Mortal Online: A Review by an Experienced Player Pt 2
By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF), OnRPG Journalist
Phew, already around eighteen-hundred words in and I have not even started the gameplay section yet. Well, let me start by saying that StarVault is a small team with issues. Their size restricts their capacity to develop by a lot. This means content and bug fixes are slow to come compared to the big developers. Do not get me wrong, this does not mean the game is not good. It just means that you have to have patience to play Mortal Online.
I won’t lie to you, I cannot possibly cover all aspects of Mortal Online gameplay in this review. I will have to brief over a lot and may not get a chance to mention some stuff. The game is packed full of features and it can be hard for one player, no matter how much time they spend trying, to actually get in to more than a few.
I will begin with what I am familiar with. I have had characters who have done butchery, magick, melee, mining, and archery. I have maxed at least one character in each of those. Right now, the magick system in Mortal Online is a place holder and is not very fun in my opinion. As I understand it, the developers plan to work in the magick system next, once they finish working on bug fixes on their Awakening expansion. Unfortunately, there is no telling when that will be.
I had a combination swordsman, archer and mounted archer character when I played the game regularly. This is because during a majority of my time playing, two-handed swords were the second best weapon, and mounted archery was required if you did not want to be stomped in most PvP encounters. Thankfully the developers have started to work on weapon balancing now that Awakening is out, and more weapons are becoming viable in combat. Weapon balancing was something the game needed badly as it really hindered the fun you could have.
Archery is fun but weak if you are not on a horse. Mounted Archery is generally overpowered due to being able to move quickly in-and-out of combat with relatively little reduction to your ability to use the bow. I look forward to the day that Mounted Archery is brought down a few notches so other styles of combat will become more prevalent, such as foot archery.
Crafting is nearly endless. From gathering to refining, to the actual crafting of the item, you are given unmatched options. I have yet to come across a game that comes close to the options that the Mortal Online crafting system offers. Not even Wurm Online, which I often consider the king of crafting MMOs. This system is as realistic as it can be without being completely tedious and requiring years of experience to master. Actual experimentation and testing is key to success with this system. Crafting is definitely where Mortal Online shines the most.
Combat in general is currently buggy. The game suffers from bad prediction. Because of this, people you are fighting will often seemingly hit you from a completely different direction than it looked like on your screen. This can often be very maddening and I admit I have rage quit in the past. Fortunately, the developers have taken, and continue to take, steps to reduce this problem as much as possible. Combat is still fun because of what it means and the risk versus reward involved. Losing a fight could mean losing your keep, or gaining a new territory.
A.I. - Artificial Intelligence, this is where Mortal Online suffered the most in the past. Awakening was meant to fix that. Initially, the benefits that Awakening had on A.I. were not apparent. Slowly, the developers have been fixing the issues surrounding A.I. and things are really getting better. Once the last of the bugs get wiped out, I have no doubt that the A.I. in Mortal will become something to behold. For now, we wait and hope.
Player structures are a big part of the game. From massive keeps to small log houses. Players can build these structures and even destroy them. The choices in house styles available to players are pretty slim right now. Asset destruction – the destroying of a player created structure – is often a result of conflict. And structures are not easy to make, especially the keeps. You will spend a decent amount of money and resources if you plan to build one.
Mortal Online has thieves. Just like in the Ultima Online of old, you can pick pockets and locks. You can learn to talk cunningly to get illegal items past guards and smuggle them in and out of the cities. Though I did not touch this, I have plenty of experience from being on the receiving end. Not a more horrible feeling exist than opening your inventory only to find that the stack of gold coins you were carrying to your bank is gone. At the same time, it is incredibly satisfying to catch a would-be thief in the act and call the guards on him, then watch as they chase him down and make quick work of him.
Taming and domination are two features I enjoyed a lot in Mortal. The system is not perfect, but can be innovative and fun. With taming, you can tame creatures and use them for combat and transport. Creatures start off small and will grow in size the longer they live. With domination, you can control humanoids, such as minotaurs. The pet system was reworked with Awakening so bugs are not uncommon.
