Sandbox games seem to be all the rage in the counter-MMO-culture these days, and none so much as WURM in the Massively office. I’m not quite sure how it started, but suddenly everyone there (by “everyone” I mean “four, maybe five people”) was playing it.
“Come join us!” they said with the cheery call of those who seduce people to the dark side of the Force or Scientology. “It’s amazing!”
Now I don’t know when the amazing is supposed to kick in, but it most certainly does not happen on the first day. However, there is a nice amount of suck front-loaded.
As far as I can tell, WURM is a sort-of-medieval setting where players are given basic tools and told to go remake the world in their own image — you know, MMO Minecraft. The first hour is spent in a linear tutorial where the game sort of teaches you the basics (with admittedly hilarious popup graphics) before terminating abruptly about halfway through. I guess they haven’t finished the tutorial, but it is nice to see the popup say, “Well, you probably know enough, but if you don’t, go check the wiki.” Awesome.
Graphically, WURM is winning no awards. It’s all first-person perspective, which is good considering that everyone looks like everyone else (you’re either male or female, and that’s it for character customization), and the world itself looks like a 2001-era MMO. Some of the details, like the grass blowing or the ambient sounds, are pretty nice, but a lot of the game is fugly with a capital fug. It gets even better when you see animals with (I think) no animation to them just float at you. It’s the amazing slip-and-slide bear!
Above all this, the reason that my first day sucked is that I wasn’t allowed to do anything sandboxy, because I had to go on a Lord of the Rings-length journey to find an island where the rest of our village was located. This happened to be as physically far from the starter village as was possible, which meant that it was going to take an hour and a half of walking. That’s all well and good if you’re (again) in a 2001 MMO, but darn it, where is my flying lion-bird?
To make matters worse was the fact that there is no in-game radar, you have to build your own compass (I didn’t have one for this journey), and after a while your character depletes his stamina meaning that your progress slows to a crawl unless you stop. So I had to keep tabbing out to look at a map on a website and hope that my character was actually on the right trail. To make matters more complicated, because players shape the world they also add their own trails which means that said map was out of date. Perfect.
It was easily the most boring 1.5 hours I’ve spent all week, watching my character float over trails past non-descript scenery and wondering if it was, indeed, worth it. Eventually I gave up on the trails and followed the coastline up to a port where a friend promised to give me a ride over on his leprechaun-green boat. Finally at the village and ready to dive deep into this whole crafting-sandbox thing, I had enough for the evening and logged out.
It can only get better from here, right?