For the last several weeks I have been lucky enough to be involved with the ongoing SkySaga alpha testing program. What is Skysaga and why should you care about it? At face value the game seems very much in line with the modern standards of minecraftian sandbox building games. However as you dig under the hood you find that the game experience is so much more intricate and rich. For those not familiar with the title, it is a massively multiplayer sandbox building and exploration game. It combines a mix of worlds with limited persistence and your own floating island for which you have complete control and your structures have permanence. Through its voxel based engine you can build massive structures with a level of intricate detail not seen in the traditional block based building games.
One of the challenges of a sandbox experience is that the player is usually thrust into these worlds with no direction. Skysaga starts the player in a limit tutorial experience, guiding them through gathering their first blocks, to crafting their first tools, and even into the process of exploring other worlds. As you reclaim your floating island base of operations you will discover a portal in the basement of your ruins. Through the act of repairing your keystone oven, you will be able to craft new keystones that are used to activate your portal, granting you one time access to new worlds filled with with interesting things to explore. The type of keystone that you use will dictate the difficulty of the world that you travel to. The higher the difficulty, the better the rewards and the more resources that you can find there.
One of the ways that Skysaga distances itself from other building games is the introduction of the Chronicle. The Chronicle is this giant book of information, and contains everything from how precisely different resources can be utilized, and a number of quest like objectives that help guide you through the process of leveling your skills. The game rewards several different types of play with skills associated with exploration, combat, architecture, and mining to name a few. Completing objectives in each of these broad categories gives you experience that pushes you closer to the next rank of that skill. As you progress new patterns will unlock that require you to be a certain level in architecture for example to be able to craft. The quest tracking system does an excellent job of directing you towards the next step in your objective, but does little to explain where you need to go to actually complete it.
The game does an excellent job of providing you enough basic resources on the starter island to complete several of the things you need to craft in order to effectively explore other realms. The problem I have run into personally however is these resources are finite and easily depleted. Since you will be exploring new realms with other players, there is the problem of teleporting into a world that has already be strip mined of all available resources, essentially causing you to waste a keystone. Hopefully as testing progresses the resource will regenerate over time. I spent a good thirty minutes one night mining into the earth and found nothing but stone, making me assume that all of the resources appear at surface level. This places you in direct competition for the very limited materials each time you pop into a new world.
The gameplay that exists currently is both fun and rather addictive. The world has a sense of style that is missing from so many sandbox building games. Everything has this almost steampunk design ethic, and the voxels have a level of intricacy that goes far beyond simple textured boxes. Right now the combat feels a little basic, but I am hoping over time it will develop into something more varied that simply swinging your sword repeatedly. This is definitely a title to watch, and I look forward to seeing the gameplay evolve as we go through the various testing phases. If you enjoy sandbox building with your friends, in a beautiful and interesting world, then I highly suggest you sign up for their testing program. They are letting players in gradually in waves, and hosting test weekends on a regular basis. Right now Radiant Worlds is targeting a 2015 launch, so it should be exciting to see this game rapidly evolve.Related: MMORPG, Preview, SkySaga, Voxel