Yes, a rootball.
I'm no scientist, but I'm pretty sure that a massive rootball is an impossible thing, but it doesn't matter. The game's original designers were French, and if you follow French MMOs, you know they always seem to come up with something completely unique. In this case, Atys is literally made up of a wad of giant roots and bark. I have to wonder: Why aren't there more unique settings like Atys in gaming today?
In the sky of Atys are massive roots, so large that you can see tiny trees on the skin of the roots, hundreds of feet in the air. Those same trees would be massive on the ground. Unfortunately, there is no way to climb the canopies, but I can only hope that, one day, the Homins (the races of the game) will be able to venture to the top of the very highest roots.
On tops of that, the weather affects how and when a player might gather certain materials. Some materials are available only during certain times of the year or during certain weather events. The weather even affects the massive mobs of animals that players see covering the landscape. Those mobs will actually migrate or change habits during certain times of the year.
Each race could fit into a standard fantasy game, but taken as a group, they feel completely unique. The game's armor and weapons are all crafted from goods that come from the planet, meaning much of it looks organic or natural. This emphasis on items that look as thought they might have been crafted by a lonely island survivalist give the game an even more original spin.
When you blend all of Ryzom's unique elements together with wonderful yet mysterious lore and characters, you'll find a world that has never been seen before. It can be shocking to step out of Atys and into a standard fantasy world simply because we see so much typical fantasy as it is. I'm always curious why developers are so willing to use the same old character and monster designs that we've seen for the last several decades, and I wonder which came first: the genre that outlines these designs or the willingness to repeat these designs ad nauseam?
Either way, Ryzom stands alone as a unique setting. It's just a shame that given the game's spotty sales, I know originality just doesn't pay as well as copying a mass-market IP.
This is my last column with Massively. I've had an incredible time with the site over the last four years, but I'm off to do some different kinds of freelancing within the gaming space! You can find me on Twitter or on my personal site if you'd like to stay in contact. I'd like to thank my loyal readers who made these years so much fun, and also my editors (especially Bree!), who taught me more than I ever thought I needed to know!
Every Saturday, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, mobile, classic, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org!