Have you ever played a, so-called, free-to-play MMORPG? I am sure you have, they are everywhere these days littering the pages of our very own “game list” to the margins of Facebook. It seems that the world is inundated with offers of virtual oblivion all for the grand price of zilch. It’s quite wondrous really, we usually have to fork out our well earned money to enjoy such online delights, and here we have them for free, ready at the touch of a button or the click of a mouse as it were.
But there is always a catch isn’t there? Aside from one or two Triple-A developed titles that have fallen from the realms of popularity, most “F2P” titles are hungry, cash mongering street walkers that flash a juicy bit of goblin here, and an enticing view of a “+2 Monkey Masher Bastard Sword” there to get your gaming sensibilities aroused. The truth of it all however is that these games aren’t usually worth the time and effort and in reality cost more than your average subscription-based game – but, as we run alongside fantasy with our gaming hobby our worlds begin to parallel: there is a great storm brewing in the east (or California) threatening to destroy all that once was: its name is Eden Eternal, and it is pulling all the punches.
End of Days
I’m standing atop a cliff-side path looking down at the lush greenery below. Players of all shapes, sizes, and colours litter the horizon, each creating tiny, vivid explosions that signify the struggle of combat with one of the many strange creatures that bustle on every patch of land. The sky is a brilliant shade of blue and if I train my vision hard enough I can make out the tell-tale signs of a quaint wind mill. Mouth still visibly agape and cloak gently blowing in the breeze, I make my way down the caramel coloured-path and join in the onslaught of monsters. My spells fizzle and crack as they are cast, and my enemies crumple and burn in the most alluring and anime-inspired way. I think I’m a bit in love.
Moments later I wander up a wooded incline and towards a portal gate. Entering, I immediately find myself in a new location; gone are the leafy sights of my previous locale, now replaced by a picturesque harbour town. In my mind the sea-air envelops my lungs; the brilliantly realised coastline fills me with the type of comfort and glee that only discovering new virtual worlds can. Sighing a sigh of contentedness I sit down amongst farm land and watch the gentle lulls of the gold sellers in the chat channel. I seem to have found my own personal nirvana.
Recently entering Open-Beta, Eden Eternal is one of the most polished and entertaining experiences I have had with a “free” MMO for quite some time. Boasting some inspired visuals and a class system that lends itself to some great customization, this game has more in common with monthly-subscribed titles that your average online “freebie”.
In truth, Aeria are publishing a truly terrifying game. And while I am not talking Michael Jackson at the bottom of your bed on a Halloween’s night scary, I am in fact talking about the ramifications of such an MMORPG offering its services for no cost at all. This is a game that has been developed from the bottom up without cost, and yet boasts refined visuals, some interesting gameplay nuances, and more detail than your average retail game. To put it quite simply, Eden Eternal is a bit awe-inspiring.
Of course such gushing praise comes in part due to the visual style. Showing heavy leanings towards Magna and Anime art direction, EE will easily have players reminiscing of past JRPG conquests, namely the “Dragon Quest” series and even Nintendo’s own “Windwaker”. This eastern style is more common amongst free MMOs but here it is pulled off with dedication and charm. The character models have personality, the animations are crisp, and the environments are truly remarkable. You don’t have to be pretty to get a gig in this genre, but it does help.
With the graphical leanings in mind, EE does offer more than eye candy however. During my play-test of the game one of the most impressive features was the character customization tools. From the beginning a class is chosen, and also a heroic trait – both of these are levelled up with experience (your normal genocide of fluffy, stoney, and teethy things) and once these are progressed they offer silver points, knowledge points, and special abilities. In essence the game is using a highly modified version of WoW’s talent tree system, but with elements borrowed from Final Fantasy 11 and even the newly released Rift.
Players can start to invest their own personality within their avatars. Skills are upgraded with the aforementioned “silver points” and EE also adds up to 15 specialised career paths – all of which spring from the certain umbrella class you pick at the beginning (Warrior, Mage etc). Also to add to all of this is the fact that you can, at certain level junctions, transform from your preferred class to another in effect negating the need for an alternative avatar. In all, it’s an interesting and well thought out system that makes the game stand apart from your standard F2P but also subscription model.
Eden Eternal is shaping up to be a very promising MMORPG. The question of how free it will be is somewhat sated by the open-beta; the cash shop that whines for “Aeria Points” only really offers advantages in the form of “XP Potions” and “Loot Potions” with the rest of the content being more cosmetic than anything else. Of course it remains to be seen whether or not you will be spending above and beyond a normal subscription-fee, but at this point it is looking promising.
The world is expansive, the visuals are looking sublime, and the class system is intriguing. While the game caps at level 60, the number of ways in which to progress multiplies that number by double figures, and in all it is looking very ambitious. A question mark still remains over the nature of the end game content, and for some, this will feel a little more “cookie-cutter” than they would like in some aspects.
For the time being, I am infinitely impressed with Eden Eternal and with the work that publisher Aeria and developer X-Legend are putting out. With promised updates, and another race to add into the mix, this could definitely contend for desktop space. Whether or not it challenges your own personal subscription loyalties remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure – if games like this can be offered for nothing but your time and effort, how long will it be before we see monthly payments crumble into dust? Interesting things are ahead and Eden Eternal is definitely one to keep your eye on.