Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Out Of Early Access, Into Early Exit : Otherland

To install and play AdventureQuest 3D on a PC requires Steam. I have a Steam account but I don't use it very often. Most of the time I forget it's there.

One of the few games on my Steam list is Otherland, an MMO with a very checkered past, about which I've written a handful of times. I'd vaguely registered a news squib a while back that claimed Otherland was now out of  "Early Access" and into commercial release.

With that move came a full wipe. and I didn't even have the game installed on my new PC but I thought I might as well patch it back up, start from scratch and see how things were going.

At first glance things everything seemed fine - better, even. There's a largely new tutorial, much tighter and more coherent than the rambling, confusing one I played through earlier this year. I breezed through that in an hour or so. It felt exactly like playing a single-player rpg and that's pretty much what Otherland seems to be right now because I didn't see one other player, even when I arrived at the main social hub, Lambda Mall.

It's still gorgeous to look at. The art design is fantastic. The art team has caught the look and feel of Tad Williams' novels, more so than perhaps I originally thought. It's worth downloading (it's F2P) just to run around and gawp.

As for it being an MMORPG, though...well, first you'd need some other players but it's not just that. It's more that if there's a world here I can't quite find it. The tutorial is linear as you'd expect but when it came to an abrupt halt I couldn't work out what to do or where to go next.

In the previous version the questline took you from Lambda Mall to the first adventure zone and things carried on from there. Based on what I read on the forum when I was trying to figure out what was going on, that should still be the case but it's  not, or not for me.

It'll be a bug. The game is still riddled with them. I had to relog twice just to clear glitches in the tutorial and the recent Steam reviews and forum posts all confirm that Otherland remains as buggy and unpolished in every respect other than the visuals as it always was.

It's a shame because as many people point out it's just about the perfect IP for an MMO, not least because Tad Williams probably retro-fitted a lot of the underlying concepts from the genre in the first place. The potential is almost certainly going to go to waste, sadly, since it seems that there's neither the interest from the public nor the authority from the developers to do it justice.

Even if I had been able to leave Lambda Mall it seems my options would have narrowed. Back then I remember doing a fair amount of open world questing, meeting various NPCs and helping them with their usual range of problems, just like any MMO but reading the forums it seems that even those limited MMORPG aspects that the game had to show when I last played have faded away. Side quests and crafting have apparently failed to make the move to Early Access leaving what amounts to a single, linear main storyline that eventually peters out (although not where mine did right at the beginning...).

This is hearsay and maybe someone reading this, who's managed to push further into the game, will be able to put the record straight. Only I doubt anyone reading has played further or, indeed, as far. And I'm not going to, either.

Sometimes you reach the point where you realize you've given an MMO just about as much time as it deserves. You're playing away and you find yourself thinking of all the other things you could be doing instead. I think I reached that point with Otherland about an hour ago.

Never say never. If I hear that anything's really changed - for the better - I'll always be open to taking another look but for now I think I'm done. On to the next world.


  1. Interesting that on the same day you post this, a YouTuber I follow also released a video about Otherland. He was not impressed.

    1. The really disappointing thing is that, if what people on the forum are saying is true (and I don't plan on going far enough to find out) the game's actually in worse shape now than it was six months ago.


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