To put it as lightly as possible, people are tired of playing the same old MMORPG over and over again. They’re looking for adventure and excitement, but they’re just not finding it in cookie cutter games that try to copy World of Warcraft. Let’s face it, when they say ‘amusement part MMO,’ they’re not making it up. You bounce around from NPC to NPC looking for the next quest, and it feels like each one is just another ride.
Of course this analogy is a bit out of place considering there’s no such thing as a free form amusement park. Unless Westworld becomes a thing. Well, that’s another debate for another day, isn’t it? It shouldn’t have surprised anyone when Eforb announced The Skies MMO in 2014, touting it as a non-traditional MMO in which players would have the ability to play the game in whatever manner they wished, and they could do so through non-linear gameplay.
The Skies appears to play in the same vein as other survival games like DayZ, but without permanent death that so many other games like this like to employ. It wasn’t really shocking that the game was Greenlit on Steam, nor was it shocking that like many other Greenlit titles it disappeared into vapor. Well, like Duke Nukem Forever before it, the vapor re-solidified and now we have a playable game that actually has a pretty respectable player base, but how is the game really? In a world full of MMOs that are trying to be ‘different,’ how does it really stand up?
The Skies MMO – A Buggy Experience
The first thing I want to talk about is the way the game started. Now there are a lot of issues here, with the first one being the lighting. During the daytime, the game looks okay at best, but when nighttime happens, you’re going to have a serious problem finding your way around even with a flashlight. Fortunately, the game employs quest markers that are pretty easy to follow. How easy are they to follow you ask? Picture a beam of light emanating from a point in the sky and shooting down to earth. Yes, like Second Life.
In any case, you start the game in the care of your aunt and uncle who apparently raised you, and it would seem that the time has come for you to strike out on your own and make your way in the world. In a way, this is like the beginning of Star Wars, only your aunt and uncle aren’t burned to a crisp by a group of mindless soldiers doing the bidding of a traumatized cyborg with mommy issues. At this point there are a few bugs that I want to point out. The first one being the skin color of your ‘aunt.’ This may have simply been the lighting, but she seemed to change from dark skinned to light skinned at some point during the brief tutorial, but fortunately this does not affect the gameplay. What did affect the gameplay was the moment that the game locked the camera onto my ‘uncle’ while leaving me in control of my own body. Quite frankly it was an out of body experience that I’ll never forget and I was forced to restart the game to fix it.
Once I worked through those opening kinks, I found that the game was much like any other MMORPG complete with an inventory system and skill screen for you to customize your character. Now, on the subject of the skill screen, there’s something I really want to address here. When you start out, your stats are extremely low (as per any MMORPG) but your intelligence stat has really taken a hit. That being said, when you speak to your Aunt and Uncle, they point out that you’re not the ‘sharpest tool in the shed,’ and due to your low intelligence, your own responses are pretty much that of a bumbling idiot. You can raise this later in the game, and you’re going to want to, because it will affect the way you interact with the world and NPCs. The only problem is that even as you get smarter, the NPCs are still dumb as ever.
Interacting with the World
The Skies MMO is still very much in early access and you can tell that right away. The landscape, while a bit poorly rendered is pretty beautiful, but if you start to dig too deep you’re going to notice some flaws. Let’s start with the dialogue. You’re going to find that talking to people is more than a bit tedious as they all tend to say similar things and often the dialogue that they dispense is entirely unrelated. Don’t worry though, it’s an early access game and I’m quite frankly just happy that I’m able to log in and play; I’ve seen plenty of early access games that barely allow that, so let’s not nitpick, shall we?
One of the first things you’re going to do is leave the town of Kimary to complete a starter quest that involves gathering wood and gunpowder, which is pretty straightforward, at least as long as you don’t go out at night. You’re first going to be attacked, at which point you’re going to remember the firearms training that your uncle gave you. Fighting in The Skies isn’t typical of most other MMOs. You simply point and click to fire, and that’s pretty much all there is to it. There are several different weapons, some picked up, some crafted, and most packing a pretty good punch. Of course, depending on your skill levels, you might want to stick to shooting at range.
A World of Possibility
The world presented by The Skies MMO is pretty big with three major locations to visit so far. I presume that if it moves beyond this early access stage the world will get a lot bigger, but for now we’re stuck with what we have and it’s not bad. One thing I will say, however, is that you shouldn’t jump in expecting to be able to explore the world in its entirety. There are a lot of unknowns out in the wild, most of which come in the form of bandits. Other problems will come in the form of players outside the safe zones that want to take you for everything you have. There are scheduled PVP events, but if you’re outside the city, the PVP event goes on all day, all night, and every time in between. It’s like someone crossed Mad Max with The Scorch Trial and sprinkled a little bit of Fallout 4 on it. Just one thing: try not to die in the early levels. If you don’t have much money then you’re going to need to restart the client when you die as you won’t be able to pay for a respawn – they’re pretty pricey in the beginning.
I’m giving the gameplay a solid 7 because it works the way it’s intended to in spite of the odd bug here and there. There are some issues, for example, the camera locking, and sometimes the mouse cursor likes to rear its ugly head while you’re attempting to aim. The interface is also a little cluttered and difficult to read due to the game trying to look as rugged as possible.
There’s really nothing to write home about as far as innovation goes. Other than a slightly more realistic and believable setting, the game takes plenty of cues from Fallen Earth and other post-apocalyptic titles that I’ve seen so far.
The community is definitely there, but this is an early access game and everyone is pretty much using this as a secondary way to work off steam between raids in other AAA MMORPGs.
The sound isn’t too bad in my opinion, the music gives you that desolate wasteland feel while the effects really add to the ambiance. Most importantly, the guns really have a good solid firing sound, making the immersion pretty deep. As long as the gameplay isn’t interrupted by the odd bug here or there, you should be pretty much good to go in this area.
Value for Money 8/10
The Skies MMO is free-to-play right now but you have the option to pay for premium if you’d like. This is a nice option, but I would like to point out that premium does very much make it a pay-to-win game with extra experience granted for both PVP and PVE endeavors. Fortunately, the premium only costs $4.99, which makes it a nice value for an early access game.
There’s a lot of potential in The Skies MMO, we’re not going to lie. It definitely still needs some work, but the groundwork has been laid for a very impressive game if the developers manage to stick with it.
+Good Graphics (During the day)
+Decent Action Combat System
+Plenty of World to Explore
-Odd Bugs Here and There
-No Female Character Option
-Not Much Direction
Related: Eforb, MMORPG, Review, Shooter, Steam, Survival, The Skies