Monday, August 8, 2022

Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost Too! : Noah's Heart - Final First Impressions (After This It'll Just Be "Impressions", I Guess...)

There's one obvious drawback to writing long, effusive "First Impressions" posts about brand-new games you've only played for an hour or two: you have no idea what you're talking about. 

Think back to your first few sessions in any mmorpg you care to remember. Did you know what you  were doing? Did you understand the systems and mechanics? Could you find your way around? Did you even know what the game was about?

No. Of course you didn't. Not unless you'd done a ton of research in advance, watched a bunch of playthroughs or streams or instructional videos, read the wiki, been to the fansites, had a friend who played who'd told you all about it...

You didn't do any of that. You just downloaded the game, registered, made a character, logged in and started playing. You barely knew enough to follow the tutorial, if you could even manage that much. And even if the tutorial was well-designed and comprehensive, it didn't do a lot more than introduce you to the basic structure of the game. That's all a tutorial ever does.

Imagine if you'd logged out after that first session, opened up your text editor of choice and jotted down your thoughts about what had just happened. How much sense do you think it would have made? How helpful do you think your opinions and conclusions and - god forbid - explanations would have been to someone else just about to start?

Now imagine if you hadn't just retailed those jottings to your friends or your guildmates but to the whole frickin' world by way of the internet. Would that have been a responsible way to behave? Seriously, now, would it?

If you type "First Impressions Noah's Heart" into Google right now, this is what you get:

Those are the top three results. The first isn't even from the game as it is now. It's from the Closed Beta Test. The other two are mine.

I'm sorry. I apologize. I didn't know no-one else was going to write about the damn game. I thought it was popular. 

It is popular. On Mobile. Half a million downloads on Google Play and sitting comfortably at 3.9/5 from fifteen thousand reviews. Not quite as strong on iOS but close.

On PC? No-one seems to have noticed. Hence my pre-eminent position in the listings, disseminating misinformation to anyone foolish enough to take me seriously.

If this was a conventional website I'd be issuing retractions and corrections, trying to cover myself and salvage some credibility at the same time. Luckily it's just a blog and since blogging's dead, no-one really cares. I can say what I want.

Still, I can't help but feel some responsibility. I don't want to confuse people. I'd like to make amends for my mistakes. The trouble is, I don't even know enough to know what I got wrong. If I try to correct my errors I might very well compound them instead.

Here's an example. Talking about levels, in my second First Impressions post I claimed, with some conviction, "I believe the current cap is 68." Oh, really? How do you explain this, then?

Yes, well, maybe... But nope. Not falling for the same trick twice. Full disclosure: 

  • I have no idea what that board is.
  • I have no idea what I can "collect".
  • I have no idea what those levels are.

They might be character levels. Maybe you can level to 200 and beyond. I'd be a fool to say so, though. 

In Noah's Heart a lot of things seem to have levels: houses, mounts, Phantoms, careers, Exploration... Maybe there's a "Notice Boards" level that progresses. Who knows?

Not me and I'm done pretending I do. That screenshot above even points to a second example of my ignorance. See the timetable?

In the same First Impressions post, talking about train and ship schedules, I handed out this backhanded compliment: "Noah's Heart has actual, printed times, albeit only for the next arrival or departure. I'd be more impressed if it was for the whole day but it's a start."

Now, technically, what I said does appear to be true but it's a misleading, mean-spirited snipe, all the same. When I made it, I'd seen precisely one provincial railway station, a single-platform halt outside a small village somewhere I've already forgotten. 

There was one train going to one place. I was impressed in the way Dr. Johnson claimed one might be in his famously misogynistic epigram. It wasn't that I was impressed to see railways and scheduling done well in Noah's Heart; I was impressed to see them done at all.

Now I've visited the station in Gulf Stream City I'd like to formally retract my cynicism and register instead my full, unironic admiration for what the developers and designers have created. The station strongly reassembles those great works of Victorian invention, all brass railings and vaulted wrought-iron ceilings.

It has not just multiple platforms but multiple levels connected by long flights of stone steps. Huge, gleaming, polished locomotives steam in, pull up, wait for passengers to board, then depart. They come and go on different lines, heading to various destinations according to a posted timetable that predicts arrivals and departures to the second.

To board, you simply walk through the doors, find a seat, sit down and wait for the appointed moment, whereupon the train sets off, leaving the station through a force-field of yellow hexes preventing travelers from entering the tunnels or falling onto the rails. 

Sadly, if perhaps practically, you don't get to sit for the full journey, watching the scenery flash by. There's a short transition before the train appears outside its destination, allowing just enough time to appreciate the change of locale before it pulls into the station to let you step down onto the platform.

It's slick and delightful or it is if you're enough of an aficionado of train travel  to enjoy the trappings but not such a grognard as to demand a complete simulacrum. I love it. I can easily imagine setting myself a goal of traveling on every train, seeing every station and taking snapshots of them all. I'm kind of surprised that's not already a formal option in the game. 

Or maybe it is. How would I know?

I believe there's an equivalent network of ships and ports to be discovered and experienced but learning my lesson I'll say no more about that until I've experienced it for myself. As yet I haven't even made it as far as the coast so further comment would be premature in the extreme.

I will say, though, that Noah's Heart is shaping up to be a very good mmorpg indeed. Possibly, though it galls me somewhat to say it, given how much time, effort and praise I devoted to that game earlier this year, a better one than Chimeraland.  

If it does turn out to be the superior of the two, I really won't be complaining. We're blessed to have two such wide-ranging, atmospheric open-world, exploration titles arriving so close together. I just hope I can learn to keep my facts straight and not lead people astray, should they be rash enough to come here looking for advice or information.

At least the pictures tell their own story. I'll keep taking plenty of those. I can always use the extras for IntPiPoMO, if we're doing it again this year.


  1. Well, it looks like I've another game to keep an eye on. At least they weren't cheeky enough to call one of the platforms 9 3/4...

    1. I had hopes for Noah's Heart from the pre-publicity but it's turning out to be much better than I expected. I think it would be amazing on mobile - shame I don't have a device that can run it.

  2. This happened to me with a post I wrote about creating characters in Chimeraland. It's the first hit when googling for "Chimeraland Character Creation" and it is definitely lacking in the information department!

    1. Some games, even though they seem to have plenty of players, just don't seem to generate much in the way of information - let alone accurate information. I'm at the point now when I want to look stuff up for Noah's Heart but there doesn't seem to be anything out there. There is a wiki but it's more of a placeholder than a resource. No wonder people end up looking at blogs like ours. They don't have much choice!


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