Reviewed: July 13, 2005
Released: June 21, 2005
RYL: Path of the Emperor, brought to the gaming world by PlanetWide Games was released with the intention of becoming the next big MMO. With so many other fantasy-based Massive Multiplayer Online games being released recently, each one seems to be attempting to focus on a few specific things that make their game unique from all the others.
World of Warcraft gave players a recognizable franchise and recently incorporated a battlefield system giving players the opportunity to take part in large-scale battles. Guild Wars brought us the first offer of free online play. RYL (stands for Risk Your Life), took that idea and ran with it. Along with an attractive “free online play” offer (you fill out online surveys to pay for your monthly subscription), there was the tantalizing $1,000,000 Grand Prize Tournament that began shortly after release. The winner of the tournament will be awarded a cool million, and will gain the title of Emperor of the land. Oh, and they also claim that the game is “skill based”. But we’ll get into that later.
These things are attractive, and I have a feeling they have done exactly what they were intended to do: "buy" more players. Ever since I first started playing the game, I felt like there was nothing else really that alluring about the game to draw an audience, so I felt as if the developers used this ploy to attempt to get more people to play the game than would have otherwise. After all, who wouldn’t want to try out a game that if they spend every waking moment playing they’d have an opportunity to win enough green to pay the monthly subscription fee for every MMO they’ll ever want to play?
Creating a character in RYL is similar to most other MMO’s, so people who are used to this style of game will be familiar with the process of choosing a basic appearance of your character, name, race (human or Ak’kan, an orc-like race that is at war with the humans), class, and beginning stats. You then choose which political group you wish to be aligned with. There is the Human side, the Ak’kan side, and then the God’s Pirates, who are a group of combined Humans and Ak’kans who wish to unite the two warring groups together.
You then begin the game and start doing story-driven missions that also serve as a kind of tutorial to get you used to the game mechanics. These missions also get you through the first ten levels of character development in blazing speed. After level 10, however, the RPG style missions become fewer and farther between, but the leveling is still faster than most MMO’s I’m used to. At the same time, however, the level cap is higher, as well. I don’t exactly know what the highest possible level is, but whereas most games cap at 50, I’ve run into a few level 82 characters.
First thing I noticed when I got the game was that it indicated that the game was “skill based”. Anyone who read my E3 follow-up would know that this excited me. I have been waiting for an MMO that isn’t level based and focuses more on the skill of the player and not just whether or not they’ve played the game for eighty hours a week since it was released. Well, needless to say, I was disappointed.
The characters in the game still level up and your level increases the amount of damage you deal, damage you can absorb, health, etc. Unless you consider it a skill to be able to keep your character facing in the direction of your opponent so that your attacks hit him, this game is not skill based. Or, maybe they meant that it was based on the “skills” that your character uses. Much like Guild Wars, your character is limited to how many skills he can have in his skill list at a time, but with the list expanding as you level up, I’ve not gotten to the point where this is a limiting factor, and I don’t know that it ever would be.
The game can be played from a Diablo-esque overhead view where you point and click to direct your character around the world, or you can switch to a mouse-look FPS style control system using the WADS key configuration. Now, I may be like the left handed person of the gaming world in that I like to play my mouse-look driven games with the y-axis inverted, but I have only played one other game where there was no option to invert the mouse and I think that game was made by half-witted apes banging on a keyboard. In my opinion, it’s a small thing to ask to give me a little check-box somewhere in the options menu that allows me to invert my y-axis on my mouse. But, this game does not allow it, as far as I was able to find. Along the same lines, the User Interface in this game is difficult to get used to and at times feels rather clunky.
The pace of the game is rapid, from the fights to leveling, and will give the player in search of instant gratification exactly what they’re looking for. The game seems to focus more on PvP style gaming that other MMO’s. While you can go out and hunt down creatures and kill them for experience points and items, there are PvP arenas and tournaments (aside from the $1,000,000 cash prize one that is on a server all to itself) that pit similarly-leveled players against each other for various prizes and bragging rights.
From what I could tell, the community is nearly non-existent in this game. The built-in chat program is hard to get used to, and although many people will be glad to help you out if you’ve got a question, most players seem to have already joined a guild and isolated themselves fairly well from the rest of the community (with the intent of winning the tournament).
The game already has its fair share of entrepreneurs who set up their character in the main market area to sell their wares and shout to all in the area to come and buy what they’ve got, which is always annoying. You apparently don’t even have to be at your keyboard to sell things, because it seems that people will set up their character and stay in the same place for hours on end. I can’t imagine that they are sitting there waiting patiently for someone to buy their skill books off of them for that long. In my opinion, this feature even further separates the players from each other, not requiring any real interaction between actual players in order for them to succeed in the game.
For players who enjoy MMO’s, but feel that they are too slow-paced and want to feel a little more in control of their characters attacks, this would be a good alternative for them.
The graphics in this game are probably the most impressive aspect. There’s enough eye candy with the spells and special attacks to make up for some of the games other deficiencies. The world that you explore is fairly vast, or seemingly so, since most of what you need access to early on in the game is right near your starting city, I didn’t have the opportunity to travel very far from my homeland. The landscape in the area that I spent most of my time was mountainous and beautiful, definitely giving you a feeling of being in a very lush, rich, diverse environment.
The graphics settings are not very customizable, but I was able to play the game at a fairly decent resolution with the details set as high as they would go with no noticeable framerate issues, which is fairly impressive with the rich detail of the world and the characters that populate it.
The sound in the game is competent, but nothing more. The sound effects are what you would expect them to be, but I was not overly impressed in any way by them. The ambient sounds, if there were any, did not add anything to the atmosphere of the game, and the combat sound effects are really all that you end up noticing.
The music in the game is motivating and really gets your heart pumping. I liked it, and it stays in the background enough that it isn’t overpowering. However, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of music…the good music that is there is on a fairly short loop, so you end up hearing a lot of the same stuff over and over again.
Because of the standard first month free subscription, plus the extended free online play option mentioned earlier, coupled with the chance of winning a million dollars, I feel that this game has done what it could to make it at least worth a try to its new players. Hoever, if you’re like me, you might not extend your subscription past the initial period.
But, as I said before, if you’re an action junkie with a desire to rip a bunch of people to shreds without having to put too much time and effort into it, you will probably like this game and continue to pay the monthly subscription fee.
Obviously, I was less than impressed by this game on the whole. Its redeeming qualities are that it does have a story-driven mission system that seemed like it had a fairly interesting story and the world itself has an interesting history. The graphics are cool and exciting, which fits with the games fast-paced and PvP focused gameplay, which will definitely draw a more instant-gratification style audience.
It’s really not that I did not like the game; it’s just that there was nothing to it that really made it stand out to me. Nothing that made it unique from all the other fantasy-based MMO’s out there, nothing that made me want to play it any more than any other. If you’re looking for a fast-paced fantasy based game that focuses on PvP and tournament style gaming, and you really don’t want to play Lineage II, World of Warcraft, Everquest 2, Guild Wars or whatever else is out there, this might be the game for you.