Thursday, November 2, 2023

Legends Of The Fall... And Rise

When I started writing this post abut Legend of Edda: Pegasus, I found it surprisingly hard to come up with the usual, scene-setting background information I'd normally drop in to the opening paragraph, when writing about a game I didn't expect most people reading would know very well. It wasn't impossible. Just difficult. And certainly a lot more time-consuming than I'd expected.

To be honest, most of what I needed was in the same MassivelyOP news story that drew my attention to the game in the first place but you never want to rehash your primary source. That looks cheap. You need to show at least a little evidence of original research.

Of course, for the last decade or so "original research" has mostly meant skimming a Wikipedia page. Everybody does it but it's especially easy for anyone writing about the kind of things that get traction here. Even after all these years, Wikipedia is still overstocked with articles on popular culture. If you want to check every line-up change in an indie band that broke up fifteen years ago or get a timeline of every time a C-list superhero swapped their costume, Wikipedia most likely has you covered.

I've always found it a highly reliable source of information on MMORPGs, at least as far as launch dates, closures and changes of ownership are concerned, so it was a bit of a shock to find there's no Wikipedia page at all for Legends of Edda. Not so much as a stub.

Luckily, I know how to google. Here's a piece from that tells you more than you almost certainly want to know about the game as it was back in 2010, when it was just about to enter closed beta. It explains exactly why I never tried this free-to-play title when it launched later that same year:

"Legend of Edda is a hardcore PVP MMO, with a deceivingly cute interface. The game features fast-paced intense battle featuring a lot of very powerful PVP, and large scale RVR battles."

There you go. Hardcore PvP. That'll put you off every time. 

Too cute to kill. Oh, I meant the mobs but yes, I take your point!

And it would have put me off, I'm sure, if I'd ever known about it. In fact, I barely remembered LoE when I saw it in that MOP piece last week. It rang the vaguest of bells but I'd be lying if I claimed I recalled anything about the game, other than thinking I'd heard the name somewhere before.

I certainly didn't know it had closed down twice already, the first time just a year or so after it launched and then seemingly for good a couple of years after that. Apparently it was the subject of some concerted hacking and illegal RMT that publisher GameCampus (Probably best-known for the golf MMO Shot Online.) couldn't handle. 

Hacking and cheating in a hardcore PvP game. Who could possibly have predicted that?

The game stayed offline for years until the original Korean games developer EyaSoft inexplicably decided to relaunch it in July 2023, with the help of games publisher IndigoWare. EyaSoft is probably best-known, if it's known at all, for the very short-lived (2011-2012) "gypsy-themed" (?!) MMO Iris Online or the slightly longer-lived Luna Online (2009-2012), a game that sounds remarkably similar, apart from the Romany trappings. 

Then there was the even more obscure Titan Online, an mmorpg based on Chinese mythology that also launched in 2009 and presumably closed soon after, although no-one anywhere in the world seems to have cared enough to record the event. EyaSoft was really knocking those F2Ps out back then.

IndigoWare is a Brazilian company, which explains why the two languages available in Legend of Edda: Pegasus are English and Portuguese. The publisher seems to release games exclusively through Steam. Legend of Edda is its only MMORPG. 

Well, this looks nice...

Other than by the games its developed, I have no idea what kind of organisation EyaSoft is. The company's LinkedIn page doesn't seem to have been updated for well over a decade and I can't see much evidence of activity between the second closure of LoE and this sudden resurgence of interest. Maybe Titan Online is still operating in China or South Korea and they've been busy with that.

It seems they have - or possibly had - plans to bring back Iris Online too. There's a Steam page for a new version called Iris Online: The World. The game is listed there as "Coming Soon" although it's not available in an English translation so I imagine you'd need some Portuguese to play it. 

You'd also need a miracle because there's a big, orange warning:

Notice: Iris Online: The World is no longer available on the Steam store.

That's a shame. I was curious to try the "intricate Tarot Card system" that allows players "to have their Tarot Cards read by a fortune-telling NPC". You don't get that in World of Warcraft.

Until and unless that seemingly abandoned project resurfaces, I guess I'll just have to settle for Legends of Edda: Pegasus. I downloaded it on Steam yesterday, registered the required account with Eya Soft and logged in to make a character.

The game is exactly as I expected, given that at that point I hadn't yet realised I was letting myself in for a "Hardcore PvP" experience. I played for an hour last night and another hour this morning. I'm level six and there's been no sign of any PvP so far although I guess it's early days yet.

My very loose understanding is that the game is based around dungeons rather than outdoor zones and presumably the PvP happens indoors, although really who knows? There's a drop-down menu on the very good map that gives a long list of dungeons with their appropriate level ranges and possibly allows for instant movement between them, although I haven't tested it.

Excuse me Ma'am. I think you were expecting some pipes?

My gameplay so far has been absolutely identical to the opening levels of every South Korean anime-style F2P mmorpg I've ever played, which is quite a few. I've been running around town picking up simple quests from guards and shopkeepers, all of whom have either had tools or crafting materials stolen by monsters while they were out travelling or who have incompetent subordinates who need help keeping the city safe from those same tool-stealing monsters.

Almost inevitably, there was a quest chain involving the unrequited - and indeed unwanted - affection of one townsperson for another, in this case the local vault-keeper and a nearby shopkeep. She'd noticed him eying her up from a distance and understandably wanted him to stop, so naturally she asked the first passing stranger to find out what he was up to and put a stop to it. 

As always, that led to some to-and-fro in which I played the part of the young boy in the Go-Between. I'd love to be able to say Legends of Edda is a different country and they do things differently there but they really don't. I will say that it's surprising how the gift of fifteen raw, untreated skins, freshly flayed from the backs of a bunch of mad pigs, will turn a girl's head and quite possibly her heart. I'm not sure it would work that way on me.

Legends of Edda may not be very original but at least in the early stages it is extremely polished. It looks very good for its age, the animations are excellent, combat feels solid and satisfying and everything works as it should. 

The UI is pleasing to look at and intuitive to use. The English translation is solid if unspectacular. Quests are easy to follow and pleasnat to complete. None of them take very long or require a great deal of travel. 

The map, which as I said earlier is excellent, shows everything you need with exemplary clarity. What's more, you can click on both the full and mini maps and have your character trot to the spot you've marked. This is arguably even better than full auto-questing in the way it effectively removes the tedium of finding your way from place to place while still allowing you to feel like it's you doing most of the intellectual heavy-lifting.

Everything happens at a brisk pace except for the actual running, which is oddly sedate. Every mob you need to kill is present in numbers although near-instant respawns mean you can almost stand still and kill what might as well be the same monster over and over to make your quota. Quest drops are guaranteed and time-to-kill is measured in seconds so what seem at first like daunting numbers - twelve, fifteen - take no time at all to knock off. 

Every mob drops loot. Sometimes it's just gold but often it's health and mana potions or wearable armor and wieldable weapons. There are crafting mats and other utilities too but no trash loot. It's very satisfying. When I got an upgrade to my basic bronze sword and wooden shield, I felt positively cheery.

The whole thing just jogs along. I had a great time. If I hadn't played a dozen games like this before I might even have felt a little excited about my future prospects. There are some solid-looking progression mechanics involving skills and abilities, you can upgrade your armor, there's crafting and pets and mounts. That's all the good stuff you want in an MMORPG, right there.

It's interesting to play these old games, the ones that failed at launch but come back a decade later, ready to go again. Especially when you compare them with the numerous modern equivalents going through alpha and beta and Early Access. I played Rose Online around this time last year and very much enjoyed it. I can easily see myself putting a similar fifteen or twenty hours into Legends of Edda before drifting away.

Aww, come on! I just want your skin!

By contrast, I rarely manage more than two or three sessions in any of the would-be successors of these games. I consider myself more than averagely tolerant of unfinished games, works in progress and even bug-ridden messes but the more I revisit some of these older titles, the more I notice just how polished they are. They have bugs, sure, but they're rare. Much more importantly, they have systems that work and content that's complete. They also know what they want to be and don't try to do too much or be everything to everyone.

When considering why they failed or just faded I have to suspect a large part of the problem was just that there were so many of them. There must be scores if not hundreds of competent, formulaic MMORPGs in which everything pretty much works but nothing very much stands out. 

It's strange how many keep coming back, although Legends of Edda is unusual in that the reported reasons for its closure were external. Not many MMORPGs close down because the developers can't handle the riotous attentions of their players. Mostly they shut because they don't have any players so they aren't making any money.

I hope Legends of Edda: Pegasus fares better than its predecessor. I suspect a more likely fate than a hyperactive and delinquent playerbase is going to be very little interest at all, something that's just about guaranteed to sink a game that relies on the kind of player interaction necessary to keep a PvP title, hardcore or otherwise, in business. 

For now, though, if you're looking for a light-hearted, relaxing, semi-old school MMORPG experience, you could do worse. Until the PvP kicks in, anyway.

If it ever does.

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