The Therian Saga is very reminiscent of Ye Olden MUDs, where games were slow and a great deal of careful planning was required in order to progress. The world is huge, there’s a lot of exploring that needs to be done, and the longer I play the more I find myself wondering exactly how large and complex this game is because there doesn’t seem to be an end – and currently there is only one zone in the game.
It has a delightful sense of humor, with the first few moments having you ill with food poisoning and wondering if it’s bad luck to drown scribes. “…you’ve had it up to here with the scribe who insists on writing your every move down on his parchment. Is it bad luck to throw a scholar into the sea? Another thing you don’t know.”
Once the intro blurb is finished, you’re launched into character generation. There’s not a whole lot to say about it. It’s pretty standard for a browser game; you choose hairstyles and faces, and have a choice of colors for hair, skin and makeup (men get facial hair). There seemed to be between 4-8 choices per selection bar, although I didn’t stop to count them all.
I was busy being disappointed by the lack of hair color options, the lack of pink and purple in particular, when it moved me on to the next stage of character generation – place of origin. There are 6 origins to choose, each one boosts skills in the corresponding environment. There’s no way to know what your origin does for your character, from from poking around I’m of the opinion that you gain skills in exactly what would make sense from the origin description. The big city origin gives a skill in urban environments, the forest grants knowledge of forests, and so on with each. Once origin is chosen you are given a choice between 6 trades. Unlike the origin, clicking the trades will pop up a window that tells you precisely what skills go along with your choice so you can look at all of them and decide.
The UI is clean, has most of the info needed in plain view, and everything else easily accessible with clicks and mouseovers. It starts out rather large for the screen, but there are scaling buttons that allow you to shrink or enlarge it as needed.
The first thing that hit me was the energy bar. My initial response was to flinch back in fear as I do not like games that limit you in this way – however I soon learned that making your character sleep will recover energy, and there are player crafted potions that will recover it as well. That worry calmed, I was able to get back to admiring the UI.
Overall, I give the UI good marks for visuals. As I mentioned above, for most of my gameplay, everything that I need to see is right in plain view when I need it to be. It’s easy to get to information that isn’t actively visible, and the UI is very responsive so I am never waiting on it. I really hate waiting on a UI.
My one complaint is that there doesn’t seen to be a way to move different parts of it around. When I open my character information and my bags, the bag sticks to the left of the character screen, and I would like to move it to the bottom. I’d also like to move place information away from the top left and resize windows, but so far as I can tell everything is coded to its location and all I can do is scale the entire thing. I wonder if there will be options for player modding it? But until then, I’m stuck with the placements and ratios the designers have chosen.
I’ll say this straight out – if you want fast action, then this game is not for you as it provides a comparable amount of action to a game of chess. I love chess. I love the strategy of it. I love the possibilities and the planning. I suck at it, but I thrive on the struggle to improve and succeed. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then read on…
The first thing I saw when I logged in was a joke about a moderator clicking ban on someone and then having to wait 2 hours before the action was complete. And while 2 hours for one action is on the high side, it’s not too terribly off for extended activities. They highlight asynchronous gameplay as one of its core features – this game is designed for people with only brief moments to play. I find myself logging in, chatting a bit, queuing up several hours of actions, then wandering off to do other things. Like write this. :)
Lest I give you the impression that the entire game is played afk, let me hasten to add that there are dungeons for lengthier periods of time to play. Quests or exploration will reveal dungeon locations, you can find them, wander in, and fight to your heart’s content. Grouping isn’t in yet, but with companions and pets to recruit, you can form your own group and head on in to fray.
Or in my case case, head on in to get my ass kicked. The first dungeon on newbie island is a cakewalk. I breezed in, breezed out, and accomplished my objectives with nary a scratch to show for it. I didn’t even make it through the first fight in the second dungeon before I was sent back to camp in a mutilated mess. I did get a good giggle when I saw that my status was literally ‘mutilated.’ That would be my main complaint, actually; this game does not prepare you for the ramp in difficulty that happens between newbie island and mainland – it goes from skipping down the park eating cake to a curbstomp. Don’t get me wrong, I like tough, but I also like just a little bit of warning so I know that I need to prepare and plan, and the newbie island does not teach you that planning is important.
