If you're a sandbox fan who's not familiar with the browser-based sandbox called Project: Theralon, become familiar with it. For sandboxers as well as browser-based MMO fans, this game will nudge the genre up in quality and help undermine the notion that browser-based gaming is limited, linear, and boring. In Project: Theralon, players will be able to make characters how they want and can eventually become dragon-riders, powerful characters who can fly through the environment causing havoc as they go.
During my interview with the game's Associate Creative Director Sven Ehrentraut and Public Relations Director Piotr Pilich, I watched live as the game was loaded in a browser and a character mounted a dragon, flew through the landscape, and hopped off into a fight. The game has been in development for only six months, but there's already plenty to get excited about. Click past the cut and I'll give you all the details!
Project: Theralon is being created using Cryengine 3. This means it looks amazing, complete with weather effects, day and night cycles, and pretty much all of the bells and whistles you have come to love. In fact the graphics reminded me of one of my favorite titles, The Chronicles of Spellborn. It turns out that in fact, Ehrentraut worked on The Chronicles of Spellborn. While the influence was obvious to me, I was assured that it must have been subconscious. Either way, if you enjoyed the epic scale and stylized-yet-realistic graphics of The Chronicles of Spellborn, then you will enjoy the sights of Project: Theralon.
The fact that you might have the ability to play through Facebook or might be able to sign in with a Facebook ID does not mean Project: Theralon is a "Facebook game," so don't worry. The fact is that describing any title as a "Facebook game" means nothing, thanks specifically to the existence of titles like Project: Theralon or many other standard MMOs that offer the choice of signing in with or playing on Facebook. There will also be a downloadable client for those who want one. The idea behind Project: Theralon is to give players as many choices as possible, including options on how they access the game.
Those choices include, of course, how a player wants to make his or her character. Sandbox titles are often known for overwhelming players with too many choices, so Project: Theralon will also offer some optional skill bookmarks to help guide players if they have the need. Different color-coded schools of abilities can be accessed and combined with other schools to make hybrid "classes." While there will be no official classes, at least not the kind that are found in a standard MMO like World of Warcraft, players will be able to use the combinations to achieve similar effects. A player can combine green school abilities with a few scout or melee-style abilities to create a sort of ranger character, for example. The idea is to give players the option to create something they are familiar with or to craft a character that has never really been seen before.
Dragon mounts are a very important game feature. While the team currently plans to make these fantastic, dangerous creatures a higher-experience goal, newer players will be able to capture and tame temporary dragons in order to explore and cause chaos. Later on, these mounts will be powerful enough to possibly turn the tide of battle.
All of these mechanics are subject to change because the game's still in early development, mind you, but right now, the goal is to confine PvP combat to certain zones or free-for-all areas. This means that players who want to avoid PvP can. I was happy to hear this because I have never understood how "sandbox" became synonymous with PvP. If PvP is a featured part of a title, great, but it should not be a rule of the genre.
Players will also have access to two different characters at once. Let's say that I am off flying my dragon while looking for towns to smash. I might have my sidekick character parked in a market area. If another player approaches my sidekick to buy some goods, I can switch to the sidekick on the fly to chat or barter with the customer. I can also access this sidekick character exclusively to concentrate on crafting or to even become a town guard. From the description I heard, it's a simple way to solve a normally technical issue. I'm not sure how deep the character development goes with the sidekick, but it also sounds like a great roleplay tool!
The wilderness or open areas of Project: Theralon are not going to be populated by standard, boring NPCs or mobs. The details are still being worked out, but plans are to create a dynamic mob system in the outer areas, one that responds to player interactions. If X number of mobs are killed, for example, an event fires off or mobs spawn anew in different ways. I can only hope that the developers also take cues from games like Ryzom and create mobs that feature amazing AI behaviors like prey/predator relationships and migration. It's too early to tell, but one can hope.
"Even someone like yours truly who has seen just how powerful the browser can be has a hard time believing the developers can pull this project off."
To sum up what I saw and talked about with the pair of Infernum developers, I'd say that Project: Theralon is almost too good to be true. Even someone like yours truly who has seen just how powerful the browser can be has a hard time believing the developers can pull this project off. Yet I watched live as they played through a rough (yet beautiful) version of the title that was also embedded in Facebook. The animations during flight and lighting effects were top notch for any game that I have seen, much more for a browser-based title. Players will build most of the housing and settlements in the game using a modular system. Trade will be encouraged through crafting and the need for special items and resources. Project: Theralon easily falls into the sandbox category.
How sandbox is the game going to be? Well, if you have enjoyed games like Darkfall or The Chronicles of Spellborn, then you might love this title. There will be no standard quests, but player towns, housing, and other sandbox staples will be featured in full force. The optional PvP might be a refreshing break from ganking, and flying on the backs of dragons is going to add an entire new dimension to the genre. The hardest part in covering this new title is going to come when people simply hear the word "Facebook" and automatically presume that we're talking about FarmVille. I will not rest until "Facebook game" ends its life as a game description. There might be farming in Project: Theralon, but I can promise it won't be that kind of farming.
I love my job because I can cover exciting new titles like Project: Theralon. If the developers can deliver, we will be able to play through a game that pushes the boundaries of browser-based and sandbox MMO gaming even further. It's about time, if you ask me... time we got to ride on dragons while burning down villages!
Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.