Sep 23, 2008

Why I fell in love with a game I'd never heard of.

I can't remember how I originally heard of the game, The Saga of Ryzom. It happened just when I finally lost interest in struggling through grinding villas day in and day out in Age of Conan.

Age of Conan? I still love, I really do. It is without a doubt a game that actually outshone Vanguard, and when I played Vanguard, I thought it was the most amazing graphics MMO wise (that I'd seen,) yet. AoC blew this out of the water, several times and twice on Sundays. I reflect and think about AoC on occasion, much like I did with Vanguard. But it was over, this love affair. AoC forgot to give content to those of us over 50. Quests that did not take a full group to do any of them disappeared, crafting was FUBARed beyond recognition, and hitting the same 20-40 minute instances with the same mobs, with the same drops, every day (because there was a timer on the villas. You could only do them once every 24 hours) was not my cup of tea.

But what did that leave me? Nothing but the quest to fiddle with free to play games.

I tried to get a hold of the international Perfect World (as I had the Malaysian version)--that didn't work out. It took them four days to send me the first account verification e-mail. By the time I got it, it was no longer valid. The second try, I made an account but could not sign into the site nor the game itself--no matter how many times I changed my password at the site itself. So needless to say? I gave that up too.

And then I found Ryzom in my boredom inspired search. I was actually entertained.

What's a sandbox MMORPG?

A sandbox MMORPG can pretty much be summed up by saying there is no limit on what you can do. There's no one forcing you to do quests, to collect this-many-whatevers, there's...nothing hampering you doing whatever it is you want to do. They give you a MMORPG world, you create a character, they slap you on the back and tell you, "Good luck!"

What are the classes?

There are four main/base classes: Fighter, Magician, Harvester, Crafter. Those are just the base classes. Each of these classes split into several different talent trees (those of you familiar with the old SWG will get what I mean.)

If you don't know what I mean by talent trees, it's sort of like this: You decide to work on your fighting skills. You put on some armor and a sword, and from roughly levels 1-50, you work on fighting. You hit 50, and suddenly your fighter xp branches off into four different trees. (This is just an example, not 100% accurate.) Now your xp trees are: sword, spear, mace, hammer, and depending on what weapon you equip and use you gain experience in that tree and are able to use special attacks tailored to that tree.

Magician, of course, can also be healer as well as offensive magic slinger. Crafters can focus and craft anything--jewelery, light armor, heavy armor, weapons, tools.

Here's the deal though: you can be a magician fighter crafter harvester. All at once. There are no penalties and the base skill trees all go up to 200. But wait, it's not just the base skill trees that go up to 200. It's all the trees that split off from the base trees too.

You could, literally, spend years trying to level everything up if you wanted too without fear of penalty. Other than leaving other skills behind in the dust.

What are the graphics like?

I won't lie to you. They're severely outshone and outdated compared to other games. If you want to get right down to it, WoW in it's Alpha state might be on par or equal to Ryzom. This might drive some of you off, as I know it did for my husband. He just did not like the look of Ryzom, to him it was too brightly colored and cartoonish.

On one hand, I can understand and agree with where he comes from. Comparing it to Age of Conan, Hellgate London, Vanguard, even Warhammer Online? They make this game look closer to an 8-bit creation. But Ryzom has its charm that I cannot deny.

The world seems absolutely huge. When it is laid out before you flat on the map, it doesn't look so bad. And then, when you try to get to point A to point B for the first time, you realize how difficult and how expansive the world of Atys (the planet the game is placed on) really is.

If the world is so huge, what's travel like?

The world can be traveled somewhat, however, without the use of feet. You can use "teleporters" placed by two of the world's factions, Kami or Karavan. Of course, you aren't limited to picking a side to actually use them. There are Kami/Karavan neutral teleports all over Atys.

There are also mounts for sale--the downside to both teleports and mounts is that they both cost money, and they aren't cheap when you are starting out. You'll need to spend some time either farming materials, harvesting or crafting/selling in the beginning to get around.

I don't like to farm. I don't like games where I have to farm.

Show me a MMORPG where you never have to do this and I'll put something here other than me rolling my eyes.

Okay, maybe that's me being the usual cranky h0r. Some games are more clever at hiding the farming, some games aren't. I will admit that Ryzom isn't--but I am having fun with this game so I really don't notice it. I guess that's what will predetermine whether or not its farming or fun to you.

Aren't there Quests?

Yes and no. Once you are out of the beginner area, called Silan, there aren't any real quests as there were on the "newb island."

They're not even called quests in Ryzom, but Missions. Almost all of the Missions on Atys proper (away from Silan) are for faction points.

How do you level in Ryzom?

Kill, craft, or harvest. It seems pretty simple and presented that way, it is.

Can I customize my fighting abilities/magic/harvesting/crafting?


Everyone starts off with the same basic spells/skills and can then, as they level, earn points toward "purchasing" upgrades which made each skill/spell unique. A better explanation of this system can be found here:

While the post is a bit outdated, you can get a gist as to what it's like.

What makes it fun, then?

There is nothing in this game forcing me to do anything I don't want to do. If I don't want to group and mindlessly kill for hours on end? I don't have to. I can find a nice patch of resource rich land, keep an eye out for things that will aggro me, and dig away to my hearts content or craft away until my eyes cross.

If I get tired of crafting, I can ask if anyone is interested in killing anything that moves for levels and do so. If I get tired of all of that, I can wander off and role play.

The community I have found within Ryzom bears a striking resemblance to the community I first found years ago in SWG (Star Wars Galaxies), and in fact, a lot of the player base purportedly comes from SWG pre Sony-FUBAR...And I believe it. Though I haven't found any names familiar, the attitudes, the "tone" of people as well as the general way people treat one another remind me greatly of my early days playing SWG. Where the people made the game stand out, not the game itself.

Too long; didn't read:

Ryzom Pros:

  • A great community
  • Endless customization level wise
  • Complex crafting/harvesting system
  • A huge world with great environments despite the limited look an aged game has
  • A small, thriving community of role players
  • Free to play at this moment

  • Ryzom Cons:

  • Learning curve: it is steep for those of us used to having a game give us a tutorial or walk through in the beginning. A lot of the missions aren't explained very well, there is no "quest book" that records NPC instructions. You have to pay attention to what the NPC's say to you in speech bubbles when you first pick up their missions because that is the only time you get any in depth information as to what you are doing.
  • Travel is expensive by transporter/mount and very dangerous by foot
  • Missions are generally not worth it but for faction
  • It's an old game with aged graphics
  • There are bugs with the system used to mark flags on user map. If the game crashes, you some times lose the file
  • Some players complain of lag (I haven't seen any of it yet.)

  • So there you go. I play Ryzom for the people. The fact that it is, as of right now (they may not always be) free to play helps but it wouldn't make me stay as much as the group of crazies I'm occasionally thrown into. There is something about Ryzom that charms me which I cannot quite explain as well as I could with other free to play games which captures and keeps me.

    Screen shots by House Etchmarc and yours truly :D