We check out a crazy new MMO game that promises a sandbox world of player-controlled politics.
Project: Theralon is a free-to-play MMO game set in a fantasy world of--wait, are you still reading? You checked out after "free-to-play MMO game set in a fantasy world" didn't you? Oh, fine. We can't blame you. But come back for a second, would you? Ready? Good. Let's start over.
Project: Theralon has dragon pirates. It lets you build entire cities from scratch. It runs on the same graphics engine as Crysis 3. And did we mention the dragon pirates? Yes? OK, just making sure. Because dragon pirates.
See, Theralon isn't exactly your run-of-the-mill massively multiplayer online game. Its cartoonish fantasy art design might look like World of Warcraft had a love child with Conan the Barbarian, but its sandbox PVP structure looks like it'll allow for a pretty unique style of player interaction.
In some ways, you can think of Project: Theralon as a more cartoony version of EVE Online. It's a world where the dynamics between player-run guilds and factions take priority over leveling and classes because, well, there are no levels or classes (though you can still determine your style of character through an open skill tree). Those player dynamics are important because you're able to build cities from the ground up using a modular building system, and the control of these places pretty much comes down to whether a player-run organization has successfully asserted its influence over the local population or whether a free city has sprung up instead.
And then you've got the dragons. Players are able to control two characters: one a mighty adventurer with the ability to fly dragons, and another whom you can use as either a second adventurer or as a more occupational-focused character like a merchant dedicated to selling off your wares when the first character is off exploring the world. (You can switch between these two characters on the fly.)
So with the whole sandbox nature of the game, there's nothing stopping you from starting up a crew of roaming pirates dedicated to pillaging one city after another as you fly in on your dragons with a thirst for mischief and mayhem. But at the same time, there's nothing stopping you from starting an order of knights, or neighborhood watchmen, or a trade union, or whatever you want. That's the whole intent of the sandbox structure.
Currently each shard promises to house 3,000 to 4,000 players at a time, though the team at Infernum insists they're looking into the possibility of getting the entire player base housed in the same gameworld without discrete servers segmenting the player base. And, interestingly, this CryEngine 3-powered game will run either through a game client or in your browser. Yes, a game using the same graphics engine as Crysis 3 will be available to play through Facebook.
There's a very interesting premise driving Theralon, but right now it remains to be seen just how fun the gameplay is when you're engaged in combat, since we didn't get a chance to go hands-on for ourselves. Still, the promise of city-building, dragon warfare, and sandbox politics does sound awfully interesting. We'll see how this one shapes up as it approaches its as-yet-undetermined release date.
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