Now that I’ve had the chance to play for a full weekend, and evaluate the cash shop and its effects on gameplay, I’m back with the second part of my Therian Saga beta preview!
I still suck just as badly, but you all know what a glutton for punishment I am so probably won’t be surprised to hear that I’m still enjoying it. I’m a little less broke now, and I’ve made a few friends who’ve been helping me out. Virtys was kind enough to provide me with a premium account, so I’ve made sure to play extensively on both free and premium accounts in order to evaluate the quality and impact of the cash shop, since I believe cash shops are a fundamental part of what can make or break a game.
This section really should have come after gameplay in my first preview, but it’s only now that I feel like I have enough of a grasp on how the game plays to fairly evaluate the importance of being powerful. Or rather, the importance of finding the path to being powerful. With a game like this, upgrading character power is more than just moving from a +5 sword to a +10 sword.
In some ways it is that simple, but first you have to figure out what your +5 sword is … So let’s take a look at character attributes.
The system is a simple value compare. If you have the required skill level, the action is completed and the result tallied. The problem, and the impetus to progress, comes from the way your skill value is determined. This final value is determined using five possible factors; character skill, companion skill, gear, location, and magic. Different weights are used with each factor. 40% of my gear, 30% of my skill, 20% of my location, 10% of my companions and 100% of any magical bonuses apply to my final score. To add to the mix, in order to gain a skill improvement, the difficulty has to fall within a range of 3 of your character’s skill.
What this means is that in order to continue gaining skill, I can’t just sit in one place and queue up an endless amount of tasks. I need to continue progressing other areas as well, because if I were to, say, stop upgrading my gear, I would eventually find myself unable to continue leveling because I couldn’t hit the target difficulty of tasks that would improve my skill.
I have often found that just 1 skill point on a companion is enough to move me past a threshold that allows me to gain more skills. It also helps to work on skills in the same disciplines – in the example I’ve displayed above, botany and horticulture are under the same discipline (flora) as herbalism, so if I were to learn botany and work on it, it would help my herbalism by raising my broad flora skill.
The system has been designed such that you’re encouraged to focus, but if you focus too narrowly you’ll eventually hit a wall and find yourself having to backtrack to improve a different skill before you can move forward again. The good news is that there are a lot of choices out there. You can skill up your exploration – or you can wear gear and have companions that focus on improving your facility with exploring.
All in all, I like it. There are a lot of areas to work on, many things to do, and I’ve even seen quite a few quests that have multiple ways to complete them – in one quest I completed earlier today, I had to convince a witch to aid me. I could have bribed her, used social skills to convince her to help, or impress her with my skills in herbalism until she viewed me as an equal and someone worth aiding.
But is it pay to win? Progress is often rendered meaningless in a cash shop game, so I always make sure to pay special attention to the way the cash shop affects gameplay when evaluating a game, and this one is no different. I’m happy to say that despite a very negative first impression, my final conclusion is that the Therian Saga cash shop is one of the better ones I’ve seen.
Much like my reaction to the energy bar, when I first took a look at it, my heart sank. There were items that definitely powered characters to a crazy degree should someone decide to spend a fortune on improvements. The big one being consumables that decrease the timers. In a game balanced around timers, this is incredibly powerful.
Or it would be, if there weren’t a limit of 3 uses per day.
What makes it even less of an issue is that players can trade blue crowns. To be more specific, each use of the Lamden Infusion reduces the timer on a current action by 1 hour. So if you use the max infusions possible, all you are gaining is 3 hours a day. Even better, the lamden infusion only costs 3 blue crowns – at the current market rate of crowns, it is entirely possible to earn enough for one or more infusions a day through skilled play – I say skilled because I can’t do it, but I have seen several people who can – so there really isn’t much of a gap between those who pay for the infusions and those who don’t.
What else is in the cash shop? Just to pull out a few examples:
- For 20 crowns, you can change your skin color, face or makeup.
- For 50, you can change your hairstyle.
- For 2, you can decrease travel time for an hour.
- For 3, you can heal all damage on yourself and your companions – but it can’t be used in dungeons.
There are also character upgrades:
- For 30, you can carry an additional weapon. Max of 3.
- For 50, you can queue an additional task or add a an additional companion to your party.
- For 20, you can add an additional satchel or carry an additional tool – both have a max of 3.
It’s worth noting that all of these upgrades are applied across the entire account. So if you buy an additional character slot for 100 crowns, any purchased upgrades increase in value as they apply to all characters.
And the even better news is that the pricing in the shop is very reasonable. 100 crowns costs $7. I was very pleasantly surprised to see that! For $55, around the cost of a new game, you can pick up a package that contains all upgrades, plus a few extra consumables. A pretty great deal, if you ask me. What makes it even better, however, in my estimation is that the game is perfectly playable without premium items. And if that weren’t enough, pricing is such that it’s reasonably reachable by players who are unwilling or unable to spend on the game and must rely on purchasing cash shop currency from other players.
Is it more convenient to use the cash shop? Yes, there’s no denying that. Cash shops are largely built around convenience, and I’d be lying if I were to try and claim that the items in this store are any different. But I have now spent time playing on both a free account and a premium one, and while I’d recommend spending at least the minimum $7 to support the game if you enjoy it, I don’t feel that you have to in order to successfully play. I play my free account just as often as I do my premium one. From what I can see, character wealth and power is determined more by player skill and planning than cash shops spends – my free character has more wealth and better gear than my premium character.
And that is something that I like saying about a cash shop game.
Therian Saga has one of the best communities I’ve ever seen in an MMO.
Community is so very important to an MMORPG, so it’s very refreshing to see the active presence of the devs. So far as I can see, at least one of them pops on every day, and they answer questions, give advice, and just generally chatter with the playerbase. As a result, the community is pretty friendly, helpful and just generally fun.
This is probably the only game that not only do I not ignore general chat, I actually participate in it! Unfortunately the game itself has minimal community support at the moment. You can add people to a friend list, whisper and create guilds. But there is no grouping yet. Community involvement is largely centered around general chat and trade.
And boy, is there a lot of trade…
There’s a lot more I could say about this game, and I am most definitely going to continue following it. As I announced on my new google plus page, I have an interview with Virtys coming up, and I’ll keep posting about updates as I hear about them. But I’m going to stop here for now before I wind up writing the Moby Dick review equivalent!
This game is not for everyone. It’s slow. It doesn’t provide you with easy answers. There are markers to hint the way, but there’s no glowing quest trail to follow, and no flashing neon signs leading you along a themepark path. If you try to blast to the end – you’ll miss out on most of the game, and likely end up vastly unpowered when compared to the players around you. If you’re unprepared, you’ll die, and getting prepared takes time and effort.
But to my mind, that’s what makes it great.
It’s perfect for people who enjoy socializing – while you can play it solo, the pacing is such that conversations aren’t left in the dust. It’s perfect for people with busy schedules, as the task queuing system allows for progression even when your attention is elsewhere. It’s perfect for people who like to take time, and want to explore a world. If you enjoyed the old MUDs and door games like the Legend of the Red Dragon, Essex MUD, or Scepter of Goth, you may well find the Therian Saga worth a look.