…there are gnome and halfling vendors in tiny, little tents. As an ogre I feel like the need to crouch to be able to see them and speak with them. It feels like a city that is giving home to many different races and each one of the dwellers is involved into something. It again reminds me the “City of Doors”. The melting pot of races and stories. You can go speak with the oddest NPCs. There are millions of quests and stories and there are also dialogues that you can hear that aren’t just attached to functional quests. There are bells you can ring near the docks to travel quickly between the zones and you can find trap doors that lead to the sewers that again can work as a transition from zone to zone and have odd, steampunk machineries that seem to have no coherent use (I hope they have one and that i’ll be able to discover it during my journey). These are all “hints” of a whole different approach to the genre and an attempt to create a richer virtual world.
Again I feel immersed. That immersion that is too often dismissed and overlooked. I love how the slums in Freeport are made with tiny alleys and passages and an overall dirty, worn look. There are odd writings everywhere on the walls, like magic formulas or graffiti. I went looking to join a crafting guild to dig out that part of the game and I noticed a cat stretching in the nearby corner. It got my attention because he was named Mr. Buttons instead of the generic “a cat”. I thought maybe it had a dialogue or something, so I right clicked on it to see if it had some options available and while doing this I saw him suddenly shifting as if he was pointing something. I turned around and I saw that there was in fact a rat just near the corner. I thought it was just a coincidence but then, after a few more seconds, this cat zooms past the corner and begins to chase the fleeing rat all around the place. I found this funny and I followed the cat around. The movements/animations are always a bit jerky but it was fun seeing the two running like crazy all over the place. Just as I was ready to go back to my chores I see the cat passing near a dog and the dog starting to chase the cat! Not long after that episode and I pass again by the same place and I see the “chef” chasing a small, black pig that was quietly waggling about just a minute before: “Here little piglet, I have piggy treats…”
Are these little things that enhance the immersion and move the game slightly away from the sole obsession of exp points, levels and mobs to kill. The NPCs have many emotes and even if they usually still just stand around doing nothing as in other games, they also use those emote animations during the dialogues. This helps to give them some more life. I have to say that, contrarily to my previous comments, the voices can help a lot. They give each NPC more variance and more personality. Again all these are little steps to to improve the immersion. You can run around and have them call you out. It feels more like a believable place than just the artificiality of strictly functional purposes.
I still need to figure out this crafting thing. I totally forgot about getting the quest on the newbie island so I’m a bit at loss. The NPCs do a very poor work at explaining you what you are supposed to do. I understood I need to have access to workshops but they ask me to join their “society” without giving me elements to understand how I’m supposed to make this choice or what are the alternatives. After you join one you have access to a location where there are crafting tools and you get some sort of beginner quest that tells you to gather some materials. But again there’s little to no guidance and, as a brand new player with zero experience, I have no clue what I’m looking forward to accomplish that duty. Some work to streamline the approach would be appreciated.
Just a little remark on the zone design of Freeport: I wish it had the z-axis more developed instead of feeling too “horizontal” and flat. I guess it would make the performance of the game even worst but it’s still something I think would improve significantly the feeling of a big, complex town.
Not a game, but a journey. It isn’t perfect and still far, far away from that goal. But the little differences and qualities it is offering me are unique.