Over this last week I took a deeper look at the browser-based fantasy MMO A Mystical Land. This one even made it to my list of four games I am dying to play in 2011. Well, it has finally arrived, so I thought it would be a good time to tell you what I think about it. I spent the last week running through different areas, dying, crafting, exploring and generally having a pretty good time.
Of course, the game is not without its issues. I wanted the game to be perfect, but then knew there was no way for it live up to my expectations. It's not as though it let me down, though, and the main flaws it has can be easily fixed or tweaked.
Click past the cut and I'll tell you all about it! Check out my recorded Livestream of the game as well.
First of all, I want to clarify what "browser-based" means. While it might stir up images of some sort of magical MMO that has no need for any type of download or hardware, it doesn't always guarantee the same experience. One browser-based game can simply use the browser as a launching pad for a "normal" game, and other are really embedded in the browser, and will not exist without it. A Mystical Land is of the latter kind, a game that will sit comfortably in your browser but will run beautifully. While I'm sure there is some brainy type who could fill in a long comment all about the game's innards, I prefer to think it's magic.
You have your standard character creation and a few classes to choose from, but the real fun comes from logging into the game and seeing a lot of other players around, and a lot of activity as well. The only problem I have right from the beginning is the fact that no matter what I did, my character would not stop being super ugly. Hopefully one day Neonga, the developers, can give him a facelift. I took comfort in the fact that all of the male characters in the game were also neanderthals.
Within a few minutes in the game you do get a sense of playing something special. Now, don't let me get ahead of myself -- I know that the game needs a good amount of work to be even better than it is now, but the art design is fantastic and little touches like the swirly-bottomed clouds and wonderful music add to the charm. Also, despite having played a lot of browser-based games, including some that acted similar to A Mystical Land, I felt like the developers have ramped things up a bit with this one.
While it is true that players start off with a set of standard, bland classes that we have seen all too much over the last 10 or so years of MMO gaming, the addition of crafting brings a new dimension to the game. While my warrior had limited abilities (with an opportunity to learn more), I could simply collect ore to raise mining skill, use the ore to make things with blacksmithing, sheer a sheep and put the goods towards crafting clothing, make a bow and arrow on a lathe with my woodworking skill, learn how to fish, and a lot more. It seems as though the game does not want you to concentrate solely if barely on your fighting skills. Sure, go out and kill all the wolves you want, but crafting is the most fun to be had.
"I was conflicted at one point, though. While you are crafting you slowly realize that you need ingredients that you have never heard of, and you have no idea where to find them."
I was conflicted at one point, though. While you are crafting, you slowly realize that you need ingredients that you have never heard of, and you have no idea where to find them. Now, don't get me wrong, I am a gamer who often forces himself to use only a cloth map and the stars to steer by -- I don't mind hardship in my gaming -- but I thought that A Mystical Land was made for... younger players as well. How would they know what to do?
A-HA! I knew it. The chat window was buzzing with activity, and most of it friendly. I simply asked in chat and soon found out how to finish a piece of equipment or which NPC sold certain ingredients. I am not sure if the developers knew this going in, but younger players love the chat box. They love to talk as loudly as possible, and do not shy away from speaking their mind. So, the chat box makes the perfect game-tip dispenser. Of course, I am sitting back the whole time sulking, hoping that the game itself would show me the way, but truthfully if I were lost in a brand new town while trying to craft and item, I would ask directions as well.
So the bulk of my time in game this week was spent crafting myself a suit of armor, a new sword, and some other items. I tried all the skills, including bug collecting. I have no idea what I am supposed to do with the insects once I find them, but I believe they go towards new titles or achievements, and that can mean earning gold. Still, all of these items take up a lot of space in your backpack, so of course the cash-shop sold backpack space. I plunked down some money and "rented" two additional bags (I am normally completely against rentable items, but these were cheap) and found it helped a lot. Bag space has got to to be the single largest money maker for many of these cash-shop games.
At the end of my week with the game, I found myself running slightly into a wall. I was becoming better at crafting, my warrior skills were rising, but I found myself stumbling into a wilderness where monsters of varying degrees of butt-kickingness took me out... a lot. It got frustrating. Was I doomed to sit back in the newbieville, stitching cotton gloves all day? Whenever I get to this point in a game, it usually stems from taking on too many quests or doing too many favors for lazy NPCs. So, I did what I always do and stepped back a moment, looked at my quest list and started to finish up on the ones I hadn't done yet. I don't care if they gave no experience or seemed tedious -- no more new quests until I took care of the ones I had.
Sure enough, I started to have more fun. I even explored the castle (which was huge) and learned a few new things. I am still working on many of those quests, but I have a goal of finishing all of them in the newbie area before I attempt to conquer the world beyond.
So how fun is A Mystical Land? Well, it's relaxing, really. It's a pleasant experience. I know that sounds elderly to say, but it really is a nice game that feels very inviting. If they would hurry up and finish with the promised housing options (something they have advertised from the very beginning) then the game will take on an entirely new depth. Questing is fun, and crafting is not so much complex as it is dependent on others. It forces you to talk to other players and maybe even, I don't know, trade with them! Will wonders never cease? Anyway, I'll enjoy the game as long as I can. I have a feeling they have some much larger things in store.
Next week I am looking at a brand new MMORTS called Castle Empire. It has fantastic graphics and wonderful sound, but will it be fun? We'll find out!
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Each week, Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email! You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Raptr!