it I have.

    1. Weirdly, Ifind that the more spare time I have, the less of it i use to play games. I think when I was working full or nearly-full time, when I got home in the evenings and on weekends I felt entirerely justified in doing nothing but enjoying myself and relaxing whereas now I only work a couple of days a week, I have this nagging need to do something "useful". Also, having a dog really takes a lot of time, or it does when you insist on making her go for walks when she'd rather sleep!

      RoM is an interesting comparison in that I remember it being one of the first and most blatant "WoW clones". Of course, back then by that we just meant games that borrowed WoW's gameplay. Tarisland goes a lot further than that. The trick most WoW clones never pulled off, though, was being a *good* copy of the original. Tarisland looks like it's going to do that quite nicely.


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide