Monday, June 25, 2012

Urs and Worse: Argo

What with all the MMO doom and gloom of the last few weeks, the bankruptcies, closures, lay-offs and cancellations it's worth remembering just how many of the blasted things there are out there. I'm a dipper and a sampler of MMOs, a collector even. In a dozen years I must have tried sixty or seventy. That's not even one in ten just of those released in English.

I do try to keep my end up. I sign on for betas and download trials. I follow the news and watch out for anything coming along that might be interesting. I know about ArchAge and Firefall, Origins of Malu and The Repopulation, Salem and Storybricks. I've written about City of Steam and The Missing Ink. And as I've mentioned, still they slip by.

I am not a pixie! These are mechanical!
I hadn't missed Argo. I just hadn't paid it much attention. Argo is one of the small but growing cadre of supposedly Steampunk MMOs, most of which have very little steam and no discernible punk. Now, I haven't read a lot of Steampunk so maybe I'm missing a key genre convention, but does it always have elves?

Oh alright, not elves. "Elves" is inflammatory, I grant you. Hippies. Tree-huggers. Druids. Nature-boys. There always seems to be a Tech team and a Nature team slugging it out for the future of the inevitably war-ravaged world, spells against guns, tanks versus treants. Wait, I have a video here somewhere that says it best...

Well Argo is all that. Plus the website looks horrible. And it's published by Allaplaya, the gaming wing of PSS1, who as we all know are The Devil. And anyway, I don't have time for yet another badly translated F2P.

So I downloaded Argo. And guess what? It's quite good.

I might go a bit further. It's possibly the most enjoyable non-Western F2P I've dabbled in since Zentia. Ah, Zentia, high-water mark of random acquisitions. I'd play it now if I hadn't broken it. I really must fix that.

More Steam Fair than Steampunk
But for now I'm going with Argo. Yes, it's badly translated. Yes, the low textures look like a child's painting seen through a rain-smeared window when compared to the exquisite detail of The Secret World. Yes, the quests would insult the intelligence of a laboratory rat. Yes, the character models look like day five of "Learn To Draw Anime in Seven Days". Yes, my character's gun is bigger than she is. Yes, all of that.

Looks just like The Somme, doesn't it?
But I'm level 10! And I've played half a dozen sessions and I want to play more. The world may not stand up to the kind of detailed examination that's so richly rewarding in TSW or GW2, but it's an intriguing, idiosyncratic place all the same. For a "post apocalyptical MMORPG" set in "a post-world-war realm" (source) it sure looks bucolic. And that's the techie starting area! God only knows what the hippie commune's like. I'd go check but I'd have to make another account. They make you pick a side and stick to it. There's a war on, in case you didn't know. Or was. Anyway, we don't talk to them.

Aww come on! You wouldn't shoot me!
I've roamed around. The website promises a "vigorous open world", and while I'm not vouching for the vigor it's certainly open. Distances seem large, especially without a mount. Wildlife is insanely plentiful, freakishly cute and disturbingly fast to respawn. It really rubs your nose in the futility of your own existence, virtual and otherwise, when another Urs respawns on top of the one you just killed before you've even had time to pick up his bear-bag. (That's like a man-bag, only for bears. All the smart, six-legged metrosexual bears are carrying them).

There's crafting. And gathering. Very reassuringly traditional. Buy a pick, find a node, stack some ore. Get a recipe, learn it, select and combine. I felt at home right away. And that's the trick, right there. Argo gets that one indefinable thing right. It feels like a place you could live in. Like Zentia does. Like Loong doesn't.

Yes I would. I need the practice.
In that Loong piece I asked myself the question "Will I play it much?". I didn't. With Argo there's a good chance. It's a poor time to be finding new MMOs, what with TSW going live this week, City of Steam alpha and EQ2's Qeynos Revamp in July and the inevitable GW2 pop-ups. All the same, I think I might find time for a little Argo here and there. It would be very nice to get past the newbie areas in one of these imports just for once. Level ten's a good start.

I'll keep you posted. I bet you can't wait.

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