Urban Empire: First Impression Review

I got the game, Urban Empire, as a Christmas present from bookahnerk. It released on January 20, so there was quite some aniticipation built up there. I had watched a few streams about the game and read a few articles from gaming websites (and a German gaming magazine), but I didn’t read too much about the game’s mechanics and how to actually play the game. I have played through the campaign once (with a time-victory, meaning I stayed mayor for all five time eras that the game has), so I figured it’s a good time to share my impressions with you now.

Urban Empire

First things first: The developers stress that it’s a city-ruler, not a city-building game. And that part is certainly true! You plan city districts and choose the percentage of residential buildings, businesses and industry in that district plus you can add a few things like water, electricity or special buildings like a park (which adds a bonus to health) or a clinic and so on (each with a monthly cost associated, of course). Once you are done with one district proposal, your city council gets to vote. If the majority of them votes “no”, the district will not be built – you can try again and alter some of the settings, though. Or you just pay for the district out of your own pockets. As mayor of the city, you do get money every month and can use it for things like this or spying on political parties that are part of your government.

Urban Empire

You can choose between four different families to rule as mayors throughout the five time eras that the campaign has. I chose the Kilgannons as my mayors. What I liked were some random events related to my chosen family that were happening in the first two eras. It was mostly about what my offspring did and I had to react or make a decision. E.g., I wanted to send my daughter to university but it was not possible yet in the fictional country of Swarelia, where my city is located, at the time. So I chose to send her abroad which made her upset. But these events made me bond with my mayor and his family. At some point, these events stopped and I was not given any more options or decisions on what to do with family members. I was not even told about any of my family members anymore. With every change of the era, a new offspring gets put into the mayor office. So with one era-change, there he was: some relative that I had never even heard of before but he was the new mayor now and I had no choice there. Maybe I am too used to roleplaying games where I can choose my character and customize them somewhat. Still, I would have really liked to hear about that person before and get to know at least a little bit about them before having to play as that character. Or better yet, with the change of the era, give me a decision which relative to choose as the next mayor!

Urban Empire

During the first two eras, the city council can’t do anything to get rid of you. That is, they can’t vote you out! But they still do vote on almost every decision you make! Going completely broke would probably let you lose the game either way… I did get into huge debts twice, but both times, I asked in Vienna where I asked for more money and got it, so I could continue. In other words, I have no idea what has to happen in order to lose the game in the first two eras.

Urban Empire

Other than placing districts, you also choose inventions. You do not research these inventions themselves, but merely research to have the inventions imported to your city (or so it said in the tutorial). Every research is tied to a certain era, although you can advance faster (or slower!) than the time eras (so you can research era 2 inventions even though you’re still in the first era time-wise). Researched inventions also unlock new issues/edicts and upgrades to your city. From time to time, political parties want you to start a vote on certain edicts and you can either agree or disagree with them. In either case, they do get voted on by the political parties afterwards. I would assume that my decision changes the “goodwill” of the political parties depending on whether they agree or disagree with the issue.

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The goodwill shows whether political parties will favour me or not… and I can “spend” goodwill to plead with, demand or threaten a political party to agree with me on an issue (or to vote for me in the upcoming elections). I do not know what happens if you’re at the maximum of -10 goodwill. I was at that point quite often with several political parties at which point I always chose “threaten” to make them vote for me, because eh, there was nothing to lose. However, despite being at -10, I do not know what negative implications this had. I didn’t feel or notice any, at least. You can plead with, demand or threaten a political party once a month, so that’s what I did before elections took place. It was a close call sometimes, but with one exception, I always won the election. One time I didn’t win the election and I could click on “overrule” to stay mayor. You pay such an overruling with prestige points and I had gotten so many of them without spending any that it was no big deal. The result was that all political parties lost respect for me which means that they had less goodwill towards me. Which brings me back to the point of not knowing or not having felt any negative consequences of being at -10 goodwill.

