Wurm Online review

Richard Cobbett at

Too many dangers, however, are caused by annoyances. The biggest being lack of in-game guidance. The tutorial only covers the raw basics before kicking you out, and openly admits it’s not complete yet. This would be easier to swallow if Wurm hadn’t been released in 2006.

Luckily, the Wurm wiki is on hand to explain everything, and it’s needed: the world simulation is surprisingly deep. Players with the right stats and equipment can forage for food, prospect for ore, build ships capable of sailing between servers, tame and breed animals (which will die of old age), and call on the power of the gods for spells and other bonuses. And that’s picking just a few examples. If you want to make, say, a new hatchet, you’re looking at chopping down the tree, carving the wood into shape, then mining to find some iron ore and running it through a forge.

Needless to say, this is very time consuming, and while the results may be satisfying, the processes never are. There’s no tactility to anything, from combat to tree felling. Crafting is a matter of sitting and staring for up to a minute as timers tick down, which may or may not result in success or skill boosts of a fraction of a point.

This, more than the complexity, makes Wurm Online a seriously tough sell. To put the experience in context, ten hours into World of Warcraft – admittedly a very different MMO – I’d saved my people from certain doom several times over and begun carving a legend as one of Azeroth’s great mages. In Minecraft, I’d built a ludicrous house with en suite lava flow, and visited awesome creations on servers around the world. In Wurm Online, let’s just say there had been lots of watching Netflix on a second monitor while my clicking finger went numb.

To make the tedium worthwhile, you need to play Wurm Online with other people. Back in 2010, PC Gamer had a thriving community within the game. They scouted the world to find the perfect home, and used Google Sketchup to plan their village. They then spent weeks building together, creating communal tools and setting up a kitchen for free food. Constructing just a single, small shack in Wurm Online can take a single player a week. With friends, it’s the closest you’ll get to experiencing a barn-raising without growing a beard and renouncing technology.

Unfortunately, my own experiences with the game were the loneliest hours I’ve ever spent in an MMO. Even seeing another player was a rare treat, while the in-game /who command showed a current server population of between 60-260 and only about 1,500 playing across the entire game on a regular Saturday evening. I’ve had more social games of Myst. After a largely solitary night of grinding my digging skill, I resorted to tying together all the duvets in my house in the hope that wrapping myself in their combined weight might feel like a hug. It did not.

Part of the problem is that while there’s no shortage of things you can build and craft, there’s limited scope for creativity. In Minecraft you can make Rapture. Or Westeros. Even Loughborough. In Wurm Online, you can only really make more Wurm Online.

Wandering the map, everything looks much the same. Most projects stood out more for how long they’d obviously taken their creators to complete than for what had actually been created. The underground canal proudly announcing ‘Over 300 man hours went into this’ still feels like a dark, rocky corridor whose makers had access to a fully plumbed-in timesink.

Inevitable as these comparisons are, they’re not really fair. Wurm Online’s options may be limited, but they’re also infinitely more advanced than anything available in most other MMOs. Also, after designing and building even relatively generic creations by virtual hand from trees and lumps of iron, you’re going to appreciate them much more than if you’d simply handed over money and plonked down a prefab. You have to get to that point first, and it’s a long trip.

The result is one of those games that may as well have a line of fire drawn between players who can’t believe anyone could possibly want to play it, and those who can’t see why anyone would want to play anything else. Wurm Online may be slower than continental drift, but it has incredible scope for those players willing to embrace its opportunities. It looks like the back end of a bus, but those simple graphics conceal immense depths that are only evolving as the game continues.

For me, while it’s a very impressive game, it’s unfortunately not one I actually enjoyed or felt the desire to play for the long haul. If the basic ideas excite you, don’t be put off. It’s absolutely worth giving it a try to see if it clicks for you as much as it’ll expect you to right-click for it.

Wurm Online isn’t free-to-play, but there’s an unlimited trial generous enough to give a good feel for it before hitting the stat cap. If you dare take its mighty challenge, it’s wide open and ready to receive new residents, with a nice grassy spot already waiting for you to start building your first house.

Expect to pay: $6.71 / £4.24 per month
Release: Out now
Developer: Code Club AB
Publisher: In-house
Link: www.wurmonline.com


Verdict

68

Wurm Online is one of the most innovative MMOs around, but damn, will it make you work to appreciate that fact.

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