By Alec Meer on July 1st, 2011 at 2:30 pm.
Sometimes, a game comes along that’s the absolute last bloody thing you need right now. There are many things I need right now: time, a haircut, lunch, the extension of about 48 deadlines, someone to do my shopping for me, a cat that can empty its own litter tray, a keyboard that doesn’t give me an RSI, a teleporter, and even more time.
There is but one thing I don’t need right now: a horribly compulsive action-RPG MMO that tickles just about every lizard-part of my brain. I want I want I want I want. I want to level up, I want a better bow, I want to get to the bigger monsters, I want to show that cocking Mad God Oryx just who’s boss. (The boss is me. Or at least it will be. One day. Soon. Yes, Oryx. Soon.)
It’s everything I hate about action RPGs. It’s everything I love about action RPGs. It’s everything I hate about browser games. It’s everything I… oh, you get the picture.
I log on, I pick (or continue with) a character picked from a small roster of class archetypes, more of which are unlocked as I progress with the others, I get out there, I wander around a huge pixel-art 2D landscape and I hold down the left-mouse button. It’s Diablo as a twin-stick shooter, able to creep towards bullet-hell while being absolutely, resolutely shackled to loot’n’xp hunger. I could probably play it forever. I really do not need this right now.
We’ve written about it before, but in fairly cursory fashion each time. Guess Jim and Quintin aren’t as weak-minded as I.
I DON’T NEED THIS YOU BASTARDS.
It’s the compulsive core of action RPGs like Torchlight ripped out, everything even tangential shorn off and then the evil, glinting heart of obsessive reward-desire dropped into a new context: the most selfish, least social MMO you’ve ever played. ROTMG is full of other players, some of which seem to be constantly but briefly and cryptically communicating on the general chat channel but most of which are just charging towards the nearest ‘quest’ (actually just one of the constantly-spawning minibosses) as fast as possible, holding down the left mouse button to spam fire at any monsters they encounter on the way and trying to grab any tasty loot that drops before anyone else gets there. Other players, especially later in the game’s cycle, are helpful – even vital. When my character’s just a wee bairn, though, I don’t want anyone else to come anywhere near me. I want to kill all these monsters. I want all the loot. I want the experience. I want I want I want I want I want.
Which is, of course, always why I eventually die. This is a game with perma-death, built upon roguelike values but tossing them into something that is absolutely, gloriously moronic. If Dungeon Siege III had been this… well, I don’t know what I’d have said about it, or thought about it. RoTMG makes perfect sense. It’s honest like no other action-RPG is: it doesn’t pretend the reason we’re playing it is anything other than the reason we’re playing it.
That reason is:
Me. The things: give them to me.
The experience points: give them to me.
Give it all to me.
Back to perma-death: this is the game’s single greatest feature. I’m caught in a delicate balancing act of trying to collect loot for my own character, along with carrying around a few trinkets for another class I can play later. Now, I could go and deposit them into my cross-character vault, but a) that means an interruption of the action/compulsion and b) doing so will lose my current geographical position. That doesn’t really mean much. Nothing, in fact – if I’m quick enough, I can wander back to my server and click on another player near where I left off to teleport to them. But it seems to matter. So I don’t do it, and instead I carry around impossibly precious weapons, spells and armour for other classes and… You know. You know full what bloody happens. Dead.
It’s bad enough to die in a game like this – you lose your progress. But now you also lose the helping hands that surely, surely would have meant your next character would be the character. And, of course, the next player to stumble across your grave can help themselves to all your goodies.
Death doesn’t stop me, of course. Straight back in. This time. And dying does involve cashing out to some extent – if your class made it to a high enough level, it might have unlocked a new class, like rogue or necromancer. It also earns you Honour, the amount of which varies depending on the level and accomplishments reached by the time of your death. This can be spent in the in-game store on…
Ah, the in-game store. Yes, there are microtransactions. Much of what’s in there can be bought with Honour, but if you want the big and exciting stuff, like a wolf-pet, you’ll have to buy some gold. I haven’t done that yet. I think I will soon.
Do you hear me, you bastards? I think I will.
They got me. The fuckers finally got me.
I am not a micro-transactor. I’ve done it a few times, but only in the name of a review. This time, it seems to make sense. I want to tip the odds in my favour, I want a shortcut to being able to battle the bigger, weirder, more loot-tastic creatures that appear towards the end of a session.
But most of all I want the additional storage space for saved loot. I want an armoury full of all the great stuff I’ve found but otherwise have to discard, either through death or lack of space.
And then, when I have done this, when I closed my eyes, prayed for forgiveness and finally placed my lips around the dread phallus that is microtransaction, then I will be the ready to fight the Mad God himself.
Oryx. He only arises when enough of his minions have been defeated by the server’s players. He sends snakes and pirates and goblins at first, but soon darker horrors appear. Liches, Dwarf Kings, poison-spitting cubes, fire-spewing elementals, Ents, demons, Cthulhian squidmen…
That’s always where I die, when his real guards start to appear. Last a bit longer, make it through these minor gods and I, together with everyone else on the server, will be summoned to his lair, to fight him. To do the same damn thing I’ve been doing all along, but with more compulsion, more selfishness, more purpose attached.
And oh, the loot I might get. The honour. The loot. The honour. The loot.
I’m new at this, Oryx. But I’m coming for you.
And yet… I must never play this game again. It’s the only sane thing to do.