Placing the districts was a fun part. Yes, I admit, I’m a fan of city-building! Once all districts were placed, there was nothing to further expand the city. Well, other than increasing the density of my districts depending on demand (e.g., reducing the residential areas in a district but increasing industry because we had a need for much more industry but not for residents), at least. I had a spot left where I could have placed another district, but the game told me the area is too small for a district. So I had two options: Destroy at least one neighbouring district to rebuild it a bit smaller, so I could probably squeeze in another district – or just let it be as it didn’t matter anyway. I had a surplus of income, residents were reasonably happy, security, environment, health etc. were all acceptable. So why change anything? I had gotten to that point at the beginning of the 4th era which means that for the rest of the game (era 4 and 5), I let the city council come up with issues or sometimes initiated a vote on issues or edicts myself because they improved the city or gave me some more income (depending on what was needed to balance it out again) and waited for the end of era 5 to get that time victory.

Two more features got unlocked in the later eras: Twin Cities which lets you choose a city and get some bonus in return. I chose Sydney which gives me +2 fun but it costs 50k. And Business Delegation which lets me send a delegation to a city for several months and gives me bonuses to a certain industry I choose.

You actually do have a lot of stats to look at. For example, which districts have how many middle class or working class residents. But to be honest, I did not have a reason to look at these stats. And believe me, I love stats! I just want a reason to pay attention to them and make decisions based on them!

I liked the first two eras of the game, but after that, it became “click click click, wait for votes, click click click, then threaten and demand with the political parties who would not vote for me until they would…” and nothing really mattered. I had positive income with my city and even if I didn’t do anything and didn’t change anything, all went well. I’ve never felt this indifferent about “winning” the game (with a time victory), because it was just so boring getting there. I basically sat it out with one exception: I did go through all my districts and upgrade the road networks and I think I got more income afterwards as transportation volume increased. But other than that, districts didn’t complain if they didn’t have gas, water or electricity. Everything worked well anyway which let me stay inactive for most parts.

Urban Empire

My conclusion for now is that I cannot recommend the game for full price. For me, it doesn’t offer enough as it gets boring at some point. However, I still think it’s a great concept and the first two eras are fun and engaging! It’s a solid base and not a “lost cause” if you ask me, and maybe the developers will add features in the future that make the game more engaging and feel the effects of making – or not making – choices in the later eras.

TL;DR: Urban Empire is a city-ruler game with – in my opinion – great potential which is not (yet?) living up to it.

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Otherland MMO – First Impressions

otherland_fir_klBookahnerk had told me about Otherland long before the MMO was in the news as Otherland is one of his favourite books and Tad Williams is one of his favourite authors! This is the main reason this game even caught my attention. We had both watched the gamescom trailer and really liked what we saw there and we really thought it had immense potential.

At some point, I had gotten access to Otherland’s closed beta for a short bit. I was not impressed with the game at all – or else you would have probably seen me write about it here. Some background images were nice, but that’s it. The game had one week of open beta where I had given it a try again and launched on September 8. The business model was a different one at first – I think buy to play? I am actually not too sure about that since I did not follow the game anymore, but now it is free to play. After a rocky start on its first day where it was not available unless you paid, you can just download and play it for free on Steam.

The bad news first: In its current state, I do not recommend the game. I think they need more time to smooth out the game, get rid of bugs and all of that. I had wanted to wait with writing about my impressions until I had gotten out of the tutorial area and had had a better look at the game behind it, but so far, this has not been possible. Lambda Mall is apparently the main hub and the area you enter after exiting the tutorial. During the open beta I could not get there. Where there should have been a portal at the end of the tutorial, there was nothing. Well, the portal was actually there, but I could not click on it or interact with it in any way. According to forum posts, this apparently happened whenever the server that Lambda Mall is on was down, but I could not find any other information on it and I gave up after trying several times.

Today, the game first refused to launch with an error message saying my graphics card does not support something (I didn’t read what it was) even though I’d played successfully before. Right now, I’m in the “verifying” stage but nothing else happens. I first tried it this morning at around 8.30 am*. This means that for more than 8 hours now, I have not been able to access the game. There were a couple of other people in the Steam community hub (and in the official forums) reporting the same issue. I had a look at the official Twitter account and found that there was a tweet on September 1, then another on September 8 to announce the official launch of the game but no other recent tweets. This is not how you handle the launch of an MMORPG! Where is the advertisement, where is the support? The community manager’s last posting in the forum was on September 8, their launch day.

