Monday, March 2, 2015

Uncharted Waters Online

A-huge-ship-with-square-sails-in-the-open-ocean

Developer: Koei
Release Date: October 2010 (USA/Europe)
Genre: MMORPG

One Sentence Review:
A grind fest that owns the grind and makes it interesting.

When I found this game I had just finished watching the Spice and Wolf anime. I was tired of playing MMOs and even games to an extent where all I did was kill monsters and get levels. I wanted something new. I wanted something different. I wanted capitalism! Then I found Uncharted Waters Online. I hereby deem this game to be the successor to Runescape.


Controls

Just like runescape a lot of the movement control in this game is centered around your mouse. In fact it's quite possible to play the entire thing using only your mouse, though I do find controlling the ships to be a little difficult without switching to keyboard.

This is definitely a game you could play if you're disabled and cannot use one of your hands. Or if you just want to perform lewd acts to something on another screen while you play. I'm not judging as long as you video tape it and cut me in for 30%.

Genre Mechanics

This game has a lot of grind, I mean I mentioned it already but damn! Everything in this game is grind-tastic. Now if you listen to a lot of "modern" MMO developers, this is apparently a bad thing. So why am I having so much fun while grinding?

This game is a natural successor to the old Runescape, before they made it dumb. Yes, there is grind. There is a lot of grind. But the game doesn't try and pretend there isn't or that it's bad. The game owns the grind and does its best to make it interesting. In fact it actively restricts some resources you can get to grind to make sure that you go and grind in a different way every so often. Clever design right there.

Storyline

Let me say something. I've been playing this game now since 2012. I created different characters and played with multiple backgrounds and origins. Now I'm sure this game has a story, but I couldn't tell you what it is for the life of me.

It's a little hard to describe. The story isn't badly written. I don't remember hating any of the story missions that I joined in on. The story is just there and there's not much more I can say about it. It does have a few rewards but nobody seems to play this game for the story.

Quests

This game is finally a deviation from the old unholy pentagram. The quests in this game are beautifully varied, and while you will run into your old kill and fetch quests there is generally more to these quests than just killing and fetching. You have to sail around, do some research, track your target, and then kill or fetch. Sometimes you'll run into quests that need you to get a certain quantity of an item within a certain number of days. Other times you'll need to explore a land area and use a map to search for hidden treasure. It's pretty varied.

Dialogue

Outside of people giving you quests and tutorials there isn't much in the way of dialogue in this game. What's there isn't poorly written or anything, but unfortunately a lot is lost in translation. This game originated in Japan so you'll still see notifications of someone having a bounty on their head of "player name" rather than a number. It's actually kinda funny.

A-character-in-the-city-wearing-a-cartoon-style-dress-and-jewelry

World Design

The world isn't the most richly detailed creation in the planet but it's still a very well done MMO gaming world. The cities feel like they have a bit of life to them as long as you keep moving and don't stare at a single NPC for too long. The land areas feel larger than they are and have some nice details put into them. The ocean feels vast and endless even though you know that there's an obvious end to it. There's something to be said about an exploration game that feels big.

AI and Combat

There are two types of combat in this game, land and sea. Land combat is your generic MMO style combat where you take turns whacking each other and whoever starts with the most items and the biggest number tends to win. Sea combat is a little more strategic, you have to maneuver your ship around your enemy, time your movements to the reloading of your cannons, and aim for weak points in the enemy's armor at the bow and stern.

There is also PvP combat but usually you can avoid this by avoiding hostile and lawless waters. It's generally not in your best interest to take part in PvP combat unless you're willing to spend money on the cash shop tier ships and equipment. It's fully and entirely pay to win.

Graphic Design

I've only played this game on my laptop from 2009 so I generally haven't seen the most beautiful side to it. But after looking at the prettiest pictures available on the internet... I'm still not sure I've seen the most beautiful side to it.

The characters and NPCs are somewhat cartoonish in their design while the ships are more realistic. Everything is lower resolution than even Flyff. It's all very disconnected and poor quality. This is not a game you play to look at the pretty graphics.

Sound Design

This is probably the only thing that Uncharted Waters Online takes from the original Uncharted Waters series. The music in the original, even with the constraints of that time, was downright gorgeous and this new and likely final part in the series is just as much so. There is an extensive soundtrack which changes depending on the nationality of the cities you visit and the ocean theme can keep you in a good mood for days.

Unfortunately this game still suffers from what I like to call "getting too much of a good thing" syndrome. You will eventually turn off the music and listen to a podcast like Welcome to Night Vale or something.

Final Note

This game is definitely not for everyone. The tutorial alone can take over 3 hours to complete and it's a vastly long journey to get anywhere close to the end game. The thing is, it's not really a game you're intended to give your entire focus to for long stretches of time. It's like Minecraft or SimCity in that you'll watch or listen to something else while playing it and only incidentally focus on the game.

I can't really put a price or a time scale on this game. If you like it you'll probably always return to it. There is nothing else in the same genre and nothing else in the world that is similar. If you don't like it you'll know within the first hour of play and I can't fault you for that. I don't recommend getting the Steam version though as the launcher tends to have trouble. The developers are incompetent when it comes to cross compatibility.