I tend to take a pretty dim view of crowdfunding, especially where MMOs are concerned. It seems the last resort of those whose ambition outstrips their ability, and neither the developers behind crowdfunded MMOs nor the players who back them ever seem to appreciate how time-consuming and complex MMO development can be.
Still, there are one or two crowdfunded MMOs I’ve kept an eye because their concepts intrigue me (though not enough to actually back them). One is Legends of Aria, formerly known as Shards Online. Its promise of letting players run their own servers and design their own content is tantalizing, but I wouldn’t want to design my own content (or play amateur content) in a game that isn’t fun at the baseline.
Thus, when Massively Overpowered started out handing out trial keys for the closed beta, I was eager to give the game a try.
Normally when I do my impressions on a game, I tend to take a top-down approach and provide a general overview, but in this case I think it would be more educational to describe my experience with the game in detail, from beginning to end.
My first impression was that Legends of Aria has absolutely lovely log-in music that hits a perfect balance of soothing yet epic. My second impression was that the character creator was bugged such that it took me two tries to build a character without her being obscured beneath another avatar I couldn’t get rid of.
The character creation options are quite limited, but I was still able to make a character I felt pretty good about. The addition of diverse clothing choices was a nice touch.
You also get to choose your starting skills, this being a purely skill-based game without true classes, though there are basic archetypes you can start with. I chose to be an archer, but I tweaked my starting skills to have a little magic.
Upon logging in, my character woke up on a beach with no memory [wince] and was greeted by a sparkly globe that serves as the game’s only source of guidance. This is a true sandbox, with no quests at all so far as I can tell, so you need to figure out goals for yourself.
Being me, I just wanted to kill things. I asked my sparkly accomplice about this, and it recommended I seek adventure and glory at the local graveyard. Having chosen this as my destination, it put a waypoint on my minimap to guide the way, and I set off.
So far, so good.
On my way, I came to a town, where I met three NPCs. One offered me skill training (but I couldn’t afford it yet), another didn’t seem to serve any purpose at all, and the third vanished from existence when I tried to click on him.
Outside town, I encountered bears, deer, and some trees with severely bugged graphics. I tried fighting some of the wildlife, and that’s when things really started to go down hill.
Combat in Legends of Aria seems to mostly consist of standing there and auto-attacking. You have active abilities and spells, but half the time they just fizzle, and even when they do actually activate, they don’t seem to accomplish much of anything.
And this goes on for really quite a while. Them bears don’t go down easy. I lost about half my health in the first fight, and then had to spend another good thirty seconds slowly getting it back through a combination of bandages (which have a cooldown for some reason) and healing magic (which, again, only works about half the time). I never did figure out how to recover mana or stamina. Maybe the food in my backpack?
Finally, I reached my destination: The graveyard. There, I encountered two skeletons and a zombie, who promptly massacred me. I got one skeleton to maybe half health before dying.
Let me remind you: This is what the game told me to do.
I was able to resurrect at a nearby… shrine? A pop-up informed me I would lose all my equipment until I recovered my corpse, but when I resurrected, my inventory was restored to me unchanged. I’m not sure if this is another bug, or some mercy afforded to people in newb zones.
I hurled myself into the skeletal meatgrinder a few more times just for the sake of being thorough, but I met with no greater luck.
And that was pretty much that. After about thirty minutes of dealing with bugs, spectacularly tedious and old school gameplay, and generally terrible design, I decided life was too short.
I feel like the skeleton of a good game is here. The open-ended character building and organic skill progression appeals to me a lot in theory. But the tuning and implementation are so far from anything resembling fun it’s hard to imagine anything being salvaged from the experience.
Yes, it’s beta, but even for a beta, this is pretty shockingly unpolished. It feels like an early alpha at best. It’s also worth noting you can already buy beta access via founder’s packs, which makes this a soft launch as far as I’m concerned, and Legends of Aria still feels like it’s years of intensive development away from a finished product.
I don’t think it matters how good the player creation tools are. No one’s going to bother investing in a game this outdated and poorly executed.
It’s a shame. But I can’t say I expected much different from a crowdfunded game.