Yes, I get that there may be bugs. And that is okay. There is no MMO that doesn’t have bugs and I don’t remember any MMO’s launch that did not have issues. However, what I do remember is community managers, developers and whoever else was available handling the social media channels and the forums informing players of what was happening and posting ETA times and so on. Here, there is silence. It is also the first weekend after launch and there is nothing but crickets from the developers. As far as I know, the first weekend after an MMO launches is always a very busy one as people try out the game. I would assume the same could potentially happen here since the game is on Steam and that often attracts lots of potential players.

But enough about that for now. There actually is a game somewhere and I can share with you what I have seen and experienced, even though it was not much yet. The game’s character creation is rather fast as there aren’t a lot of things to do. You can choose gender, size (including body proportions – this is nice!), skin colour (e.g. orange), skin pattern and I think that’s it? Some options are locked. But there are no hair styles, no changing of facial features etc.

The game has four different classes. Two are melee/tank (warrior and assassin), two are ranged/heal (energizer and marksman). Nothing too spectacular or exciting if you ask me. You can equip three weapons and switch between these, though. I am not sure yet, but I assume different weapons have different stats and effects. For example, one weapon to tank and one to dish out damage. Other than that, I have not yet seen a way to customize your playstyle further. I also do not know yet how to get new skills as even though I levelled up, nothing happened apart from a message telling me I levelled up. What I did like was that before you lock in your class choice, the game lets you enter a mini tutorial with each class where you can try it with lots of skills unlocked and some easy mobs to hit. Since I am never certain about what class “clicks” for me, I really like this feature! During beta, I had one of the two ranged classes (I think it was the energizer), but did not like it at all. I just stood there, kept my mouse button pressed to shoot repeatedly and hit 1, 2 or 3 depending on cooldowns etc. Now for the game’s release, I chose the warrior which is a lot more fun to play. I got a giant polearm and can just slash everything in range. :p

So far, the story is okay. I have to say that I do not know much about the world of Otherland. You are in a virtual reality and there are a lot of different settings. The giant chess pieces seen in the trailer above are in the tutorial, for example, among a lot of other settings. It is a virtual reality world, after all, so all settings are possible!

I saw the eDNA mentioned in the gamescom trailer above. This feature is certainly in the game as I could extra eDNA from enemies I had killed, but other than an animation and a message that I did collect it, nothing happened. I looked at my inventory, but could not see any indication of this eDNA, so I don’t know where it is or what I can do with it. I guess this would be nice to be explained in the tutorial. Or maybe it gets explained after entering Lambda Mall. My warrior made it there (now in the launch version of the game), but I had to get to bed when I last played, so I could not continue with the story. Another feature I had seen in the trailer was housing. According to a post on Massively back in August 2015, this feature should be in!

Something to be very careful about is the character deletion process. Right next to “create”, there is the “delete” button. I had hit that one during beta but nothing had happened. I logged in with my character (as it hadn’t gotten deleted after all) and played. Then I logged off. When I next logged in again, the character was gone. When I tried to make another character with the same name, it said that the name was already taken. Yeah, thank you? So I made another character. This was during beta and support (via Twitter DM) offered to undelete my character or free up the name for me to use again, so I don’t know if they made any changes. But having the delete button right next to the create button with no further confirmation if you are sure about wanting to delete and then on top of that a delay of when the deletion happens? Not good!

If it hadn’t been for me wanting to write about my impressions, I don’t think I would have continued playing. The combat is rather boring, but I admit that this was mainly my impression when playing the ranged class and it may just not be the right class for me. The graphics are really neat, though! Especially the background images are amazing! What you cannot see in the pictures is that the NPCs are not moving. They are frozen or something. However, some of them aren’t. They stand still just as the others, but as soon as you get too close, they attack you. So, if I had to choose one thing that stood out for me – positively – it’s definitely the look of the world!

What the game did achieve, however, was that we ordered the first Otherland novel in English now. Bookahnerk has read all of them years ago, but only in German. Now it’s time to read the original. And since I’ve never read them at all, it’s a perfect time to start for me. :)

TL;DR: This game gets no recommendation from me at the moment! I don’t think the developers/publishers take the game seriously or else there wouldn’t be such a lack of communication, especially now that the game can’t be accessed by some or all players. However, I do want to find out more about it. And if the game turns out to be as bad as the Steam reviews make it seem to be, I now own the first novel of Otherland in its original English version and will happily just read this book instead. :p

*This was after I got woken up by a stray pigeon that had accessed our flat – but that’s a different and very short story as it flew back outside when I scared it… only that I had been too awake then and decided to get up and try to play Otherland so I could write about my impressions. :p

The Repopulation – Quick first impression (Blaugust Day 24)

The Repopulation banner

The Repopulation is currently on sale (until September 4) and you may be wondering whether it’s worth those 14.99 € (or whatever it is for you).

