Otherland is an ambitious MMO developed by Polish developers Drago Entertainment. Developed in the Unreal engine, Otherland boasts a lore-rich environment from the creative mind of Tad Williams, a highly acclaimed novelist. The world itself is based on a virtual reality concept and offers a variety of entirely different worlds. For example, one is based on a lively ecosystem with large insects, while another is a more traditional medieval setting. This combination and variety allows the game world to utilize plenty of sci-fi and technological elements.
Otherland’s focal point comes from the lore heavy books by Tad Williams. The game is designed in such a way that someone unfamiliar with Tad’s works will still be understand the world and be able to follow the story without it being mindlessly thrown on them. The game begins with you going through the tutorial which allows you to decide which of the four classes you’d enjoy the most. Most games don’t allow you to test a class out without actually “creating” the character, but in Otherland, you have the ability to shoot enemies and use gear for the Warror, Assasssin, Energizer and Marksman classes at any time. Once you’ve made your choice, you’re then locked-in and you move into the actual mini-lore based tutorial.
As a denizen in the virtual world, all players who purchased the Starter Edition ($19.99) will have a default character that seems like a faceless virtual automaton. Only through purchasing a more expensive edition of the game (or buying a special in-game currency for real world money) are you alter your character towards anything likable or different. This seems to be an interesting design decision by the developers, since one of the greatest aspects of any MMO is being able to like and enjoy the appearance of your character since you spend the entire game with that character. Unfortunately for me, I spent my time with an androgynous virtual metal entity with no real face, which certainly took from the experience for me. If you are willing to spend money on a more expensive version of the game, or on the in-game store, there are actually quite a few interesting options for decorating your character and having them really feel unique. Since the game has no subscription fee, it appears one of its primary revenue methods is making you pay for such lovely aesthetics such as appearance changes.
Perhaps the highlight feature of the game is its multitude of unique worlds set in different fantasy settings including Medieval, Scifi, Bugworld, etc. A lot of time definitely went into the originality of these zones, which sets them apart from the rest of the game. At later levels in the game, the player is able to acquire eDNA (a resource in the game) in order to obtain clothing and NPC’s from these different zones. The clothing is meant for your character, while the NPC’s will later be used to protect your home.
Your home is another big feature in Otherland. Every player has an instanced zone that is just for them and their home. They can plant and harvest additional resources, as well as create those NPC’s I just mentioned above. Your home can be attacked by other players, who would be able to steal some of your resources if you have any at your home. The hired NPC’s will be utilized to defend your home from these attackers while you are away. Speaking of PVP, the game reverts to an old system of “flag for PVP”. Only players who flag themselves for player vs player combat, can fight each other. At the moment the devs claim there are plans for clan vs clan and several other potential PVP modes. Remember, this game is still in early access so the devs are testing to see what works and what needs fixed, while creating additional content.
My primary concerns for the game are simply quality of life issues that are certainly just an effect of the game still being in Early Access. There are currently only four servers, one for each region the game is available in. Latency is a bit high, and there seems to be some delay when doing any sort of weapon switching, or utilizing the abilities with your weapons. Each class can utilize all the weapons in the game, which is a really cool feature. If you’re the energizer(the support class in the game), using any of those weapons on another player will heal them, unless in PvP. Each weapon has two primary abilities that can be activated after prolonged use of your weapons. Currently, those abilities don’t seem very worthwhile to initiate, since it involves increased downtime from actually outputting damage, with little additive bonus. I’ve been told by the developers that this is something they’re looking into balancing, which is certainly what you’d expect from an Early Access game.
As someone who has not read Tad William’s novels, I felt a little disconnected from the world around me at times. The game does a wonderful job in initiating you into the world and letting you know what’s going on, while also giving you a sense of urgency towards resolving conflicts and quests that arise. Perhaps it’s a shortcoming of my own, but I couldn’t get emotionally involved in the lore of the world. It felt as though I was just going through monotonous tasks. For me, I was just running the gauntlet of content and quests, without feeling any sort of immersion or care for what was happening. Someone who has read the novels might get a different sense of importance, but for me it was a bit discouraging.
The game is going to need a thick layer of polish before it can stand with some of the other current and recent MMO releases. Hopefully its time in Early Access will prove that it can get those updates it needs in order to make it an MMO that can stand strong on its own and make Otherland a nice addition to the quality MMORPG’s on the market. The potential is certainly there. Currently priced at $19.99 for the base starter edition on steam, I think the game offers plenty of content for the affordable price. The visuals in the game are on-par with a current-release MMORPG’s and even the audio and voice over work is quality at times. In its current release, it’s not a game that I can see myself spending much of my free time with, but it was a worthwhile ride while I was playing it. If you’ve read the novels the world is based on, I’d recommend checking it out, even in its current Early Access. If you haven’t, you might not find enough to like about the game, as compared to some of the other MMORPG contenders, but there are certainly worse options as well.