Beyond that, however, there's little to write home about. The game received a brand new territory control system in addition to its previous guild war system, but the territory control offers nothing in the way of bonuses at the moment. Taxes on players that live in the controlled territory are coming with the next patch, but that will be the only bonus that controlling land will get guilds.

Guilds can, of course, build houses and control keeps (which offer the chance at territory control) but housing only offers you a personal bank and personal crafting tables. These personal commodities let you avoid the towns (which are crawling with aforementioned thieves) but do little else to incentivize the creation of houses, or justify the outrageous fees attached to building said houses.

Guild wars have their own issues, as only guilds that own territory are forced to accept guild war declarations. Each guild can only control one territory (for now, this may be changed later), so don't worry about juggling multiple land regions. If your guild doesn't own territory, however, then any war declarations you may send against another guild can be flat-out ignored. Wars need to be accepted by both parties outside of the territory control system, which makes them pretty frivolous at best.

Lastly, there is one of my personal experiences with PvP, where the game glitched out the guy I was trying to kill by sending him, no joke, walking off of a cliff and through the air. To make sure I wasn't lagging, I proceeded to kill a pig and loot it with no problems. Either the server lost track of my opponent, or he was lagging so badly that it caused the movement glitch below. Either way, it sucked in a PvP situation.

Final thoughts

Congratulations, you've made it this far through what has been a largely extended Anti-Aliased and you need to be commended. That or you came down this far to flame me in the comments for saying mean things about your favorite game. One of the two.

But there is one thing that needs to be said about this game at this point in time: it's still not done. After two months of release and an extended beta that resulted in the game's launch being delayed, this game is nowhere close to being a decent sandbox title, and that's completely ignoring all of the hype that surrounded the game.

While some of the game's systems (combat and crafting) are extremely intelligent and deep, that same love does not carry over to the other levels of the game. The end result is a world filled with useless player versus player combat and little else to do that doesn't result in tedious grinding of some kind. (Grinding hitting trees to raise lumberjacking, grinding hitting rocks to raise mining, grinding local wildlife to raise combat skills, etc. I know critics of this article are screaming that all MMOs involve some sort of grind, but the trick is to at least mask the grind with some illusion of fun. AFKing a tree or smacking a pig over and over does not create that illusion in the least.) Sure, the PvP is fun, but it means little else than a persistent deathmatch that ends with you losing your stuff sooner or later.

This is not the heart and soul of sandbox design. Sandbox design is supposed to present various tools to the players that cause multitude of interactions across many levels. (See: EVE Online.) Mortal Online fails to present enough tools to actually create a deep, engaging experience. Often times you will be left sitting in the world, bored out of your mind trying to find someone to PvP or left dealing with an incredibly weak PvE system. Plus, even though the PvP is good, good luck trying to find multiple targets. Even at the game's peak hours, it's pretty hard to find other players across the sprawling world outside of the cities.

"You're literally paying to purchase the alpha version of a game."

But Sera, you ask, why are you being so harsh on this game? I'm being harsh on this game because Star Vault feels it's acceptable to charge $40.50 (31.95 in Euros) for this buggy, glitchy, unfinished monstrosity. Above that, they also charge $14.50 (11.40 in Euros) per month to keep playing. You're literally paying to purchase the alpha version of a game. (Game-breaking bugs occur quite frequently, including one right now where buying multiple items, excluding arrows, from a merchant will take the correct amount of money, but only give you one item in return, effectively robbing you of money. Or the one week where the archery animation was completely broken. Or the duplication bug that allowed you to drop an item onto any stack of 999 different items, glitching the server to think you had a stack of 999 of the former item, like gold coins.)

That's outright robbery, especially when you pair it against Darkfall, which offers a more feature-complete experience for $30, or EVE Online, which offers an extremely feature-complete experience for $20 (or $5 if you can catch it on sale.)

Finally, sure, Star Vault can turn this game around and make it into a great piece of work. Mortal Online is a game that's hampered by its own potential, because I think the devs really bit off more than they could chew. They put so much work into some systems that it caused them to completely neglect other aspects of the game, resulting in an unbalanced experience that leaves decent highs, gigantic lows, and zero new player experience.

Furthermore, the choice of the Unreal Engine 3 was a bad decision for this title. Even though it can produce great graphics, it's not tuned for this type of experience. Star Vault is currently waiting on a patch from Epic Games before they can fix many of the outstanding issues in the game (such as Speedtree) and that's just not good business. It's left Star Vault spending too much time fixing their client, server, and engine issues and not devoting enough time to fleshing out the title itself -- a veritable "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario.

Their upcoming development list is, quite honestly, staggering. But, in all good conscience, I can't talk about a game's "proposed and upcoming features." Development road maps are subject to change, for better and for worse, and I can't recommend a game based on features that don't currently exist.

I understand that making games is hard work. Believe me on that. I also understand that Star Vault had to push this project out the door, otherwise the company would have folded and Mortal Online wouldn't even be online. This game is their labor of love, and they will do anything to keep the game going and to keep the company's bills paid.

I'm sorry to see the game in such a state and I feel for the developers that worked countless hours on this title to make it work, but those things cannot change my final thought on the game at this point in time:

Stay away. Stay far away.



Seraphina Brennan is the weekly writer of Anti-Aliased who is anticipating the hate mail with bated breath. Bring on the "carebear n00b" remarks! When she's not rambling here, she's rambling on her personal blog, The Experience Curve. If you want to message her, send her an email at seraphina@massively.com. You can also follow her on Twitter through Massively, or through her personal feed, @sera_brennan.

Free Love for the holiday weekend