I bought Early Access back in February and I really wish I could tell you all about my impressions now and whether I like the game or not. But that is part of the issue I have with the game: I have not been able to write about my opinion, because I don’t know whether I like it… or not…

My issue with The Repopulation is not that it’s a bad game per se (I felt that was necessary to stress this!). My issue is that I have a hard time “getting” into the game. After having had access  for months now and playing around here and there, I still don’t feel “at home” and I still feel that I am missing a lot and I am still confused a lot.

It is not as intuitive as, for example, Project Gorgon. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that it requires effort that I usually can’t invest in the evening, because my day job requires me to read, think, write and read more. Once I’m done with work, I prefer having a game that does not require me to read long text and think even more. ;) Don’t get me wrong, I like complex games. If that wasn’t the case, I would just go and play some Facebook games…

So let me just state a few very basic first impressions. This is by far not a complete list!

The combat is the worst culprit for me. I just never know which weapon goes with which skills and what I need to use in order to fight in the way I would like to fight. Yes, I’m also very newbish when it comes to guns and all that stuff. Having never played any “shooter” games, I really have no idea about those kinds of weapons.

However – and that’s what I like about the game – there seems to be plenty of stuff to do without combat. The crafting is another thing I haven’t gotten into yet, but I worked my way through the tutorial and it seemed pretty elaborate and I can definitely imagine spending my time crafting in The Repopulation. One really nice feature are “Generated Missions“. NPCs send you mails with little jobs for you to do. I spent quite a lot of my play time with my first character in Freedomtown (the starter area for one of the two factions in the game) without fighting anything, basically just running back and forth between NPCs handling their requests. It was nice, as I got to know the world a bit better and it did give me some kind of immersion in the world.

The tutorial was recently changed. You now start in a completely different location and with different quests. I think it works much better. Or maybe that is because it’s in the “open world” and I really love the scenery! Still, there was one quest that wasn’t well done at all: The quest told me to go “up on the hill to the North” quest. I went north and the game told me I should not leave the tutorial area without completing training first. And here I thought this quest was part of the tutorial and thus, was part of my training! So, I went back, walked around in circles, tried to find “the hill to the North”, but all I could find was the path out of the tutorial area. Eventually, I had enough and just went north. Again, the message on the screen told me not to leave the area, but I ignored it that time – and sure enough, I arrived where the quest had wanted me to go. Yes, I know this is just a minor complaint, but when this happens within the first minute of somebody playing the game, this is frustrating.

NPCs have a life! You may want to hand in a quest but the NPC you’re looking for just isn’t there. That may be because it is evening and he’s in the nearby pub. Or it’s during the night and the NPC is at home asleep. I was also told that NPCs remember my actions and may react to me differently in the future based on that. Now this is something that I really like and would love to explore more!

As you can see, I have gathered a few impressions, but it’s by far not enough to judge the game. I have also not tried to read up on the game’s functions and features too much. Don’t quote me on that, but at the moment, I would say that if you’re interested in a sandbox MMO set in a science fiction universe with lots of relatively complex features (not to be confused with “complicated”) and freedom when it comes to choosing skills for your character (no set classes, this game is skill-based!) and open world PvP in some zones and if on top of all of that, you also don’t mind reading a lot, then I would say those 14.99 € are a good deal to jump into the game right now. Or, in other words, even though I still haven’t figured out the game, I do not regret having spent money on it at all.

I also found an article that seems quite useful: “The Repopulation for Noobs“- sounds exactly like something I should read. ;)

This post is part of Blaugust 2015.

Project Gorgon: First impression – Blaugust Day 4

I have seen the name “Project Gorgon” quite often before, but never actually read what it was about. But after reading Syp’s impressions, I figured it’s time to try it out myself. They have started their Kickstarter campaign, but you can actually try out the game for free. I like this a lot, because it means that you can see for yourself if this is a game that you want to back up with your money! The game is in a pre-alpha stage, so treat it as such. I now tried out the game for a couple of hours, so please keep that in mind. This here is not a review. It’s not even what I call my “first impressions review”. It really is a basic, very basic first impression of trying out that game – and it is quite fitting, as the game is only in pre-alpha.

