Sunday, February 20, 2022

First Impressions, Second Chances

As I was reading back yesterday's Lost Ark post it occured to me that I often finish ""First Impressions" by making some bold statement about whether I'm likely to go on playing the game and if so for how long. I started to wonder just how accurate predictions like that tend to be and whether you can really tell from the first session whether you'll play a game for days, weeks, months or years.

Luckily, for once I don't have to guess. I can go back and check. That's one reason for having a blog.

I've been reporting my opinions on new mmorpgs since the blog started in 2011 but it appears I first started using the "First Impressions" tag about six years ago, when I posted about my experiences in Blade and Soul. I've used it for expansions and game updates as well as full games but for the purposes of this excercise I'm limiting my research to new mmorpgs (Or games that have been widely treated as though they were mmorpgs.). Most of the conclusions were drawn from release builds but there are a handful of betas and early access reviews in there as well.

I expect I missed one or two but I think this is most of them. Almost thirty titles. For most of those I seem to have restrained myself to a single first impressions post, which I've linked. Some, Star Wars: the Old Republic and Atlas, for example, I seem to have managed to turn into "first impressions: the mini-series". For those I've linked to the post from which I took the quote.

Here, then, in reverse chronological order, is what I concluded about the games, often with a promise or a prediction about how likely I was to go on playing them. I've followed that with a few words saying whether I actually did. I'm curious to know if it reveals anything that might make me consider how to approach these posts in the future. Let's find out.

Chimeraland - January 11 2022 - "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.

I think we all know which way that went. For a few weeks immediately after that post, Inventory Full became the unofficial home of the Chimeraland Fan Club or it certainly felt that way. There are seventeen posts tagged "Chimeraland" here already and that count is going to keep on climbing. I may not play for years but I also have no plans to stop.

Elyon - November 5 2021 - "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."

I don't think I ever did log in again. I remembered absolutely nothing about the game until I looked at the screenshots in the post and even then I couldn't remember much, not even if I still had it installed.. Turns out I played it via GeForce Now, which does at least mean I could log in on a whim at any time. I have no plans to do that, though.

Bless Unleashed - August 11 2021 - "I like Bless Unleashed and that's my first impression. What my last impression will be, who can say? But no-one ever does Last Impressions posts, do they?"

No, they don't. Maybe I should start but if I do it won't be with Bless Unleashed because I'm not done with it yet. Last summer I played it most days for a few weeks and thoroughly enjoyed it. I logged in for the winter holiday event and I often think of dropping in again. If it had a control system I liked better, I'd still be playing it regularly but it's too far towards the "action" end of the action mmo spectrum for me ever to feel really comfortable.

New World (Second Open Beta) - July 21 2021 - "It does feel as though Amazon might have got this one right. I guess we'll know for sure come September."

We sure did! Quoted for irony. 

Swords of Legends Online - June 20 2021 - "Chances are I won't buy Swords of Legend Online right away but chances also are I will buy it, sometime."

Hmm. This one's interesting. To me, anyway. Until I re-read this, I'd actually forgotten how much I enjoyed the game when I played it. I did almost pay the full box price, too. The only reason I held back was that, as you can see from the cluster of "First Impressions" posts dated June and July, there was a lot of competition last summer. I really need to install this and try it again, now it's gone free to play. And I would, if only there wasn't still too much else going on.

Phantasy Star Online 2: New Generation - June 12 2021 - "I can't imagine I'll be devoting much time to this one. I'll probably give it a couple more goes then put it quietly away. Don't let that put anyone else off, though. This is definitely the right game for someone. Just not for me".

And that's almost exactly what happened. It's a decent mmorpg but I don't like the controls and the exploration is too restricted. I gave it a fair shot but it didn't stick. I've uninstalled it now.

Crowfall (Open Beta) - June 4 2021 - "With the beta set to run for another couple of weeks it's quite likely I'll spend a fair few hours as a Crow. I wasn't anticipating that when I downloaded the game but I'm always happy to be pleasantly surprised by the confounding of my misapprehensions."

