Imagine that you’ve been wandering the World Wide Web for hours and you stumble upon a Renaissance Festival in your browser. Knights in shining armor, gleeful and gamboling flute music with lutes, grassy fields, cartoon medieval villagers beset by all manner of wolves and boars… You just might have stumbled into Mad Otter Games’s A Mystical Land, published by Neonga AG…
This free-to-play, browser-based MMORPG lived up to every fantasy trope ever envisioned by genre authors since Tolkien but it does it with a particular humorous style that tops off it’s cartoonish 3D rendering. Blue skies, green textured grass, greet you and a fairly wide variety of NPCs to chat with—and often a screen littered with 2D message pop-ups as people speak or your mouse wanders over a trigger point.
It displays a lot like a Children’s Bedtime book and spins stories of similar quality. This really isn’t a turn off, but it will probably provide a view of what demographic this game will attract.
Gameplay: Point and Click with RPG elements
The game runs like a highly simplified form of the standard fantasy MMORPG that World of Warcraft and it’s ilk has succeeded in flooding the marketplace with. It doesn’t stray very far from the tried-and-true point-and-click nature of those games. You can move about the world using the WASD keys, the arrow keys, or click-to-move with the mouse. Interaction with objects also happens with a mouse-click—and there’s usually some sort of context bubble when you mouse over things.
If it shows a talk-bubble that means you’ll be speaking to the person; in some cases a different cartoon-like glyph will appear such as shears if a sheep needs shearing, or a pick if you can gather ore from a vein. Clicking on the object once the context symbol appears activates an action if it can.
Other objects might pop up a thought-bubble explaining what they want: sheep might want an apple, a wounded solider might want a class of soothing apple juice. If you have the item in your inventory, you can grab it from your backpack and drag it over the target to use it.
Quests are delivered from the usual route with exclamation points (!) appearing over quest givers and the game is kind enough to put red X marks in your map to show you where to go if you get lost.
No monsters seem to be aggressive at all; at least I didn’t press on far enough to find any. They respawn pretty much infinitely—something the citizens may complain about—and combat initiates only when you want it to. It works very similarly to any other MMORPG where you chose attacks from a skill bar and wait for them to refresh.
Graphics: Primitive 3D but extremely suitable for a browser
The first thing about this game you’ll notice is that the renderer runs extremely clean. I had absolutely no trouble with the visualizations and it does spend a lot of time clipping and cheating polygons to make it run as quickly as possible. This leads to a shadow- and shade-less world that looks like it might have jumped out of early 90s animation. However, it does mean that the graphics engine doesn’t skip, stutter, or otherwise ruin your experience.
Everything in the game has very defined edges, you generally know precisely what you’re looking at and it’s not difficult to select things.
The cartoon-nature of the game lends itself well to the swords and sorcery fantasy genre that it plays on. Especially when you start talking to people and they have silly, yet down-to-earth problems that may involve wolves eating their sheep, rats overwhelming the castle, or just want some apple juice. It is a little bit difficult to get to care about them because it pushes you along pretty quickly. They’re still reasonably distinct.
As is your own character. As you progress you’ll upgrade your armor, weapon, and look. Each time you get a new item and equip, it changes your character’s appearance. As a wizard I ended up with a cute little pointy-cap (which I believe I bought from the coin store.)
The interface itself also has a sort of pop-up Children’s Book effect, it’s hard to miss what you need to click, the NPC’s are big about “showing you” how to use the interface in case you don’t know what to do or where to go. The game does a very good job of making sure that the learning curve is as shallow as possible causing it to be as transparent as possible for getting things gone.
Sound and Music: Imagine a Renaissance Festival with an orchestra
The music seems to rotate between only two songs that sound a lot like someone fell out of an orchestra playing Peter and the Wolf. You might feel the need to turn the background music off at some point as it gets extremely repetitive. Still, initially it does set a rather delightful theme and that put me in a reasonable mood for playing the game.
There also seems to be a soft ambient sound, birds tweeting in most cases, owls hooting in the distance, and so on. Those are affected by the effects volume—which changes the other noises in the game.
Other sounds are somewhat subtle and diminished. A pling when quests get added or completed and other small sounds to warn you that things have happened. NPCs make little squeaking and huh? Noises when you interact telling you that you’ve selected one. There’s some minor combat noises as well.
Nothing special here, but the game producers did a good job of not leaving out important
Freemium: Pretty basic here as well, it appears
The store contains mostly hats and potions.
The hats run the gamut of types of armor and are restricted to class—warriors can pick up coifs, wizards can get pointy-hats, priests can get shade hats, etc. They appear to deliver some armor benefits but seem to just be aesthetic. No game rocking stuff here. Many of the items are level locked as well, so it’s possible to tell someone with enough coin who has risen to a high enough level by their wearing a particularly spiffy hat.
The potions on the other hand provide boosts that will assist gameplay. For example the Mega Experience Boost (30 crowns) provides a 50% skill gain for 30 days—this would really be nice for people who don’t have much time to play the game, as it would permit them to catch up with friends that much faster.
It’s not possible to purchase Crowns (the fiat currency de jure) so I cannot really report on the costs there yet.
The game provides a lot more than just the swords-and-sorcery MMO beat-down quests which is a good start. A great deal of attention was given to providing a simple, clean, experience. The fact that it’s played in a browser, has a small footprint, and does so with little renderer lag means that there won’t be much frustration even for people with slower running systems.
In my time in game, I wandered through numerous zones with lots of NPCs and yellow exclamation points everywhere. From every angle it clamors for your attention. Activities galore. Even in beta, this game has a lot of things to do and probably hours of game play to explore.
The Children’s Book cartoon look has its benefits especially because it provides an extremely clean-cut, easy to understand interface. The subdued sounds also means that it’s not busy or crazy and the locations are easy to navigate. This game will probably work extremely well for the gradeschool age crowd who don’t have much money to spend but have time to burn.
I also noticed that there’s the possibility of in game housing and your own garden experience. So aside from the paper doll aspect and building a character, there’s a lot of constructive and crafting activities to engage lots of different types of players.
It looks like A Mystical Land is shaping up to be a solid, generic-looking genre fantasy with a lot of hidden talent and good use of less technology to do more.
V4JCDVXUMRHJ (Verification code, ignore this. It’ll go away in due time.)