Next up is the grind. In short, compared to other games, the grind in Mortal Online does not exist. It does not take long to master a skill if you are actively using it and if you cannot stand to do it manually you can always read a skill book. While skill books will get you pretty high in a skill, usually in the upper-eighties, they will not make you a master. One of the things I appreciate about Mortal Online is how easy one can change a character’s skill-set.
Mortal Online features a gameplay aspect that usually is not such a big problem in most MMOs. The aspect I am talking about are the bugs. Mortal is infested with them. Even though the developers are trying to get rid of them as quickly as they can, a lot of them still exist. From disappearing items to horses that fall under the world. Sometimes you will find yourself stuck in places that do not make sense, and occasionally you will get to see Myrland from the underside. And it does not end there.
A team of dedicated volunteers who have the tools to fix these problems is available, but they cannot assist players 24/7 and sometimes you have to wait several minutes, or longer, before receiving help. The bugs are the biggest stain on the gameplay of Mortal Online.
Awakening is the second expansion to hit Mortal Online to date. The first being Dawn. The selling points of the expansion are updated Artificial Intelligence(A.I.) and a new User Interface(UI). In the area of UI, I think Awakening has delivered. The new UI is easy to use and looks pleasing to the eye. There are some bugs that need to be ironed out, such as a slight freezing every few seconds when some elements of the UI are open. And the disappearing items can be annoying. Fortunately the support staff can help you with that. Overall, it has been a pleasant experience using the reworked UI.
As for A.I., I believe the ground work for future updates that will allow the A.I. to really shine have been put in. It still needs a lot of work if Mortal Online wants its A.I. to be anything special. Right now the A.I., even with the upgrade advertised to come with Awakening, seems rather dull. Migrating mobs have started to appear in Myrland, though most of the spawns seem to still be static.
Other features that came with Awakening include:
Tailoring and dyeing – Used to make clothing and dye them. Tailoring is not fully implemented yet, and no new craftable clothing items have been added to the game. Dyeing seems like an interesting system and as far as I can tell, it works pretty well.
Trade Brokers have been added to the game. These are NPCs that will allow you to put items up for sell, or buy items that have been put up by other players. This was a much needed addition to the game as it increased the ability for players to find items to buy and to sell their own stuff a lot easier. Some issues where you will sometimes lose money or become unable to see items you are selling have been known to pop up.
New dungeons and creatures – Among the new creatures are the Megnaton. These are ant-like humanoids that migrate across the land along with the massive Thorax, which acts as a sort of queen. The first Thorax fell with the combined effort of many players and a few hours of combat. Flying creatures have also made their way in to Nave.
Item Identification – Now your lore skills will become useful for more than just crafting. Having a better understanding of your pets zoology lore will make you better able to control it.
Re-worked Creature Control system – With Awakening, the taming system has been changed to be more effective and diverse. Domination has been added so you can take control of humanoids.
Lock-picking – Pick the locks of chest found through-out the world to find epic loot.
Containers and bags – Used to better organize and store items. Issues with items going missing and whole bags disappearing have been known to happen.
New Weapons. Katanas, fist weapons, and more have been added to the game.
Player Books – Players can now write their own books using the neat book system within Mortal.
Disable Nudity – Previously, the game forced nudity. With Awakening an option was added to turn off nudity.
64-bit client. This brings increased performance for players with 64-bit PCs.
I have got to say, I liked a majority of the stuff brought in with Awakening. Unfortunately some things, such as noticeboards, did not make it in to the expansion. I am pleased with how much Awakening added.
Mortal Online is a game that has suffered many hardships. It started out popular with a healthy population, however the lack of content and bugs has made the population dwindle a lot. Now that Awakening has been released, things are being fixed and content has been added. Slowly but surely the population is starting to return. A lot of frustrating bugs are left that require you to rely on the in-game support heavily. On the other hand, if you love freedom and sandbox games you can still have a blast in this virtual world.
Due to the massive size of Mortal Online, it is hard to review all of it. I have tried to fairly review the game and focus equally on the potential and the reality of the games current state. I do feel that Mortal Online is going places. It is just taking longer than anyone would like.
The title now has a F2P option that should boost its population noticeably. I suggest you take the time and try it out for yourself. Be aware that the game suffers from a poor new player experience due to a large learning curve. My recommendation is that you find a guild to join via the forums and learn all you can prior to jumping in.