It would be reasonable to wonder why I am bothering to write about my experiences in Elyon, a game that Kakao has long since slated for closure. Truthfully, I had been planning to write about it here in MMO Cartographer even before that announcement, despite a lingering feeling that it was probably not going to be around too much longer. Then the team announced a new class, the Soulbringer, which seemed to indicate to me that there was probably a little life left in the game. At least another six months, certainly. Surely Kakao and Bluehole wouldn’t announce a new class and then just… shut the game down. Right?
So I waited to write until after the September 7th release of the Soulbringer. The day came, and the company released the new class and announced the end of service on December 7th. But I already had 16 hours into this steaming pile of game, so I decided to follow through. I proceeded to put a few more lonely, lonely hours into it so that you don’t have to, as they say.
When Elyon was released, I made an account and logged in. I played for a few hours and decided it fell into the “Fine, I Guess” category. It looked fine. It ran fine. It had familiar MMORPG elements. It just didn’t hook me. The story wasn’t compelling, the world wasn’t immersive, and the gameplay was nothing to write a whole article about.
I returned to Elyon this summer because I decided that it fit in with the sort of games I usually write about: the small, the obscure, and the unloved. It also has another characteristic that I am a sucker for: a cute furry race. I like small races and animal races, so if you give me a small animal race, I will be there. The Ein in Elyon is an alliance of various bipedal animal people. I had created an elf archer during my first try, but I went immediately to playing an otter the second time around. When the Soulbringer class was released, I created one in the form of a little raccoon guy. What can I say? I am not a furry, but I play one online.
Alas, the Ein will be joining the Chua and Popori in the gaming graveyard. I guess I still have the Lalafell, Ratonga, and various gnomes, goblins, and dwarves to fall back on in other games.
One of the nicer features of Elyon is that you can start at level 20 and skip the first part of the tutorial after you finish it once. Unfortunately, that tutorial was slightly more exciting than what follows, and what follows still has tutorial elements you have to slog through. In fact, it seems rather insistent that you stay on the quest rails.
I hate that. I was trying to think of a less direct way of saying that, but under normal circumstances when I am just playing a game for fun alone, a message on the screen warning me that I am leaving the quest area would be the end of it. I want the option to explore the world on my own and not find myself strapped into the predetermined ride the devs decided to take me on.
I wanted to be able to take you along with me on an adventure, dear reader, but it was just not that interesting. The story was bland, the monsters were bland, and the game mechanics were bland at best. Elyon is the hospital food of MMORPGs. If you want a taste of it, go to any newbie area in any game and kill wolves for a quest.
That’s just me, though. If you’re an Elyon player who was enjoying the game, or if you were sticking around in the hope that it would get better, I am truly sorry.
I hate to see any MMO fail. There is no upside to it. People who have poured themselves into creating the game see their work mothballed and may even lose their jobs. Players who enjoyed the game find themselves out all the effort and care they put into playing it. And every closure makes the MMORPG genre seem riskier for the people who would put up the money to get it made, so we get fewer games and there is little incentive for well-funded developers or publishers to take chances on real, substantial innovations. This is not a great situation for people who are looking to join others in a well-crafted world for immersive adventures.
There have been a number of here-and-gone games released in the last few years that were big on hype and itsy-bitsy on execution: Bless, Astellia, and, yes, Elyon, just to name a few. These games would have been acceptable free-to-play games 10 or 15 years ago.
But in 2022, people want more from their MMORPGs than a game that runs reasonably well and doesn’t look like crap. Players actually want to have fun. And these days, there are plenty of choices when it comes to fun multiplayer online games, MMO and otherwise, so shoving another variation on a tired formula just does not fly. No little gimmick or oversold feature will fix a boring treadmill of a game. So many of these flash-in-the-pan games even look alike, in landscape, architecture, and character models. They may not be literally identical, but the aesthetic sure is. That’s not good enough now.
Allow me to apologize here at the end, dear friends. I don’t like writing pieces like this one. I have wanted to get back to a more narrative-style look into less popular games rather than writing straight-up opinion pieces. I know this isn’t the first time you’ve read this rant. There’s a better-than-average chance that you’ve had your own rant in the same vein.
Nonetheless, the death of the MMO genre continues to be somewhat exaggerated, mostly by bitter ex-MMO players. There are some big-name games that still going strong, and a bunch of second-string games that continue to hold their own. I haven’t written off the possibility of a breakout hit coming along either. Technology continues to improve, and there’s a chance that some studio somewhere will create a world with innovations to match the tech. These hyped-up games that fail to deliver are not that. And I am not sure what we, the players, can do about that beyond voting with our wallets.
I know what I am going to do right now though. I am going to get a cup of coffee and download the next game.