Wurm Online – The Greatest MMO Sandbox Ever Made?
By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF), OnRPG Journalist
With the release of Wurm Online 1.0, it is time to once again review this title. Wurm Online is a freemium MMORPG sandbox set in a medieval fantasy world. Designed by Rolf Jansson and distributed by his company Code Club AB, the game offers near limitless possibilities. And while it has reached a massive milestone with its official release, Rolf promises to continue developing the game in to the foreseeable future.
Customization in Wurm Online is nice. You don't get any sliders or color pallets to play with, but you do get a decent number of face types, skin colors, hair styles, facial hair, and hair colors to mix and match. You can even choose your nose and chin. This is a massive improvement from what was available in the past (nothing).
Unlike most games, you do not customize your character until after you have gotten in to the game and started playing. You enter the game with an item called a hand mirror which you can use to customize your looks. I have heard that these can also be crafted by players. Using this mirror will bring up the customization screen.
In the past, Wurm Online was infamous for its horrible graphics. A majority of the models were blocky and next to no animations existed. Over the past year, however, there has been a massive graphics overhaul. With the release of Wurm 1.0, just about everything has been renewed with upgraded models, textures and even animations. Compared to the graphics in previous versions of the game, it is like a whole new game.
The word that can best describe the world that Wurm Online takes place in is beautiful. There are lots of different trees around, each with its own unique and detailed looks that sway in the wind and grow as they get older. The water looks quite realistic, and reflects the world while it ripples. And I was simply stunned by the night sky. Wurm is now one of the few games where you can be in awe from the scenery alone. The fact that everything you see can be altered by yourself or your fellow players is mind blowing.
Wurm is a bit fifty-fifty in this area. Movement is done well in all areas. Walking is handled well, so is riding animals and even carts. The problem is how you interact with things. Most interaction is done with right click menus. There are features added to help reduce the tediousness of this – such as key bindings. But it is still a problem and Wurm has a long way to go in this area. I've never had a problem with wrist pain in all my years playing computer games until I started playing Wurm.
In the past, Wurm had horrible sounds. Hearing someone working with a saw near you would give you a splitting headache. Now, however, the sounds are superb. There is not a silent moment. The world is full of life and you hear it in the bird songs, duck quacks or the sounds of water lapping against the shore. Every action has a wonderful sound to go with it. The music is worth mentioning, as well. All-in-all, Wurm is way up there in my list of games with great sounds.
The Wurm community is like most other MMO communities. A good portion of it is made up of decent people who are very nice and will go out of their way to accommodate you. Unfortunately, just like every community, there are some bad apples that always seem to have the loudest voice. Fortunately, a majority of your interaction with the bad apples will be done through chat, where you can easily ignore them. Unless, of course, you are playing on the PvP cluster. Then you may have a bit more than words to deal with.
Wurm Online is a deep game. Every item and structure you come across was made by a player. If you find a village on a cliff, real men and women worked hard to make that area suitable for building. They spent hours moving hundreds of piles of dirt to create that area. If you enter a massive underground cavern that has a tunnel that leads under the land to the ocean, players made that. I can't get over the love and dedication that the players put into this virtual world.
Wurm has something for just about everyone. If you like crafting, you will love this game. There are hundreds of items to make. Each involving intricate processes to get to an end result. From cooking to masonry, I have yet to come across a game that has as many options as Wurm Online has.
You can be a farmer or a miner. You can grow an orchard of lemon trees. If you like animals, you can become a rancher and carefully breed your herd to get the best traits. You can become a lumberjack or a skilled carpenter. I can't even begin to list all the skills in Wurm, so I won’t try. Something you might notice is that phrase “you can” is a common when talking about Wurm. You will not come across “you cannot” very often.
The greatest features in Wurm have to be the terraforming and building systems. With terraforming, you can sculpt the land to fit your needs. Move mountains, dig canals through the land, or just flatten out an area for your home. There are a lot of possibilities, and almost anything can be done if you are willing to put forth the effort.
The same can be said about the housing system. You are given freedom in designing what shape your home will take. You decide if it's just a one-floor ranch house, or a multistory mansion. Do you want stone walls with a clay shingle roof? Or perhaps you want to keep it simple and just go with all wood? You are free to choose. This is something I really appreciated and I can't wait until more games that copy these features are released.
The one thing that Wurm definitely does not do well is combat. It is absolutely atrocious. There is just the bare-minimum to get the job done. However, combat can still be exciting for what it can mean. Maybe you are fighting one of the few dragons on your server and you want the glory of taking part in its death. Or you might just want its scales for a nice set of armor. Maybe you are on a PvP server and you are fighting to protect your home from raiders. It's been hinted that combat will get more love in the future, but for now it remains a massive stain on the game.
Speaking of PvP, I should mention that there are two server clusters. Freedom (which is non-PvP) does not allow griefing or stealing, and focuses on the more creative side of things. Then there is Epic (a PvP-focused server cluster) that encourages PvP, stealing, and griefing. Both have their pluses and minuses, and you can travel between the two for free. Your items and skills do not transfer, however.
Freedom consists of six continents, each of a decent size. You won’t have to worry about losing anything you make here, as it has many anti-griefing features and stealing is not allowed. You can freely sail between the continents to travel between them. I found this server to be great when I was tired of having to worry about raiders or thieves. As long as you have your area deeded or fenced in, your items will be completely safe.
Epic consist of four continents. There is a continent for each kingdom – Jenn-Kellon, Mol-Rohan, and Horde of the Summoned. And then there is a central continent where the kingdoms clash. This server also features player-made kingdoms. PvP, stealing and griefing are allowed on this server, so playing on it has its risks. It also has its pluses. Skills are gained two times faster on Epic, and I would say that everything you do has more meaning on this server. There are also occasional “god events” that can alter the world, such as a meteor crashing in to your homestead and making a massive crater where your farm once was.
Wurm Online is a brilliant game that has a lot of freedom. I cannot think of a game that matches all the things you can do in Wurm. Its premium account type is even a lot cheaper than most MMOs. Ten euros (about thirteen dollars at current exchange rates) for two months, compared to the one month you would get in most games. If combat is ever made more enjoyable, I believe Wurm will become one of the most popular games to date. It is certainly one of the most popular sandbox games. It may have taken a long while to get there, but I need to congratulate Rolf on making a truly great game.