The Saga Of Ryzom
Our beards have grown long since we last travelled the lands of Atys. But we've spent this time well, crafting a five-blade razor with three -yes three! - LubraStrips to tidy our appearance for this, ZONE'S second presentation of garlic-scented MMOG, The Saga Of Ryzom.
Whether your gaze is currently distracted skywards, towards the twin moons of Tatooine, or westwards, towards the congested pathways of Norrath, we recommend a short romantic trip to the enchanted forests of the Green Planet. The fresh air will do you good. You see, we've been helping with beta test dirties this month (praise be for all that French dialogue!), so be quiet while we tell you all about it.
Ryzom makes no excuses for being a complex, skill-based RPG, as opposed to character-based. Its modular systems apply to every area of the game, from foraging to spell-making, so if you found Diablo 2's manual confusing, you might well be advised to look elsewhere. Yes folks, this is hardcore, but if you like the idea of cooking up your own spells and attack sequences, then this is definitely the place to be.
There's no wizard, warrior or thief template to climb inside at the character creation screen. Instead, you pledge allegiance to one of four civilisations (Faros, Matis, Trykers and Zorai), and then modify the proportions and features of your avatar. With everything from 'chin depth' to 'nose level' to tinker with, it's unlikely you'll come across your long-lost identical twin in a hurry.
Land And Freedom
Each civilisation has its own distinctive look and habitat (desert, forest, lakeland and jungle respectively), each fraught with unique dangers and opportunities. But you won't experience the best of this geographical variety until after level 20, when you leave the safe confines of 'newbie island' for the... (crack of lightning) mainland! Mwah-ha-haa!
The next stage is to balance skills, again using a simple slider system to prioritise Fight, Magic and Forage. This is mportant. and llthough you can tweak your iharacter's skills once nderway, you'll save loads of time deciding here whether you want to twat, zap or build stuff. And yes, before you ask, our ibronzed warrior did waste half an hour scrabbling for goodies with his bare hands before we realised Conan's sausage fingers might not be best suited to crafting silk slippers.
I Crank up the Forage bar to full, ignoring all other skills, and you'll begin with half-a-dozen sssential prospecting and foraging skills, giving you an immediate head start as a draftsman. Go in with all guns blazing (full Fight bar) and you'll enter the game loaded with dagger attack, taunt, shield and more, ready to slice and dice all who cross your path.
A Window On Your World
Having patched and pumped the main game into your PC's RAM chips, the first challenge is the interface. The usual array of radar, map, compass, chat, player stats and inventory are there to greet you, but there are new ideas too. Click on a body part and your inventory highlights items; set a waypoint marker on the map (this can be fellow guildmember's later in the game) and your radar will point the way, counting down the metres as you run. Handy if your clan has left you, or if you did a runner from a beast after finding a rich seam of new resource.
Four tiny VDU icons at the bottom of the screen hot-switch through preset info bar configurations, enabling a quick switch between, say, inventory management and combat duties.
Starting at your village centre, traders and quest masters are on hand to help you get levelled up to 20 fast. Complete basic quests, such as 'find a mushroom' or 'kill a creature' and you'll gain skill points to trade in for new actions.
Having set out to be a craftsman, we were soon adding to our forage and prospecting skill-set, improving both the volume and quality of resources available to us. Before long, we had the equivalent of Time Team's 'GeoPhys' to hand, and nothing underground was safe from our pickaxe. Not much use when a pack of ravenous dogs decides a weedy archaeologist will do for dinner, but a quick respawn to the nearest village centre (choose from five or so respawn points) and a ten-minute wait to get Hit Points, Stamina, Sap (mana) and Focus (foraging energy) back up to peak levels, and you're ready for the next big dig.
Initial impressions of Ryzom are good. The game looks superb and plays smoothly enough - a touch of lag is to be expected at beta stage, especially with all those bump-mapped backdrops and highly populated scenes. Admittedly, success (and enjoyment) will be dependent on joining guilds, undertaking larger quests and tinkering with home-brew actions and spells. With Nevrax due to end the beta and move to full release imminently, we'll let you know how it all shapes up as soon as we know more.
Download The Saga Of Ryzom
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
It's always good to have a plan. Witness the difference between the sprawling, unco-ordinated, badly thought-through mess that is our ongoing incursion into Iraq. Compare that with the tightly controlled, intricately detailed assaults of the Roman Empire, where no option was left unexplored and every conceivable tangent was identified and taken into account. Shame about all the Imperial incest and patricide that came with it, but you can't have everything.
Yes, plans are great, in a having-an-overall-idea-of-what's-going-on kind of way. Which is why I had such high hopes for The Saga Of Ryzom -an eight-year MMO adventure in a detailed alien world, where the designers had mapped out what was going to happen at every step of the way, and in which the players would feel genuinely connected to the events. Plus it had a totally believable ecosystem, in which weather, seasons and time all play a part in how you behave, in which the animals have their own food chain and interaction rules, and in which the planet itself is revealed as a giant living plant, reacting to the players' actions. Sounds brilliant. What went wrong?
First The Bad
To say that Ryzom is a HIDEOUS FAILURE OF GIGANTIC PROPORTIONS might be overstating the case somewhat, but I can see why not everyone has tuned in to Nevrax's highbrow concepts. Mostly, people are being put off because, when you get down to it, Ryzom isn't finished yet. I've not been privy to the exact inner workings of the French developer's financial make-up, but there doesn't seem to be any visible reason why the game has been rushed through like this.
