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Embers Adrift

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A Review: Play Like It's 1999...(and a few suggestions)


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I began gaming back when ... well, let's just say the developers of this game likely weren't even a twinkle in their papa's eye, as the old saying goes ...

After years of playing anything that was available (there wasn't much available back in the green screen days), a client told me about EverCrack, and I haven't been able to fill the void it left in the 20 years since I stepped away from it ... until now. Embers Adrift has stolen my soul, and I don't want it back!

After I retired as an animator/artist/developer, I decided to get back into gaming. I created a lengthy Game Requirements document and went to researching. While a couple of games met my tangible requirements, nothing filled the intangible void I so badly sought, until I stumbled upon a little studio just a couple hours from my home and decided to give it a try during their first year anniversary free event.

These are my thoughts after a mere six hours of play ...

Graphics, Characters: I love the retro-style beauty of the world, as a former Art Director, it is refreshing to see a style nod to old school graphics while leaning toward a more modern look, as any AD would say, "there could be a few adjustments", but job well done, guys.

Graphics, Environment: Similar to the character graphics, as expected, the environment does an excellent overall job at creating an environment that pulls me in, which is so necessary for this genre.

Controls: I can't say I have these where I want them, but with a few more tweaks, I believe I'll be able to forget my keyboard in a few more hours, so no real complaints.

Chat: This could be a learning curve, but I currently find this to be clunky, mainly in setting a primary chat method for a tab (other than party which tends to be easily set). I'll test more and report.

Navigation: This is something that would require more thought, but in short, I would say I approve of the lack of a mini-map and location marker (something to get used to for certain), but it would be appreciated to either have a compass, even if it was merely an arrow that pointed north (like the one that points to our bag which I tend to be endlessly chasing). I absolutely love the intention of forcing us to become engrossed in our environment, but feel a small convenience could be useful. A better approach, that would not break immersion may be to always put moss (by the way, this approach isn't necessarily reliable in the real world) on the south side of trees, rocks, etc., but that might not work in all environments. I would prefer that approach more, but would need to think on how it could be implemented in a way that works for each environment. Shadows might be another way (which I haven't checked yet), which may already be in the game as I was often forced to use more natural navigation methods during my days in the Corps.
EDIT: looks like this has already been solved with the northern planetary body that never moves - cool enough for this ol'fart :)

Targeting: It would be nice if your task bar item was X'd out or something of that nature if it was out of range, etc. vs the message - that would help with sneaking and with immersion

Questing: This is a mixed bag (and I don't want to them to change their approach by adding immersion-breaking icons everywhere), which I will likely come to appreciate, but currently find it difficult to balance following quest dialogue (due to past strokes and current vision issues, I'm an extremely slow reader now) with keeping up with my group. To give an example, I spent two hours in the low-level mines with a group of hearty individuals last night, only to discover I had missed talking to the lieutenant, thus negating the entire reason to go to the mines while everyone else completed their quest, which brings me to the next topic ... community, because after two hours spent without success, I would never categorize that blast of fun as anything other than spectacular because the quest simply wasn't the point, it was the enjoyment of working together with a group of like-minded souls.

Community: This is simply the best part (as it should be) of this game, and what I've found lacking in 100% of other games in the past two decades, including WoW, ESO, etc. Without exception, everyone I encountered only added to my nostalgia, even if they had never played old school EQ. I would characterize the feel for the community (so far) as the closest to early LoTRO days, and that's a high compliment because it was just about the only thing that was outstanding in that otherwise mediocre game.

I'll continue to edit this review as I run across suggestions, issues, or praise, but I believe this is a good first impression ... it truly feels like I've stepped back into 1999! Keep up the great work guys, and next time I'm in Austin, I'll try to drop by. Until then ... 8/10 on my scale!

NOTE: I play on PC for my main gaming system, but the game literally is unplayable on my MacBook (late 2015, so not new, but not junk either) as its delay is between 4-12 seconds from keystroke and that was just in the options menu before logging in. I won't even try to log in on my MacBook.

