I’ve had an unusually large amount of time to play Tree of Savior this week and because of that I’ve progressed further in the game than I otherwise would have after only a few days since launch. Last night I logged off having reached level 44 and with a third class rank and a whole new appreciation for what the phrase “level grind” actually means. I didn’t go into the game unaware that grinding mobs would be the optimal way to level but up until around level 36 I either had a quest to work on as well or I could quickly grind the level or two I needed to get to the next stage of the main storyline. But oh boy, is there a progression wall when you reach the mid-thirties and not nearly enough diversity to get you through it.
Thankfully I found a group of other players to join and we camped the same spot for probably an hour grinding through wave after wave of “Pawned” monsters (yes, that was the mob’s actual name.) And to be fair, this was actually a lot of fun. Because of the way enemies spawn in Tree of Savior—more or less all at once and in waves—there is down time in between mass killing sprees. The four other players I was grouped with and I took this time to chat about the game, share experiences and tips, and generally enjoy one another’s company. The gameplay was not engaging but the comradery was and when that group disbanded (and after I took a short break) I set out to find a similar team to level my character with.
Well, lighting did not strike twice; at least not last night. After trying and failing with a couple of smaller groups I finished the rest of my evening grinding wave after wave on my own until I finally eked out one more level and made it to 44. I don’t think I would be exaggerating to say it took at the very least 40-60 minutes of non-stop grinding mobs with no option for questing, no alternative maps or zones to switch to, no change in enemy types whatsoever. I’m not sure if I was having fun at that point or merely being stubborn, but either way I pushed through one more level before calling it quits.
This experience was eye opening for me however, and has left me wondering whether or not this is simply a temporary speed bump to push through that gets better after level 46 (as one of my group members assured me it was) or if it is what I can expect from the leveling experience from here on out. If it’s the latter, I really see no reason to play a character in this game past level thirty, because while the myriad of classes are an enticing carrot at the end of a rather lengthy stick, the gameplay is simply not engaging enough for me to stay motivated until I gain access to them. I mean, what’s the point of grinding 100 levels (or whatever it turns out to be) to unlock the Falconer class if the only gameplay available is more of the same? There’s a futility to what we do in MMOs regardless of how clever the developers have been at disguising it, but if what I experienced last night is what I can continue to expect then IMCgames isn’t even trying to hide the pointlessness.
If the level grind in the 40s was a splash of cold reality on my face, then the realization that there was no class reset available the way there is for resetting skill points was a great big fecal pile of disappointment. I’m learning to love the Quarrel Shooter—the class I chose at my first rank of advancement—but if I had the option I would probably chose differently now that I’ve taken the class for a test drive. Unfortunately the only way to try this or any advanced class in Tree of Savior is to make a permanent investment in it that can never be undone and while changing your mind at level 15 or 20 after your first class choice was made isn’t terrible, rerolling later after rank 6 or 7 is unthinkable. It is incomprehensibly stupid that the developers paired together a mind numbing grind with an unforgiving class customization system. What has the potential to be an unrivaled playground for class development and experimentation is instead a system that encourages trepidation in decision making, the proliferation of cookie cutter builds, and a strong likelihood that I and many other players will walk away completely if something goes awry fifty, sixty, or a hundred levels in.
I’m not giving up on the game just yet— I still enjoy the combat, the art style, and the soundtrack quite a lot—but if I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel or some feature in the game that’s worth striving through the grind in order to reach and soon, it’s going to be a whole lot of “not today!” as I bounce out and go find something more compelling to beat my head against. Before I get to that point however I am going to do a little more research outside the game as well to make sure I’m not missing anything. It’s possible this is simply a case of misunderstanding and I’m grumpy today over nothing. I’ve got 44 levels already invested in the game and a desire to keep playing this beautiful MMO so I’m hoping that in the end Tree of Savior does not disappoint.