Welcome to MMO Cartographer! I’m Mia, and I’ll be your guide through this winding journey through interesting MMORPGs – some small, some forgotten, and some just worth another look. Today, I’m focusing on Elder Game’s Project Gorgon.
I bought Project Gorgon quite some time ago but hadn’t actually played it very much until the last couple of weeks. It recently had an update, and as an explorer of MMO worlds less traveled, I thought it seemed an auspicious time to hop in and look around. I decided to create a new character because it had been such a long time since I played, and I wanted to take you with me on this journey with fresh eyes.
There are a few things to say right here at the start, in the somewhat unlikely event that this is the very first article you’ve ever read about the game.
First, it is an indie game in early access on Steam. While this is no-go territory for many people, it is a playable game and not the hot mess that many early access titles are. It is an unfinished product, however, so there are features that aren’t in the game yet and others that may change before it is ready for the official release.
Also, the graphics are not exactly pretty or cutting edge. The style is relatively simple and “old school.” Whether you find this a deal breaker or charmingly retro will depend entirely on your own taste and tolerance.
And finally, there’s a great deal of humor baked in, which may or may not appeal to you– again, a matter of taste and tolerance. I find the game playable, the graphics tolerable, and the humor delightful, so none of those things are strikes against it for me, but I know those things aren’t for everyone. The good news is that there is now a free demo, also on Steam, so you can try before you buy.
Character creation is pretty straightforward, consisting of choosing a race and gender, customizing your character’s appearance, and picking a name. There are currently only three playable races: humans, elves, and Rakshasa. The Rakshasa are a race of cat people originally from another planet. According to the official wiki, Elder Game plans to add orcs, fairies, and dwarves during development. The customization consists of selecting pre-set faces and hairstyles, and selecting colors. It seems that you have more options in customizing the appearance of humans and elves than for the Rakshasa, which is a bit of a bummer for fans of beast people.
After a brief cinematic that will make more sense after you talk to some NPCs, you find yourself standing by a pier on Anagoge Island, the tutorial island. It prompts you to check the backpack nearby. This will be your first encounter with one of the weird features of the UI: When you click on something you can interact with, it shows you a square with a button on it that you click to interact with the object. There’s a sword in the backpack. Once you equip that, you’re ready to go smash some of the nearby skeletons.
Project: Gorgon is a skills-based game, rather than level-based. That is to say, you level up skills rather than getting character levels. To gain skills, you simply use them. If you want to gain some skill with that new sword of yours, for instance, go hack and slash until you get better at it.
At this point, I went down the beach, fighting the skeletons I encountered there. I eventually looted a pair of pants that had a green name and stats, but I couldn’t wear them because they required at least level 5 in unarmed skill. I went back up the beach, punching skeletons in the face until I could wear my fancy new pants. As you level up skills, you get new abilities to go along with them: Punching skeletons will lead to being able to also kick skeletons, and so on.
When I got back to the dock, I noticed there was a path going up the hill that was lit by torches. There were also the ruins of a house up the hill to my right. I decided to take the path. Halfway up the hill, I was attacked by venom spiders and experienced my first death.
Fighting skeletons and giant spiders on the newbie island? Of course. What kind of MMORPG would it be without the giant spiders, the skeletons, and some giant rats too? There are even a few of the standard-issue wolves. Except for the rats, they are all aggressive.
Dying is a skill that you gain experience in with each death, and you get a bonus for dying in a way you haven’t died before. Leveling up this skill grants you permanent bonuses, a sort of reward for the frequency and variety of deaths a new player might encounter. This is as good an example of the quirky, baked-in humor that I mentioned as any.
At the very top of the path is a lighthouse, and inside it is an elf named Elmetaph who seemed to know me. I didn’t remember him, of course, because all of us running around the island have amnesia, that backstory staple of RPGs and soap operas. In the course of conversation, he mentions a significant other. You get to remind him whether your companion had been a boyfriend or a girlfriend. I thought it was a nice touch to let the player choose instead of assuming based on the character’s gender. (The dialogue window tells you this choice will affect things further along in the game.)
Even more importantly, Elmetaph teaches the ability to teleport, a skill you will need to get off the island. He sends you on a quest to do that. While you are in the tower, it is worth your time to read any of the books and documents lying around that you can interact with. In fact, you should do that with every book, scrap of paper, landscape feature, and odd-looking item on the island. If your cursor turns into a green hand, click there. Touch all the things.
There are a couple of other NPCs with quests for you on the island, but I am actually trying to keep this relatively spoiler-free, since a lot of the enjoyment in this game comes from figuring things out as you go. There’s a dungeon you’ll want to investigate and a few puzzles around the island to be solved too. If you just want a quick guide to what do do on the island, there’s already a good article on that on the site. Behold, Massively OP’s guide to the Project Gorgon starter island.
When you finally leave the island, you find yourself standing near another NPC to talk to who seems to know who you are, but as for you — well, you know. Amnesia. Welcome to Serbule, the first region in the actual game. After that, you’re pretty much on your own to explore. There are some critters you can kill and a town, Serbule Keep, nearby. While you probably saw a few people running around Anagoge Island with you, there will almost certainly be many more players in and around the town for you to socialize with.
The first time I played, I wandered off in the wrong direction and didn’t find the town for quite some time. It’s not my fault that it was right on the other side of a hill where I didn’t immediately spot it. (OK, I will admit it. Sometimes I am not quite bright enough to follow the path right in front of me.) Let’s just say that I gained experience in Dying.
In the town, there are NPCs aplenty who have tasks for you, and many of them will also buy your excess junk. Some of them are really odd ducks, such as Mushroom Jack, who is obsessed with mushrooms and a little paranoid too. As you might expect if you’ve played any MMORPG ever, the farther you get from town, the bigger and badder the monsters get, but there are also mysterious structures to find and dungeons to explore out there. There are skills to be discovered and learned, places to explore, and things to loot, gather and craft. Where you go and what you do next is up to you. As I previously advised, interact with anything and anyone you can. The game is all about exploring, after all.
Project: Gorgon is quirky and imaginative while adhering to enough of the MMORPG tropes to feel pleasantly familiar. It is a game that people love to love because it isn’t just like every other game out there, but that makes it a niche game that may never appeal to the masses. It just happens to fill the niche it created pretty well.