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Rise and Shiny: Realm of the Mad God


In the past, I've made a few attempts at trying Realm of the Mad God, a "co-op fantasy MMO shooter" by Wild Shadow Studios. But I've been unsuccessful primarily because I couldn't find a way to get past the seemingly repetitive gameplay, horrible forum community and non-MMO status. Luckily a reader named Rick wrote to me and convinced me to give it one more go, saying that it was an MMO by showing me pictures and listing examples of how many players can be found in one area.

That settled it. I made a new account and jumped in, fully expecting to have an OK time but to come away knowing that this game was just for twitch-hooked kiddies. It turns out I was wrong, and now you know why it is a general rule of mine to always give a game a second chance. Or a third, of course.

Realm of the Mad God screenshot
The idea behind Realm of the Mad God is pretty much summed up in the description on the front page. Players gather together in instanced areas to battle through a series of gods, eventually unlocking the final god to destroy. I'm not quite sure how much of the higher-level stuff happens, since I rarely made it past level 8 or so, but it must be pretty exciting.

If you "die" during combat, you are reset all the way back to level 1, the equipment that you have collected along the way is stripped from your body, and you are sent back to the Nexus, a sort of waiting area that also acts as a trade hub and meeting area. Some players described this to me as permadeath, and while that could technically be true, it would be more accurate to describe it as a death that happens during a game of Galaga: It's simply a reset. Yes, players might be sent all the way back to level 1, but they carry with them a bit of experience and growth that they can later use to buy items in the Nexus. Permadeath would be the permanent death of a character, not a pause in combat. Still, it's an interesting take, and it fits the game's arcade-like style perfectly. I could only imagine the frustration when a level 20 player dies and loses all of the equipment she had worked hard on until that point. I am guessing I would not enjoy such a death penalty and would just log out.

"Fighting is pretty standard to anyone who has played an actual arcade game before. If you are under 25, you probably have not."

Fighting is pretty standard to anyone who has played an actual arcade game before. If you are under 25, you probably have not. You move with the WASD keys and fire with a mouse click, aiming by pointing the mouse. I soon learned the joy of having an auto-fire button, although it seemed to make things a bit more confusing on the battlefield. As groups of players take down different gods in the instanced battlefields, more appear. I think that the gods become stronger until the players unlock the last god and attack it as well. There was a lot of talk about "trains," and I found out later that a train happens when a group of players simply follow in line with each other, destroying everything they came across. It appeared fun but set me off a bit... should I just jump into a stranger's train? That goes against everything my mother taught me!

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The primitive graphics in the game are actually detailed and charming. The developer has thought of a lot of little ways to make playing the game more customizable. I was able to adjust how my character moves, choose whether and when the camera angle changes, and tinker with my view by turning shadows off, although even with everything turned up, the game ran well on my netbook. I'll be honest: I did not expect the developer to care much for smaller details like camera performance or shadows. There are even little fountains in the Nexus that spit out square bits of water, and monsters come in so many neat little varieties that it was fun just to see what was coming next. This was one of the best-quality 8bit-styled MMOs I have come across, and it shows that the developer or developers care, at least somewhat. I would like to see a few more graphical options like multiple screen sizes and a full-screen mode.

"My earlier attempts at playing this game were met with a community that was chock-full of mean kiddies, but this time I found a much more organized and nice group of people."

I could not play this game for long periods of time, however. Not only does it end up causing my arm to fall off (and stitching it back on takes time), but the game does get repetitive. Of course, the way the game works ensures that the excitement level rises the more you play, but dying once or twice and starting over with a bare character isn't much fun. I was surprised at the community as well. My earlier attempts at playing this game were met a community that was chock-full of mean kiddies, but this time I found a much more organized and nice group of people. It was a really pleasant experience. Perhaps the high-performance aspect of the game weeds out the stragglers rather quickly -- after all, you can only get so far in the monster-killing business with your-mom-jokes.

I'm glad I took another look at Realm of the Mad God. As far as independent browser games go, this one is well-made and has a relatively non-intrusive and affordable cash shop attached. Although all the characters on the screen look pretty much the same, there are customization options that change the way your avatar looks. Whether they are permanent or not, I I don't know, but it was cool to see the innovative and simple way the cash shop is woven into the game itself.

Realm of the Mad God has some cool details, boasts really fun gameplay (in small amounts), and shows off a developer that has an eye for cool little details. While a lot more can be done to make the game more accessible and higher-quality, I like what I see. Even though I couldn't enjoy myself in the game for anything more than a few hours per week, I can completely understand how this game has become something of an indie hit.

Next week I will be looking at Remanum, a cool browser-based MMORTS by Travian Games that pushes combat aside and asks players to use trade as a weapon. Already it's a fascinating concept that I wish more games would utilize, but we'll see how I feel next week. See you then!

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!

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