Bigpoint's latest browser-based game is called Kultan, and it's a game that does plenty to show that the developer is continuing to push the boundaries of what a browser and the Unity engine can do. It's always comforting to have somewhere to point people when they ask, "A browser MMO? What's that?" I imagine that Bigpoint is not planning on stopping anytime soon, and Kultan will take its place as one of the rungs in a very tall ladder.
How important will Kultan be considered in the future of Bigpoint's portfolio? In some ways, very important. In other ways, I can see it losing itself in an endless line of kill-10-rats grinders, but we'll talk more about that.
Click past the cut and let's cover the details.
Let's get some of the details out of the way while I can still remember them. I don't take notes while I play my games for any of my columns, but I do know that Kultan offers three factions and 36 different types of craft. You are represented by a ship from an isometric view, but you do have a character screen that pops up and details your abilities and other information.
Really, though, the first thing you will notice (and probably what Kultan will be most known for) is how great the game looks. The Unity engine is breaking more ground once again, showing how a browser can be used in amazing, modern ways. The water effects, lighting, and art design are all top-notch. I would often stop in the middle of a fight to notice some cool detail or effect, almost losing my character's life in the process. Giant squid, for example, feature sunlight dappling effects on their skin as they dive and attack. It's not very obvious at first, but when you see the depth of detail, you realize how well they work. The only thing missing is a visible crew on your ship. Even if you had only a few crew members, I can only imagine how cool it would be to see them run around the tiny deck of your craft as you fight.
Of course, the beautiful areas and lighting effects sort of lose their luster when the quests become disappointingly grindy and generally feature nothing but more of the same. Occasionally I was asked to drop something off or to visit a new NPC, but generally the quest-givers had massive beefs with the local wildlife and wanted the animals dead. All of them... dead! I spent so much more time attacking and destroying local critters than anything else that I wondered when I would do anything else. Honestly, though, I did not get that far before my week was up. I will go back and see what happens. As with a lot of Bigpoint's titles, development will move pretty fast and new content or activities will be put into the game so that by the time I take another good look at it, there should be tweaks to the systems and additions to the quest lines.
The controls of the game really need to be tweaked as well. Typically you just hold down your mouse button and your character ship moves, but any press of the arrow keys starts your ship spinning uncontrollably. It's really aggravating because using a mouse constantly like that can simply hurt, and that means less time playing. Also, targeting is a bit of a hassle. While it's very possible that I missed all of the finer points of control and targeting during an earlier pop up or tutorial, it's also very possible that the controls just sort of suck. I had to right-click on an enemy to start attacking him, and then I would hit number keys to fire off special abilities. I could not figure out how to attack with a keyboard shortcut, and often I would deselect my enemy and get a bit confused. It's a workable control scheme, but it feels clunky and non-responsive sometimes. Again, though, it's early in the development of the title, so I expect things to change.
I did not get a chance to experience any player vs. player combat. In fact, I was surprised to see so few players in a Bigpoint game. Normally Bigpoint's audiences are massive and active. Still, I play during the day, so it's very possible everyone else was busy at his normal-person day job while I was busy at my unusual game job. However, I would expect that the earlier levels would be rushed through simply because the game is asking you to repeat the same type of quests over and over. I was able to skip a lot of the quest text and successfully navigate the early levels. That's always a sign of a game that, at least in its beginning levels, is built for speed.
So besides the few issues I had with the controls, I am looking forward to seeing future Kultan add-on content and possible new systems. Perhaps the higher levels are more exciting or dynamic, but I can't say for sure. I would imagine that the rest of the content is basically the same, but with extra abilities, ships and possible PvP to add on new dimensions. Kultan is worth a look even if just for the art and design of the game. It's downright pretty, it runs amazingly well, and it costs nothing. While Bigpoint has its critics, it's important to notice how many games the company pushes out a year and how each one gets progressively better or at least better-looking. Sure, I'd prefer to see more depth in titles like Kultan, but over time the layers will form naturally. I'm excited to see what happens with it.
Next week I am going to do an official Rise and Shiny treatment of Glitch, the new browser-based game by Tiny Speck. Add me in game; my name is Beau in there as well. Together we can nibble some piggies! 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 and Facebook!