The 10/10 Project: Day 7 (Neocron 2)

DarkmetalI have this weird fascination with Neocron that I can’t quite explain.  I think it’s one of those early MMOs that slipped under everyone’s radar, had an interesting development history, and continues to stay almost-invisible in the MMO landscape despite being a mature-themed cyberpunk game.  It’s currently community-run as a pure free-to-play title now that Reakktor Media folded, and I think there’s a Neocron 3 in the works somewhere.

Anyway, trying Neocron out was scatching a huge personal itch of curiosity.  Signing up and downloading it wasn’t that difficult; the client size is much smaller than these modern MMOs.

I set the display size to my desktop resolution, which was probably a mistake.  Neocron first came out in 2002, so it’s more or less skewed toward smaller window sizes.  Making the game into a huuuuge field meant that all of the text and UI elements were tiny beyond belief.  I seriously got a headache just trying to read everything.

Most of my first night in it was going through the tutorial.  That’s not because I was lazy; the tutorial is pretty darn lengthy and an adventure in and of itself.  I created a preacher/monk/psi warrior — I was a little confused as to my exact class, because I kept having to pick a new one as the character creator progressed.  The physical features of my avatar were pretty limited, although I soon discovered that it didn’t really matter because the game puts you in first-person mode.

So let’s start with the obvious: Neocron is a chunky little game, graphics-wise.  Factoring in the first-person mode with the graphics, I was getting huge flashbacks to the original Half-Life, System Shock, and Deus Ex.  Really, the best way to describe the game is as a mixture of those three.  It felt a lot more like a shooter than your typical RPG anyway.  The tutorial was a combination of navigating the environment, learning to interact with the world, and hoovering up all sorts of gear.

There’s some story about mutilated corpses that you’re investigating — I guess mutants are doing a little food shopping for their stew — which took place in teeny tiny dialogue windows.  What I really wanted was to get to the shootin’, and I was frustrated for a while trying to figure out just how to do that.  I had a backpack full of cool gear and no obvious way to equip them.  The armor screen just showed armor slots and right-clicking on weapons to “use/activate” did nothing.  Then I saw numbered boxes over on the right side of the screen and realized that those were for the weapons and usable items.

That’s when things got a lot more fun.  I dragged everything usable from my backpack over to those slots, from grenade launchers to assault rifles to a little psionic hand thing to a flashlight.  Swapping between usable items was easy from then on out, and I really dug approaching each situation with a different weapon instead of the same-old, same-old.  My favorite was this pulse rifle that took a second or two to fully lock on to a target (if you shoot too soon, the shot would usually go wild) and then knock them down with a satisfying thunk.  Speaking of the weapons, the animations on them were pretty well-done, especially when reloading them.

The remainder of the tutorial was blasting the crud out of everything and anyone.  It truly did remind me of slightly older FPSes.  I wasn’t a huge fan of how the camera bobbed back and forth while moving — maybe there’s a way to turn that off, but it started to get me seasick.

So toward the end of the tutorial I found a room with police guys in it and said, hey, this would be a terrific opportunity to test out my grenade launcher.  No sooner did I click on the mouse button then the police turned me into a fine pulpy patte.  Game over in the tutorial?  That’s kind of new.

Actually, I think that was supposed to happen.  I woke back up in a government facility of some kind where a guy told me that a “beloved leader” (was I in North Korea?) owned me now and I had to prove my loyalty.  With dismay I saw that all of my nifty weapons and items were gone.  I guess those were just for the tutorial, but it really sapped my enthusiasm to have my beloved pulse rifle taken away.

So I ignored the instructions to go here, do this, and instead made a bolt for the outside.  Neocron takes place in a post-apocalyptic earth with just a couple mega-cities, so the outside was pretty gross.  And blocky.  And chunky.  It was Anarchy Online with a serious brown palette.

I spent a half-hour or so wandering the wasteland without any usable gear and feeling somewhat lost.  Maps?  I guess the game doesn’t need them.  Maybe it has them, but I didn’t see one.

Would I play it again?  Hm.  No, but not because of any fault of the game itself.  I love cyberpunk settings and despite the aged graphics, there’s obvious substance here.  No, I wouldn’t play it again mostly because of time factors and the fact that it’s not really being supported by any company.  Investing time into a game without knowing if it’s going to evaporate tomorrow is a daunting proposition.

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2 thoughts on “The 10/10 Project: Day 7 (Neocron 2)

  1. The worry of NC2 evaporating by now would be the least.

    The game already died, basically more than once, and i am astonished the servers are still up and running, despite the company breaking down.

    My primary question, on the other hand would be: did you still experience other players? Not necessarily by running into them, but at least some communication on the chat channels? I personally left at a time where a big portion of the playerbase evaporated (a nasty story of a plethora of bugs and exploits and the GMs loosing the war against a group of exploiters), but i took fond memories along.

    The game supported a level of involvement which is hard to find anywhere any more. During my active time, there was a plethora of player operated “special sites”. Most of them were some of the fancier player homes, but with the access code being public knowledge and the doorbell being replaced by interactive items, with which every player was able to open the door and get inside. (This item required GM support to install, so if there’s no support any more now, there probably also is no way to establish things like that again. )

    The establishments went from player operated red light business over a bikers club to bars and the likes. The later my corporation again used a lot, as we were based out of Neocron city, but our customers mostly were from the Dome of York. (We were the _true_ evil, we ran a lawyers office. ) Thus the player operated bar in New Haven was our prefered neutral meeting ground.

    It’s not like being a lawyer or the likes was code supported but as NCs police force also was player operated, RP went a long way there. (And it was amusing, when a DoY drug runner [player, of course] once again sold his stuff in the inner city of NC, and the police patrol was moving on, just grumbling and not doing anything any more, as we lawyers would just bail him again, anyway. )

    Next to that, the whole cyberpunk flaire, implants, drugs (which i actually had to take to be able to fly some of my fancier vehicles), recycling junk to make new ammo, flying people over the wastelands in a troop carrier, spotting a group of people on trikes below, who split up and ran when spotting us, the game definitely had it’s very special touch. (And yes, PVP was always enabled, once you removed your law enforcement chip. And everybody removed it, keeping it prevented you from healing other players or being healed by them, from joining a corporation and some other features. )

    Still, i think to maintain my fond memories of the game, the fun i had there any my trusty gatlin pistol (yea, weird weapons FTW!), it’s best to not enter the game again. I doubt it has aged well and probably would be a disappointment when trying it again.

  2. I wanted to play that game for the 10/10 project as well. I was in the tutorial, but then I had to log off and I somehow quit the tutorial that way. When I went back, I was out of the tutorial (or did I have to restart it?). I decided not to bother and try another game for the project instead. It is first person view and that makes me motion sick quick anyway.

    So… now I’m playing Wurm Online, which is first person view. Figures. ;)

    I’m with you on your conclusion, though. I like cyberpunk settings, but I’d prefer a game that’s actively developed and supported.

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