I had a quick meander around Gatheryn today. I’ll explain the “quick” part in a bit. :)
I’ve been quite excited about this game, as I am a huge steampunk fan. What I had in mind, though, was something a bit more like Myst or Riven, gorgeous environments and intriguing mechanical contraptions and flying ships. This was something a bit plainer than that.
This is Ravven, who I managed to find a quite nice sort of circus-ringleader outfit for. Everything is very customisable, but it was rather difficult to get a face that I was happy with, so she looks a bit like Pinocchio. Each time you try a different hairstyle, the avatar completely reloads, which felt a bit disconcerting.
Load times are quite long, and I experienced several crashes. The worst part, however, is the camera. I know that the Options menu isn’t usable yet, and hopefully when it is there will be settings to invert the mouse and fix the camera somehow. I simply could not move around the environment without the camera swinging up or down wildly, and I was always stuck staring into the sky or down at the top of my character’s head. I would say that this is a must-fix for me – I cannot play like this, and got quite motion-sick. (I have a hard time playing first-person shooters because I get extremely ill, and this gave me exactly the same feeling.) I lasted about fifteen minutes each time before I was so ill that I had to log off.
Some of the locations were quite nice, with a few interesting mechanical creations, labs, etc., here and there. I didn’t see any players, and the few NPCs that I saw were standing at attention, motionless. The world felt very empty and static. This feeling might change with a lot of players in the central environments.
There were some nice mini-games, some of which needed a bit more work. There was a word search puzzle, for example, that would let you highlight a word either from the left or the right, but it only counted if you did it from the left. Small things, which I’m assuming they’ll fix before launch.
I hate games where I can’t swing the camera around to look at my character. As you can see, all of these screenshots are taken from behind her. :)
I’ve read that this game uses HeroEngine, which is also being used for Star Wars: The Old Republic. This makes me very nervous for SWTOR, as Gatheryn feels very dated and clunky – I suppose it all has to do with the creative and development teams that you can afford to throw at a game. The results in Gatheryn are not impressive.
All in all, I was quite disappointed – I’d had such high hopes for this game, and what they have today is on the level of a playable demo. (There’s a term for this, which I can’t remember – when you build a rough section of the game so you can test gameplay.) Yes, it’s free-to-play, but F2P games such as Runes of Magic have raised expectations of how polished a F2P game should be. This is nowhere near as playable as Runes of Magic, and as a social area, it doesn’t even look as pretty as New Babbage.
It made me wonder if being so spoilt for beautiful games (Aion, etc.) is ruining me for quirky, lowbudget, independent games. Non-mainstream, truly innovative games will probably come from small studios with a vision – but obviously they will not have the budget or resources that a large game studiomaking AAA titles will have. Can I not look past the lack of visual eye candy to enjoy a unique world? I really hope not.
I’ll give Gatheryn another shot, probably after it is out of beta. If the camera issue is fixed, then I’d quite enjoy having a longer look around a steampunk world. I really, really wanted to like this.