Project Gorgon Scenery picture

The game will be “buy to play” with an optional sub (much like The Elder Scrolls Online then). I does not seem to focus on PvP at all. I would assume that there will be some kind of PvP, but I have not been able to find anything definite about that. Either way, I am intrigued and interested to see where this game is heading. It definitely shows promise! If you ask me, some of the graphics and animations are what I would criticize the most right now, because there are so many other beautiful games on the market and I’m not sure a game that “looks old” or “feels stiff” will be able to succeed, not in the MMORPG market, at least. The screenshot above is a high resolution one that I took once I had left the tutorial cave. The graphics out there are much better than the ones inside the cave.

But let me quote from the Kickstarter website:

“If the campaign is successful we will be able to significantly improve Project Gorgon by contracting outside help to improve art and other vital game functions.”

They have reached their funding goal by now and are on their way of reaching their first stretch goal, so I guess we can expect a change in the game’s art department. For me, the biggest drawback so far are some of the graphics and the animations. The animations seem a bit stiff and some of the graphics look very… well, old, especially the cave interior. But that’s why they are doing the Kickstarter and the game is only in pre-alpha. And don’t get me wrong! I don’t even mind “simple graphics”. I love Trove, after all. But stiff animations is something that I do mind, because it just looks so out-of-place in a way. Anyway, if that is all I complain about, then that is telling quite a lot already, right? I did not experience any crashes, I did not see anything bugged or otherwise not working as expected. I spent most of my time in the tutorial cave which is what this blog post focuses on. When I think of some games and the state their tutorial was in, then I think it’s safe to say that the developers know very well what they’re doing!

What I really like is how easy it is to get into and understand the mechanics. Project Gorgon is a skill-based MMO (when I said that to bookahnerk, he headed right over to the website and downloaded the client as well) and it seemed that everything I did led to an increase in some skill and when I levelled up in a certain skill, I sometimes automatically got a new ability unlocked. I picked up mushrooms, I performed autopsies on dead enemies, I tried to butcher dead wolves. I hit skeletons with my fist, I slashed them with my sword, I later pierced them with my arrows and finally moved on to psychoanalyzing them asking them to tell me about their mother. I also found a book that taught me how to tame a rat. Up until that point, I had killed them. For now, I have chosen to use psychology (hey, I am a psychologist. How could I not use those skills, right?) and am undecided about the second skill set… probably sword, although I have played with unarmed and am currently waving my staff around for fire magic.

Project Gorgon Psychology

But I could do all these things mentioned without needing a tutorial that explained to me how those things work. There are tutorial windows, of course, and the hand-holding is quite nice sometimes. It’s just that I didn’t always absolutely need them to know what is going on. Maybe it’s because I’m familiar with so many MMOs that it seemed so easy to feel comfortable with the game, which keys to hit and the amount of windows (which you can freely drag to where you want them on your screen – or just close them if you don’t want them). On the other hand, when I think about my journey in The Repopulation (to be reported about at a later point), I don’t think that’s it. I do believe that the developers know what they are doing and they are doing a fine job and have at the same time managed to present a skill-based game with no predetermined classes without overwhelming the player.

I am also intrigued by the story – of which I will not tell you much in here as I like to keep my impression posts relatively spoiler-free. The best part, however, was right on the character creation screen when I read the descriptions of the races: Sex-addicted elves. I had not seen that one coming and it gave me quite a laugh. Finally, some different way to view those pesky elves and just in general, expect to read some rougher language here and there, too (like the f-word). The world itself, even though I have not seen much of it yet seems interesting and I want to know more about its lore and, more importantly even, I want to see more of it.

Project Gorgon Character Creation

So, after playing around with the game for a few hours, I can say that I’m interested… – The rest of the paragraph here was originally about how I am not yet backing it and that I need more information first. This has changed after I had already scheduled this post, though, so I deleted the paragraph and am now rewriting it. :p

So, after playing around with the game for a few hours, I can say that I have backed the game on Kickstarter and the decision to do so was made the moment I left that tutorial cave! It just seems to be the kind of game that I really want to play! Or, as I said to bookahnerk some time ago after I had played the free trial of Ultima Online: I would love for a company to make a game like this, but with up-to-date 3D graphics (and not the isometric one of UO) and without open world PvP. It seems that I have found such a game now.

