EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Llewelyn Griffiths
previewed on PC
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
Ever since the breakout success of DayZ; originally a mod for Arma 2, Steam has been awash with survival MMOs. These games have the usual expectations of severe death penalties, crafting, player housing and a big focus on PvP. Some have rightfully risen to the top and others have sunk to the bottom, laden with game breaking bugs and pay-to-win microtransactions. They have become a genre synonymous with internet trolls, creating a sometimes unbearably harsh microcosm thatís brimming with lots of interesting stories to tell. Edengrad tries to fit into this genre with the added structure of a typical theme-park MMO.
You begin your adventure inside an underground vault, where a few NPCs give you a basic tutorial, along with some exposition about the world around you. While being far from exciting, this tutorial is an unexpected addition to most games in the genre, whereby youíre usually expected to scour a wiki or watch a YouTube tutorial. Unfortunately, this is when the special treatment stops. The starting zone it littered with uninspired creatures for you to kill: giant rats, insects, lizards, scorpions and wolves. All of which are greatly lacking in variety except for appearance. Combat is equally dull, furious clicking will get you by most of the time, with the occasional use of some painkillers when your health gets low. As for the survival aspects, dying of hunger or thirst offers very little risk considering how easy it is to scavenge food and water. For instance, a sneak function exists to hunt animals, although itís far more effective to sprint towards them swinging your axe.
The quests go hand-in-hand with this lack of inspiration, often involving the typical series of fetching an item or killing six of the same creature. This is accompanied with some truly awful writing, and bizarre, out of place stories. The very first quest I bumped into, involves finding a husband who left his wife because she forces him to sit down on the toilet when he goes for a wee. For a game that otherwise takes itself very seriously, moments like this stick out like a sore thumb.
FEATURING: BOB THE BUILDER
On top of that, the world feels desolate, and not in an atmospheric way, itís predictable and undeniably boring. Iíll let you take a guess what deadly creatures live in The Valley of Hounds? All the wildlife wander around aimlessly until you kill them, ready to do the same once they respawn. Weíve seen it all before, and it certainly works when itís applied to a polished MMO such as World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV but for a game focused on survival, itís lazy. There are also a number of head-scratching pop-culture references too, Bob the Builder frequently crops up to give tutorials, and roadrunners will audibly go ďbeep-beepĒ when you walk past them. Iím all for games that donít take themselves seriously, in this case however, it offers very little value other than a few cheap laughs, at best.
The whole game world is divided into a number of zones, some of these zones are for PvE questing and others contain large, completely flat areas of land for player made towns and cities. Frankly, this takes away a large portion of the enjoyment, you are robbed of the satisfaction from scouting areas to find the perfect housing location. This also ruins the enjoyment of hunting for enemy towns to attack, since you are told exactly where they are on your mini-map. What this does do, however, is provide a level of structure that is often missing from many of these Survival MMOs. It allows for an environment thatís safe and predictable, while these aspects have their own merits, they arenít very welcome in a game that focuses on ďHardcore SurvivalĒ.
This is all presented in a very well designed user interface, itís quick, functional and rather pretty. Yet again, a surprising facet in a genre that often lacks a decent user interface. A vast array of skills from Farming and Cooking, to Mining and Forestry are neatly displayed, each with their own tree of sub-skills. These skills are persistent too, they remain untouched upon death, allowing you to train them up without any fear of loss. Itís just a shame the actual environment youíll spend levelling up these skills is far from compelling.
TOO LITTLE, TOO EARLY
Itís very clear Huckleberry Games have bitten off more than they can chew. Their attempt to structure a Survival MMO within the traditional boundaries of questing and PvE leaves much to be desired. Much of the thrill you come to expect from Survival games is diluted with systems that are far too tame. Combat involves very little skill, and you arenít given enough of a reason to delve into the crafting or construction when there are very few people to play with. This game requires an awful lot of work, and I fear with numbers already dwindling, itís going to be left by the wayside, even if it starts to get better. To put it simply: Edengrad was released far too early, neither the systems nor the world are fleshed out enough to provide a stage for emergent player interactions.
It pains us to say this, but we don't see how this game will mesh. At the current stage of development the game should be much farther ahead than it is.