Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Chimeraland - Very First Impressions

When you start a new mmorpg, are you the kind of player who likes to spend hours and hours making absolutely sure you have your character exactly how you want them before you hit play? When in-development mmorpgs release a character creator as a standalone, do you eagerly download it and make dozens of characters, even though you have no intention of ever playing the game? If so, boy, do I have a game for you!

I'm a little ashamed to admit I'd never heard of Chimeraland until this morning. I do try to keep up with what's out there, anything that sounds like it might have something, but I'm only human. I miss stuff, sometimes.  

MassivelyOP covered the game before, apparently, although I have no memory of it. It may be that I skipped it in the mistaken belief it was a mobile title. Not that I'm not interested in mobile mmorpgs but they don't grab the attention in the same way PC titles do. 

Chimeraland is available on Android and iOS but it's also a PC release, fully cross-playable on all three platforms. It's published by Proxima Beta, a Singaporean company that's part of the TenCent megaempire and all the servers are in that part of the world - Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines. 

Thankfully, it's also a global release with no region blocking. I had no problems downloading the game or registering an account. It took about fifteen minutes. I also had no lag at all while I was playing so don't let the server location put you off.

That was when I got in, of course. An hour after I'd entered my details I was still in character creation. Chimeraland might well have the most options I have ever seen. For a start it has ninety-six race/gender combos to choose from. Ninety-six! 

At least, I think that's how many there are. Please feel free to correct my math. I'm an Eng. Lit grad. You know we can't add up but I had to try. There's no in-game list. It took me a while to work out there were any races at all. 

The opening screen shows a baby floating in a bubble to the left, slowly spinning in place against a background of roiling, multicolored clouds. To the right there's a circle of heads in silhouette, joined together by a web of faint lines. Behind, an assortment of flying serpents, dragons and sky-whales drift from left to right.

The only hints as to what any of this might mean are the words "Male" and "Female", facing each other on a diagonal across the wheel and the enigmatic tags "Swaddling" and "Free Precise" at the top and bottom of the screen. If they were going for high concept I think they hit it.


Of course, I just started clicking everything. It took a minute or two but eventually I got the picture. Every one of those heads represents a species or race or whatever you want to call it in game terms. There are sixteen on the male side, sixteen on the female.  

Okay, not bad, but that's only thirty-two choices. Where am I getting ninety-six? It took me a little more time to figure it out. When you click on one of the segments between the white lines it lights up a line of heads between the male and female silhouettes, three for each gender. 

Every one of those is a "Tribe" with a different appearance, sometimes slightly, sometimes radically. As well as the usual flavors of human there are cats, dogs, bears, insects, birds, goats, cows, jellyfish... Some of them are quite traditional, some really aren't. 

I didn't try all of them but I wanted to. I had to force myself to choose one just so I could get on to the next stage. I could easily have spent half an hour or more just on that opening screen.

And it did not get any easier. Very far from it. Once I'd picked my Tribe (A fox, or to be more precise a Flamefox. I mean, who'd go on looking after that?) there were dozens, hundreds of sliders to adjust. Far, far too many for me to make meaningful choices.

Take lips. I happen to have a screenshot of those. Eight options, each with three sliders and three states. All for the lips on a fox that can hardly be seen. Foxes barely have lips! And yet all the options do something. You can see things change when you move them. Or you can in the character creation suite. Whether you can see the same subtle diferences on the character you'll be playing in game is another matter, as it is in every mmorpg I've ever played.

There are aspects that will make a major difference to what you'll be looking at for hour after hour. I may skate over the precise alignment of my character's cheekbones but I pay close attention to height, ear and eye size, fur color and especially what kind of tail they have. 

My fox started off with a tail almost bigger than she was. For a while I thought she was stuck with it but eventually I found the sliders to shrink it, shape it, curve it and style it. If I've ever played a game with more tail options I can't bring it to mind just now.

All of this took me the best part of an hour and trust me I was racing through the whole thing. I scarcely touched most of the options and even with those I paid attention to, I stopped as soon as I got something that felt comfortable. 

Absorbing though the character creator was, I really wanted to get into the game to find out what it was all about. I had absolutely no idea. I hadn't read anything about it other than that short MOP piece. I knew it was a game where you caught and tamed mythical creatures and that it had some kind of housing, which was enough to get me interested in the first place. Beyond that I didn't have a clue.


I found out several things in short order. For a start, the game is incredibly busy right now. It just launched officially and when I first tried to log in every server in the two regions I tried, Thailand and Singapore, was flagged "Busy." 

"Busy" in this case seems to mean "Full" because I couldn't get in at all. I gave it a good few tries but when the launcher decided I'd had too many goes it put me on a five-minute cooldown so I gave it a rest for a couple of hours. 

When I came back there seemed to be a couple of extra servers. One was flagged "Preferred" so I followed the prompt and took it. It was "Busy" too but it let me in... and dropped me out of a plane without a parachute!



Or so it seemed. I'm familiar with the Battle Royale trope of starting a game in free-fall but it's the first time I've experienced it at the beginning of an mmorpg. Refreshingly, at least from my persepctive, Chimeraland doesn't appear to bother with a tutorial. It doesn't evens seem to bother with a plot, a narrative or a story. There are a few tips along the lines of "WASD to move" and "Shift to sprint", which you can enjoy as you plummet to earth but other than that you're pretty much on your own. 

Before you start, back in character creation, you get to pick a starting area, of which there many. Unlike the Tribes, which you're told have no gameplay benefits or disadvantages, each starting zone comes with a shopping list of resources and environmental factors that look as though they might affect your progress considerably. 


I picked somewhere that looked not too hot, not too cold, not too wet and not too dry. Then I landed halfway up a mountain. Luckily falling damage seems quite generous and Flamefoxes stick to steep slopes like Spiderman so I got down in one piece.

That was when my adventures began. I'd tell you about them but this has run on long enough already. Also, none of the pictures I took with the really excellent in-game screenshot facility seem to have been saved anywhere I can find them. 

Never mind! I can guarantee this won't be the last post about Chimeraland. I don't imagine for a moment it's going to be something I play the hell out of for years but equally I can already see it's going to keep me amused for at least as long as it take me to figure out what the hell is going on, which could be a while. 

Now, if I can just figure out how to get that camera to work properly...

2 comments:

  1. "If I've ever played a game with more tail options I can't bring it to mind just now."

    .... SIGH. Downloading now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought this one pretty much had your name on it!

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