Do you remember the old days of MMORPG’s? You know, back when men were men and so were most of the women? I’m talking about the Ultima Online days, of course. I’m talking about the hardcore days when you had to retrieve your own body if you wanted your stuff back, when you had to forge your own armor, when you had to pay for your internet by the minute. Do you remember those days? Yeah, I don’t because I’m 30 years old and I was probably still in grade school. What I do know however is that there was something about those games, something absolutely magical, something that we just can’t get back. I think that honestly it was the fact that there weren’t any other games available and players had no choice but to jump and join the adventure even if it happened to be at the cost of their job, marriage, children, house, and probably their soul. Hey you can log on and raid from a ditch, right? Well when I heard about LinkRealms I was a bit excited because I heard it was going to be an old school MMO like Ultima Online or Neverwinter Nights.
LinkRealms isn’t a new game, in fact it launched some time ago but it disappeared for whatever reason, and now it is back again, ready and waiting for new players – right after the Fall beta starts. I was lucky enough to get into the last beta and was not disappointed. I played Albion Online for a few days when it was in beta and when I read the description for LinkRealms I thought the two sounded quite similar, though LinkRealms was quite a bit darker. Who doesn’t like darker?
My journey into LinkRealms started with character creation and it was pretty standard, but the first thing I noticed was that there was absolutely no class selection. Instead, I created my character and jumped right into the game. It immediately dropped me into a walled city where there were multiple quest givers standing around. Taking the quests and completing them entailed all sorts of tasks, from juicing tomatoes to killing snails. Oh yes, that’s right, in lieu of killing rats for your first quest you had to set out and kill ten snails, and I have to say, at first I didn’t do very well. You see, unlike most other MMO’s today, Linkrealms doesn’t start you out with a weapon, or much of a tutorial for that matter. So in essence I was running around with my fists out trying to attack creatures without switching into war mode. In order to fight you have to click ‘war mode’ and actually walk over to the mob you want to attack. Rather than double clicking and watching your character run over, you actually have to walk over, and if the mob you’re after is particularly squirely, you’re kind of screwed.
I walked back to town and picked up some additional quests, and I found out rather quickly that some of the starter quests were a bit mundane. I may have been in the mood to commit digital murder and become the biggest badass in the land, but the game had something a bit different in mind. The quest I picked up sent me to a tomato field where I promptly picked up and juiced a bunch of tomatoes. Similar quests would follow, some of which led to the crafting proficiencies. For example, I was introduce to making my own bread for a quest which was a multi-step process. You see, in LinkRealms everything has a purpose. A field of wheat, for example, can be harvested and collected, then ground into flour, made into bread, and the same goes for any other harvestables within the game. This is a living world, and a sandbox to boot. I also noticed that some professions compliment others, and while you can go in any direction you want, or all of them, most people will choose a speciality and stick with it. Everything is necessary, and everything means something.
Jack of All Trades, Master of One
I mentioned before that there are no specific classes for you to pick when you start out, but that doesn’t mean that there ARE no classes. You simply develop your character into the class you want through gameplay. Eventually I managed to pick up a sword, and by that I mean I literally picked it up, I found it on the floor of some guy’s shop. With it I was able to complete some of the combat quests, killing snails, namely, and as I fought I noticed that certain attributes were automatically increased, meaning my character was leaning more toward that of a fighter than a mage. Of course learning sword skills doesn’t mean you can’t break out the spell book, and eventually you might find yourself becoming more of a hybrid.
But, just as with anything in life, the more time you put into one set of skills the better you are going to be, and that means you will probably want to choose a profession and stick to it until you max it out, and then, well, you have something else to do. This is definitely in contrast to games like World of Warcraft in which you can learn only one class, and once you max out all of the abilities, you are either left with nothing to do, or you simply roll a new character to see how the other half lives. Now this does mean that you could encounter some bitter bastard in the woodlands who has mastered all the of the combat and arcane skills in the game, which would ultimately lead to your untimely demise again and again and again. That’s just the risk involved in playing a PVP sandbox where everyone can quite literally do what they want, when they want.
The game boasts the existence of both PVP and PVE servers, but in the beta, only PVP was available. The moment you leave a safe zone, you will be surrounded by a protective bubble which will keep you safe for a time but once it expires you are fair game, and if you do manage to find yourself at the mercy of another player, you stand a good chance of losing everything, and going back for your corpse isn’t really an option, especially if you’re thrown back to the starting zone with no money, no armor, and no way to get any of it back. Death has consequences, and for this type of game, it would be best to make sure that you’re teamed up with a decent guild, or at least start one.
Your World, Your Rules
Much like Albion Online, LinkRealms is governed by the players, especially on the PVP server. You have the ability to purchase your own lands and build anything you want. Whether it is a vast farmland, a homestead for you and your friends, or a massive guild hall with its own defenses, the power is in your hands, and with the right amount of motivation, you might just end up ruling the server. Now, wouldn’t that be something to see?
The interface for LinkRealms is actually worth mentioning because it is VERY old school. Rather than displaying your inventory as a grid, it is actually shown as a bag or a series of bags that you will have to sort through in order to find all of your crap. Your magic is displayed as a scroll, and your map is literally a map on a piece of parchment. Unlike many other MMO’s, they really didn’t want to break the immersion and fortunately, the right half of the screen is a black unused space in which you can keep all of your windows open. This isn’t an application, this is an experience.
Though LinkRealms is closed right now, I’ll definitely be returning for the Steam Early Access. The big question is whether it will be able to stand toe to toe with Albion Online. Albion certainly has a smoother interface and is easier to play, but LinkRealms may be able to attract those who want a less ‘cartoony’ experience, so to speak. It’s really hard to tell at this point, but I think that LinkRealms has a chance of success, even if it does have to go toe to toe with a giant like Albion Online. It’s hard to tell the future, but I can see LinkRealms in mine.Related: Early Access, First Impressions, Linkrealms, Sandbox, Steam