This post is part of Blaugust 2015.

Post-launch Impressions: Is Trove a good game?

Trove launched last Thursday and a lot of people are curious whether this game is any good. I will try to give you an impression of the game, but will try to keep it short(ish). There is a quite simple reason for this: This is the 4th time that I’m writing down my impressions of Trove. The first time was in July 2014, when Trove was still in alpha. The second time was during closed beta in October 2014. The third time was during open beta in February 2015. You may also notice quite a lot of similarities between this post here and the one from February. I had tried to write a new impression piece, but found that so many things from the post in February still hold true that I decided to rework this blog post and bring it up-to-date instead of writing everything again.

An additional note: An online game’s launch is usually accompanied by queue times etc. when a lot of people want to play the game at the same time. I will not write about this here, though, as I’m certain this will be resolved over time just like it has in all other online games I have played at launch. :)

 What is Trove?

You may have heard people say that Trove is just a clone of some other game, for example, Cube World, Minecraft and even Terraria (yes, seriously). But it has more than enough differences to not be called a clone. It is a voxel-based game where you can roam through non-permanent maps with several biomes that each have a different look and house different (crafting) materials, NPCs and dungeons. You collect equipment which makes you stronger. You can then either upgrade those items in the forge to make them stronger or wait for a better item to drop (both is possibly and viable as quite a lot of items drop in the game). The “Loot Collector” lets you collect the items’ skins and gives you crafting material in return which is needed to upgrade items. There are also some crafting professions in the game and you can build – both in your club world and in your cornerstone (more on that later).

Servers

Good news for EU players: European servers were added! Here is how it works: On the Glyph launcher in the upper right corner, you choose your region. Don’t worry, you can change this every time you start the launcher and you can also still play with your US-based friends even when you choose EU here. It’s just the “default location”.

Trove choose EU server

Every time you leave into the adventuring world, that is when you go through the portals leading to the low level areas, the uber-portals and the sky realm portal, you will be placed on servers located in the EU. You will have a much lower latency than when you play on the US servers. If, however, you see a friend online who plays on US servers, you can still click on “join” in the game and play together with them. All of this happens seamlessly and there are no separate databases. It’s just “hopping” from one server region to the other. You won’t even notice which region you’re playing in – well, other than the latency, of course. Other than that, there are no “servers” to choose like you have to do in Rift or Guild Wars 2.

Character customization and classes

When you first get into the game, you choose a name and the class you want to begin with. That is all there is to customization initially. You can also have only one character per account. But don’t worry, you will be able to customize your look later and you will be able to switch classes very easily. The one character you have can switch between all available classes! Currently, Trove offers 11 classes: Knight, Gunslinger, Fae Trickster, Dracolyte, Neon Ninja, Candy Barbarian, Ice Sage, Shadow Hunter, Pirate Captain, Boomeranger and Tomb Raiser. For me, there is currently enough variety and I have several classes that I really like playing and several that I don’t like. I really enjoy Candy Barbarian, who is a melee class that can heal herself and increase her attack speed (both bonuses also apply to other players nearby). The Pirate Captain is a ranged class that comes with a little parrot which you can “place” behind a cannon and who then shoots said cannon. The sounds coming from that parrot are too adorable! And with all the “BOOM” coming from that class, enemies go down quite fast as well.

Trove Candy Barbarian
Candy Barbarian

Trion has also kept adding new classes over the course of alpha and beta with the latest, the Tomb Raiser, arriving with the game’s launch. Because of this, I wouldn’t be surprised to see even more in the future.

Before you can switch to a different class, you need to unlock it (no real-money-purchase required!). Once you have it unlocked, you can switch to it by using the “Class Changer” which is an item that looks like a wardrobe. (Update July 18, 2015: With one of the next updates, this item will no longer exist. You can then just hit “J” (default keybinding) and change your class this way). You also level each class independently. Level 20 is max level, by the way. Although you can gain another 20 levels by wearing max level gear. So basically, it’s almost like having several characters. I really love having alts, but I don’t miss having “real” alts at all. Another item in the game, the “Barbershop”, lets you customize the look of your character. You can find both those items in the main hub (entered by pressing H). There are various hair, eye and skin colours as well as hair styles to choose from. Also of note is that you can hide the look of hat and face items! Every class gets its own look which means that if you choose pigtails with your pirate captain, you can choose a mohawk for your candy barbarian.

