Choose My Adventure: Experiencing Zenith’s Blademaster and the overall sensation of VR MMO gaming

    
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So, the Blademaster’s way more fun.

Rolling a new character in Zenith ended up being a great decision all in all because the Blademaster class is far more engaging to play. I sort of assumed the fact that I’m actively swinging weapons around and my hunch was right, as fighting even regular starter baddies ended up being a whole lot more entertaining as a Blademaster than it was as a Force Mage.

The dynamic of melee combat in VR gaming is far beyond anything else I’ve ever experienced – you’ll recall I was lauding the fact that I was using a lightsaber at the beginning of this series – and that holds true in Zenith, as I had to time and pace my weapon swings, make sure that I was raising my weapon correctly to block a strike, and only really had to worry about swinging in two directions and either holding or not holding the trigger button to engage swipe attacks. Overall, it was far more intuitive than the gesturing for spells.

I elected to try out the support side of the Blademaster and found it… just alright. I suspect there are more tools to unlock as I move further along in levels, but as of this moment, I mostly was just a DPS that could occasionally put down a shield if I dashed forward in a direction, which is nice, I just wasn’t able to really take a lot of advantage of the ability much.

The more I think about how precise VR melee combat has to be to feel good, the more I’m kind of astonished that Zenith works at all. Sure, it doesn’t really feel like it’s moving at the scales of your traditional MMO, but having about a dozen other characters all doing their own thing, moving their limbs in various ways, all in a live MMO environment, is kind of impressive. And that’s about where I fall with VR MMO gaming so far: I’m impressed. Not astonished, nor willing to call it the wave of the future, but significantly more aligned in favor of the idea.

Here’s the thing: Zenith is still not a very pretty game. No matter how you slice it or explain it, this game looks a bit too early PS2-era. The special effects are pretty sub par from what I’ve seen, there’s not a whole lot of character customization, and the equipment that I’ve run into at this point doesn’t really strike me as dynamic or appealing. Also, the basic beats of Zenith are pretty cookie cutter to the MMORPG genre; you go to an NPC, tick off the required number of tasks, and then dash back to the NPC for rewards. At a structural level, my time in Zenith didn’t really compel me.

Mechanically, however? There’s nothing like it.

I’ve written a lot over the course of this series about immersion. About feeling like I’m within the world. About the sensation that my character is actually manipulating the environment in some small manner. That really makes an impression even if you’re playing a routine themepark MMORPG, and that’s where Zenith lands into impressive territory. And moving to the Blademaster just reaffirmed that sense of tactile engagement. Sure, I didn’t need to carve up an enemy by alternating weapon swings in all sorts of crazy angles – there was no direct gameplay benefit for doing so – but the fact that I could and that it felt pretty good really got under my skin.

There are a few things I would like Zenith to do better with. For one thing, having two classes seems like a big miss and making more engaging and interesting classes available at launch would have been nice. Also, as good as using my swords feel in combat, there is a distinct lack of weight or feeling of impact or momentum. Perhaps that’s harder to convey through a pair of handheld joystick platforms, but I still feel like more could be done there. Also, the game had some laggy spots, which never feels good whether you’re in VR or regular MMOs.

Even so, there’s something about Zenith that has piqued my interest and has gotten me on board with the idea of MMORPGs in VR. There truly is nothing quite like the experience of being immersed spatially in a world, and I do hope that Zenith can encourage others to try and make this happen. The headset I got is easily one of the better decisions I’ve made and I look forward to experiencing more of this type of gaming and sharing those experiences how I can with you.

Of course, it’s out with the new and in with the old as The Secret World won out in some very close polling last week. That, of course, means it’s time to make a couple of decisions on how and where to start. So it’s poll time!

Now this first poll is probably obvious, and I’m almost assured of how the voting will swing with this one. All the same, I just want to be sure that we’re all on the same page here.

Which version of the game should we be exploring?

  • The Secret World. The original and best, in other words. (59%, 17 Votes)
  • Secret World Legends. It's easier this way. (41%, 12 Votes)

Total Voters: 29

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The second poll is also kind of an obvious one, and ultimately more an aesthetic choice than anything else, but you know I’ve gotta ask:

Which faction am I joining?

  • The Dragon. Progress through chaos theory. (45%, 13 Votes)
  • The Illuminati. Progress through connections. (34%, 10 Votes)
  • The Templars. Progress through leadership. (21%, 6 Votes)

Total Voters: 29

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As usual, polling will be wrapping up at 1:00 p.m. this coming Friday, March 4th. Now I just need to see if I even remember my old TSW login details…

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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