Rise and Shiny recap: Craft of Gods

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Rise and Shiny recap: Craft of Gods
Each week Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. Some of the games will be far out of your gaming comfort zone, and some will pleasantly surprise you. We will meet each Tuesday and Friday night at 8 PM Central time, followed by this column the Saturday after. I welcome any suggestions for games, either in the comments or at beau at massively dot com.

This week I asked you to take a look at Craft of Gods, an independent game from Kalicanthus Entertaintment. At first glance I was excited to try it, given that it promised a lot of what I normally value in an MMORPG. I usually ask my readers to try a free-to-play game, but the 10-day free trial would provide us with enough time to get a good grip on what the game has to offer.

I warn you, though, this review will not be pretty. I really wish it could be, being that my independent run has been so haphazard as of late, but this game was pushed out much too early and it shows. Read on!

Graphically the game has something unique to offer. The mob design is generally nice, and despite the odd delivery of the game (all the trees have flat leaf textures that rotate as your point of view does) it feels immersive enough. As with all things wrong with this game, the problems stem from annoying bugs and glitches that keep you distracted from enjoying yourself. It's not hard to see that the artists and programmers worked hard on the project, but that the game needed to bake for another beta cycle or two. That's the unfortunate part, for me: seeing a grand landscape laid out before me only to have loading issues or to be kicked out of the game altogether. While I can say that the world is varied and beautiful, I wouldn't completely know because the trial drops you down in a funneled newbie zone and denies any access outside of that zone. I tried to take a portal into the next area only to stand there clicking on it with nothing happening. After the 10th or so try, I just repeatedly jumped a cliff.

Gameplay is pretty standard, despite the promise of some sort of sandboxy ability system. Sure, I can choose an ability from the "fire" tree, as well as another ability from an entirely different tree, but the bland animations and rubberbanding issues made me wish for just one ability that worked perfectly. There are quests to level up with, and a recent patch promised to help with the locations of quest items/mobs, but once again the only thing I found nothing but confusing items and more bugs. In one example, I was asked to go find four different types of stones, and I had no idea where to go. I'm all for exploring until I find a needed item, but I decided to try out the "show on map" feature in the quest helper. My map indicated a "cave," which made total sense since I needed to dig up some rocks. I ran to the location and found a cave entrance that, when hovered over with my mouse, indicated a "level one." Unfortunately, inside waited level 43 spiders that killed me instantly.

I decided to try my hand at taming a mount, something that is available to players at level one. It turns out you can tame almost anything, but you cannot name it and it does not fight with you at all. Also, if you take the mount out for a spin and get killed, he runs away and leaves you stuck in a possibly higher-level area filled with mobs that continue to kill you. Once stuck, I tried using my "get-the-heck-out-of-here" power, but that didn't work because I was almost always stuck in combat. Overall, the mount taming is a nice idea but was executed with all the grace of a bovine ballerina.

I asked a lot of questions in chat to see how other people were enjoying themselves. One player reflected pretty much how I felt about the whole thing: a cool game is underneath all these bugs. It turns out he was in much deeper waters than I after purchasing the game and not being able to get off of the trial server. Once he looked in to it, he discovered he had been charged twice and still could not join the "real" server.

That's right, I said the trial server and the "real" server are separate.

My mind boggled at exactly how "sandbox" it was to segregate your new players away from the other players. It turns out that this question was brought up on the forums, and one of the developers answered (direct quote as follows:)

"Surely an unique server can facilitate the sharing of information about the game but there is also a bad side: sometimes people trying the game they don't really try. What I mean that if as a player I have bought COG, I want also to play and not reading about players complaining about the game (usually if I don't like a game, I log off but not everyone does the same )
We have tried to think as players: if I try a game I don't pay attention to which race, which abilities I get, which things I do and if I like it I'd like to start again because I've learned something more and I can avoid mistakes
."

GM Syrius
Lead of Community GMs
Craft of Gods staff.


Once I read this I knew the game was really in trouble. According to this GM, the idea behind the trial server is to buffer paying players from the whining of trial players. The developers are also assuming that I, as a trial player, would have such a hard time with any "mistakes" I make on my character that I would love the opportunity to re-roll an entirely new character in order to fix those mistakes.

Generally, I hate giving negative reviews to games. To me, they are art. There really can be no bad art, just honest and dishonest art. MMORPGs can be something more, however, since they are interactive. There is a difference between a developer attempting to do something and having it fail, and a developer that promises all sorts of wonderful things and then pulls the rug out as Kalicanthus has. The saddest part is that the game shows some very nice potential that will probably never see the light of day thanks to this unpolished kick-off. In this world of indie gems that shine from almost the get-go, you cannot succeed with a game that is about as polished as Titanic dinnerware. Also, you cannot show such little faith in your players by forcing them onto a barren trial server because you are afraid their complaining will upset the real players.

So, will the game stay on my hard drive? I think you know the answer to that.

I have a real treat for you over this next week: Hello Kitty Online. That's right, we are diving into the bright world of HKO! Plenty of people talked about it as though it was the hip new thing to try, but no one tried it. So, let's put our money where our mouth is and jump in head first. I will be announcing my character name and what server I am on (if I can get it to install!) on Twitter.
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