A long time ago, well before Mortal Online launched, I was really looking forward to playing the game. The first-person only perspective made me drool, the Unreal Engine 3 powered graphics engine looked top-notch, the endless amount of customization of weaponry made me giddy, and the sprawling open world made me bow in awe. This was a game that sat at the top of my "WANT NAO" list, and I'm not even a person who's really huge into PvP. I just wanted an Elder Scrolls/Ultima Online inspired sandbox.

Upon finally playing the game, however, all I found was a nightmare of errors, glitches, and missing systems. Mats Persson, one of the developers of Star Vault, was right: this game does lack polish, user friendliness, and many systems that could turn this sandbox into a true sandbox. Instead, all I found was a buggy, glitchy, never-ending, pointless deathmatch in an MMO world. Keep reading, and I'll be more than happy to explain every aspect of my time with Mortal Online.

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The client and launcher

Let me open up this review with some bad news. While the game has come a long way from refusing to install during the early days, the client still suffers from an odd amount of crashing and slowdowns. During most of my play times, the client began to slow down and stutter about 30 minutes into my session. Once frames began to be dropped, I could pretty much put money on the client freezing up completely for a minute or two at a time, going into "program unresponsive" mode. Not good when the game puts so much stock into PvP.

Secondly, the launcher is a mess. While the launcher wasn't even programmed by the Star Vault team (it was programmed by a community member as a favor) it still doesn't excuse it from taking 30 minutes to install a 70 mb patch, or 15 minutes to install a 14 mb patch. If you close the patcher while it's writing files, you also run the risk of corrupting your installation, forcing you to re-download the whole game.

Long story short: the game has problems with how it runs.

Character selection / creation

...is broken. Not only is it broken, but it's broken in multiple ways as well. There are times when the game won't actually let you create a character. You can click the "finish" button all you want, but it will do nothing. Closing the client and restarting it until it lets you finish character creation is a workaround, but it's a pain.

Other times the server will actually forget to load in the characters you've created, leaving you staring at blank character selection screen upon logging in. In these situations, the character creation won't work as well. Once again, closing and restarting the client seems to get around this error, but it's still annoying all the same.

Good news though: the racial mixing component of Mortal Online does work. You're certainly able to create your own race by changing the race of your mother and father on both sides of your family tree, letting you customize your statistics and appearance in a very detailed and unique way. Kudos to the work that's been done on that system.

Graphics / world design

As I said earlier, the game is running on the Unreal Engine 3. This, of course, makes the game quite beautiful. Well, beautiful when you're looking at it from the right angles, at least. It's like one of those houses that looks great on the front, but when you spin around the side you'll find that a tornado completely took off the back half, leaving the bathtub hanging on to the second floor by a single pipe and the contents of the attic spilled into the basement.

Some areas of the game are truly stunning. An incredible draw distance makes vistas absolutely gorgeous while some of the textures are absolutely dead on. Other times you'll be running along and the water will look like gel, or the shadows will be cast in vertical zebra stripes across a distant mountain.

This is, of course, completely ignoring the fact that the world designers are lazy, lazy people. No one checked to make sure that terrain objects were actually level with the z-scale of the terrain, leaving us with floating bamboo, rocks, tree roots, you name it. Shadows also seem to clip certain objects, leaving you with ghost shadows, or shadows being projected from impossible angles. (You can't see a lantern from through a wall, yet it projects a shadow through that same wall.)

And, speaking of world design, there are stupidly small edges on buildings and such that a character should be easily able to step over while walking, yet the game won't let you. Instead, you need to jump over these small cracks, just because the client thinks they're uncrossable walls on foot. This normally wouldn't be an issue for me, if it didn't happen so much on things like smooth river banks, thin steps inside keeps, and on steps (yes, I said steps) leading to trees.

Also, PlanetSide called. They want their 2000-era trees back. Speedtree, which Star Vault licensed for the game, isn't currently in the game, as they are waiting on Epic Games to patch the Unreal Engine for them so they can use Speedtree. Unfortunately, the stand-in trees look... well... horrible.

This article was originally published on Massively.
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