Why I Don’t Crowdfund: Legends of Aria

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.

My character in Legends of AriaStill, 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.

Starting out in Legends of AriaUpon 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.

Combat in Legends of AriaAnd 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.

Graphical bugs in Legends of Aria

This is not how trees work.

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.


Review: Star Trek: Discovery, “Will You Take My Hand?” (Season Finale)

After what feels like an eternity we have come to the end of Discovery’s first season. While the show has already been renewed for a second season, this is effectively the end of the series for me, I think. Season one has been a huge disappointment, and watching season two would be naught but an act of masochism on my part.

The official logo for Star Trek: DiscoveryDiscovery is not a good Star Trek show. Rather than chart new territory or in any way capture the sense of exploration at the heart of the franchise, it spent the entire season milking already tired Trek plot threads, whilst at the same time utterly failing to understand what made those ideas compelling in the first place. The Mirror Universe without camp. Klingons without honour.

But more importantly, Discovery is just not a good show, period. It is, in a word, dumb.

Look, I’m not a stickler for continuity or realism. I’m not bothered at all that Discovery looks so different from the original series, despite taking place in roughly the same era. I’m not bothered by the fact the spore drive makes no sense in the context of either Trek lore or real world science. Little stuff like that doesn’t faze me.

But when every single episode, every single arc, has at least glaring plot hole or logical inconsistency, it’s much harder to tolerate. It speaks to sloppiness, to laziness, on the part of the writers.

And the worst part is that Discovery doesn’t know it’s dumb. It’s all played incredibly straight and serious. It’s a very dumb show that thinks it’s very smart, and the lack of self-awareness and utter tone-deafeness ruins it more than anything else.

It’s no coincidence that two of Discovery’s most enjoyable episodes are also its most unabashedly silly. As a “popcorn show,” Discovery could have worked. But it wants all the credit of being thought-provoking television without doing any of the legwork, and the end result is disastrous.

Doug Jones as Commander Saru in Star Trek: DiscoveryIn retrospect I should have given up on Discovery much sooner. I regret wasting my time watching it, and blogging on it.

For all that I can be ranty at times, I do try to keep this blog from being too negative. There’s already so much negativity in fandom, and I’m loathe to contribute to it. I know a lot of people are enjoying Discovery, and it’s wrong of me to rain on their parades. But the show had potential, and I kept hoping, and when that hope was lost, blogging on it was a welcome catharsis for my frustration over Discovery’s wasted potential.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s cover the finale, shall we?

In “Will You Take My Hand,” Mirror Georgiou implements her plan to win the war by destroying Qo’nos, and much of the episode deals with the moral dilemma that presents.

Right away, the episode had me facepalming. Last week we were told the Federation had lost 20% of their territory and roughly a third of their fleet, which is bad, but not unrecoverable. But now suddenly the Klingons are at Earth’s doorstep.

Sure, whatever.

The dilemma over the genocide also fails utterly.

Firstly, this plan would never have worked. Destroying their homeworld would just make the Klingons even angrier, and as they are a large empire, it probably wouldn’t have crippled their war machine. More importantly, if the Klingon fleet is already at Earth, blowing up Qo’nos won’t do anything. They’d destroy Earth, then head home. Or just take Earth as a new home.

The titular ship in Star Trek: DiscoverySecondly, there’s no moral quandary here. Discovery has never once portrayed Klingons as anything but the embodiment of evil. There is no good in them. There’s no reason to spare them. They’ll always be a threat to anyone around them.

Also, it needs to be said that the Tyler/Voq arc is now proven to have been utterly pointless. It does nothing to affect the arc of the season or its ending, and offers no satisfying conclusion of any kind. It was a complete waste of time.

The only highlight here is, once again, Tilly. Aside from usual her delightfulness, I loved the moment where she shoves aside Tyler — who is clearly making Burnham uncomfortable — to walk beside Burnham instead. A subtle but powerful moment of her looking out for her friend.

Otherwise, a disappointing end to a disappointing season.

Overall rating: 4/10