Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Don't Mind Me! Just Passing Through! I VIsit Every Territory On Aeternum And Live To Talk About It.

Once I'd cooled off on the idea of buying that three-story yellow house in Everfall, it seemed like it might be an idea to go take a look at all of my options - or at least as many as I could get to at Level 35. That meant poking my nose into places I wasn't supposed to know about. Fun!

I've kind of gotten out of the habit of taking low-level characters to high-level zones. I used to do it all the time up until a few years ago. It's a good way to get the feel of a new game. It tells you a lot about how the developers were thinking when they were putting it all together. 

In some mmorpgs it feels as though the devs want us to take the game as seriously as they do. There are rules and they're there to be followed. Sometimes you get the impression anything less might be taken as a personal insult.

Those are the games where mobs have faultless radar that locks onto any character more than a certain number of levels beneath them. You've barely set foot in a new zone when everything in a five-hundred meter radius comes barrelling out of the bushes, snarling and spitting and howling for your blood. 

Instant death follows, of course, because those are the same games that ramp mob damage up exponentially against lower-level targets. One hit is all it takes and since all your defenses are automatically negated as soon as you set foot anywhere you're not meant to go, every attack does hit.


When I run into something like that, it tells me the whole game is going to be very much an on-rails experience. The devs will tell you where you should be and when you should be there and don't even think about having any ideas of your own.

I haven't run into all that many mmorpgs quite that bad and of those that come close I've purged the memories. I tend not to stick around where my preferred playstyle isn't just unsupported but actively discouraged. Of the games I have played for a while, the one that sticks in my mind as being a little like that is World of Warcraft, although I suspect it falls more into the next category.

These are the games that use some kind of sliding scale to decide how far you're allowed to push your luck. There's not the same kind of cliff-edge you get with the really harsh mechanics of the first category but there's a pretty treacherous slope all the same. 

In zones above your intended range you get some leeway as aggro ranges increase and mobs get more vicious but you can edge past if you're careful and you might survive a few hits. If you keep on testing the waters, though, you will eventually find yourself in over your head. When your level is sufficiently far below the intended level for the zone the devs take away the safety net and it's back to one-shot kills and nowhere to run.

The third category doesn't much care what you do. Aggro ranges might vary by mob type but level has nothing to do with it. A tiger in a starting zone has the same aggro range as a tiger in the endgame. Hits get harder but incrementally not exponentially. Exploring in those worlds is purely a matter of watching where you're going. Don't bump into anything and you'll be fine. Probably.


There are, of course, infinite gradations and variations. So many factors come into play: aggro range but also run speed, line of sight, ranged attacks, crowd control effects, visibility, terrain... Even in games that don't differentiate at all by level, some zones are easy to cross while others are all but impossible for any number of valid and less than valid reasons.

In all the time I've played mmorpgs I can't remember a single game where any of this has ever been overtly explained. Usually, about the best you can hope for are a couple of indicators on the mobs themselves (A death's head or a grinning skull is generally a bad sign.) and a note on the map telling you what the intended level might be.

The only game I can bring to mind that marks the exact aggro range of every mob on the map is Guild Wars, where I have to say I always found it intensely irritating. It turned exploring into a peculiarly geometric affair, where you stare at a series of circles on the mini-map and maneuver yours in such a way that it never intersects with any of the others. I'm sure someone enjoyed it but I can see why no other game copied it.

A more common system that I've seen a few times is a radar ping on a mini map or a heads-up display that notes when some mob has noticed you trying to sneak past. You get a small window of opportunity to pull back or freeze or go into stealth, whatever seems appropriate, before the creature launches itself at you. That I also find quite irritating.

When we get right down to it, I don't like any mechanics that make looking at a map or a HUD the optimal way to travel through dangerous territory. I like to look intensely into the screen and feel myself there, in the world. 


I like visual triggers, mobs stopping what they're doing, looking up or casting around, as if for a scent. The more that's done with animation or sound, the better but I'll also settle for a big exclamation point appearing over a mob's head to show it's thinking about something. At least it's in my field of view. 

