While playing Urban Dead today, I stumbled on an advertisement for a classical-nautical MMORPG... I'm a sucker for that sort of thing. And looking into it, Voyage Century Online was FREE to play! This both encouraged me AND set off warning bells... as my recent experience with Space Cowboy Online reminded me you usually get what you pay for. Nevertheless, I entered their open beta and downloaded the client, a svelte 1gb zipped up.
After a little effort, I got the game installed and created a character, who I named Blackjack_LeGatt, since underscores seemed to be allowed while spaces were not.
However, upon entering the game, I found to my consternation that the vast majority of the text of this game is much, much too tiny to be legible. Add to this that the resolution of the game is uncompromisingly 1024x768, and, well, there wasn't a whole lot I could read.
Fortunately, the controls were pretty easy to learn... left click to do something, right click to go somewhere, camera controls were a little clunky but a far cry better than, say, Neverwinter Nights.
So, after managing to decipher a little text, I set about on a newbie quest to build myself a small boat.
It took me a good 15 minutes to find the stupid boat builder guy, who was all of 10 yards from my position.
Anyway, I eventually got it done. And, shortly thereafter, a bit of blind stumbling and a few more pages of illegible text and I had somehow joined a Pirate-hunter NPC guild, trained myself to shoot a flintlock pistol, and managed to stomp a harmless turtle to death. I also discovered that it was far more lucrative to just collect shells that were lying around on the beach than to actually kill critters for their... well, whatever it is that critters drop.
One thing I will say for the game, they're generous with tutorials and startup cash for n00bz. I had plenty to get me started, though I could only understand half of what was going on because the text was smaller than this. Oy. Smaller than that by a factor of about 3.
The models are all beautiful, incidentally, and the outfits are nice and the towns have a really immersive feel. If only I could communicate in letters more than a millimeter high.
The game appears to be rather robust, with both personal and nautical combat, adventuring, exploring, sailing, cannon-blasting, critter smushing, and tradeskills. Indeed, when I stumbled into the suburbs of Athens (yes, Greece... that's the city where I started, incidentally), I found all kinds of people going about their crafting ways, including three people chopping away at a never-falling tree. The streets were jammed with players who had set up vendor stands to sell things that other players might want, provided they can read what the hell they are.
Are you sensing that the size of the text is grating on me a little?
I noticed a few humorous glitches, like the tendency for the sun or moon to suddenly scramble across the sky like a stage actor who just realized he was supposed to be stage LEFT, not stage right.. and when that happens, all the shadows of the players and objects crane around rapidly like the heads of a Wimbledon audience.
Anyway, after an hour or so of wandering through town oogling pirate chicks in their undergarments and getting the feel for things, I decided to see what it was like out on the high seas. The process of joining the anti-pirate league or whatever seemed to provide me with a 2-masted ship, so I headed to the docks to figure out what to do from there.
A couple clicks, and I was offshore of Athens. The controls seemed easy enough, until suddenly I found myself anchored. It seemed to happen right as another ship materialized inside MY ship... he sailed off, but it took me a full 5 minutes to figure out how to get moving again.
Anyway, the sea is beautiful, and after a few little growing pains, control seems easy enough... so I sailed around looking for something to do.
I couldn't figure out much offshore of Athens (though I found a shoal where fishing could be done, had I the proper equipment)... so I sailed back IN to port, and then chose to sail directly to the "high seas"... which then zoomed me out into a quasi-corny map that reminded me a lot of FF7.
I managed to gain 2 levels in seamanship just floating there while I typed the above sentence. I continued to screw around until I was forced to return to port for provisions. Restocked, I sailed out to the high seas again, determined to find something to blast with my four tiny little cannons.
At first, it was hard to find anything, but as luck would have it I stumbled upon what appeared to be floating debris in the water. It turned out to be mostly waterlogged cargo, and some cannon balls. How I managed to find FLOATING cannonballs, I'll just let you figure out.
I finally managed to find some Crete pirates, but after exchanging one broadside, they just kept sailing... guess I wasn't very interesting. A second encounter yielded much the same result, and I was starting to wonder if I was doing something incredibly dumb. But I persevered, and managed to catch up to the ship by cutting slightly more to the wind (he was sailing directly upwind, the dummy)... a few minutes of swapping cannonfire, and he eventually sank into the briny. I wheeled around and dragged in the wreckage to find 3 pounds or tons or palettes or whatever the unit of measurement is, of Dates. And it only cost the lives of around six of my crew :P For some reason, my ship repaired itself immediately at the end of combat.
In high spirits, I sailed my way back to Athens, my hold slightly LESS empty now, with the dates I dredged from the smuggler I sank. Imagine my chuckle when the half-drenched crap I pulled from the random debris sold for around the same amount as the dates. And even put together, it didn't match the amount I spent on provisions and how much cannonshot I flung out into the Mediterranean sea. 3 minutes gathering shells on the beach seemed to clear as much profit at the end of the endeavor. Ah well, I'm sure I'm just not doing something right.
Well, all in all it has the potential to be an interesting game, especially for free. Better than SCO anyway. If only they'd do something about the TEENY TINY chat font. But what the hell... free game, right?
Rating: C. And that's the word from bandit camp...