Not pictured: Corlede being tied up by Zorai cavalry and insisting that they call her Dances with Bodoc.
Questing is an essential part of MMOs. You can say that players should be the ones crafting stories in games, not the developers, but quests provide you with structure and guidance. Even if you can create all sorts of stories on your own, it helps to know what the world is supposed to be like and how to set your own objectives. Not to mention the fact that having some sort of pointer is massively useful when you start playing.

So it makes sense to take a good look at the questing in Ryzom, even though the game definitely veers toward the "sandbox" side of the fence. Plus, questing won the poll last week, so even if I thought quests were categorical garbage, that would still be my destination. I can't run you through all of the quests that I've done in the game, but one in particular lent itself to a narrative, albeit in a somewhat disjointed form.

Okay, so they're called yubos and you want me to kill five of them.  I can adapt, sure.When you create a new character, you're given a quest that essentially points you toward questlines for fighting, gathering, crafting, and casting. Each of those quests goes on for a bit, with the thinnest veneer of a story. (One of the quests as you learn to fight is to sit in the bushes and watch animals. Yeah, I didn't totally get that connection either.) The dialogue is presented via speech bubbles, which allow you to page through at your own pace but can get a bit lost amidst screen clutter. It's not a terrible presentation, but it's certainly not up to more "modern" quest presentation.

This particular quest was a step in the Fighting chain. Some bodoc (think hammerhead cows) had been found slaughtered, and Corlede was sent to investigate what could have done this. I surmised that we were looking at, you know, a predatory animal, but I guess that didn't occur to the seasoned hunter I was getting the quest from. There may have been some preamble addressing this that I have forgotten; I allow for the possibility.

So off I went toward the quest objective... sort of. The game's map is a bit of a mess at first because it's zoomed out by default to the point of uselessness, so I had to fiddle with that for a bit to get an idea of where I was going. As long as I was out in the wilds, of course, I figured there was no harm in grabbing some crafting material. That meant gathering from nodes, prospecting for further nodes, and seeing whether any local animals were no longer using their skins.

Not entirely by coincidence, most of the local animals were bodocs. I began to wonder whether the predator was not, in fact, other starter players with a penchant for Zorai wicker armor crafted with bodoc skin. Upon careful consideration, I decided not to bring this up with the quest giver.

Eventually, I stumbled upon what appeared to be a den of Weeny Raguses... Weeny Ragii... monsters that were individually referred to as "Weeny Ragus." (I think they were going for "weenie" there.) Unfortunately, I ran afoul of the bane of all quests in MMOs. See, I'd found the predators and been assaulted by several of them, and I'd drawn the conclusion, but I hadn't stumbled upon the right spot for the game to accept that I could now start killing the Ragus Squad for quest credit.

It's entirely possible that there was a waypoint there that I had clicked off by mistake that would have pointed me to just the right spot. But it was a little silly that I hacked my way through a few dozen copies of Weeny Ragus before I started getting quest credit.

Vicious carnivorous tapir fighting a woman in a leaf-and-vine bikini.  Epic.The other thing that jumped out at me during the battles was that the combat was... lacking. One of the problems with the whole "customize everything" mantra of the game seems to be that you don't really get a whole lot of interesting customization options early on. Rather than having an array of attacks useful in different situations, I had... well, an attack and a self-heal and a couple of spells, which didn't seem to be much more or less useful than my physical attacks. Instead of being a matter of carefully using the right skills, combat was a matter of waiting to auto-attack something to death and making sure I didn't die.

Again, I would readily believe this changes as one progresses. But it certainly doesn't leave a great taste to start off with.

Once I'd successfully found the magical point of quest advancement, I easily dispatched the quintet of Weeny Ragus and headed back to the questgiver. As a reward, I was given a sound pat on the back and a brand-new axe that blew my feeble attempts at weaponcrafting out of the water. This was both good and bad, since it meant that I would be grinding on crafting forever to produce something half as good as what I got handed for free from a quest. But hey, awesome axe! And apparently I can't wield it with a dagger in my off-hand; more's the pity.

I don't want to say that the quests are bad, but they're not what I would call tremendously engaging. There were some neat moments, though, like running across a herd of migrating bodoc and just watching the animals move. It's hard not to be taken in by the beauty of it all from time to time.

As in previous weeks, we've got more polls for you, this time concerning travel and where we're going as we head toward the end of this CMA round. As before, the voting closes at the end of Friday, so get your votes in, and I'll see you back here in a week!
CMA: Shall I leave for the mainland?
Yes. You'll like the real game much more.69 (43.1%)
No. If you don't finish your tutorials, you can't have your mainland.47 (29.4%)
I propose you write several lines of the next CMA in rap format. Do whatever you like.44 (27.5%)

CMA Bonus Round: How do you think this is all going to wrap up?
It turns out that the CIA knew the FBI was setting them up.10 (6.7%)
Everyone was already dead, Shyamalan-style.10 (6.7%)
The first half ends when you realize that everything was a dream, and then it's all like Inception plus Chronicles of Narnia directed by Miyazaki.28 (18.7%)
The butler did it... to another butler.27 (18.0%)
Ancient prophecies are fulfilled and turn out to be immensely unsatisfying and pointless.28 (18.7%)
Rocks fall, everyone dies.25 (16.7%)

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.