Shores of Hazeron – The Future of Gaming, Today
By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF), OnRPG Journalist
Shores of Hazeron is an MMO that can be best described as a MMO4x. That is eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate. The game has everything a sci-fi fan could want, everything a civilization creation fan could want and everything a space simulator fan could want. Ok, maybe not everything, but it comes damn near close. Developed by Software Engineering, Inc, the main developer goes by the name Haxus.
Shores of Hazeron has been out for a few years, and I personally have been playing off and on for a year or so. As far as I could find, the game is mostly, if not totally, developed by Haxus. This is the reason that the game is still in an Alpha state and uses very bad graphics and a clunky UI, from my understanding. Despite its status, it offers a ton of features with more promised for the future.
Shores of Hazeron begins with you starting your own empire or joining an already existing empire. When you make your own empire, you start by choosing what kind of government it has. This ranges from theocracy, to monarchy, to democracy, to anarchy. The type you choose will determine how people gain office in your empire. You can also choose how people can join your faction, such as by invitation only. You end this part of the empire creation by choosing a name and uploading a flag.
After you have your government set up, you get taken to the species creation screen. This is where, much like in Spore, you design your own species. This can range from a griffon that can fly, to a tiny frog man that can jump super high, to ants, or just normal humans. You are given a lot of freedom to choose how your race looks and what kinds of things it can do. You can even choose what kind of diet your species has, such as omnivore. This was the part of the game that hooked me.
Once you are done designing your species, you are put on your own randomly generated planet, in your own randomly generated solar system, within the bigger galaxy that is filled with other players. The worlds, the habitable ones at least, are populated with randomly generated monsters. This means you get some horribly terrifying creatures. One of my all-time favorites were the giant scorpion-elephant-butterfly monsters. It just looked disgusting. One neat feature is that the creatures on your world will act like you would expect. Herbivores go around eating planets and carnivores will attack the herbivores and omnivores. And you.
A New Empire, a New Beginning
At this point in the game, you have to build everything manually. Later on, once you have some citizens, they will do all the hard labor for you. For now though, you will need to take out your knife, kill your tutorial guide and butcher his carcass to make yourself a flag to start your first city. After listening to what he has to say first, of course (not). From there, you will need to build and design your city from scratch. Things such as farms for food, roads for transportation, apartments for housing, machine shops for machining parts, or a cantina to entertain your citizens.
Some things will require other things to be made before they can in turn be made, due to part requirements. An example of this is producing plastic, which itself is just a building block for more advanced stuff. To make plastic you will need to find a spawn of oil and put a well on it. Then you will need to find a spawn of ore and put a mine on it. Then you would need to make a smelter to turn that ore in to metal. From there you would need a machine shop to turn the metal into shovels. Once you have shovels, you can now actually use your well to get the oil from the spawn. Once you get the oil, you then would need a refinery to turn it into petrochemicals. And then finally you can use a plastics factory to turn the petrochemicals into plastic.
Launching Yourself into the Space Age
Eventually, you will get your first rocket made and will be able to launch in to space and set up a moon colony that will allow you to gain access to the resources you need for more advanced stardrives, and therefore better ships and even worm hole travel. This is when the game really begins to shine. It goes from a city builder into an empire builder. You will begin maintaining colonies, worlds, systems and even sectors of space.
I will go ahead and say this now, the graphics in Shores of Hazeron are bad. Haxus has not worried about them and I do not know when, or even if, he plans to. The models of creatures, NPCs and players are poor and the textures are not very detailed. There is no collision except when it comes to space ships. The plus side to this is that the game is not very resource intensive. But I have got to say, the solar bodies look stunning in the night sky.
One of my favorite things in the game is the ship designing. You design your space ships from scratch using the out-of-game and in-game design studios. You are limited to using squares and triangles, but this is more than enough for people to create some amazing ships. From giant sail boats, to your favorite Star Trek ship. Personally, in the past I've designed a ship themed after a ship from Stargate SG-1.
Combat and Commanding a Ship
Like most games, Shores of Hazeron has combat. The means for this are wide in variety. From melee weapons with crude leather armor to modern firearms with advanced super armors. You can build a missile base, or a laser tower to protect your towns from any threats from above. You can take to the skies in your fighter and take down an enemy, or command your own star ship and do battle in space. You could completely avoid it all together and just order your crew and soldiers to do it all for you from safety. You are given a lot of choices.
What I was most interested in, and what I assume others would be, is the space ship piloting and commanding. Ships, just like in the TV shows and movies, have multiple stations that need to be filled. From gunners, to engineers, to navigation officers and pilots. There are a lot of roles to fill. You can either fill these roles with friends, and work together to navigate the stars and fight your enemies, or you can fill them with NPCs if you lack friends. Also, unlike in TV, the game uses realistic Newtonian physics.
Piloting a ship with friends is fun, but one ship can't do much. Thankfully, you can completely fill ships with NPC crews and give them orders via the comm. This means you and your friends could be in one ship together and have a group of NPC ships supporting you, or you can have your friends commanding their own ships. Heck, you could just let NPCs control every ship if you like and not worry about taking a step off the ground. Also, remember, these are all ships that you or other players designed.
Combat isn't the only thing you can do with ships, either. You can build cargo ships for trade, or sensor ships to find resource-rich planets. As you advance through the technology levels, you will gain access to more and more ship technology, such as teleporters, shields and med bays. Eventually, you will gain access to warp drives. As you progress further, so does the effectiveness of your technology. You will need to find higher quality resources to be able to produce the higher technology levels.
I would also like to state that Shores of Hazeron has mostly seamless space-to-atmosphere flight. What I mean by mostly is that sometimes you will get a 2 second lag spike when you get close enough to a planet for it to load all the stuff on it. Otherwise, you can just fly right in, as long as you make sure you aren't going so fast that you will burn up in the atmosphere. I think this is a feature that a lot of people will like; I know I loved it.
Shores of Hazeron offers you a lot. It has a lot of promise and a lot of planned features to be added in the future. Of course, being developed by an extremely small team and being in an alpha state, the game can be buggy and the graphics are horrid. If you love civilization and empire building games, along with sci-fi and space simulators, you will most likely be able to see past the bad graphics and be able to gaze into the beauty of all the potential the game offers. If you want a new kind of gaming experience, I suggest you check out Shores of Hazeron. It is currently completely free and it has a small download.
Since the posting of this article, Shores of Hazeron has gone through a slight graphics enhancement. This only effects the planets, and the city planning, but the change it provides is phenomenal. The terrain looks so much better that it's something you can only see to understand. Of course, this is just a change to the planets themselves, everything else – textures and models – are still the same as it was previously. Haxus, the owner and developer of Shores of Hazeron, has been adding a lot to the game lately and this is just a scratch on the surface.
Also, please follow this tutorial PDF if you find that you are lost and confused. It is very detailed and is easy to follow.