I should have known something was up. I just should have trusted my gut and avoided this game, but no. No, instead I have to be the one who gives into curiosity and says, "Hey, I wrote about that game on my blog almost four years ago... what's it been up to lately?" There's something potentially dangerous about playing a game that has had an identity crisis for so long. Then again, I'm a huge Ryzom fan, and that game has been through the ringer more times than I can remember.
Taikodom is now called Taikodom: Living Universe. I'm not sure when things changed without comparing back to that old blog post, but the changes are obvious. No more avatars? OK then. A different UI? That's fine. But -- and this is where my older gamer memory starts to get the best of me -- I distinctly remember Taikodom being sort of fun back then. The version I played this week was anything but fun.
Let me first talk about some of what I liked in Taikodom because the game does have a neat take on the twitch-space theme. The graphics really are crisp and nice, and a lot of the UI feels more modern than many modern sci-fi MMOs do. One of the ironic issues with sci-fi MMOs is that too many seem to think the future will offer darker, bleaker, and much more poorly designed interfaces for people to interact with. EVE Online is a great example of how a designer's ideas about how the future should feel get confused with how the future should look. By contrast, UI design in Taikodom actually offers some color and flows as it just might flow in the real future. Screens are "swiped" side to side, and everything is easy to navigate.
Taikodom does fall for the common sci-fi MMO trap of offering up only barely legible, tiny, white-on-black fonts that are one of those troubling and probably completely unrealistic sci-fi design choices that drive me nuts. As I say in the embedded video, all a player needs to do is look at her 2012 PC desktop, iPad interface, or smartphone homescreen to see that, even now, our interfaces are generally attempting to be pretty things. Am I supposed to believe that in the future spaceships and space stations will offer only horrible fonts that feel dark and imposing? It's silly. The future can be a horrible place filled with strife, but we'd still have easy navigation on our computers.
Flying my basic craft in Taikodom is pretty darn fun -- another plus. I am able to drift as well. You know... drifting. It's that thing that people do in those funny little corporate logo-covered race cars as they come around a corner. Well, you can do that with your ship in Taikodom, and it makes for some pretty cool dogfighting. I was able to target an enemy, get behind him, slow down to just under his speed, and drift around corners to blow him apart. The drifting mechanic feels fluid and works wonderfully while I'm boosting. Heck, sometimes it's just fun to do.
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Combat is basically what you'd expect within a twitch-based sci-fi universe. You target something and shoot it by holding down your mouse button. I shot missiles at my enemies as well, but I have no idea whether anything actually happened. I never once saw a missile fire off even though the friendly robot voice told me it did, and I swear I never saw a missile hit an enemy. Once I got a few upgrades under my belt, my ship did more damage and combat became a lot more fun. Inside a station, I was able to work my way through different markets and try out different items on my ship. Again, though, the tiny irritating font and odd descriptions made outfitting my ship a chore.
Although the game did away with avatars since last I played, interacting with NPCs is pretty cool. You fly your ship up to them, hit F, and go into conversation mode. It's cool, but then F is used to do all sorts of things, from investigating something to gathering material. F is just a shortcut, one that starts to become tiring to use after a while. In lieu of animations for gathering materials or other potentially cool space activities, there's just a beam fired from your ship. It seems that in Taikodom's universe, everything is accomplished by shooting wavy beams.
This is where I try to hold back some of my real complaints about the game. I'm not holding back because I want to lie to my readers but because every time I even think about how boring some of the game is, how repetitive and often confusing it is, I tend to...
...sorry, what was I saying?
Anyway, the game starts off strong enough, offering some cool graphics that run smoothly, some interesting dog fighting, and a fun UI that makes me feel as if I am actually playing a science fiction-based title instead of walking onto the set of a death-metal band's video shoot. Soon enough, however, the gloom sets in as you realize that, yes, you have just been asked to kill another 10 enemies. The same enemies that drove you nuts just 20 minutes ago.
Next a slight depression takes over as you realize that you cannot leave the first three areas (they seemed like tutorial zones to me) without being forced to go through even more of these incredibly boring missions. More killing. More spaceships. More space-beams that do things to things. And the entire time I played, I encountered only three other players, one of whom left while saying (according to Google translate) "I bag this sh*t!" before I could ask him/her to group up.
Taikodom is an initially beautiful title that teases you with potential while at the same time depressing you with unavoidable kill-ten-space-rats missions. It's soul-crushingly lonely. I even queued up for what appeared to be a sort of dueling area in the hopes of seeing some sort of humanity, but nothing ever happened.
I missed writing about Taikodom the first week, thanks to travel and illness. (Watch my first livestream here.) I gave it a second chance this week, but I should have known that a game that has been in some sort of limbo for at least three and a half years is probably not going to be very fun. Sure, the game has some potential, but not enough to make me want to go back to it and play. Add to that GamersFirst's annoying all-in-one downloader and you have the recipe for the quickest uninstall since Pando came along.
Next week I will exploring the hardcore, over-the-top, permadeath, horse-lover's MMO called Star Stable. OK, so it's not hardcore; it's actually a game made for young, female horse fanatics, but I will be livestreaming it at 5:00 p.m. EST, right here on our Twitch.tv channel. Check it out!
Each week on Rise and Shiny, Beau chooses a different free-to-play, indie, or browser-based game and jumps in head-first. It might be amazing or it might be a dud, but either way, he'll deliver his new-player impressions to you. Drop him an email, comment, or tweet!