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A Week in Crowfall: PvP outside of my comfort zone

So the current plan is to alternate between one week exploring a backlog game and one week doing “A Week In…” a particular MMO. I pulled a name out of a hat, and hey, it’s Crowfall. This seems to be a doubly dumb idea, seeing as how (1) Interest in Crowfall has dwindled to almost nothing after its launch last year, and (b) I am so not a PvP guy. But maybe both of those make for a compelling reason TO explore it, because why not in a toss-away column?

Sunday: After an unskippable opening cutscene (ugh), the game gave me two options: Make a brand-new character to level through a multi-hour tutorial or jump into a fast-track tutorial that gets you to level 25 and the action. Normally, I’d go with the former, but in the interest of the limited time this week, I’m going with the second.

I went with an Elken Templar, because why WOULDN’T you be a giant elk in a fantasy game if you had the opportunity? Anyway, upon logging in, I found myself really warming up to the stylized visuals and crisp — if very cluttered — UI. Oh hey, there’s no minimap. Thanks, MMOs, I hate this trend.

I went through the quick tutorial and set up a basic combat rotation while also equipping my heroic elk with basic armor. The game then sent me through the Gank Gate — I’m sure it had some other name, but I’m calling it that because I fully expect to get wedgied the second I step through.

Monday: Random observation — Crowfall takes forever to load. At least four or five minutes from logging in to actually playing this time around. But hey, pretty loading screen art, I guess? Anyway, I arrive in Skyfall and bump into an adorable Guinea Pig Pope. I’d follow him to the ends of the earth, I would.

I also took a look at the map. Egads, I had this so much. It looks like 2005-era RuneScape, all abstract and chunky and not helpful at all. Another weird visual design choice is the rain, which is so large and distracting that my eyes keep tricking me into thinking something’s attacking my character. It’s like an arrowstorm attack is always going off, if that makes sense. But I want to be fair — on the whole, I like the visual style. If this was a normal theme park MMO, it would be more than serviceable.

Oh hai, Mr. Enemy! You’re the first one I’ve seen! I’m just so overjoyed to see you that I’m going to follow you around like a deranged elk stalker, if you don’t mind! Toxxic here (great name) ran away from me, then rooted me, ran away some more, and then — I think — killed himself. It was a very baffling encounter. Then again, I’m no PvP expert.

Tuesday: Today I really got into the thick of the combat system as I worked to complete a quest to kill a whole bunch of other elk-type dudes. You know what? Crowfall’s combat is decent, for an action MMO. There’s no soft or hard lock that I could tell, which was a pity, but the animations were great, the sound effects punchy, and I had some mindless fun hacking away at bad guys while healing myself. My only point of disappointment was joining another player to kill a solo boss — and then finding out that the game only awards loot to the “highest contributor” in a given kill. Bah.

Thursday: About the only interesting thing that happened on this day is that when I logged in, the game happily told me that I had purchased the full version of the game and now had it unlocked. This was a bit of a surprise to me, as I had not purchased anything or given out my credit card, so I’m thinking it was either a glitch, promotion, or the studio figuring out that a journalist was trying it out and decided to gift it to me.

In any case, it was an incredibly boring session of running around, taking pictures, and finding absolutely nobody to fight. This game is very dead, and that’s even worse in a PvP MMO than a PvE one, since you need that critical mass to get the real fun going.

I just kept thinking, “This is such a waste to dump it into a PvP setting.” Crowfall really looks terrific, with great animations and inviting colors. The UI is decent, the combat solid, and the systems all in place. As a PvE game in an established, hand-crafted world, this would’ve been a nice contender. Instead, we have these puzzle-piece maps that are kludged together, giving the community random areas that really mean nothing to fight over.

I don’t know how many more PvP-centric MMOs we need to prove that it’s very, very difficult to put this gameplay at the center and be popular, but all of these failures never seems to stop the next person from trying. Hey, Camelot Unchained, I guess you’re up to bat?

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