Ensemble Online Open Beta Preview

Ensemble Online is a free to play browser-based sandbox MMORPG being developed by SemiFormal Studios. Currently in open beta, players are invited to embark on an adventure of exploration, building, conquering, and diplomacy in an expansive, lawless desert.

Cidona, an isolated city surrounded by the Mysian Mountains is suffering from overpopulation. It became obvious that a solution was required and so adventurers set out in to the mountains in order to find a way out – though most never returned, and those that did seemed overwhelmed by the massive size of the Mysian Mountains.

Eventually however, a group discovered a vast territory deep within the peaks of the mountains that had previously been uncharted. With the discovery, the Cidonian government announced that anyone who travelled to the new lands to settle would be given resources to assist in the construction of brand new homes and cities.

This is where the player comes in, a brand new settler looking to make a life for themselves in the New Lands. How gamers live that life and what they accomplish with their meagre existence is entirely up to the player. From farmer or warrior to mayor of a sprawling city, it’s a game of ambition and choices – a journey with no set destination.

Players are free to settle on a massive tile map that consists of 1.6 billion tiles, so expansive that one player estimated it would take 14 years for a player to walk to the edge of the map at normal speed. In true sandbox fashion, all players exist on this single map and are free to build anywhere outside of the initial boundaries of the new player spawn.

Ensemble Online blends some mild RTS elements in to its gameplay with the building feature, allowing players to build cities or fortresses and manage the buildings in the same manner as an RTS. While not many buildings are currently available, players can construct walls, defensive towers, a market, resource buildings, and teleporters, and a shrine.

Building a home acts as a safe haven in the desert and a way to make money. Players will have to find the ideal location for their home depending on their needs. Choosing to build around valuable resource nodes will give control of that resource to the player, but may attract unwanted attention. Choosing a more secluded location might provide better protection but require longer trips to gather resources. Choices must be made.

Players don’t have to settle on their own though, they can form alliances with other players to work together. Teaming up with other players allows large cities and fortresses to be constructed a lot faster, and players towers will protect their allies buildings if in range. Collaboration leads to more resources, a stronger fighting force, or a powerful stronghold.

While players can become allies, they can also become enemies. Players will automatically become enemies of a player if they attack another players buildings, causing the enemies towers to attack the player whenever they are within range. Wars can be waged, and your buildings destroyed – so settlers must choose how they interact with other players wisely.

In Ensemble Online players will generally play the role of either a builder, gatherer, or fighter – or a mix of each. If building towns or gathering resources seems like a boring chore, the combat focused players have their own paths to follow. The game world is filled with packs of beasts bearing valuable pelts, gold and other items that players can loot.

There are many schools of combat for the player to specialize in, from ranged weapons to melee and magic. As players fight in combat they will level up and spend points to specialize in these different schools of combat. In classical RPG fashion, players spend skill points to increase stats that are valuable to their style of fighting.

There doesn’t appear to be a level cap, so players can continue to level up their characters for as long as they please – with the only limitation being the amount of work a players wants to put in. Levels are separated into three different categories with a hero level for the character itself, a gathering level, and a building level. Each is raised individually.

As players increase their hero level they will learn new combat skills and stand a better chance against higher level mobs. As players grow stronger they will also be more useful at taking down a players base. Gatherers and builders will also specialize their skills as they level, spending skill points to build faster or gather more resources with each pull.

Although its a browser based game, it’s still an open explorable world rendered in cartoon graphics that feel like a throwback to the old Habbo Hotel days with a fantasy/scifi kicker. It’s cartoony enough to appeal to a younger audience, without looking too childish for the older players. It’s a sandbox game for both the casual and the hardcore gamer.

Ensemble Online is still in beta, therefore there is still definitely a lot of content that still needs to be implemented. There isn’t really that much to build yet and there are a few bugs which are causing lag issues. Even still, the game stands on its own two feet as an extremely addicting browser based sandbox that already has plenty to keep players busy.

The team behind the game are an indie development team, they are very active and involved with their community – often found chatting with players in-game. This direct communication with the developers means players feedback is being heard, and provides the perfect reason for players to get involved with the game now even with its issues.

If you would like to take part in the open beta, head on over to the official site and sign up.

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