Wurm Online review

Richard Cobbett at

Wurm Online is a fascinating MMO, even if it’s not going to get a high score in a couple of pages. Don’t see that as damnation, because this is definitely one of those games where the red number isn’t everything.

This is a difficult MMO to join and enjoy. It’s also one of the few that dares to be its own game instead of following the usual well-trod paths. If you ‘get it’, as many have during its beta, Wurm is one of those rare games that can reshape your view of what online worlds should be doing and the freedom they can offer. If not, you’ll bounce off it, hard.

Wurm Online’s core game is about building and surviving in a player-made fantasy world, and if it looks a little dark, that’s because any game setting out to do that these days is going to be in Minecraft’s shadow. This one more than most, since Notch himself worked on it.

It’s a very different experience, however, for better and for worse. Starting with the fact that while Minecraft is essentially a squared-off sandbox in which games can be played, Wurm Online is an old-school RPG world that allows players to take charge. Alliances, politics, puppetry, religion and more are all part of the experience, as are PvE and PvP servers. You arrive with nothing, and through painstaking labour begin to build a sustainable life: creating shelter, hunting, and learning to cook. Play for long enough and you and your friends can dominate the landscape with a flourishing village. Or you can get lost in the dark and gnawed on by spiders. Your call.

Whichever server type you choose, the world you arrive in is completely player-built, and that’s impressive in itself. The very land can be terraformed, from flattening it to make space for a house to digging and paving a road across a mountain, or carving mines and underground passages. If you find a good spot with access to water and resources, and have everything you need to claim it by building a house, consider it yours for the taking.

That’s a staggering amount of freedom, and while your ability to knock the world into shape with a shovel and a saw is limited by time, stats and other restrictions, simply knowing you can do it means a lot. There’s also incredible scope for community-based play, where your ability to create high-end items is far more valuable than your ability to hit monsters, and great settlements can spring out of a few houses to impress enemies and newcomers alike.

The catch – and part of the satisfaction – is that getting to this point involves so much tooth pulling that Wurm Online practically doubles as a dental simulator. The graphics are terrible, and the interface even worse. It’s clunky to the point that a standard error message is – no joke – “Your position on the server is not updated. Please move slower.” You take injuries from stumbling down the slightest hill, and even simple wounds require crafted items to heal.

But oh, that’s just the start. Everything is against you here. Everything. For all the game’s crafting emphasis, you start off barely able to carry anything at all, and if you die, you lose your inventory unless you can find your corpse. In-game maps? Ha! You’re reliant on player-made signs to navigate, and any long journey demands that you craft your own compass. To give this its due, it all definitely adds to the feeling of being a settler in a dangerous new frontier, not just a visitor to another theme park.

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