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Earth Eternal Preview

geoff_hunt By:
Geoff_Hunt
03/04/10
PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION
EMAIL TO A FRIEND
GENRE MMORPG 
PLAYERS 1- 999 
PUBLISHER Sparkplay Media 
DEVELOPER Sparkplay Media 
RELEASE DATE  

Eternally furry.


I have friends that think I’m a furry because I like the old Disney Robin Hood cartoon starring a fox with a bow and a fox with a conical hat. Somewhere in our cultural lexicon we have equated an appreciation for anthropomorphic characters with a love of sex in faux fur suits, much to my social detriment. Hopefully you now understand the amount of trepidation that I approach a product like Earth Eternal – a product which is primarily present mentioned on the Internet because apparently there are furries or something.

click to enlargeI guess you could say Earth Eternal has furries, in approximately the same line of logic that says all sweet tarts taste the same, or the recent Sherlock Holmes film depicts the spirit of the works of sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Nice try, Internet trolls, but you’re just wrong here. Earth Eternal’s characters resemble more the Disney interpretation than the scary Internet interpretation.

Earth Eternal features highly customizable characters from some 22 species, ranging from rabbits to badgers to birds to foxes to frogs. There was even an option to be a goat. Apart from appearance, the 22 species don’t have any distinguishing features – rabbits don’t jump higher. You have to use a random name generator while naming your character – presumably to avoid the banalities of "(0(K54U(3". Good and bad – I certainly don’t like being limited in that regard, but if it means I don’t have to see leetspeak names, I might just have to call it a wash.

There are four classes, pretty standard MMO fare in their style – Knight, Druid, Mage, Rogue. I’m sure you can guess the roles these classes fill. What makes Earth Eternal stand out some from the general MMO fare is that you can branch into the other classes as your character develops, choosing a secondary class later. This lets you come up with some amusing combinations – I happen to like the Rogue/Knight duo myself.

click to enlargeCombat mechanics have one interesting aspect that differentiate them from the MMO pack. Every character has 10 ‘Might’ and 10 ‘Will’ points – represented in color-coded bars, of course. Every ability costs some number of Might or Will points, typically in the 1 to 5 region, and your points recharge on the use of certain skills associated with your class. Likewise, every skill modifies how quickly you can recharge your Might or Will; this puts you more in the mind of a skill economy than a question of cool-down timers. It’s an interesting balance mechanism, and pulls the focus away from the timing of abilities and puts it instead of the combinations of abilities. It felt somewhat analogous to planning a combo in a CCG.

Also noteworthy is the ‘heroism’ meter. This impacts the quality and quantity of drops, as well as the amount of money you’ll pick up from felled opponents. It provides you a distinct incentive for adventuring longer, as every kill bumps your heroism up a notch. Every time you die, of course, it drops.

You can spend skill points every level toward your skills and unlock new combat abilities, though the pacing is somewhat slow. You frequently need to wait until the higher levels to improve the rank of your skills, which can put a distinct sensation of dragging gameplay. It essentially forces you to save level-ups, or spread your points across all your skills, discouraging specialization. Fortunately, you can reset your skills for free, so you can mix and match at later levels to your heart’s content, settling on the play style that best suits you.

click to enlargeThe game’s graphics look fairly good for a browser game; it’s reminiscent of 1st year PS2 graphics. Performance can be a bit of an issue, though, especially in Firefox. I didn’t know how to gauge framerate exactly, but I’d guess that my average was in the teens – not fantastic for any game, and poor for one that doesn’t compete with the current graphical standards for MMOs. I imagine the browser foundation is where much of the slow-down stems from, but it’s unpleasant to deal with all the same, especially if your desktop is getting 40 frames per second on Crysis.

Something to bear in mind here is that Earth Eternal is free to play, and will be supported with microtransactions and ad-spots. Real money for fake money transactions; so, honestly, it’s just like buying Microsoft Points. Or Cryptic Points. Hooray for Fun Bucks? There are some concerns about item exclusivity – a quick tour of the cash shop showed items that would permanently increase stats by significant amounts, with multiple equippable. Stacking up those bonuses could make for some beastly power, and the thought of eventual PvP in that environment does not appeal to my sensibilities.

Earth Eternal has a lot going for it; if you’re in the mood for a more casual MMO that can be played on most machines that can browse the internet, then Earth Eternal just might be the game you’re looking for.

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