Sunday, January 29, 2017

Get Wings. Wear Wings. Fly. : Revelation Online

Revelation Online continues to mystify and amuse in equal measure. Yesterday I set out once again with the intention of stepping off the moving walkway that passes for questing in this strange game. Having failed to discover how to begin crafting or harvesting and with nothing related to housing anywhere in sight I thought I'd just wander around and take in the sights.

In some ways RO could be an explorer's dream - if you equate exploration with tourism, which I confess I often do. As far as I can tell you can click on just about any icon on the main map - a vendor, for example - and the game will autorun you there.

Doesn't matter if you're on the coast and the target is in the high mountains half a continent away. Doesn't matter if there are rivers or seas between you and your goal. It certainly doesn't matter if you've never been there before and have not the slightest idea how to get there.

At first I had to run but now the game responds to my imperious clicking by having my character produce a blast on a whistle to summon her horse. She then mounts up without any help from me and off she rides. If they come to a body of water the horse vanishes and my character swims like a fish.

Quite literally like a fish, in fact, or a mermaid. All movement from the waist, legs going side to side like a tail, no arm movement at all. Unlike, say, GW2, your character can't automatically breathe underwater but it takes a very long time indeed for her breath to run out. I've done several quests requiring diving that would have drowned someone in EQ2  and I've yet to see her breath bar go under 90%.
Airships look a lot more impressive from the ground.

While riding it seems mobs ignore you completely. I've watched as my Spirit Shaper, sitting serenely, sidesaddle, on her Red Horse, canters through herds of aggressive beasts ten or twenty levels higher than her own. They might as well be rabbits.

I had plenty of time to consider all of this at the start of the first session because I'd idly clicked on one of the many (MANY!) hourly, daily and weekly Events that the game thrusts into your hand the moment you log on. Something about eggs. I was hoping it might be like the egg smashing event I used to love doing in City of Steam or the Joker's Funhouse in DCUO.

Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. I wouldn't know because the place it begins turned out to be a hundred miles to the West. I'd been riding for what seemed like hours but was probably about five minutes, which is still a significant amount of time to be auto-riding a horse in a game, when I got distracted by a city.

Revelation Online is one of those games that seems to think the average NPC is about 75 feet tall. Everything is on a truly gigantic scale. I mean, I've been in some big buildings but you could put a whole cathedral in the atriums of some of these halls and still have room for a train station and couple of grain silos.

It makes the cities somewhat impersonal, I think. Divinity's Reach in GW2 is big, yes, but it's also rich in detail and made up of many small courts and alleys. Here the smallest thoroughfare is an avenue and every square's a parade-ground.

I was lollygagging at the mountains from a high terrace when an airship the size of a small town pulled up alongside me. In seventeen years of MMO gaming I've never knowingly turned down a free voyage on any kind of ship - sea, air or space - so I rode my horse onto the deck and off we went.

Again, the scale was so massive that all sense of "being there" was lost. Unlike the ride in the tiny hot air balloon in 9Lives, for example, which had me tensing my knuckles with vertigo as I craned over the edge for a good view of the rooftops, this had all the thrills of a cross-channel ferry.

On an airship. In case you couldn't tell.

One thing stands out concerning travel in Revelation Online, whether by foot, by horse, by water, by air or via the widespread network of teleport pads: it's free. When GW2 launched and for months afterwards there were grumbling complaints about the few silver it cost to use the waypoint system. In EverQuest, EQ2 and Rift when they were new I vividly recall how I had to scrimp and save to buy even a basic mount.

Getting a good ride has been positively aspirational in most MMOs I've played. In RO they hand them out for doing, well, nothing. Nothing that you notice. I got a choice of horses at the end of one of the never-ending, incomprehensible quest sequences but later I found the same horses for sale on a vendor for a pittance.

Like Aion (and Flyff long, long before that - anyone remember Flyff? Anyone? Bueller?) RO is supposed to be a flying game. There was that part early on that I mentioned in my First Impressions post, where someone lends you his wings so you can see for yourself what you're working towards.

You'd imagine there'd be some kind of ceremony, fireworks perhaps or a fanfare at least, when you acquire a permanent set of wings all your own. Apparently not.

I knew wings came at Level 29. I was level 27 when I jumped back on the quest train (Don't judge me!). I thought I was paying attention but a quarter of an hour later, when I clicked autorun for the millionth time, for once taking a quest step that needed me to travel further than the usual four or five paces, I suddenly found myself enveloped in a cloud of feathers and hurtled skyward.

Checking my details as I barrel-rolled through the ubiquitous cherry-blossomed skies I saw that yes, I had indeed dinged 29 without noticing. I was, in fact, almost 30. The game, recognizing my graduation from hooves to feathers, now auto-equips my wings instead of my mount whenever I want to travel.

I may be being a tad unfair here. It's entirely possible I got the wings as a quest reward and just clicked through in a daze. I long ago lost any feeling of involvement or control or interest in the questline, whose translation is now so fractured as to be almost Dadaist and whose plot I ceased to follow somewhere in the mid-teens.

Even if I wasn't paying attention, though, I think it's safe to say the game does not make all that much of a fuss about this supposedly seminal moment. It's a shame because the wings themselves are very impressive. If this is the basic starter model I can't even imagine what Raid wings might look like.

I flew around  for a while enjoying the sensation. I really love games that let you fly with wings rather than on a flying mount. I notice there's also a whole new skill bar that appears in flight, suggesting a detailed aerial combat system. I imagine there's a skill tree for that but don't get me started on skill trees in this game...

Closed Beta 3 ends in a few days. I am not sure whether I'm glad about that or not. I find Revelation Online extremely difficult to take seriously but it isn't boring. Or sensible. I do think, every time I play, that if I'm going to play something like this I might as well get my semi-established characters out in Blade & Soul or ArcheAge or Black Desert or even Riders of Icarus, all of which I was enjoying well enough until I dropped them cold.

Truth is, I really like trying new MMOs, even when they aren't very "good". I may spend 90% of my time in old favorites but I crave novelty as much as anyone and trying out crazed imports like these (or Digimon Hunter or Twin Saga) is a great way to get that novelty buzz.

I'll be back for Open Beta, assuming that's next. I don't think I'd go so far as to buy the box, if that turns out to be the payment model, but I wouldn't rule it out. Those wings, after all. Those wings...


  1. I remember FlyFF :) It was fun back then :) I've tried the modern remake and, urgh ;(

    1. Super-late reply... I played Flyff when it was, I think, in open beta. I never even got far enough to be able to fly, which made the whole thing a bit of a non-event. Looked at it a few times since but never given it another go. I don't know if the version that's running now is the old one or the remake but either way I think that bird has flown...


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