February 4th was the launch day for Earthrise, but already a few days ahead it was possible to buy and download the game client. This worked quite well, smooth downloade followed by a patch later.
Come launch day, not everything went so smooth. My game key activated, but my special item key for buying before launch day did not activate. Looking at the forums, there seem to be a fair amount of people that had trouble with their keys and Earthrise support.
On to the game itself. Character creation is kind of ok, nothing spectacular, but enough so that not everyone looks alike – although with all the equipment added one does not see that much of the different characters… And the portrait in the character view on the screen does not look at all like the character itself, I guess there is just a generic picture there now.
At start the character is woken up in a facility (re-vesseled). There are some initial mission steps to get some armor equipped and then time to teleport out into the world. The character start on what seems to be an isolated island (seems to be a common theme for newbie zones in MMOs) and there are a couple of missions to get familiar with the different weapon types available.
The world itself looks very nice, some great views. I also like the somewhat minimal user interface. There are two modes a character can be in – exploration mode and battle mode. In exploration mode it looks like in the picture above, but in battle mode a hotbar appears as well in the lower middle. Initially the battle mode/exploration mode switching felt a bit awkward, especially combined with switching view modes as well. But after a while it worked out better.
Mission NPCs use the familiar ? and ! above their heads to indicate mission availability. Unfortunately this does not quite map to the minimap, where there is only a ? to indicate a mission NPC, regardless of if the NPC had a mission to provide or accepted the outcome of a mission. Combined with somewhat less than stellar mission descriptions it was sometimes not quite clear if one should go back to an NPC after a completed mission, or go to a new one. One mission NPC seemed to be a bit elusive and I guess that Hassan might become the Mankirk’s wife of Earthrise.
The first part of the training is a bit long, since one has to run through a number of different areas, one area for each weapon type. However, the surroundings looks nice, so I was not too bothered by that. However, if I create another character I suspect I will pretty much just run through things.
After the initial basic training one is transported to a different area on the island where one get a choice to join one of the two major factions, Continoma or Noir. However, you are not forced to make a choice and can decide to just ignore that part and continue as neutral.
Each faction seem to have a few missions at this point where they can fight NPCs of the opposing faction. The missions are just simple “go kill N of X” pretty much. There is not so much guidance where to find the NPCs to fight, but after a bit of search it becomes clear where to find them.
The initial combat experience here was quite horrible to be honest, much because of the very choppy performace – characters warping around here and there, difficult to get good feedback and unresponsive commands. This is the major problem with the game at this point – at times it was bad enough to be completely unplayable and at other times a bit frustrating/annoying.
There are other areas that certainly are a bit rough as well, but the performance issue overshadows them all. This is something Masthead need to fix/improve before the initial month, otherwise a lot of people are going to leave the game.
After searching for one of the NPCs to turn in a mission to for a while (Hassan..) I decided to just go on – the missions are not really that exiciting and did not seem to bring any important things. So instead I headed off from the newbie island.
In the first outpost there are some general facilities – bank, auction house/market, vendor, crafting stations and some mission NPCs. Again, the missions were pretty much just “go and kill N of X” and gave a little bit of battle points (one type of XP essentially) and some cash.
Skills are obtained by buying them. These can be bought using the battle points, crafting points (from crafting obviously) or through cash. One will get battle points when fighting mobs (not players), but cash only seem to come from missions, selling stuff on the market – or by killing other player characters.
Despite the horrible performance issues and that the servers seemed to be in a yo-yo mode for a while (up and down) during the weekend, I still found myself to log in a number of times and still wanting to play more. I think this is very much the explorer part of me – the world itself raises my curiosity and it does have that new-MMO smell, even though it has a number of problems.
The game has problems right now, so at this point it is not a game I would recommend to jump into now. Hopefully it can improve though – there is still potential there I think.