Mortal Online – First Impressions
I really like indie companies because I know how hard is to make a game without a huge financial power and in the same time some of the best games I ever played were made by indie companies, or at least small companies. Unfortunately not all indie games have the design power and industry knowledge to release a polished or complete product. Sometimes this happens because of poor management or low financial backup and sometimes because the main developers are not that good at what they do.
Mortal Online wants to be a pure sandbox PVP mmorpg, much like Ultima back in the days, but it fails horribly right from the start. I followed the game, saw some videos, screenshots, I was expecting something decent or even great, only to find a tech buggy demo which they call open beta. While I am not a big fan of accessibility sessions and I’ve been to some of them, these developers clearly never heard of the concept or they don’t understand the basic game design principles, probably both.
From the start you are thrown into the character creation screen naked, with some basic options to change his appearance, but you barely succeed on doing anything. Moving on you get to choose your race, location, skills, and some kind of of class option, but from all these pages you get absolutely no info, tooltips, you might as well be blind. At the end you can enter you character name and choose a start location from multiple options that have zero information attached to them as well where some even have place holder description “Location Description to come…”
Finally when entering the game world you will find yourself alone in the streets near a town trying to figure what the hell is going down. Looking around I saw some players naked or dressed like Neanderthals flying from the top of a house – some kind of bug, rendering problem no idea, but a superb first impression nevertheless. Here you get no direction, no storyline, you are alone, your mom and dad kicked you out on the streets because you were bad, and now it’s up to you to survive. There is a help window that teaches you the basics on how to move, accessing inventory, and so on, like a knowledge base, but the introduction to this “tech demo” makes you wish to quit and uninstall. Now let me be clear here, even sandbox games must have a introduction system that gets the player in the world, teaches him the basic, makes him feel that he is exploring a new world, a huge one, with infinite possibilities. Having just a help window somewhere is useless, the player is not convinced that this is a living, interesting virtual world to explore. Indeed the outdoor graphics are good enough to keep you interested, but the performance is horrible. I believe they are huge memory leaks in the client, since at some point with many players near me (5-10), the client started to go from 50 FPS to 5, and sometimes it crashed. It could be only my problem but I doubt it, since I play most of today’s games on high details and Unreal is very good engine on good hands.
Tweaking with the engine and support I finally got some decent performance by reducing the maxLODsize from 4096 to 512 in nowengine.ini. This was my first sandbox quest, see? Since the programmers couldn’t implement graphic customization, only texture and shadows.
I explored the nearby town where some players were gathering materials from the air, since collision system it’s mess. Went outside the town and on the good side the outdoor environment is incredible, it’s huge, has good graphics and no loading screens. While outside the town I watched a player fighting some mobs and neither of them had a combat animation: they player just went to the pig, and the pig died. It could be lag or another “feature”.
After this I considered I had enough. I spent 3 hours in game only to be frustrated, quit and uninstall. So do I recommend this game to you the players? Well I’d say stay away from it unless you are real huge fan and you like unfinished games – this one seemed like an Alpha to me. I understand that they are indie developers but when you release a version to show the game to the world you have to show something decent, that has decent game design, level design, basic collision and animations.
“You WOW newb!” Wait! Wait! I am actually one of the hardcore players that love harsh PVP and sandbox games, where two of my favorite sandbox games are Mount and Blade and EVE Online (played 4 years), but there is a limit to how much trash I can take from a game while paying for it.
The game is still in open beta so don’t take my word for it, try the game, make your own opinion.