Tree of Savior: The Problem with Pets

Tree of Savior has a unique take on pets with several features I wouldn’t mind seeing in other MMOs and one I hope IMC Games will change. If you’re just getting started, they can be purchased from in game vendors marked by a paw print on the map in Klaipeda and Orsha with the cheapest being 110,000 silver. A few classes like the Hunter and Falconer are given vouchers once that class advancement has been chosen allowing them to purchase the appropriate pet for free but all pets come from these vendors. Pets gain levels much like player characters do and once owned can be used by all characters on the account. Certain classes will be able to use pets as mounts while others will have unique abilities for their pets however all classes can benefit from the basic damage provided by the pet. An advantage here is that you can purchase a pet on your first character, level it up, and then have a low level character utilize that pet for quicker XP grinding.

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NPC ferrets get way cooler mounts than player characters do.

 

There’s one important caveat though, pets require a character slot to be acquired. I’ve made one character of each base class using up the four slots I started off with so when I went to claim the pet I received for free from the tier one Founder’s pack I had to purchase a character slot to obtain it. Given that I had well over a thousand TP and nothing pressing to spend it on it wasn’t a big deal, the cost was only 33 TP.  Nevertheless it was still a shock all the same and I imagine many players are going to be surprised and angered by this. Given that pets are a boost to leveling, are shared across your whole account, and the 33TP works out to be around $3, you could argue that it’s a cheaper way of buying the same cash shop pets and XP boosts found in other MMOs, however the fact that several classes require a pet means certain players are going to lose one of their free slots or have to purchase an extra one just to play a specific class. And since the pet classes are chosen as later advancement tiers, players won’t even realize the character slot requirement until well after character creation.

Overall I’m happy with the cash shop options in Tree of Savior. I don’t think anything comes across as over priced (with the exception of premium hairstyles) and everything is optional; you can play the game without spending a dime and enjoy everything Tree of Savior offers. And the price of a character slot in and of itself is incredibly reasonable. I think I paid at least $10 for an additional slot in Guild Wars 2 compared to the $3 here. However for most MMO players, having to use a character slot for an in game pet is a foreign concept and won’t go over well. Were they not also tied to specific classes I myself would be okay with it, but they are and penalizing only those classes in this way is just poor design.

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I think my pet was racing that Penguin in a wheel chair.

 

With the feature built into the game, it would be a lot of work to remove it entirely so at the very least I think IMC Games should provide players who do chose the Hunter, Cataphract, or Schwarzer Reiter (yes, those last two are classes) with a free additional character slot, just as they are given a voucher to purchase their pet for free. As long as there isn’t a way to delete that pet and then use the slot for a regular character, this shouldn’t cause any problems as anyone can chose to level one of those classes and get the free pet-only slot. While I don’t think having to buy a character slot for pets will drive anyway away who wasn’t already dissatisfied with the game, it’s an unnecessary mechanic that only serves to widen the gap of trust between developers and players in Tree of Savior. Hopefully IMC Games will change this, but I sincerely doubt they will.

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The Colorful World in Tree of Savior

Tree of Savior doesn’t offer a lot in the way of blogging topics, even less the more I check off my “here’s a feature people might be interested in” list. In fact, sometimes I wonder what draws me to the game at all, as it’s fairly straight forward in gameplay along the lines of a Diablo 3 dungeon crawler but without the loot. Even the customization happens at such a slow pace that it’s hard to point to it as a defining feature, compared to something like Path of Exile where customization is happening regularly. When I stop to think about it, I really don’t know what I find so compelling about this game.

One thing I can say is that the visuals are spot on. If nothing else, I enjoy exploring the maps and looking at the unique monsters, demons, and bosses that IMC Games has dreamed up for Tree of Savior. If anything this may be the defining feature for ToS, and at least one of the reasons I’ve logged over 80 hours in the game already. The color palette, illustrative style, and the diversity of biomes has been well worth the exploration time. As someone who use to draw and paint a lot once upon a time (and has a degree in Fine Arts), I think I actually appreciate the two dimensional nature of this game more than the three dimensional world building of Black Desert.

At level 117 I’ve barely scratched the surface of the game world, with supposedly 600 levels in total before reaching the level cap. You can see from the screenshots above just how littered the world map is with individual instanced zones, each of which are unique in design in some way. I’ve only reached three major cities and unveiled maybe a third of the map overall. Even within the portion of the world map I have uncovered there are level one hundred and two hundred plus zones I’ve yet to explore. Screenshots alone really don’t do these worlds justice, but that’s all I have to share so they’ll have to do. Below you’ll find a selection from the many environments I have been able to explore and enjoy and I hope it provides at least a glimpse of just how beautiful this world can be. With Tree of Savior going free to play on May 10th, you may want to check it out for yourself.

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My First Two Days in Age of Wushu

Not long after posting on Age of Wushu: Dynasty I downloaded the client for the original title on my laptop, eager to give the game a try. My primary reservation to Age of Wushu in the past had to do with the open PvP nature of the game however the mobile version had me interested in the combat, the progression, and the action animations had me hungry for some Wuxia style combat. However from the moment I logged in it turned out to be a great big mess. Despite my first two days being almost entirely negative, I’m still determined to push further into what the game has to offer.

