Earthrise is a huge Sci-Fi MMORPG from Masthead Studios and Iceberg Interactive and it’s something I’ve wanted to get my grubby little mitts on for a while. It’s huge, sorry have I already said that? Well it is. Massive. The game world, set in a post apocalyptic future after the Third World War, is filled with expansive deserts, mountains, forests, hilly-grassy-terrains that look like Hobbiton and fantastically rendered futuristic cityscapes, I can’t stress how big this game really is. Very, very big indeed.
However, I think that’s where most of my problems started. The lag, the terrible, terrible lag. Scourge of the online gamer and universal scapegoat for embarrassing death scenes. I’d press Alt to go into combat modeand five minutes later my character drew his gun. I tried to shoot at some robots, but nothing happened except my health went down. I quickly exited the game, when I came back in I found I had died and couldn’t re-spawn as the lag was so bad. In fact, typing /Trace into the chat box, which essentially pinged the Earthrise server, revealed a line of digits that looked something like Graham’s Number. I turned the graphics down, madesure the only thing between me and the outside world was a thin gray cable, but it was still unplayable. That is, until last week. I don’t know what the Earthrise team did; perhaps they threatened the server with premature burial? Whatever it was those clever technically minded people did, it certainly worked. No more lag and a very playable game.
So, onto the game. As I said the world is rebuilding itself after the long awaited Nuclear Apocalypse. Technology has evolved to such a degree that humans can now upload themselves into a great computer information store and then download themselves into a cloned body. When they die, they pay a fee and the process starts over again, which to me, is a good way to cover over the game’s re-spawning facility. However, all is not so rosy, the ruling Government now decides who will ‘live’ and who won’t. This causes a bit of friction, as you can imagine, and a rebel faction is created called Noir who believe that the present Utopian Government is guilty of great crimes to Humanity.
This is where you come in. You are ‘born’ a soldier in the Utopian Government and an extremely configurable soldier as well. You haveapainstakingly huge range of facial offerings to choose from, hair colour, hair style etc. The list is endless, but once you finally decide on your sex, look and nose size you can stagger out of the cloning tube, then progress through a tutorial that teaches you how to move, run, jump etc. Then it’s onto combat, follow the robot guides as they lead you through the fine art of aiming a gun at something and pulling the trigger. Once you have completed the tutorial, you are then teleportedinto the great open world and from there you decide whether or not to fight for the Utopian Government or rally behind the rebels and fight for Noir. If, however, both those causes seem a bit boring, you can always decideto go it alone and just become a renegade criminal or a cool gun for hire, which sounds like a better option to me.
The first thing that really grips you is the sheer enormity of the world and the, virtually, unlimited career progression your character can play through. Writing a thousand-plus word review doesn’t really do it any justice, but if you’re familiar with MMORPG’s then you at least can appreciate the extent to which you can take your character. The amount of items available in the world is staggering, be they weapons, armour, medical supplies, tools or materials, so much so that the latter is built into a very complex, and fairly difficult to get a grip of to begin with, crafting system. Depending on the blueprints you obtain and the raw materials you can literally craft yourself any form of customisable and unique item. Again, everything about Earthrise is big, in-depth and dauntingly huge.
The combat system comes down to a basic shooter, point and press and if you’re lucky, you get to kill the other player (or bot) and have the pleasure of looting the corpse. Be warned though, the same can be done unto you. Spending two days solidgathering materials and new weapons only to be ambushed by three other players and robbed can be very disheartening. Luckily, you have the option to purchase insurance for your inventory slots. It don’t come cheap, as they say, but it sure beats having to find everything again. Unfortunately, due to Earthrise’s huge game world you can quite easily be playing for hours without ever seeing another ‘real’ person and after a while shooting rats, or giant dragon-fly things, can become very tedious and as they yield very little in the way of experience points, the levelling up and addition of skills can take forever.
The graphics are absolutely gorgeous, and in true Earthrise fashion they are big, bold and extremely detailed. The landscapes are so well drawn that you actually get the sense and feel of the post apocalyptic world you inhabit, something that doesn’t always come across too well in MMORPG’s. The character animations are okay, a bit of a letdown when looking at the scenery. Your person runs like he’s left his horse behind or has sat in something unpleasant, it’s amusing to look at but it’s functional. The music and sound effects are suitably Sci-Fi, although there were times when both decided not to do anything, then suddenly come back on again, making this poor reviewer jump. The controls are easy enough, a keyboard/mouse affair, and when the lag issue was finally resolved they responded reasonably well.
To be fair, Earthrise is a good and engaging game. It’s dynamically and organically big, the economy, the path your character takes, the outcomes of the world and the very core of the game depend entirely on you and what decisions you make. It’s you that makes Earthrise grow. Which may also become Earthrise’s undoing, perhaps it’s too big? Perhaps the game engine is doing too much, hence the bugs, the lag and the de-syncing? Let’s face it, apart from Eve, Sci-Fi MMORPG’s have had a bit of a rough time of late, some falling by the wayside and others not even getting off the ground.
The key word with Earthrise is ‘potential’, the game has bags of it and I really hope that the initial sever glitches never rear their ugly heads again and that Earthrise can fill a necessary gap in the genre. I understand, at the time of writing, that the game is offering the first month’s access for free? Iceberg Interactive are also offering a bonus, retail-exclusive, poster and map, you can buy Earthrise from their online shop: www.iceberg-shop.com/earthrise.html
I suggest giving it a go, hopefully you’ll be up and running and have no problems whatsoever. A good game came out of the box with severe glitches and bugs, but looks like it’s got its act together.
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