Friday, November 5, 2021

Elyon - If I ever Get Out Of The Tutorial, I'll Tell You What I Think Of The Game

In times of mmorpg famine, such as we've experienced in times not too long past, I would have expected a flurry of blog posts about Elyon, the recently-released free-to-play title from Bluehole, the developer best known for Tera. These, however, are times of feast for the genre, verging on glut. To date I have seen not a single post on the game in this corner of the blogosphere. I suppose I'd better do one, then.

Arriving, as it did, shortly after Phantasy Star Online 2, Swords of Legends Online and Bless Unleashed and almost concurrently with New World, just to name a few of the summer's highlights, Elyon was always going to struggle to make an impact. Still, the total radio silence still surprises me a little. Although I loathed Tera, which I still rate as one of the top five worst mmorpgs I've ever played, even though I only "played" it for thirty minutes, I have to acknowledge the game has its supporters, particularly for the way it pioneered "action combat" in a genre where it had previously been all but unknown.

In its bid for attention, Elyon has the advantage of being published by Kakao, a known quantity in the West for previously having published Black Desert Online, not to mention, as I did yesterday, making news for having acquired the rights to ArcheAge from Gamigo. It's also not only available but featured on both Steam and GeForce Now. Even though I've made not the least effort to remember the game exists I've been unavoidably reminded of it's existence literally every day since it launched.

In the end it was GeForce Now that tipped me over the edge. When I've gone to log in to New World the icon sitting right beside it has, more often than not, been Elyon's. I've hovered the mouse pointer hesitantly over it a number of times but managed, heroically I think, to resist. Today my resolve finally crumbled.

A major factor in my loss of resolution was the knowledge that by playing Elyon through GeForce Now I wouldn't have to install the blasted thing. That's another not insignificant reason to favor cloud gaming over home hosting. Games these days are big. They take up a lot of space on hard drives and although they're orders of magnitude faster to download than they used to be, it can still take a good while.

Choosing to play a new game that's already installed on someone else's server comes closer to being an impulse action. In theory I ought to have been making my first character in Elyon this morning within a minute of deciding to give the game a go.

Yes, in theory. In practice, surprise surprise, it took a little longer. Everything went swimmingly until I reached the point where the game was about to start and then up popped a window asking me to enter my Kakao account details so it could be linked to my Steam account. 

That was a problem. I didn't know if I had a Kakao account or not. I thought I might. I'd played Black Desert when they published it. I looked for the details but I couldn't find them so I had to make a new account. I appreciate these things are necessary but sometimes just the thought of having to come up with a new account name and password is too high a barrier.

Not this time, though. I gritted my teeth and powered through. Go me!

Was it worth it? Nope. Not really. I didn't instantly detest Elyon the way five minutes in Tera made my skin crawl but it was a bit of a slog. If I had absolutely nothing new to entertain me right now I'd probably carry on for a while but as things are I suspect all I'm going to see of the game for the foreseeable future is the tutorial.

It's a long one. On the free version of GeForce Now, my maximum play session lasts an hour, after which I have to log out and back in again if I want to keep on playing. Character creation and the basic tutorial took me fifty-nine minutes and forty-six seconds.

To be clear, a good portion of that was taken up by fiddling around with the shape and color of my character's eyeballs. One of the reasons I finally cracked and gave Elyon a try was the option to play a small, furry animal. I'd noticed in the promotional shots that one of the races was some kind of rabbit or cat and I've been playing human so much in New World (and Fallen Earth) lately I just couldn't resist the fur and whiskers.

Elyon has perhaps the most original take on an anthropomorphic animal race since the Gibberlings in Allods Online (If you remember, Gibberlings as player characters come in packs of three, like an always-on Triplicate Girl.) I doubt any mmorpg race is ever going to beat the Gibberlings for originality but the Ein certainly stake their case, being a collective appellation for a number of different, unrelated small, furry creatures.

In practical terms, what that means is you get to choose between playing a domestic cat, a rabbit or another animal that's either a dog or a sheep. I couldn't quite tell. I went with the cat. 

You also have to choose a side from two opposing factions, something that, were you planning on taking the game seriously, would require some thought. In this respect, Elyon is identical to Rift as it was at launch. No, not identical, even more restrictive. In Rift you couldn't play characters of opposing faction on the same server; in Elyon you can't play them on the same account.

Makes New World's restrictions seem positively liberal, doesn't it? I cannot for the life of me see what the point of it could be for the simple reason that Elyon is a free to play game. If I want to play both sides on the same server I can just make another free Kakao account. It takes, as I just said, a matter of moments. If I was going to hang around I'd be annoyed but I'll leave that to someone who has a reason to care.

The options at character create weren't extensive by the very high standards of Korean F2P games but there were enough sliders to keep me occupied for ten minutes or so. There was also a very impressive range of costumes, although I think they were just for show, to let you know what you're character could look like at some point.

Once I'd made my cat there was a short introductory cut scene with a narrative set-up that felt almost dizzyingly familiar and it was straight into non-stop action for the next three-quarters of an hour. The tutorial also felt incredibly similar to many, many others, not least the one I just played through in Fallen Earth.

Oddly, while I found the FE tutorial gave quite a good introduction to the game, the Elyon one struck me as doing just the opposite. The main reason for that is partially the pacing, which is relentless, but mostly the sheer volume of disposable enemies you're required to mow down at almost every stage. They die very fast but having to kill four, then eight, then fifteen before a quick conversation and starting on the next batch is not a great way to get to grips with the UI and the controls, particularly once you work out that just hammering LMB kills everything long before you take any major damage.

