Friday, July 13, 2018

Legends of Aria : Brief Impressions

When I logged out last night, I was in two minds whether to post about Legends of Aria. After all, I hadn't even been planning on playing it. In fact, I'd forgotten it existed until I happened to tab across to Massively:OP and land on a key giveaway. Never turn down a free beta key, even if it's only good for seven days. Every MMO is worth at least a look.

The registration and installation process was very easy and Character creation is basic so that didn't take long. I went with a female warrior with red hair in a bob, wearing a crafting vest and a maxi-skirt straight out of 1972. No pictures, sadly. I hadn't loaded FRAPS and I failed to find any screenshot function.

There were skills to choose and points to spend. I didn't realize that taking them overwrote the default skills you start with so I ended up with a Warrior who could tame animals but couldn't use a sword... or something. Honestly, I wasn't paying that much attention.

And that's all you're getting!

There was a choice of four starting areas. I picked the worst one. Actually, I can't say for absolute certain it's the worst. I've only seen one of the others. I just can't imagine there's anywhere less appealing than where I ended up that first time.

The town I picked was a port on the edge of a desert. When I arrived the game gave me a perfunctory introduction to the UI and told me how to fight (hit Space, target your enemy and run at it - subtle!). After that I was on my own.

The controls were abominable. WASD kind of worked. Perspective was a strangled three-quarter view. The screen wouldn't turn or rotate. The camera was fixed other than a limited dolly in and out.

I struggled with that for a few minutes until I was on the verge of quitting and uninstalling. It was when I was googling to see if there was a screenshot key (nope) that I found out about the almost invisible cog on the mini-map that opens the Options screen.

Me and my Big Book of Spells.

The limited choices there at least allowed me to enable full WASD and also click-to-move as well as to roatate the screen via the right mouse button. A combination of all those made the game just about playable so I carried on.

There were NPCs but none of them seemed to do much. You could speak to them and they had a line or two of flavor dialog but nothing more. I had at least picked up that Legends of Aria is a full-fat sandbox so I took it that I was supposed to make my own entertainment. I jogged out of town looking for something to kill or gather, that being about the be-all and end-all of entetainment in most sandboxes at the start (apart, obviously, from being ganked by anyone a few sessions ahead of you).

No-one did, in fact, gank me, although there were times when I would have willingly run onto a sword just to have something happen. In the event, once I was a few hundred yards from the gates I never saw another player, presumably because everyone had more sense than to run out of a perfectly good town into a desert filled with snakes.

I spent the next hour or so jogging across one of the most featureless, boring maps I have ever seen in an MMORPG. Sand, sand, sand, sand, snake, snake, snake, snake, turtle, turtle, turtle, turtle, sand, sand, sand, sand.

One of the very rare occasions when my spell didn't fizzle and also hit something I was aiming at.

I killed some turtles. They were easy. I killed some snakes. So were they. Various skills incremented by 0.2. Nothing had any loot but you could get meat from the snakes so I did. There was nothing else to do.

I saw a wolf. I killed that. It was easy. I was beginning to think Warrior might be OP. I saw some camps full of humanoids. A lot of them. I edged close and they turned to look at me. Maybe not that OP. I thought better of it and carried on. After a while I was completely lost.

There was no map. Just a mini-map that told me nothing I couldn't see for myself. I was fed up of running and killing snakes so I thought I'd see what was in my bag. A rolled-up map, that's what. I clicked on it and it opened a big map like you would expect to get in most MMOs if you hit "M".

Old school. I quite liked that. I was less impressed by how much use it was. Not much. I spent a while trying to use the map to get back to where I started but I ended up going in circles. It was all getting too tedious. I logged out and went to bed.

This evening when I came home from work I read Scopique's first impressions post. That did explain things a little. I'd forgotten Legends of Aria was The Game Formerly Known As Shards, which I have a vague memory of trying in some beta or other and disliking. I'd also forgotten it was supposed to be the spiritual successor of Ultima Online, an MMO I played for two weeks in the year 2000 and didn't really like all that much either.

Me recovering some mana. Only took me about ten attempts.

Still, I have the thing for a week. Might as well have another look. So this evening I made a new character, a Mage this time, and started in one of the other towns. That part of the world was a lot less unpleasant to look at , being green and leafy rather than tan and arid. There were also a lot more people around (none of whom ganked me, again).

Other than that it was much the same only a lot harder. As in I died a lot and didn't kill much. Typical old school Mage/Warrior split. Warrior OP at start, Mage pathetic. My spells fizzled a lot and when they didn't the UI was so clunky I couldn't work out how to target and fire them before half my leg was eaten by a wolf. The heal spell made a nice healing sound and a glow but my health didn't seem to improve.

When I died the first time it took me a while to work out how to revive. I found a stone eventually but it seemed like a bit of a faff. I was losing interest and when I got killed, twice, by ramapaging skeletons (first time I pulled one to see how tough it was, second time I think I was trained) I decided life (real life, that is) was too short.

Resurrecting a stone is for losers. Tool tip tells you that. In so many words.

The reason I was in two minds about posting at all is that a) this is a proper beta and b) it takes a lot longer than a couple of hours to give even a fair "first impression" of an MMO. Anything I say would come over as unduly harsh.

On the other hand, there is the argument that as a business, once you start taking money you're fair game for any criticism your customers want to throw at you. I didn't pay but someone did. The cheapest of the beta buy-ins starts at $29.99. It would also be difficult for me to invest the hours necessary to give the thing a fair shake because I cannot cope with the camera angles and perspective - they make me feel trapped and fractious, which is not exactly the leisure experience I'm looking for right now - or ever.

That said, as Scopique points out, the finished version is supposed to allow players to create and host their own rule sets. Someone might make something more to my taste using the tools, I guess. I somehow doubt it but it's not impossible.

Let's give it the benefit of the doubt for now. Open beta is due sometime later this year. I might take another look then. Or I might just skip it. I don't think it's really my sort of thing. Might be someone's, though.


  1. At the “proper” Ultima Online camera angle, it looks quite pretty. I wonder who they’re thinking their customer base might be though. Surely Ultima Online stalwarts are -still- playing UO and have, oh, 21 years of investment in their characters and community?

    Personally, the dealbreaker for me is probably skill-based systems that increment by 0.2%. I had enough of that trying out Wurm Online. Deliberately grindy, tempting botting or at least a paperweight on your keyboard, and suggesting that having fun (or at least succeeding more often than you fail) will only come after months and years of investment. Ain’t got the real world time for that kind of thing nowadays. Maybe others do; all power to them.

    1. The thing about skill systems that upgrade in tiny steps is I enjoy them at the start and then I lose interest. I can't imagine ever caring enough to cheat to raise those skills, even by jamming down a key. I always just wander off and do something else once progress slows down to a crawl.

      I'm thinking of doing something about the whole concept of sandbox gameplay, particularely PvE sandboxes, and it revolves around having time to burn. Still mulling on it.

  2. I got a key from Massively as well and was planning to give the game a whirl tomorrow.

    I can't say this post fills me with confidence.

    1. Well, as I said, it might work for someone. I can see the potential. Just not really the point.


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