Netcode has yet to be optimised, meaning that wherever you connect to the (single) server, with whatever type of connection, you're in for a laggy experience. Documented in-game elements - such as the personal encyclopaedia or racial divergence - haven't been included. Placed traders have nothing to sell. Animation is distinctly ropey in places (the instant sit/stand transitions are laughable). Simple delivery quests are confusingly arcane in terms of telling you what to do.
There's no theme tune or music of any kind. Seriously, who launches a game and then promises to add the theme music in a later patch?
The list continues, but ultimately it all leads to the simple, undeniable fact that Ryzom needed about half a year's extra work and beta testing done to it before it was unveiled to the public. And the really, really, really annoying thing about it all is that we, the public, would have been happy to wait for it, because underneath all the unpleasantness, there is an absolutely superb game waiting to happen.
Then The Good
The aforementioned plan is set to see the game world of Atys expanding, evolving and drastically changing, as the storyline events kick into gear and the true role of the players takes shape. The visual style of the world is a joy to behold, and certainly feels different to anything seen before - the huge roots of the world arcing overhead, the changing seasons and weather patterns giving each visit to the world a different feel (and even affecting game mechanics - certain resources are better harvested in certain climes, certain spells work better in certain environments, etc). The natural wildlife behave as you'd expect animals to -herbivores roaming in packs searching for fertile land, carnivores tracking them and picking them One of the great pleasures to be had is when being chased by a wild beastie, leading them towards a larger pack of plant-eaters and watching them switch their attention to the more easily killable prey.
The system used to create spells and actions is an interesting idea, letting players break things down into their component parts and reshape them as they see fit. It's limited at first, but as you reach the higher levels and more advanced options open up, you really get a feeling of personalisation about your character.
Now The Future
I So, does Ryzom have a B future? By the time you read r this Nevrax should have released Patch One, which addresses a few of the stated problems. Moreover, Patch Two is already in the works and includes things like the encyclopaedias, quests, player mounts and development of the story. Until then I can't in all honesty recommend you give Ryzom a try, as you won't be experiencing the game as it should be played (and even then it's likely to need more work if the lagging issues aren't sorted). However, even if/when Ryzom is fully working, it's still going to pale in companson to the upcoming twin behemoths of World of Warcraft and EverQuest II. These are two games that, even in their beta stages, are getting it right. They ooze playability and have such a sense of self-assuredness about them that you can't help but be drawn into their worlds.
Ryzom is different, to be sure. It has many fine concepts. The action/spell customisation, the eco-system, the setting, the crafting. All of these are fine ideas that warrant attention. However, it's extremely doubtful whether they're enough in themselves to be worthy of a monthly subscription.
I can only hope it does pay off for Nevrax. I've often been a champion of the different, hailing innovation above polish, and for Ryzom to disappear from the radar entirely would be a shame. Simply for being set somewhere other than the typical swords and sorcery fantasy worlds already lifts it a notch or two. Plus the overall plan that the team has for the world of Atys could be something very special to be a part of as a player. I'd recommend giving Nevrax six months or so to see if it can get the actual mechanics of playing the game to be more enjoyable. Fingers crossed.
Every Initiate to a persistent online world has to go through quarantine, a place to spend your formative hours in relative safety where you can get to grips with the universe you've subscribed to. Ryzom is no different in that respect, only the world into which you're thrown is so very different to the usual fantasy fare that you can quickly grow to despise it, or, in my case, become enamoured with its often uncompromising ways.
Compared to how it was at launch, Ftyzom is improved beyond recognition. Lag remains, but it's nowhere near as debilitating. NPC missions, trade and crafting now work as intended, although the interface remains cluttered and confusing and the storyline, after a stuttering start, has gotten into its stride. More importantly, Nevrax has a strong support system that should be the envy of the MMOG world. Ask a question and you get an answer in minutes, not days.
Really Wild Show
World of Warcraft may be derivative and its charms may fade over the months, but Blizzard knows more than anyone in the PC game industry how to make a game accessible. In contrast, Ryzom has a skill system that promotes flexibility, yet the gameplay requires specialisation. By way of example, you can hang around your starting area building a character adept in all four disciplines: combat, foraging, crafting and magic. However, unless you focus on one or two, the jack-of-all-trades approach limits your ability to progress once you enter the main world.
Contradictory and confusing it may be, but Ryzom is still easy to fall in love with. This is partly thanks to an altruistic community, partly because the world into which you're thrown is just such an interesting one. You have a planet rich with alien wildlife that seems happy to exist on its own terms whether you interact or not. The learning curve is steep, but there's a lot to experience at all levels and many diverse places to go. The otherwise impressive creature Al group dynamics fall apart in combat, which is fiddly and lacks immediacy, but for world realisation and uniqueness, you immediately feel a part of Ryzom.
Whether the game will remain alive in a year's time remains to be seen. At launch, coming as it did alongside EverQuest II, World of Warcraft, City of Heroes and expansions for the likes of EVE Online, Anarchy Online, Dark Age of Camelot and EverQuest Live, things looked bleak indeed. To have improved the game to such a degree is an impressive feat, but perhaps greater challenges lie ahead: US and European English servers were recently merged, redundancies appear likely and as much as Ryzom's unique sci-fi premise is sure to be an attraction, it will also be a barrier to the mass of online gamers who like what they know. Regardless, after six months of polishing Ryzom is now worth investigating.