I played until I hit the level cap and posted about my experiences in the game several times. I was still playing, on and off, as long as the beta lasted but after I hit the cap there wasn't really much to do. I never saw anyone do any PvP the whole time I was there. I followed the desultory reports of its sputtering launch for a week or two and then forgot all about it.

Elteria Adventures -  June 2 2021 - "For an alpha this looks solid. I'll be more confident about that when I've seen more but it's a convincing start. "

I went back and played a few times but I ran out of new things to do and stopped. Development seems to have stalled. The Steam page says "There's no recent activity from the developers of this title..." I might look into that later.

Valheim - February 11 2021 - "I guess we can look forward either to dozens of posts, where I eat my words and bang on about the game to the point of delirium or to never hearing me mention it, ever again. It's going to be one of the two, I bet. I just can't tell which, yet."

Three hundred and eighty-one hours played and counting. Mmmm! Delicious words. Eat them all up! The game I didn't want to play and didn't like much when I did turned out to be the thing that took up almost all my free time for a couple of months. I haven't played much since but the upcoming update looks interesting enough to get me back for a few sessions.

Genshin Impact - October 2 2020 -  "Since the game is free to play and genuinely so as far as I can tell, I can't see any reason not to give it a try."

Another one I really didn't expect to like but which grabbed me by the scruff and wouldn't let go. I gave it a good run at launch and I've been back a couple of times. I had screenshots from GI rotating as my desktop background all the way up to last week, when I swapped the folder for Chimeraland. I'm not done with Genshin Impact yet but as always it's finding the time.

New World (First Open Beta) - "I like New World a lot. At the risk of breaking that earlier NDA I'll confirm I always did. It doesn't do anything you won't have seen before but everything it does, it does well. It's solid, entertaining, accessible and polished. What more do you want?"

It's fascinating how most of my posts about New World's various betas emphasize how solid, stable and polished it is. I wasn't alone in thinking that at the time. What the hell happened? Despite all the bugs and breakdowns and foot-shootings I played for several hundred hours and I will certainly add to that over the next year or two, always provided Amazon don't throw in the towel.

Black Desert Mobile - December 16 2019 - "I may be back. I may not."

I was not.

WoW Classic - August 27 2019 - "When I finish this post I'm going to log in and carry on so I guess I must be enjoying myself. I might do my Guild Wars 2 dailies first, though. And log in to Riders of Icarus. Oh, and go do the first of the new Panda quests in EverQuest II. I don't think there's anything going on in WoW Classic that can't wait."

I found this very surprising on a re-read. I'd forgotten how lukewarm I was about the whole WoW Classic project. I only played at all because everyone else was writing about it and I wanted to get a few posts out of it too. Then I found myself completely drawn in and played almost nothing else for a couple of months. Never did get to sixty, though. I might go back for WotLK Classic, if it happens and if Blizzard looks like a tenable proposition to give money to by then. I still wouldn't play one of their games at the moment but the day is obviously getting closer.

Secondhand Lands - July 3 2019 -  "It is, after all, exactly the sort of quirky, original take on the established format that many lovers of the genre have been asking for for years, while roundly ignoring its existence. It would be shame, having found it at last, to let it slip through my fingers simply because of a lack of patience on my part."

Yes, it would, wouldn't it? Do I feel ashamed? Yes, I do a little. I have been back several times but I think I finally need to accept that things that were fun twenty years ago may not be fun forever. No fault of the game, just recognizing an uncomfortable reality.

Star Wars :the Old Republic - April 22 2019 - "I have already decided to subscribe to TOR for a single month to bump my account up to "Preferred" status."

I played the hell out of SW:tOR for a couple of months and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's WoW in space, what's not to like? I didn't mean to stop, either. Something else was happening and I put it aside for a moment and never went back. I often think about logging in again and carrying on from where I left off but - broken record time - there's just too much happening in the genre right now to look back.

Atlas - January 5 2019 -  "I've enjoyed learning what Atlas is trying to be, but as a PvE MMO, right now it's pretty much a bust. It's still a co-op survival game under the hood and that's a genre that's never appealed to me, no matter how fancy the paint job."

