The Saga of Ryzom review
Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) are difficult to review.
The persistent universe means features are ever changing and expanding, the game experience is dependant on the number and quality of the players, and the game has to be played over a long time in order to get a taste of what it has to offer.
And then your review is subject to becoming out-of-date a month or two later.
This isn't helped by the fact that MMORPGs have recently seemed to be released in an unfinished state, with many problems still bugging them.
Although Ryzom has been fixed up somewhat since the boxed release, there are still issues like my head disappearing often which can become slightly annoying, and theme music rather oddly wasn't included in the initial release.
Like all MMORPGs, there are perks over regular online or offline titles.
The game can be constantly added to over time; both in terms of simple patching, to adding new content and features.
Sometimes this content is not necessary at the start because noone will be experienced enough to use it, and thus is can be developed while you are playing the game.
With the ever changing world, fresh content, and thousands of players to meet who will always vary the experience, MMORPGs are games like no other, and to their fans, they will always remain addictive and interesting because the good MMORPGs will never get boring.
But also like all MMORPGs there are downsides.
The game will cost you a monthly fee (in this case, £8.49) on top of the boxed copy containing the client, a free month and a manual.
The aforementioned players could be the ultimate downfall of the game if they abuse the system, or the game simply doesn't become populated enough (although this is certainly not a problem right now).
And if Nevrax decide to pull the plug at some point in the future, your months of time and money that you have ploughed into the game will be lost, never to be returned.
Despite sharing both these good and bad features of MMORPGs over regular titles, The Saga of Ryzom is a generic title.
It provides its own unique world by cleverly mixing sci-fi and fantasy, and features four civilisations for you to choose from - but unlike many other titles in the genre, your choice at the start will not hold you back as you progress, and instead your skills will develop in the game depending on how much you actually use them.
One feature also being touted by developers Nevrax about the title is it's Living Ecosystem.
They claim that the game features a full ecosystem that will react to the actions of the players, and that changing one part will have an effect on another.
It also provides for an ever changing world.
There's also the RAID engine which allows for hoards of monsters to be involved in mass conflicts, and use AI to send the monsters across territories.
There's also the ability to create your own actions - thus you can use combinations of set actions to produce your own combat moves and spells, allowing you to play the game how you want to.
Again, this is something which makes The Saga of Ryzom stand out from the crowd.
Currently full quests don't feature in The Saga of Ryzom - these are set to be featured very soon - and instead there are currently smaller crating missions to keep you occupied, as well as plenty of monsters to help you improve the skills of your character.
A full trading system was finally introduced a few days ago which should make some of the things you collect after killing monsters actually worthwhile, and it is the latest step to fully establishing this title.
Possibly the title could have been developed more before actually hitting release, and so many players may want to wait for things to develop slightly more - though this will probably make the required updates to download a lot larger and less manageable, but at least you get a product that is more complete at the end of it.
On the subject of networking, the game does seem to hold out pretty well when it comes to lag.
It does crop up occasionally, however, even on high-speed connections - but with the sheer scale of battles that sometimes take place it's not surprising, although I have yet to see them as large as promised.
More could be done to improve the situation though.
One interesting feature of the client is the customisable GUI, any of the information boxes can be added or removed, and even the transparency can be set.
The interface does seem manageable and informative, and should hopefully not irritate over long-term play.
The graphics of The Saga of Ryzom are fairly good; it contains a consistent and impressive visual style, and the world around is bright and colourful, and contains a reasonable amount of detail close up.
The characters in particular have been well designed and animated - and even custom moves are handled pretty well.
Lighting, particularly in desert regions, is something which will strike you straight away.
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