Choose My Adventure: Atys refugee blues

Being able to animate your character during creation is a nice touch.
Last week's polls were enough for me to get started in the world of Ryzom over the weekend, so I took my first steps back into the game that I haven't played for quite some time. I still remembered how some of it worked, thankfully, but there were a lot of elements that I'd almost completely forgotten. And while I'm still knee-deep in the starter area, I've played enough to at least get some starter impressions.

But let's make this a full narrative, yes? When we left off, the group verdict was that I would be starting out as a Zorai with the Magic starter package based off of a female Shakespearean tragic character. And thus, with only a little extra effort, Corlede was born into the world of Ryzom. The character creator offers a variety of features, allowing you to select your character's build in fine detail but offering a strange lack of certain other options. There are also some odd constraints on character types -- you find yourself always locked within a certain general band of height, for instance, so there are no really tall Trykers.

I hope you like midriffs.After character creation, you're dropped in cold, and I do mean cold. Notwithstanding the obvious jokes about starter clothes that wouldn't pass muster as dishtowels, there's the simple fact that you're given no pointers or introduction; you're just dropped into the center of a map with vague instructions to talk to a guy. Fortunately, there is someone there right off to give you a starter quest to start figuring out what you want to do, which in Corlede's case meant starting with magic and working her way around.

I'm of two minds on the total lack of guidance. On the one hand, this does mean that you feel a certain sense of freedom to do whatever strikes your fancy. On the other hand, the quests as they are provided seem to be pushing you in a certain direction without ever quite getting there. Case in point: I cleared up to a Magic quest that required me to purchase a second-level damage spell, but I'd already spent all of my skill points at that point because I had no idea the game expected me to save them. So off I go to kill random enemies for a while until I do have enough skill points to progress in the quest.

That's not ideal. Then again, if you're logging into Ryzom, you probably know that you're walking into a sort of "roll your own game" environment, so perhaps that isn't a valid complaint anyway.

While I was a little put off by some of the guidance elements, the actual game remains compelling. You start off with all of the four major tools in your inventory no matter your chosen starter package, meaning that you have the tools to fight, cast, gather, and craft right from the start. Combat is just a wee bit hinky in execution, but I think that has more to do with my own learning of the interface. The short version is that this is not a game where you can assume that being level 8 in one field will allow you to automatically steamroll anything level 8 or below. You need to take it easy, practice, and take things in slow learning processes. That's helped materially by the fact that you buy upgrades for stats based on each given field, so leveling your Magic improves your magic-related stats across the board.

Seriously, it's like Midriff Central out here.Leveling, for those unfamiliar with the game, is handled by an interesting tiered system. At the top are the four major divisions, but below each are subdivisions; Magic, for instance, is subdivided into Offensive Magic and Defensive Magic. Cast magic in battle, and you gain points in Magic. Reach level 20 in Magic, and you start moving into the subdivisions, so casting more offensive magic will start rolling you up in Offensive Magic, which further subdivides as you level. It's a very organic system, meaning that if you spend a whole fight swinging a sword and mix in a single cast, you'll get mostly Fight experience with a little Magic thrown in.

So what did I actually do? I cleared through most of the initial starter quests in all four fields, crafting myself several pieces of armor (picture to the left) and leveling up my weapons and casting. Magic was my focus, since that was where I started, and Corlede reached about 15 in Magic and hovered around 10 everywhere else. It was enough to get my feet wet once again and get used to some of the game's quirks and also start rebinding and rearranging everything in the game's system to be a bit more intuitive. (I really don't know who thought Shift was a good modifier key to allow players to strafe. Or why the normal strafing movement from standing still is a series of useless, meandering hops.)

Luckily, anyone who wants to get in on the action with me can do so. This is a free-to-play game, after all. I'm on the English server, naturally, and I'm focusing most of my playtimes on Saturday and Sunday, probably toward the middle of the day (10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. EST) for reliable hours. This can, of course, be adjusted, and I'll be on at other times as well, but if you're looking to say hi or hang out or whatever, rely on those times unless I announce differently.

And now we come to this week's polls. Once again, they're focal polls plus a bonus, so go ahead and sound off. Next week? Well, it'll be whatever you pick.
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After five months out of the spin, Eliot Lefebvre is back for another round of Choose My Adventure, the game where you decide what the writer is going to do! Check back each Wednesday for a recap of the last week's play, then sound off in the polls and the comments to determine the course of action for the next week!
This article was originally published on Massively.