I’ll take a moment to sidenote that for people looking to be social, there are plenty of opportunities to interact with other players, and the community thus far is absolutely fabulous.
But back to basic gameplay before more commentary.
You begin the game on an island, quarantined after a lengthy trip at sea. The tutorial missions are focused around getting a potion that cures diseases, so you won’t bring strange illnesses to the people of Hawkoria. First you’re taught how to find work, which can generally be done at docks and inns in town, then you slowly make your way across the tiny starting island in search of the mushroom you need to make your potion. There are side quests along the way, teaching how to learn skills, explore the land and craft. Combat is turn based strategy, with outcomes based on skill, decisions, and gear. I am assuming from the danger rankings when traveling that random combat in unsafe areas is a possibility, but thus far the only fighting I’ve seen has been in dungeons; so if you just want to peacefully explore and craft that seems entirely possible. For players who love matching wits against each other there is a PvP arena, although I have yet to give it a try.
Money is tight in this game, so I would recommend taking the time to do every quest you can. Also, if you’re not rushing through the newbie island in one go, repeat the working at the docks job as often as you can.
My incompetent self is down to 2coppers. Yup, 2cp. I can’t even afford the fees to put something on the auction house to try and make money. I know that there are people earning cash – but I am not one of them. Did I mention that I’m incompetent when it comes to planning? :)
Which leads me to the next stage, professions. Remember back in character generation I said there were 6 to choose?
Those 6 choices have a huge impact on your early game play, so be sure to take the time to look at each of them and pick the one that sounds the most fun. Hunters and tamers will be spending vast amounts of time killing animals and selling their parts (or feeding said parts to animals in the hopes of taming them), herbalists will be picking flowers and making potions or cultivating plants for weavers to turn into clothing.. well, you get the point. That is how you’ll be making the bulk of your money in the early game, so choose wisely!
Or make alts. Lots of alts. There is no rule against making multiple accounts, and most people seem to have 2 or 3 if not more.
Actually, crafting in this game is complex enough that I could probably write an entire article on it. I love it.
Both of these pictures above illustrate something of what crafting is like. You go to the crafting station, and it displays all of the recipes that you know. When you select one, you’re presented with a series of dropdown menus. I particularly like the fact that I don’t have to learn a million variations on, say, swords, I just learn one and the final result depends upon the materials that I use to craft it. The traits and the qualities of the selected materials impacts the traits and qualities of the final product. I don’t actually have all of the parts needed to make the spear (I’ve been spending most of my time prospecting and casting ingots), but if I had, on the right you’d see the final item that would result if I began the craft.
Everything is a balancing act when it comes to crafting – the better qualities my materials, the better quality the final item, but the more skill is required to make it. So far as I can tell, recipes never become worthless, because as you explore and gain access to higher skills and materials, you simply use them in place of the cheaper, more common stuff. The same goes for learning recipes themselves – do I buy the recipe when I see it or wait in the hoes of discovering it while making another item? I’ve discovered recipes while working and have seen other people doing so as well. I’m left wondering if there are recipes that are only obtained in this way…
But Wait, There’s More…
This is unfortunately getting quite long, so I will have to go into further detail on the economy, socializing, the cash shop and other extraneous bits on another page. Keep your eyes peeled for that! I’ll simply close by saying that this game looks to be thoroughly, delightfully complex, and I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for something to keep them occupied when frequent afks are needed. Like, say, a long day at work? There’s things to do when you’re active and present, and the queue up system allows you to continue playing even when you’re unable to be logged in.
If you don’t want to wait for the next part of my preview, you can check out the game itself.