This ambitious 'social sandbox' MMORPG is like EVE Online in medieval Europe: 'From the first minute you start playing the game, you can do everything you can imagine with other players'

A bear attacking a warrior in Pax Dei.
(Image credit: Mainframe Industries)

What level do you have to be to start raiding in your favourite MMO? 60? 100? In ambitious upcoming MMORPG Pax Dei, it's level 1. In fact, you can do anything you like at level 1.

"From the first minute you start playing the game you will be able to do everything you can imagine with other players," says Sulka Haro, co-founder and chief product officer at developer Mainframe Industries, speaking at our PC Gaming Show. "With other players" is the key part—success in Pax Dei is all about cooperation.

Haro dubs it a "social sandbox"—that means "an environment fully incentivising people to work together and putting no barriers to that interaction between them". It's a player-driven economy, similar to EVE Online—players gather all the materials, they craft all the items, and build their own homes. If you want a new set of armour, all that wood and ore will need to be collected by human hands, and someone will need to process and forge it. Community is the cornerstone of play. 

In a way, players themselves are a resource, which the developer hopes will ensure veterans are always welcoming to newbies—a level 1 character isn't a burden, they're a helpful addition to the workforce. It also means players can focus on doing whatever makes them happy—whether you want to run a whole supply chain, or just be the guy who chops lumber, you have a role and you're valuable to other players. 

Like in EVE Online, the plan is that this focus on player agency will fuel emergent drama and storytelling. The narrative will be as much about how the community interacts with each other as what they find out in the world, and as we've seen with EVE, that can drive some of the most compelling and fascinating gaming stories. It's no idle comparison, either—the studio includes several former EVE developers, including game director and co-founder Reynir Hardarson, who also co-founded the company behind EVE, CCP Games, and served as its global creative director. That's some serious chops when it comes to MMO experience.

(Image credit: Mainframe Industries)

The setting for all this hard work is a world of fantasy, but grounded in historical authenticity. It's based on 13th century medieval Europe—the first area players will have access to combines the feel of southern France with elements of Nordic culture. The idea is that it's the world from a medieval villager's point of view. Folklore of the time that was taken as fact by the common man is real in this world. Monsters you face are ones people really believed in, such as ghosts and fairies; magic is derived from ritual practices people thought had real effects; and even medicines you can craft are based on a medieval understanding of the healing arts. I'm just hoping that doesn't mean stuffing leeches down your trousers during a taxing battle. 

The further you travel from civilisation, into untamed wilderness, the more strange and magical things become. While it's that kind of thinking that kept real life medieval peasants from straying out of their villages, in Pax Dei you're free to explore, making discoveries and sharing them with your fellow players.

(Image credit: Mainframe Industries)

It's certainly a world that calls out to be explored. With its lush vistas stretching out to the horizon, it's a realm gorgeous enough to make you feel guilty chopping down all its trees and plonking down log cabins. It might be a little too shiny in parts for its medieval setting—when I think historical authenticity, I think mud—but the footage does show a more dark and sinister side too, out in the wilds. 

It's an ambitious project, but it does seem to have the expertise it needs behind it, and the early alpha gameplay we've shown off today at PCGS is promising. If you like your MMOs with a bit less farming for mats and a bit more actual farming with your friends, this is one to keep an eye on—and you can register right now for a chance to join the game's first upcoming playtest.

Robin Valentine
Senior Editor

Formerly the editor of PC Gamer magazine (and the dearly departed GamesMaster), Robin combines years of experience in games journalism with a lifelong love of PC gaming. First hypnotised by the light of the monitor as he muddled through Simon the Sorcerer on his uncle’s machine, he’s been a devotee ever since, devouring any RPG or strategy game to stumble into his path. Now he's channelling that devotion into filling this lovely website with features, news, reviews, and all of his hottest takes.