This week I was lucky enough to revisit Earth Eternal, the independent browser-based game that features a future ruled by animals. For a long time, players feared that its recent disappearance meant the end of the game. Then, we were told that a foreign company bought it and planned on revamping it and returning it to life. I'll be honest and say that I never thought I would see it happen. So few MMOs, independent or not, get a second chance at anything.
Yet, here we are. The game has returned and it is in a fully playable state. I was so surprised that I didn't really believe it until I was making a character and entering the game. A few things have changed, some have improved and others were worse.
Click past the cut and I'll tell you all about it!
Earth Eternal is set on a future Earth, one that was beat to Hell after the moon decided to split apart and rain down fragments of death. Eventually, and after many pages of pretty intense lore, this event led to the Earth being led by animal-like creatures. In the old version of the game there were more race choices during character creation. For some reason, many of these missing races can be found in game as NPCs. I wonder if the new developers are reworking some of those former playable races like the bears? (My wife loved her bear and wants it back!)
Last time I rolled with a robotic sort of creature, but this time my new-found love for mice forced my hand and I rolled a mousey druid. The funny thing is that this "druid" fires a bow, wields a mace and spits out magic occasionally. I'm no purist, but I thought druids used healing or nature magic and generally ran around with twigs and leaves glued to their clothes. While I'm not normally a fan of such gameplay, (I love ranged combat) I decided to take a chance.
The glorious thing about Earth Eternal is that I can simply add on almost any ability available to all the classes. As I level up and gain points that I can put towards skills, I simply open the skill trees for the different classes and can either choose my native class spells and abilities or take a chance with many of the others. For example, every hero needs to be able to heal himself. I was happy to see that the basic healing ability was still available in this newer version of the game and got it at the first chance.
Like I mentioned earlier, my character has a few ranged abilities, some druidy shooty powers, and a nice heal on top. The game is not terribly "hard" so I am able to solo a lot of the time and can heal up between fights. It will be very challenging to decide which abilities to pick next. While I am enjoying the druid skills, I think I would like to learn a little melee combat first and then take a while to level them all up. I have always loved playing a character who is a jack-of-all-trades, but it is rare to find an MMO that actually allows you to do that.
Of course, you'll need to have a high tolerance for cutesy characters if you want to explore this game. Don't worry, though, because the original developers struck a pretty good balance between cutesy and taking themselves seriously. I have always maintained that it's not the graphics that make a game "silly" but there's just something about certain games that makes them feel less goofy or over-the-top even while featuring cartoony characters or outrageous settings. A developer has to put some serious tones into the lore or design or the bright graphics overwhelm everything else. Earth Eternal really does feel like a "normal" MMO, and I take it as seriously as I do Lord of the Rings Online or Ryzom. It can be done. I wish more games gave us some real drama like a world changing event or post-apocalyptic background to go along with their "kiddie" graphics. Perhaps it's the juxtaposition of the graphics with the tragic story that make it more attractive to me.
Dungeons come early and often. Are they worth the time and effort? As expected, I found them to be enjoyable in a group and downright dangerous without one. Also, the longer time required for most dungeon-crawling requires a full group simply to keep you awake. Sure, it's nice to see "real" dungeons in this open, browser-based world, but they aren't anything new. This is based on my limited experience with them so far (I went through several in the old version) so it is very possible that they become a religious experience at higher levels. I doubt it, though.
There are occasional levers to operate or different items to collect during questing, but essentially you'll spend your time going from one from linear point to the next, killing 10... whatever the NPC wants you to kill. The grind is very light, though, and leveling happens quickly enough that you get to spend a lot of time deciding on which abilities you'll be using. The real fun comes from interacting with the community in the chat, roleplaying, and exploring the little details of the world. It's definitely not the deepest game out there, but the setting, lore and character design are unique enough that it keeps your attention. Also, it's completely free and runs on a basic laptop. That scores a lot of points in my book.
In one of the only real negatives, the old lag from the original beta is showing up occasionally. Once in a while you will find yourself standing there waiting for the loot to pop up or for an enemy to fall. They succeeded in defeating that beast before, so here's hoping they can do it again. Also, the NPC voice overs (the occasional "hello" and other types of chatter) are now in a different language than English. While I like the fact that I have no idea what they are saying, some of you might be turned off by this. All quest text is fine, though, possibly because it existed before in English?
Will I continue to play Earth Eternal? I think so. After all, I was enjoying it before and will probably continue to enjoy it. Fans of linear games like Rift or LotRO know how easy it is to "pause" and come back later, and the same is true with Earth Eternal. I know I'm not being rushed into anything and can take my time with the game. Its free status makes it even less pressured. It will stay in my favorites until they close it down again.
Let's just hope that's a long time from now.
Next week I will be taking a newer, deeper look at Free Realms. While I have played it off and on since beta, I want to sit down and really notice how it has changed over the years. If you would like to add me in game, my character's name is Beau Turkey. Now, go log in!
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!