Earthrise Preview

Picture yourself immersed in an epic fantasy world of medieval villages, pastoral hills, and lush
forests. Now, toss that clichéd image out of your mind, because Earthrise takes the MMORPG
genre to a place seldom explored: an epic sci-fi world. Earthrise’s setting is a futuristic, post-
apocalyptic Earth–but unlike the brown and grey Post-Apocalyptias we’ve grown accustomed
to seeing, Earthrise offers a variety of environments that run the full spectrum from cratered
wastelands and jury-rigged scrap outposts to verdant Shangri-Las and far-future cityscapes.

Your high-poly character model ventures through a world crafted with both artistry and
gameplay in mind, featuring plenty of Z-axis travel; the only time you’ll cross a stretch of
flat terrain is when the geography logically requires it. With its stunning visuals and theme-
appropriate techno/metal music, Earthrise delivers a tremendous first impression.

Eye candy aside, Earthrise’s overarching plot involves the standard rebels-versus-government
device common to sci-fi, but the selling point is that there are no obvious “good guys.” Thanks
to clever writing, each faction convincingly paints the other as the villains, and the player must
decide whether he wishes to pick a side or remain neutral.

Earthrise breaks the mould of MMO race/class combinations by making the character creation
process purely aesthetic and implementing a system in which any character can learn any skill
and use any equipment. Gone is the standard RPG leveling system; instead of Experience Points
and gaining levels, characters earn Battle Points, which are used to purchase skills. A character’s
Power Rating–Earthrise’s substitute for “level”–is based on his equipment, and is unaffected by
Battle Points.

Although this classless system is a welcome simplification that renders the game more accessible
to new players, the absence of a standard leveling mechanic may take away a time-tested RPG
hallmark: the rewarding “ding” and subsequent sense of satisfaction upon gaining a level. Couple
the lack of levels with the slow rate of Battle Point acquisition and players may find themselves
killing monsters for hours with no appreciable progress made, even in the earliest stages of
gameplay. Although the game boasts over a hundred skills to choose from, most are inaccessible
until days–even weeks–have been invested into gaining Battle Points.

Running with the theme of pushing the boundaries of the MMO genre, Earthrise sports a player-
based economy. The main way to acquire items is either by crafting them yourself, or by trading
with other players. Virtually the only loot monsters drop are crafting materials, once again taking
away the RPG “reward system” of finding a shiny new sword–err, assault rifle. This raises
concerns for the casual MMO player who doesn’t want the hassle of crafting or trading and
simply clocks in for an hour after supper to whack monsters like piñatas until he gains a level.

Currently, there is no quest to introduce you to the game’s deep crafting mechanic, which can
appear daunting at first. But once you’ve leapt over the hurdle of figuring out what crafting skills
to purchase, what materials to acquire, and what crafting station to use, the crafting system can
be an attractive, versatile feature. With such a strong emphasis placed on crafting, I expected this
mechanic to be made more accessible to newcomers.

When you’re not crafting, trading, or traveling, you’re pumping enemies full of lead. With no
auto-targeting feature, combat relies more heavily on player skill than most MMORPGs, almost
capturing the feel of a third person shooter as you aim at your opponents while dodging their
gunfire. This adds greater meaning to Player-versus-Player combat–on which Earthrise places a
strong emphasis–because battles aren’t determined solely by which character is more powerful,
but on player skill, tactics, and maneuvering. Apart from within certain safe zones, any player
can open fire on any other player–and upon death, characters drop their loot, unless they paid for

This cutthroat approach to PvP, along with the death mechanic, crafting-based economy, and
long-term character advancement, suggests Earthrise is better suited for hardcore gamers and
may have difficulty reaching the casual audience. If it can pick up a strong player base with
massive guilds to war over territories and administrate the economy, Earthrise may make it
onto the short list of successful sci-fi MMOs. But in its present state, for the lone, casual gamer,
Earthrise can be a hostile, intimidating world.

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