Throughout the past year and even longer maybe, we’ve seen near biweekly updates from the team over at Star Vault as it’s been developing Mortal Online 2. Of course it was delayed from its original planned release, but what hasn’t been these past couple of years. The good news is that the game did finally launch yesterday.
For those of you unfamiliar with Mortal Online 2, know that it’s billed as an old-school, first-person, hardcore, PvP MMO. It’s got everything on your bingo sheet: hundreds (feels like it) of skills to level, crafting all type of gear, player housing with upkeep costs, territories, open world PvP without safe zones, and of course, full loot PvP. I’m sure that doesn’t even scratch the surface of everything you can do, but it should give you a good idea of what the devs are going for.
Now, if you’re interested in how some of those systems play, you’re in luck because I had the chance to sneak in and take a look at the game this past week before the launch. Unfortunately, for an MMO of this style, there wasn’t really an opportunity for me to get into the depths of PvP or even get out of the starter zone since there were few people to play against. I aim to dig in deeper in the future, but for today’s entry in our Fight or Kite PvP column, let me tell you what it is like to be a new player in Mortal Online 2.
Mortal Online 2 is still very much Mortal Online
First off, I did dip a toe into the original Mortal Online, so I’ve got a little bit to compare to even if that isn’t a lot. Honestly, I think I played it right around launch: Mortal Online dropped June 9th, 2010, and at the time, I had no job, no money, and nothing but time, so I was looking for a game that I could play. I was moving on from Warhammer Online, and Mortal Online sounded new and cool.
So way back then I logged into MO, was dropped into a town with no gear and no tutorial, and was utterly lost. A player kept walking right in front of my face, and I couldn’t figure out what he wanted. Eventually I clicked on him, which made me attack him, which made the guards come over and murder me swiftly. So that was fun.
Then I tried to craft something, thinking maybe the game would begin to click with me then. I couldn’t understand what to do with the stick and some other item I was holding, so I asked chat, and the response I still remember well: “Well you just have to try mixing things and see what works :).” I asked for more help, but the responses were the same. Not knowing but also finding no help from players was the point of the experience, apparently. The fun was to be found in wasting time trying random junk until I completed a tool. Riveting gameplay. I logged out and never went back after that.
The good news is that isn’t the case at all with the new sequel. Mortal Online 2 has a true and proper tutorial to get you into the swing of things. Running around and interacting with monsters and crafting tables feels familiar as well. This sequel is much more of a continuation of the ideas and features you might have come to expect from Mortal Online.
To contrast it with something, I’d say it is unlike the change from the original Guild Wars to Guild Wars 2. In ArenaNet’s case, the whole gameplay loop, fully persistent world, and more action-focused combat system all constitute a big change from what players had in Guild Wars 1. Mortal Online 2 is updated and has many advancements not found in the original, but it is also very much a true sequel in style and play.
Character creation is a mixed bag
The character creator took me back for a moment – in a good way. There are plenty of ways to customize your character both with race and bloodline. For instance, you can choose as far back as your grandparents’ bloodlines when determining your own. How you set these influences your base attributes and statistics. There’s always a chunk of lore displayed along with each one to further define the different races and bloodlines.
As a visitor to the game, and knowing I wouldn’t have time in the beta to get to endgame, I didn’t labor over these choices too long. However, for the min-maxers out there, I could see some real choices and number crunching going on. If you want to be a high-end mage, you’ll likely want to choose the combos that give you the highest intelligence to begin with. The unfortunate side of this is that if you’re new and don’t know what skills and attributes you really need to play as a mage or even a paladin, then you’ll probably have to do some homework or just plan on your next character being better. That is the downside to having no real class system.
Also, and not too surprising for a smaller studio, the cosmetics are a bit limited, specifically when it comes to your choice of hair and faces. There are some sliders for changing hair length on the yeti-looking characters, but there wasn’t the overabundance of options you see from a lot of the Asian imports and AAA MMORPGs.
When you complete your character, the game drops you into a town and lets you know upfront that this is a tutorial town/continent and isn’t really a part of the game proper. While you are here, you’re safe and won’t be ganked and raked across the coals. So there’s some comfort and solace that at least you can learn how to play the game safely.
Basic combat is very basic
There are two tutorial tracks, the first one being combat. A series of quests directs you around the map through a graveyard and ultimately shows you how to use a bow to hunt and skin your quarry. It’s serviceable, and I thought Star Vault did a solid job here.
However, the combat itself left something to be desired for me. If you’ve played or read my thoughts on Chivalry 2, this combat will immediately be familiar. It is completely action-focused. Your mouse moves your target center, and you left click to strike and right click to block. You can attack (and defend) from your top, left, and right. So while your opponent is swinging, you need to watch her moves and attempt to block and strike when she is open. It definitely takes skill, and you’ll get nowhere clicking away wildly.
And yet, somehow it doesn’t have the right set of combat feedback for me. In Chivalry 2 and other games, you have visual indicators when you’ve properly blocked and are ready for a counter. It might be that your weapon glows red or something for a moment, but there’s something to key you into timing your moves correctly. This combat just didn’t give me what I wanted to feel like it was a smooth flow and a hardcore battle. Instead, the whole system and its feedback felt arbitrary and random.
Crafting and gathering has some depth but felt hollow
Gathering, as in most games, isn’t always the most exciting or rewarding experience – at least not the act of it. In Mortal Online 2, I think the devs have attempted to streamline a step or two, but it wasn’t in the sort of places I would want streamlined.
For example, skinning a deer is about as unsatisfying as it could be. You kill the deer. You loot the deer. Then you click on the carcass in your inventory, and you click and hold on the skinning button in the pop up window. There’s no visual skinning action at all. I can understand that the exact same animation does get dull, and yes watching it is fairly pointless. In fact, players are usually trying their best to speed up that animation so they can move on to the next task as soon as possible.
But now that I’ve played a game without the animation all together, it just feels empty. This is a world we’re creating and living in, but there are no animations for the act of skinning your prey. We have a chopping and mining animation. It just seems that there shouldn’t be a skinning one too. It felt weird.
Crafting offers players a lot of variety, but it doesn’t seem that it has deviated as far from my original experience 11 years ago as some of the other parts of the game. At least the tutorial explains how the system works. The base crafting items are bare. To learn more, you need to read books, which you can purchase from vendors and presumably elsewhere. Once you have learned how to craft an object, you can customize it by choosing different quality of components to build it with. So while I know the recipe for a basic shield, I can choose to either put the poorest quality wood in it or upgrade it by using a higher-quality wood.
So once you’ve determined what components you want to use, you don’t have to drag and drop them into the boxes; you just choose your preset and let it rip, something I very much appreciate. Also, once you’ve leveled your crafting skills enough, you can even sign your gear so other players will be able to acknowledge who made them such fine loot.
That’s all I’ve been able to experience up to this point in time. I’ll try and get back in there post-launch and play a bit further to see what the experience is like beyond the safety of the starter zone (and we’ll be streaming it a bit this afternoon too). Hopefully though I’ve been able to give you somewhat of an understanding of how Mortal Online 2 plays. Remember, it’s only just launched, so expect some issues, but if you are hungry to get in on the ground floor of a new sandbox, now is your moment.