The dialogs with NPCs, of which there are many, are partially voiced, something that also happens in New World and which I find considerably more irritating than having them either fully-voiced or silent. Having someone speak the first sentence out loud then go silent while you read the rest of the paragraph is awkward and annoying and I wish developers would stop doing it. I assume it's done to save money. Well, save yourself some more and just stick with the text.

Graphically, I found Elyon unpleasant. It reminds me of Phantasy Star Online 2 among others in that all the textures seem gritty, somehow. It's a very particular look that I see in a significant minority of free-to-play games and I find it off-putting, although not a deal-breaker. If other aspects of the game are appealing I can overlook the way everything seems like it needs a good hose down and a scrub, but if the game's not setting any other hooks then the way it looks is always going to have a disproportionate impact.

Counter to that, the cut scenes were rather good. There weren't many but they were enjoyable to watch. I particularly enjoyed seeing my cat character standing there, looking blank. He, she or they are (No gender of any kind is offered for Ein characters as far as I could see.) has an almost expressionless face and looks like a Louis Wain kitten wearing clothes. I imagine the effect of the cut scenes when seen with a human, elf or orc character is intended to be heroic and dramatic but with an Ein it's just "aww - cute!" verging on ridiculous.

The tutorial went on too long and it was all set in the usual corridors and plazas. I was itching for it to be over so I could take a look at the actual world my character would be spending time exploring. Eventually the final tutorial boss arrived and everything was going well. I had him at around twenty per cent when one of those typical tutorial deus ex machina endings kicked in. A cut scene triggered, the boss turned from a punching bag into an unstoppable force of destruction, all the NPCs died and my character was blasted into space like a meteorite.

I think that happened in PSO2, didn't it? I'm sure I saw it recently. Or maybe it's just that the tropical beach where my character crash-landed looks extremely similar to the one in PSO2. Also every other mmorpg beachside fishing village ever.

I'd tell you more about it but by the time I got there (and killed yet more grunts before the MSQ questgiver would talk to me) I had less than a minute to go on my GeForce Now session. I logged out and rather than starting another I decided to write this. Whether I'll log in again remains to be seen. I wouldn't say, as I did with Tera, "Thirty minutes is more than enough." but I have too many other, more appealing options right now. Maybe one day.

By the way, in an odd piece of synchronicity, re-reading my old post I've just realized the only reason I ever played Tera was because the publisher at launch, En Masse, ran a streaming demo through a service offered by Gaikai, which must have been the forerunner of what we now know as "cloud gaming".

At the time I was quite impressed. I said "Gaikai's technology works. It takes about two or three minutes to load up on their servers and then the window appears and you're in. Everything was eminently stable while I was playing. I didn't notice any lag or hitching whatsoever. The demo runs either in a window or full screen and feels just like playing any MMO from your own machine.

I don't recall ever hearing of Gaikai or their remote-gaming service again but a quick search reveals the company was bought almost immediately after that Tera demo by Sony Interactive Entertainment for $380 million. Sony appear to have then stripped out the tech as the basis for PlayStation Now and Remote Play.

Seems like cloud gaming may have been the future, after all and Tera is still running successfuly today, too. I suspect ten years from now no-one will be saying either of those things about Elyon.


  1. I've seen a few things here and there about Elyon, but not many, so I'm not in your "unable to avoid being reminded about it" stage. That said, I looked at it on Steam and nothing about it made me want to get it. Your blog here has more or less cemented that for me :D

    1. I think if Elyon had come out in one of those long gaps between new mmos we've had in the last few years it might have done reasonably well. It seems solid enough and it has a lot of features. Right now, though, I can't really see any good reason to spend time on it rather than several other options.

  2. I checked out Elyon in it's final beta / stress test before launch. I hadn't played an MMORPG for a while (had been all about Path of Exile and Hearthstone for a year or two) and felt a bit of an itch to play one.

    Elyon got me back into the mood for MMORPG'ing - when the beta ended, I promptly re-subscribed to WoW and lost all interest in playing Elyon at launch.

    1. Possibly not the best time to come back to WoW, for any number of reasons! I wonder how you found it after a time away? I am curious now to see which way Blizzard goes with WoW, though. I'm no big fan of FFXIV or Yoshi P's custodianship there but even I can see how adopting some of those practices would be in WoW's best interests.

  3. The link on your old Tera post was broken for me. I can't remember if I've played it or not, I was hoping a few screenshots would jog my memory.

    Proving once a again that I never have any idea what I am going to do, instead of playing any of the games I talked about in my last post I am playing DDO again. However if I do decide to get going on something new, you have convinced me I should give New World a try. It would take a long drought before Elyon would float to the top of the list, though I do like the look of it.

    1. Thanks for the info on the link. It's fixed now and for once I know why it happened. From things you've said about other mmorpgs, I think you might enjoy New World - it has a strangely old-school feel about it. I'm fairly sure that won't last, though. All the vibes coming from the development team right now strongly suggest changes are coming to make the game more familiar to a modern mmo audience. Shame, really, but I guess it's a commercial inevitability.

    2. Bhagpuss - I'm afraid you're right, and much the same happened with GW2. At launch there was no trinity, no dedicated healing character, no raids and no gear grind/progression at level cap. All of those got changed due to player pressure to have something more familiar. There seems to be an inevitable progression with MMOs:
      Devs - "Hey kids! We've made something new and different for you! Whaddya think?"
      Players - "This is strange and unfamiliar. Please add and change things so we feel more comfortable."
      Devs - "OK, you guys pay the bills. How about now?"
      Players - "FFS, it's just another WoW clone!"

    3. @Tremayne - That's perfect except it needs a first line...

      Players - "We're so bored with traditional mmos! Why can't devs make something new and original?"


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