In every new mmorpg, learning the local rules, the physics of the world, the various behaviors of the different mobs and the trigger cues is one of the best parts. Then the next best part after that is learning how to play them to your advantage.

How well all those myriad factors balance and especially how fair it feels is one of the defining factors in how much fun exploring can be in any given mmorpg. Some, Guild Wars 2 for example, are so permissive there's virtually no thrill in exploration at all (Although in GW2's case, the stellar work of the art department often makes it a glorious pleasure, all the same.) Others (I thought Phantasy Star Online 2 was one, from the little I saw while I was briefly there.) are so restrictive there's no point even trying to explore.

After several hours travelling the highways, byeways and unmarked dirt tracks of Aeternum today, I would tentatively describe New World as both fair and exciting when it comes to going where you're not supposed to go. The main reason I'm slightly cautious is that my character at 35 might be a little too high for a real test. Somewhere in the mid-teens would probably have been more conclusive. 

I'm not rolling a new character and levelling them up just to find out, though, so we'll have to make do with what I learned today. Which was that most but not all of the non-elite open world map is accessible to a determined explorer, provided they don't want to go too far off-road and always keep their eyes very firmly open.


The map, when used for planning, is trully excellent. Possibly the best I've ever used in an mmorpg. Not only are all the roads and trails clearly and accurately marked but you can see quite plainly where a road goes through a village, town, hamlet or ruin and also when the road itself breaks up and becomes impassable. 

That is crucial for safe travelling because although the larger roads are mostly safe, almost any settlement other than a player-town will be crawling with aggressive mobs, many of which will spill onto the road as it goes through. Bridges, especially the huge, partially-ruined ones, are also always swarming with undead. It's essential to know when you need to come off the paved highway and cut across country to avoid murder-gauntlets like those.

The map also makes it very clear which areas are impassable. The shading and color even tells you if the obstacle is a mountain or a cliff or deep water. Again, invaluable when planing a route.

As far as mob aggro goes, I think there's a sliding scale. I found it hard to be sure. My feeling is that there's a static upper radius that attaches to mobs your own level and all those above, meaning no mob spots you from further away just because it's higher level than you. The reverse, though, affects mobs as you level past them. The higher above them you get, the less notice they take of you, until eventually you all but have to push them out of the way to get their attention.

I would stress I'm not entirely sure about that. I have a suspicion predators may work differently. In the whole time I was travelling, it was always either wolves or cats that seemed to attack from a greater distance. Especially wolves. Bloody, sodding wolves. I hate wolves! Oh, and alligators, too. 


Run speed seems to be identical for everything, players and all mobs, although once again, I felt wolves seemed to be able to catch me up when nothing else could. I think that's because of a particular lunge attack they do, though, rather than any specific speed buff. I don't think wolves get Spirit of Wolf in Aeternum and I certainly don't see why they should, when no-one else does.

There seem to be few mobs that use crowd control effects or maybe I was just lucky. I did get killed once when I tried to run through half a dozen humanoid mobs and got chain-stunned but only once and it was in Shattered Mountain, which is a 50-60 zone. I probably should have expected it.

Shattered  Mountain was one of only two of the fourteen zones in which I failed in my mission to visit  all the marked player hubs in the game. Both were zones meant for players between 50 and 60. More importantly, I think, they also have no real player towns. They aren't, as far as I can see, included in the territorial PvP set-up and there's no housing available there. 

Those two zones, along with Great Cleave, which I was able to explore, only have "Outposts" for players to craft and bank and sell. The other eleven territories all have Settlements, one per zone, largeish villages or small towns, filled with activity of all kinds. These three each have two Outposts, which very much resembe those in the original alpha. Just a fort with the basic facilities inside, nothing else. 

I did manage to get to both of the Outposts in Great Cleave and one of the two in Edengrove but Shattered Mountain proved too tough, mainly because of the "mountain" part, which meant I couldn't cut around obstacles without getting trapped against a rockface. Even though none of the Outposts had housing, something I didn't realize until I got there, it was still well worth the trip. Now I have fast travel options and respawn points for all of them.

I had no major issues getting to the player hubs in the other very high level Territories. I'd already been to Reekwater, which is supposedly the highest zone in the current game. Mourningdale and Restless Shores are technically within my level range, although only just. 

