While browsing the MMORPG.com forums, I discovered that Mortal Online is now in Open Beta. Now this is a game that I have kept a bit of an eye on, as many players tout is as Darkfall with better graphics, superb crafting and even more freedom. I love Darkfall, so Mortal Online is very intriguing. I headed to the website, signed up and started the download. After a couple of hours, it finished and I began the install….
Only to find that the file package refused to install.
Not a good way to begin a game experience. After fiddling with it for a bit, I found a torrent for the installer on Pirate Bay or some such and restarted the download. This time the install went fine and I started it up. Here are my very early impressions of Mortal Online.
Initial Boot-up/Character Creation
The first thing I noticed when I got into Mortal Online was the fairly interesting character creation and the professionalism of the log-in and character selection screen. Darkfall has always felt “amateurish” in its initial presentation. Not so with Mortal Online. At first glance, it is all done and presented very well and professionally.
Unlike Darkfall, Mortal Online allows more than one character. Character creation starts like most MMOs with the choice of race. You can pick from four primary races:
- Blainn. Looks like Neanderthal men.
- Human. Standard humans with different “lineage” options. More on that later!
- Elvish. Not the exact name but that is what they are. Two different “lineages” here as well.
- Half-Breed. Basically a mix of human and Orc.
After that first choice, you are brought to the “lineage” or ancestory choice. This is first time Mortal Online separates itself from other MMOs. Basically, you can choose the ancestory of your father’s family and your mother’s family. For instance, you can make your father’s parents be Sidoian (African) whole your mother’s could be Khurite (Asian). Or any combination you like. Viking, medieval French/British, Asian, African are all represented.
Each nationality has certain strengths and weaknesses. Khurites have higher dexterity and lower strength. Kallard have higher strength and lower dexterity. By mixing and matching your ancestry you can come up with a character that will fit your playstyle.
Finishing that, you are taken to the customization screen. This is the first time Mortal Online comes across as amateurish or unfinished. The characters models look atrocious. Hair looks like Play-Doh strands thrown on top of the head. Mustaches look like they grow out from under the character’s noses. Female models look “frumpy”. It is all pretty bad. Darkfall’s character models are no great shakes but I think they are more pleasing to the eyes than these.
To top it off, there are very few ways to change your character’s look. A skin color slider, a few facial hair options, a few hair options and that is about it. There are sliders to adjust nose size, cheek height and such but they make a minimal impact on the look of your character. There is not even an option to change your character’s eye color. Pretty disappointing.
Next in line to create your character is attribute assignment and archetype choice. You are given points to disburse among your attributes as you wish. Attributes are the MMO standard; strength, dexterity, blah, blah, blah. Your archetype ranges from scout to armorsmith and determines your initial starting skills. Before you ask, I have no idea if making a dedicated crafter is a viable option!
After that, you pick a starting town and name for your character. Then, off you go!
I spawned in to the game to total and complete blackness. So black, in fact, that I thought the game had locked up. It wasn’t until I saw someone run by with a torch that I realized I was in the game. I stumbled around for a few minutes, looking for a torch, to no avail. I very frustrating way to start a game!
To make matters worse, torches carried by other players do you no good. They only light up the character in a big ball of light and do not illuminate the surrounding area at all. Not only that, but I found out that the day/night cycle is not synced between players. Meaning you may be in total darkness but the guy standing next to you might be in bright sunlight! This is bad enough in a PvE MMO but in a PvP MMO it is catastrophic! I am going to assume that this is a bug but I did see a few people in chat saying that the day/night cycle is done client-side! If that is the case, MO will be a hacker’s dream game!
I ran around in total darkness for almost an hour before I gave up and made a new character. Apparently, some character’s are in perpetual darkness or daylight no matter what. Chalk up another huge bug to MO!
After making another character I found myself back in the game and, this time, in bright daylight. I must say I was impressed with the graphics at first glance. You can certainly tell that this is the Unreal engine. The water looks fabulous, trees and bushes look nice and the architecture stands out. Environmentally the only place where MO looks bad is the character models and lack of surface clutter, such as grass, flowers and bushes. The ground texture is very flat, for the most part, and really stands out when compared to the great water and mountains in the distance.
The UI in the game looks pretty nice. It is not as intuitive as, say, WoW but it gets the job done. It also looks more professional than Darkfall, while accomplishing the same things. If you have played DF, you will have no problems here. Everything is organized better than DF and the inventory, quest and chat all work and look better. I had few problems here, after getting acclimated.
Performance-wise, I ran at a steady 30-50 FPS on a pretty beefy machine. While that does not sound bad, there are a few things you have to take into consideration. First, the world was pretty empty of player characters. I saw small groups of three or four but no massive groups. Secondly, there are very few mobs in the game either. Finally, there is no ground clutter, which is supposed to be added later.
If I am getting 30-50 FPS in a barren world, what am I going to get when there is a large PvP battle? I think it may be in the single digits. This is one engine badly in need of optimization. Frankly, I think the Unreal engine was a poor choice for this game. Yes, it looks fantastic but I have my doubts it can handle a large battle like you see in DF.
There is not much to say here. There are very few mobs in the game as of yet. I spent awhile hacking on weasels and boars but did not see much else. I died to a skeleton and to a player character. Combat is much slower than DF and seems very unresponsive. I would hit my mouse button to swing but there was always a pause before I saw it happen on-screen. Very frustrating. The engine did not feel responsive and many times I would swing and have no idea whether I hit the target or not.
I did not try magic because I got pretty frustrated with the combat early on and did not have the want to grind up a few reagents to give it a shot. At this point, the engine is just an exercise in frustration.
Admittedly, I did not delve into MO as far as I would have liked. It is just too incomplete. They have some good ideas, particularly the ancestry scheme but this game is in alpha at best. If the game releases anything close to the condition it is in, it will crash and burn. Badly. Darkfall was not anywhere near this incomplete and broken at launch.
At this point, I would rather see Aventurine (makers of Darkfall) play MO and incorporate some of MO’s ideas into Darkfall than play MO. I would love to see the skill customization in DF, the ancestry tree and the UI in Darkfall. The rest of MO is a broken mess, one that I have doubts they can ever fix. I feel the Unreal engine is just not up to the task of large PvP battles. Certainly not of the size that you see in Darkfall.
Playing MO just made me appreciate Darkfall even more. I hope Aventurine takes a look at MO and grabs some ideas from them. I would like to see MO prosper but I do not think it will, not in the short time they have to release.