Choose My Adventure: The slow-burning, esoteric start of Wurm Online


I have a feeling this is going to be a short article and a probably completely inept series. Wurm Online is definitely not the kind of game one gets deep in to in a month’s time, I think. That’s not to suggest that it seems deep right now so much as the surface scratching is less like an epidermis and more like shale.

It’s been a long, long while since I’ve been in an MMORPG where the most basic of functions weren’t immediately clear, but back then that was because people didn’t really have a handle on things like refinement or even what systems were best. It’s why we had games where you had to /hail NPCs and why combat was mostly driven through a series of menu selections. I’m not sure what Wurm’s excuse is, then, in making things feel purposefully obtuse in terms of doing the most simple of tasks, but here we are.

To the game’s credit, the tutorial does get one’s feet wet well enough. You’re handed the wide swath of basic tools you’ll need, given a whole bunch of equipment, and provided some basic instructions on how to use said tools. After that, it was basically off to the new PvE server to just… wander. Wander, wonder, and try to get my head around things.

Most of the primary complaints here stem from the use of equipment. Not only do you have to actually equip a tool, but you also have to activate it by double-clicking on the tool in your inventory in what I can only assume is a throwback to ye olden dayes of when MMORPG developers weren’t really sure how to refine this sort of thing. It admittedly took me a while to recall that, and it was only recalled because I went to the Wurmpedia, which by the way has links to pretty much every single thing that is laid out in the game’s world. I’m pretty sure there’s Wurmpedia entries for empty wagons that just sit around town.

Once I found out through the instructions that weren’t immediately in the game, I started to work out how to chop down a tree, break it down into further logs, and then refine those logs in to a bunch of materials. Which only ultimately saw my character get encumbered more than she already was, actually. Yes, from the very off, my starting character is already bearing a load that’s too much for her to bear by mere dint of wearing armor — another possible throwback that makes about as much logical sense as coin weight does.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that the Wurmpedia seems to be the primary guiding hand for the game. Stubbornly, I’ve been ignoring it to this point, but I get the feeling I’m only hamstringing myself by doing so. The thing is, though, that if you need to have an immense wiki in order for people to figure out how to do things like swing an axe and craft basic materials, you might want to consider going back to the drawing board.

These complaints are on top of a number of small and just generally weird design decisions that only serve to exacerbate an already overall strange experience for me. You can’t jump (and apparently don’t need to). If you want your compass to work, you have to stand still for 15 seconds before it orients itself (which, by the way, isn’t really how compasses work). You don’t click on trees to harvest them so much as click on the tile of ground a tree is sitting on in order to interact with it.

But then, I might not be Wurm Online’s target audience. It’s obviously doing something right enough that a bunch of people have been flocking to the game since its Steam launch. And perhaps I need to just slow down, take things piece by piece, and RTFM. Which is frustrating, but if that’s the game that’s meant to be played, then I suppose so be it.

I’m going to stubbornly stick it out in this PvE world I’ve stumbled in to, but I guess the only poll option I can come up with is whether to blatantly disregard the Wurmpedia and figure things out on my own or to sit put and read up first. On the one hand, reading up would certainly be the smart thing to do, but on the other hand I did feel like sorting things out like how to break down wood in to construction materials by myself is part of the discovery… so long as I can just slow down and take this game at its own pace. So I turn to you all for advice.

Should I discover how things work on my own or do research?

  • Research. The Wurmpedia is all over everything for a reason, dummy. (66%, 100 Votes)
  • Self-discovery. Hearken back to the way it used to be and work it out yourself. (34%, 51 Votes)

Total Voters: 151

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Polling will once again wrap up at 1:00 p.m. EDT this coming Friday, September 4th, at which point I will ideally be in a better place mentally to tackle the kind of thing that Wurm Online is trying to be. Whatever the hell that is.

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Chris each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures – and you get to decide his fate. Which is good because he can often be a pretty indecisive person unless he’s ordering a burger.

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It’s a very old game, from the era before WoW convinced devs that they need to make their MMOs much more user friendly. It’s old enough that Notch actually worked on it and quit it years before he worked on Minecraft. You need to come at it from the perspective of a museum piece or a curio, with the understanding it wasn’t made for you but yet it’s something incredible to have survived this long. It’s fairly unique, there are not many games with its crafting obsessed focus and much fewer still with a level of complexity and minute detail that would be comparable. You COULD fuddle around for hours and make numbers go up without using a guide, AND that might be an interesting experience for yourself, but if you want to accomplish anything that feels significant and get any real understanding of how deep the rabbit hole goes you’re going to have to give in and RTFM. And I mean an uncomfortably large dose of RTFM. Good luck to you.


Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I’d something more to say.


Love those lyrics.


I played this for 4 years. While it’s a fun/great game, and the general population is usually decent, the staff are corrupt as heck and do loads of things to protect their friends/investments.

There is no ‘reporting’ the bad ones either, because the ‘head’ person (Enki) is one of the problems. There is a ‘boys club’ vibe to the whole thing, where they are protecting their own mob-style.

They lost my business because I tried to bring it to the attention of the other staff, and they temp banned me, after being a paid member for all that time…as though being a person who paid for their continued existence didn’t matter when they were having serious population issues.

They launched on Steam recently, which is the only reason you’re seeing a ‘resurgence’ of the game…they are all over the place regarding rules too (Don’t enforce a lot of the rules they have, saying they are ‘guidelines’…and will harass you for the dumbest things.)

I persevered through years of harassment/griefing on there and staff’s refusal to address it.

They even changed from their owner (previous? He seemed to be stepping away) supporting RMT (And suggesting we use a site called PlayerAuctions) and the ability to sell your character/things in-game for RL money/vice versa legally….to banning that just so they could join Steam, because they don’t allow that. They are wishy-washy as heck about their own rules.

But yeah, if you can get past all of that and do decide to stick around long term, it’s a wonderful game…it’s just a hardcore grinder, and yes it’s very involved and you will need to use the wiki for many things…and a lot of the wiki used to function in-game so you didn’t even have to leave, but the wiki editors kept breaking it’s functionality because they were recruiting players to edit it/run it.

You won’t even experience much of the game with a short trip into Wurm…you’ll just get a feel for it, and decide if it’s for you, but if you stick it out long term, there’s a lot under the hood…

Bruno Brito

I mean, to be fair, the game clearly developed itself to be this kind of community. It’s expected that the people who settled on it first are defensive about losing their progress and power.


In my day, you had to type ‘HAIL’ to a NPC to get em to talk to you but when you got to the ‘A’ the Freeport guard you were hailing would attack ya because you didn’t remap the attack key away from the letter ‘A’ and you took a swing at him.

And he killed you.

In one hit.

And we LIKED it!

Bruno Brito

dastardly young people ruining everything with their faceapps and star warcrafts the old world

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the old geezer looks at you amiably. Looks like an even fight

Bruno Brito

This is relevant.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Yes. RTFM. It is the way.


I voted for self-discovery for the simple fact that if you have to read a wiki for even basic gameplay then that’s terrible game design and needs to be called out as such. You should try to play the game as is and only search the wiki for things you otherwise would in any other game. I get that some games are meant for discovery and exploration and that’s fun, but it needs to be intuitive enough that gamers can figure things out without too much frustration or boredom.