Astonishingly, to me anyway, Steam says I only played Atlas for six hours. I got a lot of posts out of that short time and in my memory it feels like it was a lot longer. For a long time I thought about trying again but last week I finally accepted it was never going to happen. Uninstalled.

Ashes of Creation: Apocalypse - December 16 2018 - "As a taster for the eventual MMORPG I'm not sure it really tells us much (it doesn't even feature the "hybrid" combat I wanted to see) but at least it doesn't raise any red flags...yet."

OMG! Remember this one? The standalone AoC spinoff Intrepid spun up out of nowhere in the heat of the Battle Royale craze. That got them yelled at. A lot. I quite liked it. I played it several times, more than I've played any other Battle Royale game, and I would have played it more if anyone else had. I remember logging in one weekend for some fragging fun and finding literally no-one else there to kill or be killed by. Then it closed down and we all pretended it had never happened. Still waiting for my Kickstarter-pledged beta access to Ashes itself, of course. How many years is it now?

Bless Online - August 21 2018 -  "Bless is in no way going to change anyone's mind about anything. If you didn't like previous Korean MMOs you're not going to like this one... If you're easily amused, like me, though, it's definitely worth giving Bless a go. I'm sure there are a good few more hours in it for me and the odd blog post, too."

There were. I played for a couple of weeks and got my character into the mid-teens. Then I lost interest and stopped. Then the game shut down. I did like Bless but I like Bless Unleashed a lot more. I hope it lasts a lot longer.

 Legends of Aria - July 13 2018 - "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."

Completely forgot I ever played this. I did not try the beta. I did skip it. I can't remember what happened to the game after that... Ah, I just checked and it's on Steam, free to play, with a "Mixed" reviw rating. I'm happy with my decision to pass.

 Warframe - July 19 2018 - "I do quite like it so far..."

A more honest reading would be "I tried to like it..." Warframe is obviously an excellent mmo and several people whose opinions I respect absolutely love it. I just found it awkward and often annoying, plus the character models are absolutely hideous. I gave up after half a dozen sessions. I don't expect to play again.

 Auteria - April 16 2018 - "I may well be back...

I was but only a couple of times. I still check in on the website occasionally to see if anything new's happening. It never is. It's still running, though. And I still have it installed.

Stash - January 9 2018 - "I don't know whether I'm going to find the time to invest in this one that it certainly requires and possibly deserves but it's tempting. It may look funny but it's a proper, real MMORPG and that's not nothing, not nowadays."

Reading this again was surreal. I remember Stash by name but if you'd asked me what kind of a game it was I'd have said some kind of tile-based puzzle title. I'd forgotten it was any kind of mmorpg, let alone a "proper, real" one. It's vaguely coming back to me now. I did play a few more times but not for long. I seem to remember it being quite difficult. And slow. That would tie in with the old school mmo thing, I guess. Maybe I should take another look.

Secret World Legends - June 26 2017 -  "I don't like it. The overarching impression I was left with was one of disrespect. The Secret World was a unique and original creation: this is just another bash 'em slash 'em F2P MMO. What a shame."

I might not have liked it but that didn't stop me playing it. I've played SWL plenty of times since then. I got as far as Egypt, I think. Certainly well into Blue Mountain. I also ended up preferring both the slightly-easier combat and the somewhat simpler mechanics of SWL over those of The Secret World, although I can't really say I felt the diference was as great as all that. Still always on the table, both of them, although I don't suppose I'll ever do more in either than play the odd session and take some screenshots. Best costume designs in any mmorpg, ever. Worth logging in just to change outfits.

Shroud of the Avatar - May 13 2017 - "Even after nearly three years in Early Access this does feel like an alpha not a beta. Pre-alpha might be over-egging it but it definitely feels like there's a long way to go."

It was rough. I wonder what it's like now? Not planning on finding out.

