Monday, June 6, 2011

The Sandbox Challenge: Wurm Online Scored

Learning curve: 3.5/5

Above average

A tough one to score for me as I found Wurm Online to have the steepest, most difficult learning curve of any game I have yet to try. I felt at times it was too hard but then two things occurred to me:

1. I hate being spoon fed and coddled in games- running from flashing quest giver to flashing quest is not my cup of tea.
2. I did not ask for help in the beginning or do any reading of the game Wiki.

Wurm is hard, but the in-game Wiki and help channel moderated by CA's (community advisers who play the game) is a god-send for newbies. Had I used it I would not have been so frustrated in the early days and could have enjoyed the challenge of it all a lot more.
In the end I chose to rate the steep learning curve in a positive way. Prepare to think, experiment, and fail if you play this game. It took me the better part of 24 hours of game play to be able to consistently feed myself and not worry about starvation. This might not be for everybody but I loved it.

Online Community: 5/5


The community is great and everyone seems willing to help out and/or answer questions. The help channel is moderated by CA's and players alike. I have yet to see any 'trolling' that wasn't quickly and politely turned aside. Wurm now has a feature where you can be 'muted' if enough premium players decide you are being out of line. Instant community self-policing. I have found my neighbors, on the whole, to be helpful and giving. I even got a 'house warming' gift of a 90QL axe (100 is the best you can get). A generous and very usefull tool indeed.
Wurm online only has around 300-400 players and this tight-knit community works together to enjoy and improve the game. There are some jerks, of course, but so far I haven't found them.....which could indicate I am one of them but that, of course, won't be discussed here!

Economy: 2/5 

Below Average

Just when you thought it was going to be all peaches and cream..... the economy in Wurm is lacking and that is due to the fact that this 'free' game relies on the lack of economy to fund its coffers.

Lets face it, free is not free in the business world. The developers have to get paid somehow and the cash shop, which sells subs and silver, is how it's done. What this means is that the NPC's who 'buy' stuff in the game are basically non-existent so you have to purchase your silver which can be used in-game. Similar to Eve Online you can buy subs with in-game silver but it's not easy to come by....unless you buy it.

Newbies hoping to sell various trinkets to purchase needed tools, seeds, food, or animals will be out of luck, for the most part. You can sell your in-game labor (digging, mining, etc) for in-game cash but for the most part there isn't a lot of ways to 'make money'. It lets the game down but ensures it stays free to play. I have decided that I am okay with this (the subs are ridiculously cheap at 50 Euro per year) as the developers do deserve some money. If Wurm had a thriving in-game economy (ala Eve) it might be too good.

Top end players can sell their wares or services for silver and I know a few who fund their subs this way (again, like in Eve).

Crafting: 5/5


Progressive, purposeful, though-provoking, and deep. It makes sense, it is completely absorbing, and it isn't easy. Unlike Warhammer Online where you can max out in a single session if you like, Wurm will keep you going for ages. If crafting is your thing you won't be disappointed, especially once you skill up a little and get some better tools to decrease your failure rate (yes, you can and will fail often so be prepared to keep trying). You can also improve existing tools, and structures and because of the in-game decay on everything you need to do maintenance as well.
Don't want to 'craft' tools? Fine, how about farming? Animal husbandry? Ship building? Gardening? Terraforming? Fishing? Cooking? Alchemy? Wine Making?
So much to do you'll go blind trying to decide what to do first...or next...or after that...

Combat 2.5/5

Below Average

It's not pretty. MUD style, text-based is the best way to describe it. Animations are non-existent (basically) but what keeps this from being a lower score is the fact that it's hard. I'm around 120 hours into the game as I write this (yes, way past the supposed 40 hours I was supposed to stop at) and I have not yet killed anything. I'm too weak. I enjoy the change of pace and the difficulty and realistic way mobs are portrayed. There aren't 50 spiders to go an kill over on that hill, and they won't be re-spawning in a few minutes. Resources deplete.

Interface: 4/5

Above Average 

Simple but effective. There aren't a lot of pretty colors, and flashy screens. This is a java-based game and the interface is mostly simple boxes with drop-down menus for your selections. There is an in-game Wiki for help (which is a handy and essential feature) but no maps or compass. Prepare to be lost. A lot. There is a community map available but it takes some time to get your bearings.

Immersion: 4.5/5

The forced first-person view annoyed me at first but I think it really helped immerse me in the world. The immediacy of your hunger, thirst, and the way you are thrown into the world with next-to nothing also helped immerse me immediately. You have to make or find everything you need or want. My only criticism is that there is no back story, no plot, no way of tying yourself to something larger. Dynamic events (ala Rift) would be nice in that they could impact players and provide you with a purpose. At the very least some back story as to who you are and what the world is about would be nice. 

Fun Factor 5/5


What can I say? If you've read my posts you'll know I'm very addicted and thus, having fun. The ability to transform your world and create your own settlement is a lot of fun. Traveling and exploring to see what others have done (and finding loot along the way) is also a lot of fun. Fun, fun, fun. It all adds up to 5/5.
Setting 3.5/5

Above Average

Scoring points for originality, and interest, (yes I cut and past this from the Ryzom review), Wurm is an interesting place. The world feels real and I wanted to go 5/5 on this category but just couldn't. The lack of a back-story or any unifying story to tie individuals and groups together (or apart) is a let-down. I get the sandbox idea (make your own story) but I think this is something developers always miss. A good story in which you can do your own thing trumps no story any time.
Freedom of Expression: 4.5/5


Arguably the most important aspect of a sandbox-style game: are you truly free to pursue your own path?

My (few) criticisms of Wurm's freedom mirror that of the ones I had for Ryzom. It is a game where you are really free to do what you like. You can settle anywhere, modify anything (basically), and do whatever you want. You can transfer to the Wild (PVP) server- though there is next to no-one here and so, no actual PVP and you can bank anywhere there is one available (no central area to travel to).
Lacking in Wurm is PVP, the ability to hunt a lot of animals (there are some issues with animal spawns at the moment), and a thriving in-game economy. Skill gain is very, very slow which lends itself towards 'grinding' but so far I have not fallen into the trap of 'grinding' for the sake of it.


A real gem of a game which will keep you interested, challenged, and entertained for ages. It is priced right at the start (free), and premium time (subscription) is well worth it at 50 Euro per year, or 15 Euro for two months (other options available).

Wurm Online Final Score: 79%

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