I had a bit of trouble with some goats outside of Mourningdale, which would have been a very embarrassing way to get killed, but I made it past in one piece. Restless Shores saw me arrive at the gates with four or five slavering withered chasing me in the traditional Benny Hill manner but they were never close to catching me.

The nearest I came to disaster in sight of the safety of the city was coming up the road into Ebonscale Reach, a zone intended for 55-60. It was so close my Berserker death save kicked in so technically I did die but I didn't fall down. Somehow I kept going and got away. 

It was my first visit to Ebonscale Reach, the zone Belghast compared to somewhere in Mists of Pandaria and for very good reason. I'm planning a post on which towns I'd most and least like to own houses in so I'll probably say more about Ebonscale then but for now I'll just say I did not expect anything like that!

On my run I took about eighty screenshots. I would have taken a lot more. There were plenty of times when I wanted to but couldn't stop for fear of near-certain death. 


Mostly I only saw what you can see from a road but it very much looked as though Kaylriene's critical observation about the very limited range of mob models in New World remains true right to the cap. I saw the same mobs just about everywhere, occasionally with slightly different skins. 

I don't think it matters. In a way it makes the place feel more convincing. And convincing is the word for much of Aeternum, although possibly not all of it. The nordic forests of Great Cleave are some of the best I've ever seen in an mmorpg but what's going on with all the tropical flowers in Edengrove, right next door, I have no idea. It must be magic.

All in all it was a lot of fun, exciting, involving, immersive and of great practical benefit. I now have fast travel options across the entire map (almost) and a pretty good idea where I want to live. 

All I need to do is grab another four or five levels and start working on my Standing in yet another Settlement. Which one? That's a different post but I'll give you a clue. You can see the house I want to live in somewhere on this page.


  1. I'm not that worried about the wolves in this game, I just see them as skinning opportunities. The bears though... they scare me. They're all silver elites, and even ones 8 levels below me can rip me up badly.

    I've purchased two houses, one in Everfall for the central location and thriving trading post, and one down in Cutlass Keys for rum and pirates (and also better crafting stations, the company that owns Everfall on my server seems to be pocketing a lot of the gold generated rather than upgrading stuff).

    1. Oh, don't talk to me about bears! They were terrifying in early versions of the game and of all the creatures they seem to have changed the least. I don't even take the missions for bears any more.

  2. In re: Screenshots -- I see people posting them, but I can't find a screenshot key in the game and the typical default of PrtScrn doesn't seem to do anything.

    If I hit F12 for Steam to take a screenshot I get the camera sound, but no screenshot actually is saved into my designated screenshots folder. What am I doing wrong?

    1. Hmm. I don't know. All of mine have been taken with the Steam screenshot key and it works exactly the same as in every other game I play through Steam. I did change my Steam screenshot key years ago to the same one I use in every game, Numpad Minus, which was the original EverQuest default screenshot key.

      Come to think of it, Hide UI is Alt-H by default and I think I did try to change that to F10 (the EQ default for that - I am imprinted on EQ!). I'm using Alt-H now so although I can't remember it, I guess F10 must not have worked. It might be worth changing your F12 to something else in Steam in case New World is overriding it with something of its own. I don't think I ever hit F12 in any game so if it does anything in NW I wouldn't have noticed.

    2. If I open the Steam overlay the screenshots appear there, just not saved locally on my pc. Do I have to hit that Upload button?

  3. Villagers & Heroes is another example of an MMO that lets you explore most of its zones, including those (way) above your level. But on top of that, New World seems especially permissive about how you go about the quests. It lets you charge through the main gate, bulldoze up the flights of stairs and overpower the quest boss. If you have the levels. Or the group. But if you have neither, you can still scout around, spot an old gnarled tree twisting alongside the wall, scale it, slip in through a window on the first floor and face the boss fresh as a spring chicken and hopefully around the same time the aforementioned group or overpowered individual barges in. I hated the stealth missions in The Secret World because they forced me to sneak around. But oh what joy to stealthily go about not knowing if I'm even supposed to.


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