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SummaryU mad, bro?
The GoodAfter No More Heroes on the Wii took a solid four days to be delivered and only lasted ten minutes (without containing any side-quests or end-game content), I felt kind of sad. I was out of money, I had no desire to replay anything at the time and there was nothing left in my library that I still had to play/review. That was when I saw a splashscreen on the Steam Store promoting a free game... Whatever, it's not like I have anything else to do. Without further delay: I give you Realm of the Mad God!
The gameplay is a combination between a very basic MMORPG and a bullet-hell shooter. You are a fantasy character with one ranged attack and a power-attack that drains energy and you gain levels by killing monsters. As you progress however the monsters fire more projectiles that do more damage and go faster and you will have to master the art of dodging. The game is very simple and this makes it very entertaining to play, also the fact that you only have to pay a little attention to your gear makes it more accessible for new and younger players.
Because the game is simple and enjoyable, it also has a lot of replay value and thank god for that. The rule in this game is as follows: If you die, you need to make a new character. This means that one mistake will have you starting over. Unlike a game like Diablo though, it is unlikely you will grow attached to your character and the complete lack of story also means you don't lose that much. The game only goes till level twenty too and thanks to a great difficulty curve, you won't be spending more than five minutes killing bandits and will be back on your quests to kill dragons in a maximum of ten minutes. You can return to killing gods in maybe half an hour of playing.
At first the game looks downright hilarious, it is already very pixelated to begin with and looks like it could have been played on the Commodore 64. The game also contains maybe fifty sprites and most of them only have a walk-animation and nothing else, meaning that you get the Minecraft-effect where every new player's reaction is "What the heck am I looking at". However, I quickly found this "style" to become somewhat charming, it fits the simple gameplay very well and the world is randomly generated, which is very cool.
I also like it that any player that happens to be close by automatically joins your party and every kill either one of you makes goes to both of you. Notice I said "goes to" and not "Is divided between", there is no penalty for killing monsters with more people. This results in a very lovely tradition in this game called "the trains", an act in which people walk the roads in a server and simply blast away to the sides and gaining dozens of experience every second. It promoted social interaction between players and makes it that much easier to get back to where you were after dying.
There are also quite a few classes to play as and while they differ very little in terms of damage, each one has their own power attacks and range. A mage for example has a very long range and uses an explosion as a power attack. The warrior on the other hand has more armor and health to compensate for his shorter range and his power attack gives all nearby players more speed (movement and attack). You also need to do quite a lot of work before you can unlock some of the later classes, so the game can still provide you with new gameplay after even 30 hours of playing it.
The BadWhenever I died, my first thoughts weren't "Damn it, I need to start leveling all over again" (as I said before, this is not much of a problem), but "Damn it, now I need to get all the items again". Every weapon and armor drops randomly from enemies, meaning that you can get a constant streak of items or none for what seems like an eternity. It also doesn't help that every class has its own weapons and sometimes even armor, so 95% of what I loot is useless. I sometimes found myself at level ten and still using my starting weapon and having no armor or ring at all.
Enemy placement can also be a huge pain, mainly because it is entirely random and some of the respawn times are insane. While the script makes sure level 1 players won't spawn anywhere near gods, it is still fairly possible to casually walk through the forest and be assaulted by over hundreds of enemies. This is made worse by the fact that most of the time these come from a "king" of their race that constantly spawns more, so picking them off is nearly impossible. There were also times when entire groups of level twenty players got wiped out because a whole group of monsters respawned in the middle of a battle with some insanely powerful monster.
Looting can be a very painful process because of this. Unlike the party system where everything close-by is added to your party, you will have to stand on a bag to see what items are inside and then use the mouse to drag everything you want into the inventory. Since the mouse is used for both aiming and shooting, this leaves you open to enemy fire and especially later on in the game, it becomes near impossible to actually kill everything before looting (respawn times, spawners and hidden enemies). This often resulted in party-members looting everything without checking what's inside, so I have seen warriors walk off with a powerful staff I really wanted (there is no in-game economy, so they can't sell it or anything).
I am also not quite fond of the inventory screen. You got a four slots for your equipment, weapons and ring and eight for whatever you may need. This means you can only take eight items into battle with you, most of which will be potions which you desperately need when you start fighting tougher monsters. Because of drop-rates you really want to stock up on a lot of these as early as the game allows, but with only eight slots, I always found myself running out and having to farm myself silly in the bandit camps again.
The Bottom LineRealm of the Mad God is a surprisingly good game and I enjoyed it more than I assumed I would, it even spread through my class and now my friends are playing too. The simple RPG-elements give the game some sense of depth, while remaining accessible and the bullet-hell shooter part also delivers very well and makes for exciting gameplay. Overall it's just really well designed and having to create a new character upon death gave me incentive to be really careful while playing, without making me want to stop playing once I do have to restart.
If you are a fan of bullet-hell shooters than definitely check this out. For people who want something very simple to play for a while and want entertainment that will keep them busy for a long time, this is also a definite recommendation. However, if you are fresh from Knights of the Old Republic and demand another well-written epic with choices, morality meters and a lot of statistics... you might want to look further. One way or another, I am going back to my level six Necromancer now. I want to see if I can join up with a train!