Trove Barbershop

Other than collecting items to become stronger, you will also want to collect those items to get their skins. The tooltip will tell you whether you already collected that item’s look or not. Throw it into the “Loot Collector” where it will be destroyed, but the look will get collected (and can consequently be used whenever you want) and you will get materials in return which are mostly needed for upgrading other items. This is one of the aspects of the game that I love! There are already so many styles to choose from that it’s really difficult to decide for just one. Thankfully, every class has its own equipment and style slots. So, items that you equip with one class will stay with that class even if you switch to a different one. You can have a classy monocle-wearing candy barbarian and a silly tetris-cube wearing knight.

Dungeons, adventuring and crafting

Trove World MapAs I said above, the game is about adventuring in the world. After the short tutorial, you start by going through the level 1 – 3 portal in the main hub. Just look for the huge tower with shiny and colourful portals. Each world is randomly generated. In these worlds, you find dungeons: the smaller “one boss dungeons” are the simple towers on the map. The fortresses are dungeons with two smaller bosses and one bigger, more difficult, boss. The scrolls are dungeons with one boss that drop a crafting recipe. There are also crafting materials in the world that you can harvest. And, of course, lots and lots of blocks! When you collect blocks this way (switch into build mode to do so), you will only get the standard colours. You will need to collect the recipe for a special colour before you can craft that block. Once you can do so, they usually require standard coloured blocks and some other crafting materials that you get from adventuring in the world.

There are several ways to craft items in Trove. Before you can start with crafting something, you will need access to the appropriate crafting stations which are usually items that you craft first. Crafting has several purposes. For one, as I just said, you can craft blocks with different looks. You can also craft things like furniture for your club world or your cornerstone. Trion has also started implementing professions. You can level all of them, so there is no need to choose one. At the moment, we have gardening, ringcrafting, runecrafting and fishing. The latter is not a profession where you craft anything per se, but I thought it doesn’t hurt to mention it here.

Clubs (known as “guilds” in other games)

You can join up to five clubs in Trove. Every club can have one club world which is permanent (that is, not randomly generated whenever you enter it) and it lets you build things in there. Since you can join up to five different ones, you can also create one for yourself and have your own personal world to build in (and your own club chest in there for additional storage space!). What I really like about the clubs is that while you can only “represent” one at a time – your club’s name appears above your head – you can chat in all your clubs simultaneously. And you can enter every club’s world even if you’re not currently representing them.

Trove Club World part
A part of our club world

Building

You get a cornerstone which is a little place in the adventure worlds. This cornerstone moves with you! You will notice empty spaces in the adventure worlds with a !-sign. Click on this (“E” on your keyboard) and your cornerstone will appear. When you die and previously placed your cornerstone in that world where you died, this is where you will respawn. You can also put everything you need like your personal chest or crafting stations on that cornerstone. Nobody can access your personal chest. If they click on it, they will only get access to their personal chest! Additionally, nobody else can build on your cornerstone. But be careful when fighting while you’re standing on yours. Some of your skills destroy blocks and this means that you can indeed destroy your own creation during a fight. Every change you make to your cornerstone is permanent. So whenever you “call” your cornerstone again, it will reappear just as you made it. I have seen quite a lot of creative cornerstones already. Mine is mostly “functional” as I put everything I need in there. I am now trying to get a bit more creative and have started imitating some biomes on the different floors of the tower I built. The second place is your club world. It starts rather small (still much bigger than your cornerstone, though), but can be expanded quite a lot.

Mastery level

Trove MasteryEverything you unlock in the game – skins, allies, gaining a level – will also give you “mastery points”. Every gained Mastery Rank gets you something in the game. It starts with +3 % maximum health, but there are also cubits (the in-game currency), special skins, materials and even credits (the currency you buy for real money)! So, I can already tell you that even though there are some things you can only buy with credits, there are also some credits rewards that you get simply by playing the game.

How “free” is “free to play” in Trove?

