Sandbox Vistas I: Visiting Istaria

So, at the urging of Ben and Flosch, I am undertaking an odyssey to explore some obscure sandbox games.  First up on the list is one that I’ve been curious about for some time, a game called Istaria.  Istaria has just recently (last December) celebrated its 9th year in existence.  That in and of itself is nothing to sneeze about.  Originally entitled “Horizons” the game had an ambitious development goal of a fully PvE game with an automated AI enemy that would actively oppose players and player settlements in a never ending conflict.  As you can imagine, this was difficult to implement, so it was scaled back to something more static in nature.

Currently the game is rolling along nicely with a standard and RP server, though I gather from the forums that the population of the RP server is fractured and at times contentious, in addition to being lower than the one on the regular server.  So naturally, I signed up there.

The two week trial account allows three character slots among any of the diverse races, though after some time delving in the outdated wiki and in the community, I decided to start with a human character and try a dragon character later down the line.  And boy am I glad I did.   Why?

Truth.

I kid you not.  You can not swing a dead rat in this game without hitting five dragons.  The moment I exited the mystic portal from the tutorial island onto the live server itself, I was awash in dragons.  I’ve seen perhaps twenty or thirty players in the game thus far, and all but two of them have been dragons.

In fact, it occurred to me that, had I been really role-playing, my poor little character would have seen the dragons all lying around the starter village, screamed, turned around, ran right back into the mystic portal, and lived out his immortal life in the relative peace and quiet of that great utopia.

No idea who this guy is. Google image search ftw.

So, I’ve been spending a lot of time outside the village itself.  Where I’m alone with the baby pigs, and hatchling spiders, tiny grass beetles, skeletal warriors, aand OH MY GOD GIANT WOLVES AND MUMMIFIED REANIMATORS.

Yeah, basically there are two types of mobs thus far.  Those that you can kill, albeit with a large investment of time but little worry.  And there are creatures that will kick your ass into the ground without a second thought.  And telling them apart is almost impossible.   I was a level 8, and I was grinding level 5 and 6 skeletons (and boy was it a grind…) when a level 9 mummy thing wandered into the fight.   This guy is on a wide loop for his AI path, and I hadn’t seen him before.  But he was only a bit ahead of me, so I didn’t worry about it.  Until his first shot took 15% of my health.   And his second, another 15%.  And meanwhile, I was doing 3% a shot off of his.  It got ugly fast.  Fortunately, death is about as inconsequential in Istaria as any MMO, albeit they have cooler and more interactive ways to remove the death penalty, which I like.

You may think so far that I have not liked Istaria, but that’s not quite true.  I have enjoyed it a lot, and intend to keep at it for the remaining week or so of my two week trial at least.  The class/school system is great, keeping a familiar vibe going on in character creation and building, while allowing you to tweak your character in a way normally reserved to skill based systems.  The crafting is deep and gets deeper the more you get into it.    Harvesting is a bit of a chore, but there’s enough RP channels out there to keep you entertained, and on top of that, as an older game, Istaria runs fine in windowed mode, allowing you to browse and harvest at the same time.

Anyway, we’ll see where this takes us.  I may do another post on Istaria, or I may move on to some of the other options out there, like Wurm Online (which looks…complicated) or Xyson (where technology is rare or nonexistent…yet there is a screenshot with a car sitting in it…).   And hopefully Dawntide will come back up in the interim as well.   So my posting will be kinda…sandbox.  Heh.

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One thought on “Sandbox Vistas I: Visiting Istaria

  1. You’re making me want to dust off my old Istaria account and see where I left it.

    Little tip with harvesting in Istaria – you NEED a disc. Need it. There are usually several available for sale on the player trade vendor, and if there isn’t, someone will be willing to craft you one. It saves you a TON of time, since it lets you carry a lot more raw resources with you.

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