Craft of Gods
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   I really, really wanted to like this game! I was hoping for a blend of the best MMORPG's(Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) that I have previously played: The excellent story line of "Lord of the Rings Online"(LOTRO) with the spellbinding crafting from "Everquest II"(EQ2) and the first class PvP(Player versus player) combat system of "Mount & Blade-Warband"(M&B). What I got was an "Old School" MMO with scads of quests mostly involving killing 10 rabbits or 15 wolves and other denizens, or gathering plants or resources from sparkling "nodes" spread throughout a truly massive world split up into 25 maps of various levels and factions (light and dark).

  It seems  slightly ironic to me that we sit here paying out our "Green Drinking Vouchers" each month, and using 21st century technology to participate in a hunter-gatherer lifestyle that our ancestors went to the extreme of inventing "agriculture" just to escape! But, there must be something hard-coded into our genes......Because it's very addictive! For the 10 days that I've had this game I've been drawn into it every day to fulfil quests, take on tougher and tougher opponents and level up my "ranger/beserker" specc'ed character to level 18 of the 60 levels currently available. Word has it that there are to be 100 levels eventually, so there will be little chance of "topping out" and getting bored in my lifetime! My son specc'ed an "Evil" necromancer/demonologist character....Just to supply a little "balance". One of the attractions of this game is the sheer variety of races,skills, and abilities available giving, I am reliably informed, some 210 different builds to choose among. So, the freedom to create your own character is paramount. Landscaping in the various maps I have sampled has been the usual fare for MMO's....The initial splash screen is rather WoW'ish, but the world you go on to explore varies from bucolic, pastel woodlands, stark,arid plains, to snowy wind-whipped mountains.....The snow can be blinding at first, due to the heavy "bloom" that is prevalant in this game, but there is a handy "Glow" button on the initial pull-down menu (ESC) under "Video Options" that saves alot of messing around with brightness and contrast settings.

   Somebody has spent alot of time creating and animating the creatures in "Craft of Gods". The rabbits scream horribly as they do the "funky chicken", and the little hedgehogs curl up and die soooo cutely. A good job since you will be spending an awful lot of time slaughtering more assorted animals than Fray Bentos. The humanoid combat animations are also good, when you can see them. Often "warping" compresses attacking and combat horribly despite claims that it was improved alot in the last patch. The in-game music is suitably orchestral and adds nicely to the ambience of the various locations as you explore....The opening track is very eerie with heavy drumbeats heightening your anticipation as the game and server load up. About the only grumble I had with the sounds was the continuous "grunting" from a leopard I tamed to ride around the Cold Mountain section of the map....The grunting got so intrusive at times I was tempted to take a fellow player's advice and mute the sound and put on a Lady Ga-Ga track.....Upon reflection though, the grunting seemed preferable.

   With a name like "Craft of Gods" I was hoping the crafting part of the game would be akin to the excellent crafting system in EQ2, unfortunately it seems to be rather a rushed, empty, shell geared more to mass production than any sense of craftsmanship. Now I have only made some low level potions and clothing so maybe the crafting gets more rewarding higher up the skill tree...I read lots about using spells, weather and phases of the moon to produce outstanding objects in the sales pitch. Just like the combat level of my character, 10 days and 18 levels is rather too short an acquaintance to fully appreciate an MMO,  EQ2 and LOTRO both kept me involved for two years each, learning new features and exploring the worlds. I'm sure CoG would develop and deepen in much the same way given the time. The blurb and published screenshots whet the appetite for epic boss-fights with characters from Slavic legend. All I got was the tales from the campfire storytellers. Frankly, I'd get more mythology from a children's book of Russian fairy stories. Similarly the PvP system claims to offer level-specific match-ups with rewards of Demi-God status with enhanced powers for the leader of the victorious clan. Well, I joined a clan, there are only three of us in it..not bad when server population fluctuates between 3 and 16 people at any one time! But everytime I've been into the PvP areas it's been just me and a few level 20 npc skeletons. Once again, as the server population increases and the developers get to iron out existing bugs and implement more of their plans I imagine this will come to increasingly resemble the epic battlegrounds of LOTRO and WoW.

  Should you buy "Craft of Gods"?   Well, if you have a special interest in Slavic mythology, or if you want to be in on the ground floor of a new MMO. CoG has only been out for about 2 months, and to be honest it feels more like being a beta tester than playing a finished product. You will have to contend with game and server crashes, screen freezes, especially during spells or combat, warping of opponents and occasional strange glitches in inventory and equipment. But on the positive side, the GM's and devs are working hard  to make this one fly....frequent patches and a to-do list that reflects players concerns. The learning curve is aided by the more experienced players who are helpful and eager to share their knowledge....When you share a language! I found the community small, four people when I first logged on, growing to a high of twelve, then sixteen over the 10 day period. Language split is about one third English speaking, one third German and one third Russian with the occasional Italian thrown into the mix. A few are bi or even tri-lingual, so there is usually someone around to ask for help or guidance. I would urge anyone interested to download and test drive the free trial before buying, to see if this is what you want. But honestly, if you are going to plop down your ten green drinking vouchers per month for a long term, then I think you will be better served by the more polished and populous established MMORPG's out there right now such as LOTRO and EQ2.

  So why is it still on my hard-drive, and why do I keep going back to it?  I guess it's something to do with the atavistic draw of being a bow-wielding hunter-gatherer.

Life in the big city