That depends entirely on what you want and how much you want it. :p You buy credits with real money. Cubits are the game’s currency that you earn by playing the game. Some things cannot be bought with cubits. Extra storage tabs in your personal storage chest, for example. But as I said, you can circumvent that by making a personal club and putting a club chest in there for extra space. Other things are cosmetics or mounts. Those items also give you mastery points, which means that if you want to get all mastery levels, you probably will have to spend real money. On the other hand, this is not needed to play and enjoy the game. You will not feel like a “second class citizen” if you decide not to spend money on the game.

There are items that you can buy which give your equipment stronger stats or a better stat combination faster. However, it’s just “faster”. You can also get there by simply playing the game. Additionally, in Trove, you always work with your fellow players, not against them. I have never seen or heard anybody complain because you did not have the perfect stat combination on your weapon. In fact, nobody knows what you’re wearing and nobody can even see how much damage you deal. So, you may get some things faster, but they will not make you gain an advantage over those who do not pay. Additionally, for me it’s part of the game to try to get the equipment that I want and buying items just to maybe get a stat combination faster than by playing the game is not how I want to spend my money. So altogether, this part may be something that’s not too nice, but in general, it isn’t important. You are not able to buy a weapon with better stats, for example.

With the launch of the game, Trove also added an optional sub, called “Patron”. You get some bonuses like extra XP, higher crafting speed, 2 chaos chests per day. Again, none of that is needed to play and succeed in Trove.

You can earn up to 500 cubits on weekdays and 1000 cubits on Saturdays and Sundays. This means that in a week, you can earn a maximum of 3500 cubits. Cubits cannot be traded with other players. So, by paying with real money, you can buy some things immediately that are time-gated otherwise. So yeah, there are items and things you can buy faster with credits than with cubits or by playing the game and then there are cosmetic items that are exclusive to the shop. Decide for yourself if that fits your definition of “pay to win” or not. I personally say it’s not.

How can I help with the development of the game?

Now we get to the part where I think Trove really stands out! They are a small development team and for that, they do bring us new content and additions to the game quite fast. However, the community certainly helps out a lot! Players can create dungeons, item skins, mounts and costumes. They also said that if your mount or costume gets added to the game, you receive 10k credits and 300 codes of said item to give away as you please. You’ll also get credited in the game. Your username gets added to the item’s tooltip, so everybody knows this is your design.

 Now that we’ve covered all of that: My opinion of the game in a nutshell

I really enjoy the game, but it could not be my “one and only game”. There is no PvP yet, for example. Thankfully, they already announced that they are working on giving us some fun PvP. It would not really fit into the game if they made it “serious”, so I’m looking forward to what they will bring us. For me, it’s not that I need PvP to enjoy a game, but I need PvP from time to time in general. Without it, I simply play another game when I feel like doing PvP. There are also no quests or storylines in the game. So, if you can’t live without this or “serious” PvP, then this game may not be for you. But I really like hunting for good items (stat-wise or because of the look), Diablo-style, from time to time. I also really love building stuff. And I love the look of the game!

In short, it’s a fun game that I’ve already spent playing for countless hours. I don’t really have any big goals in there other than getting all classes to max level and finding nice gear for them (okay, mostly good looks!) and making my cornerstone look nice.

Trove CollectionsOne thing I do not like is the user interface. Trying to find a skin I want to equip takes an awfully long time. They are sorted by where you find the skin. But this means that if you want to look for a nice staff skin, you have to go through all the different lists and it just takes a long time. I would also love to be able to choose “favourites” for easier access. The same goes for the other tabs like allies, mounts and so on. I will not talk about the text chat in Trove, because that one is still bad and Trion knows this. They are working on making chat better.

In closing, I really enjoy the game and like playing it a lot. I do hope that the shop stays as it is and that they won’t overdo it: Mostly fun items, but the vast majority of cool-looking items are still coming from playing the game and not from opening my wallet. I understand that a company wants me to want to buy something and they need the money to survive, of course. But there’s some balance that should be kept where you can get fun stuff for free and fun stuff for money. I like hunting after things I want instead of simply buying them and I really enjoy the creative possibilities that this game is giving its players. It is not a game I could spend daily for several hours every day (unless that time is spent building in my club world or my cornerstone), because adventuring can get repetitive. But for me, it’s a perfect game to play for a bit after work.