Other Suggestions:
- Items that can go into the Gathering Bag should do so automatically (i.e., Tattered Carcass Part when crafting leather)
- When possible, break up the textures in the dungeons a bit so it’s not all one note (rocks aren’t all a single color), having done a huge volume of 3D work, I understand the related technical issues, but this could be accomplished by simply using variations on maps on different rocks that are otherwise the same
- Most suggestions are just that, but we absolutely NEED an auction mechanism, hopefully this is in the works EDIT: understanding the game better has changed my tune - now I'm more of the opinion that a bulletin/COD system would suffice (at least for now)
- Personally, I'm a fan of the darkness and need for light. That said, I believe a good compromise that won't lose the spirit is to have the torches drop to the ground when fighting/gathering, then you can auto-pick it back up after vs the odd behind the back animation - this would give light during the fight which should sooth those that don't like fighting in the dark, besides, this is more normal to how real life would be and a torch (oil burns even under water) wouldn't likely go out if on the ground (but it could start a fire :/)
- This next one is more personal, but I believe doesn't break the spirit of the game's direction ... auto-loot for gathering or when soloing, if that convenience was an option, it would greatly improve the game experience for those of us that are old(er). For example, due to my medical/injury history, I need to save my strength for combat and find it annoying that I must focus so hard on getting a hand (that barely works due to spinal cord injuries and strokes) to be used up gathering when that is half the fun to me unless I'm grouping, just a thought that I would be interested to hear other's thoughts on EDIT: After playing a couple of weeks, I understand how anything "auto" would be against the principles of the game. With this in mind, I believe a keybind option for "Loot All" would suffice just fine for when soloing, similar to Looting Greed/Need/Pass when in a group.
- Regarding my questing comments above, I believe I will run through them to keep up with the friends I have made, but as a writer, the lore truly appeals to me. With this in mind, I'll likely create another character, level him up without questing, and then go back and do the quest slowly. Unsure, but I want to enjoy them in a way that is deeper than grouping encourages when everyone else is ignoring the quest, by and large.
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- Most suggestions are just that, but we absolutely NEED an auction mechanism, hopefully this is in the works

As no spring chicken myself, a lot of what you said resonated with me. But I don't know that I can agree with this suggestion in such definitive terms.

While I agree that an auction system would alleviate pressure in the current economy, I feel that it might present an overcorrection of sorts and have unintended impacts. The dev team has a history of prioritizing immersion and community by looking for innovative, unconventional solutions to problems (e.g. planetary navigation versus a compass, role-based weight restrictions versus class-locked armor pieces). In that same vein, an auction system like we've seen in countless other MMOs doesn't feel like the right direction for a game like Embers Adrift.

Personally, I like it when a community is given the tools and resources needed to solve their own problems. With that in mind, I'd prefer to see what the incredible Embers Adrift community comes up with once the forthcoming mail system is implemented. If it included a Cash on Deliver (COD) option, we would then have the means to overcome the obstacle of needing to be in the same place at the same time with a potential trade partner. With the trade logistics out of the way, the remaining obstacle is only identifying a buyer or seller and that feels like something we can solve with existing tools.
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when a community is given the tools and resources needed to solve their own problems
@Meeks with over two weeks in-game, I must say I have changed my tune the more I came to understand the spirit of this game. I have to agree with the part that I quoted above, wholeheartedly.

My entire paradigm has changed, since joining the EA community. I have begun to dump my expectations, and accept this for what it is - something different.

With my new paradigm in mind, I would love to see something like a bulletin board where people could post what they have for sale, then we could work out the rest with the mail system, as you described. It may not be a full solution, but I believe that would give us a compromise between people wanting an offline functionality (which I am not so much in favor of now, but see the value of a bulletin board) and the spirit of the game where we all make things happen in-game.

Thank you so much for your thoughts.