Revelation Online (Closed Beta 3) - January 2 2017 - "It's a step up from Riders of Icarus, on a par with Blade and Soul, and definitely worth a look if you like this sort of thing. If you don't like this sort of thing though I wouldn't bother. It's not going to change your mind"

What!? Have I been hacked? Revelation Online is better than Riders of Icarus and as good as Blade and Soul? Who says so? Me!? If so, why did I play both of those near-daily for months at a time but RO only for a handful of sessions when it launched? Okay, I can at least remember playing Revelation Online but I couldn't tell you anything about it, whereas I could chew your ear off with tales from RoI and B&S

Riders of Icarus - July 10 2016 - "Riders of Icarus is by no means a bad game or a bad MMO but with so many others to choose from I'd struggle to come up with a good reason to play it rather than something with a bit more soul."

Then again, this was 2016. It seems I've changed more in the last six years than I realised. These were my first impressions of Riders at launch and I didn't cotton much to it. When I came back for a second look a few years later I had a much better time. As I've said before, I might still be playing it now if it hadn't been for all that kerfuffle when the game changed hands and I got locked out for months. I am starting to wonder whether it might be a good idea to go back for another look at all the mmorpgs I said I didn't like, first time around. Not that there are many of them. I do seem to be very easily pleased.

Black Desert Online - March 8 2016 - "The world is inviting, the storyline is intriguing and the learning curve is satisfying.... At this early stage it's impossible to judge the stickiness but I think I'll get the box price out of this one, at least".

I did. And then some. I've played a lot of Black Desert, on and off and I'm far from done with it yet. I often think of BD, when I'm playing other games that remind me of it and wonder why I'm not playing BD instead. Black Desert doesn't need my recommendation, though. It's done rather well for itself.

Blade and Soul - February 1 2016 - "I don't get the feeling this is an MMO I'll pursue for long but I've thought that about a few Eastern conversions and ended up pottering around in them for a good while so who knows?"

Not me, obviously. For a while, probably right after I said I wouldn't be playing it for long, became my main back-up game, the one I played when I wasn't playing Guild Wars 2. I still play, occasionally. I have a character I like, I'm slowly leveling her up and it's only because other games keep interrupting that I never get very far. I still think Blade and Soul is one of the best of the imports and I've never really understood why it isn't more popular in the West.

And there we have it. All the first impressions from the last six years. I'm not sure what conclusions can be drawn, other than if I say I don't much like a game it probably means I'll end up playing it for months. 

On that basis, I guess we should expect a lot more posts about Lost Ark.


  1. "I played the hell out of SW:tOR for a couple of months and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's WoW in space, what's not to like? I didn't mean to stop, either. Something else was happening and I put it aside for a moment and never went back."

    It's funny that I had the exact same experience. I literally have no recollection of why I quit playing SW:tOR, other than I got really swamped with some thing I can't recall and ran out of MMO time. Weird.

    1. Thinking back, I have an idea the reason I stopped was something very unexpected. I think the summer international cricket season got going and I wanted to listen to commentary on the radio while I was playing, as I often do. I always have game sound and music on at the same time as the spoken-word radio. I can process the two streams easily and without conflict... unless the game has a lot of talking too. Because SW:tOR relies so heavily on voice acting it was impossible to do both things at the same time, and since the video game is always there while the sports games are transient, I put SW:tOR aside temporarily to listen to the cricket. Then I just never picked it up again.

      I bet BioWare never planned for that!

  2. Oh lordy, I remember being so irritated when that Ashes of Creation Apocalypse thing came out. It wasn't what I had backed them for and it reeked of bandwagoning. I'm pleased the ship seems to have turned around and the dev updates over the past year or more are showing some progress, although I still don't expect it to be a game we play any time soon.

    If I was going to venture a guess... Maybe 2 years before we see some more open style betas?

    1. At least two years, I'd guess. I think I'm pledged for CB2 or something like that but it's been so long now I can't remember. I don't imagine for a moment the game will be much good when it finally gets here. It's been cooking for far too long.

  3. I played Secret World Legends straight to the end. I would put what is there in my top ten games of all time, online or off. It's just that when you get to the end of it, that's really the end. There is obviously never going to be any more of it. Nor would I expect there to be much difference on a second playthrough.


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