So what went wrong? What didn’t go wrong would be easier to describe. The first hurtle I ran into was in downloading the client itself. Navigating to the Wushu website was easy enough, but then once there I had to create a folder of my own and download ten listed files into that folder. Only after this was completed was I able to use any kind of installation program. Although unusual, it was simple and painless. In very little time I was staring at the launcher ready to log in to my account with Snail.

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During those first few steps into the game I selected a server, the Golden Panda, a backdrop of some kind (which it repeatedly asked me to choose every log in until I realized how to make it stop), and then I was prompted to make my first character. Customization was limited which I was expecting and after tweaking the few options available to me I was able to choose one of eight Kung Fu schools to join followed by a main storyline to progress through. Quizzically, when I created a character on another server the story was the first thing I chose and it was presented as an animated library and my school was not selected until I was past the tutorial. Why the difference, I have no idea.

The first twenty minutes or so of gameplay went smoothly, although they were a bit confusing. Age of Wushu features a combat system that is antiquated but has an interesting “rock, paper, scissors” twist to it. The storyline began exactly how I expected it would with my character meeting an old master, facing off against the big bad, and ultimately turning out to be a hero with untapped super-human Kung Fu potential. And then the tutorial was respectable despite the many complex systems being introduced. When I ran through it all a second time I was able to pick up on even more but even the first run through was enough to get started.

Eventually I reached a point where I was shuffled off to my school of choice—the Shaolin—where combat was taught for a second time along with a few of the other progression systems in Wushu which I’m not going to even begin to describe. However about twenty or thirty minutes into my time with the Shaolin I turned in a quest to the head of the school, the Abbot and then… nothing. No quest popped up, no prompt to move to a different part of the map or to go back to the starter village, just nothing. So I asked another player nearby who had been vocal in chat and he was also unable to explain the sudden tutorial silence. “Just do whatever you want, go explore,” he said and so I did to no avail.

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I get that this is a sandbox game, but it seemed pretty clear to me that the game either did a terrible job indicating it was time for me to leave the nest or (far more likely) just didn’t complete the tutorial experience and left me at a loss as to where I could pick it back up. I ran all over the school grounds, clicked on nearly every NPC, and even explored the surrounding area where I had a right good time punching things in the face until even tougher things spawned that I would also punch in the face but even more. Faces were punched all around and I enjoyed it but I still had no clue what I was doing.

I googled everything I could on the new player experience, the Shaolin, the tutorial sequence but nothing helped. At that point I tried a couple of things in desperation. Firstly, and quite impulsively, I bought the VIP status for 30 days for the low, low price of $9. My whopping 18 slot bag was constantly filling up, mostly with the free crap they were giving me at the beginning as a “gift” and I (wrongly) assumed that being a VIP member would help with my storage woes. It did not.

Secondly, I went ahead and focused on leveling up my Inner skills or whatever they’re called until they reached level 5 as I remembered reading somewhere that this unlocked other options. It’s another reason why I went with the VIP service because it would allow me to continue training them while I was offline. Reaching level 5 did open up a few new quest options, but not the school storyline or main storyline that I was hoping for and that the game was telling me I had yet to complete. I still felt like I was lacking the second half of the tutorial experience.

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In frustration I decided to start over again with a character on a different server. I would have rerolled on the same server but you can only have one character at a time and deleting that character requires a 48 hour waiting period before creating a new one, even if you have the VIP membership. About twenty minutes into my second play through I was feeling much better about both the complex progression system and the school I had chosen, the Tangmen. Then I noticed something. The bonuses I should have been receiving for having the VIP subscription weren’t active, in fact the game was telling me I did not have the service at all. It turns out it only applies to the server you were on when you first purchased it.

That should have been the straw that broke the camel’s back—and it almost was— but there’s something alluring about this game and I really wanted to continue playing, so instead of rage quitting, I went ahead and deleted my Shaolin character on Golden Panda and prepared to wait the two days before starting fresh with the Tangmen on the correct server. This is probably one of the worst starting experiences I’ve ever had with an MMO and why I’m still determined to play it is either a testament to the game’s intriguing systems or my own stubborn streak. Either way I’m going to go a little further before calling it quits.

I did write a letter to Snail USA letting them know that I was stuck on one character and irritated that the paid VIP service only applied to one server even though this was never stated (at least that I saw) at the time of purchase. Their response was quick, which I applaud, but it was clearly written by someone using google translate to provide a response in English which I though odd given that this was supposedly the western office for the Chinese publisher. As was expected, it was not a helpful reply, merely a request that I provide more information about where I was stuck and confirming that yes, the VIP service was just for one server.

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Hopefully in a couple of days I’ll have something more positive to write about with regard to Age of Wushu, but for now I’m in limbo. I still have about 24 hours left to wait before I can play the character I want on the server with the VIP membership I paid for because that makes all kinds of sense. Maybe Snail is just preparing me for the end game in Age of Wushu. By the time I get back in the game and reach the point where I can be openly killed by another player character, I’ll be ready for the kill or be killed scenario. I mean, two days in and I’ve already been griefed by the developer. How much worse could the players be?