Salem is a crafting MMORPG by Paradox Interactive that puts you in what is essentially a giant sandbox world. You travel, learn skills, craft objects and structures with little but what you find in the wild, and perhaps eventually settle a piece of land, whether that is on your own or as part of a village community. The world of Salem depends heavily on what the players make of it; there is little combat, and most of the action is centered on learning skills and gathering resources. This title is also known for the ever-present risk of permanent death. Combined with the time consuming nature of this game, this puts enormous weight behind many of your decisions – if you think Salem won’t make you wary of other players, think again.
Salem Featured Video
By: Guillaume Barbeau
Salem is this sort of game that comes around very infrequently, by virtue of the risk related to its innovative game play. It’s an important title in terms of testing new grounds – crafting MMOs are few and far between, let alone ones situated in colonial America. Not only that, but it’s also Paradox Interactive’s first foray into the MMO genre. So is it good? Well, you can read on and see, but one thing is sure, it’s that this is the the type of game that either catches on to you while refusing to let go, or does not not interest you at all.
Scary New World
For starters, Salem is a java game, so it’s pretty easy and quick to jump into it. The graphic quality is very modest, to say the very least, so don’t expect anything surprising on that front. In fact, this is most likely one of the game’s most prominent flaws; the graphics are not only modest, they look absolutely horrid. The environments are simple, recycled, and the characters, while cartoonish and amusing, could really use some more diversity. You start the game; pick your name, and bam! You’re suddenly in England, entirely naked. From there, you can talk to NPCs to change your features, get yourself a fancy beard, a pointy hat, and then you’re off to the new world. This game could really use a formal character creator, as I don’t recall the English being especially fond of naked portside walks. That said, once you hit Boston, the only NPC city so far in Salem, you’re down to your wits in order to survive. There isn’t much of a tutorial at this point, you’ll already have been shown the basics, but Salem is relatively complex game that does not point you in any specific direction. And in many ways, that is part of what makes its charm.
Smooth Stones & Blackberries
The idea of Salem is that you need to spend a sizeable chunk of time wandering, and exploring. In order to build or craft anything in Salem, you first need to go through your skill tree and unlock the right skills. When you start playing, you have literally 0 skills, and you need to get very far down that path to even unlock the capacity to build your first hovel. You have a set of proficiencies, such as Natural Philosophy, Law & lore, etc, that are essentially meters you need to fill in order to learn new skills. To raise these meters, you need to find or craft objects, usually in the wild, called “Inspirationals”, each of which will give you a specific amount of points in each of these traits. Once you have enough, you purchase your skill, and your meter goes back to 0. This is actually a very lengthy process, which means you’ll be wandering around picking walnuts and smooth stones for a long, long time. Your health and energy is measured in four “humors”, and they go down through just about anything you do, from looking at smooth stones, to climbing hillsides. You replenish them through food you either find or cook. You can also raise these humors by eating truckloads of food at once (called “Gluttony mode”). Yes, this is also a very long and boring process.
Pilgrim Eat Pilgrim
Once you’ve raised these skills and humors enough, you can start crafting things, starting with tools, and eventually buildings, farms, tanning racks, and so on. When you have the skills you need, possibilities open up. You can pick up fishing, foraging, blacksmithing, hunting; all the things you need to ply a trade in the new world. You can also buy a plot of land, which keeps many players from intruding into your personal space. While I’ve mentioned how long all of these activities take to accomplish, it’s worth noting that it makes the progression incredibly addictive. This is also partly why the community is both close-knit and distrusting all at once. The main reason though, is that not only can everything you own be stolen, but your character can also be permanently killed. You read that right. Permanent death is a significant part of Salem, and in many ways, a very divisive feature. On one hand, it puts weight behind everything you do, while on the other, there is the risk of losing all the hours you poured into your character. Player groups will, for this reason, be very reluctant in recruiting new players for their villages, if not avoidant of them outright.
Harvest Moon Meets Lovecraft
With that said, this is a huge, no, GIGANTIC world. Other players are few and far between, less so in certain areas. It’s also a mean world – if you accidently stumble onto a snake or a bear, you better hope you get lucky, because these things are vicious. Snakes will chase you until you can break line of sight, for one. Yes, this makes no sense. As you reach the edge of the known world, you reach this thing called the “Darkness”. In a nutshell, the further you go, the darker the environment get, and when you get far enough, your humors begin being drained, unless you have a light source. These areas also have supernatural critters, Lovecraft-esque creatures about whom, as of the writing of this review, little is known about. And this is one of the upsides of this game; the world is big, mysterious, and documenting is entirely up to the players. Organized player groups can even push back the darkness by building churches, thus making new areas explorable. This is an entirely community and progression oriented game, and lack of either of those will most likely end up boring you. The world of Salem depends on the players within it. The in-game store element is firmly tied to this as well – buying in-game silver gives you access to MUCH needed commodities such as nails, required for any form of advanced building. This can be obtained without the in-game store, but thus becomes extremely time consuming as you need to craft very rare valuables to sell in Boston for silver.
Final Verdict: Good
Salem is a time-consuming, high risk experience that is definitely not for everyone. It’s like playing a deadlier version of Harvest Moon. There is no story, little combat, and no hand-holding, high thrill adventure. This is a game that is almost entirely what the players make of it. It’s a game about players, their villages, and their paranoias. But what this game attempts, it does well. The crafting is entertaining, the progression is addictive, and the world is mysterious. Many things could still be improved however, from the graphics, to the nasty habit of the wildlife going into blood frenzies. But apart from that, this is a title with a lot of room to grow, and a lot to like. If you can get past these small flaws, and enjoy crafting, give this one a try.
Salem Official Trailer
Salem System Requirements
Coming Soon. . .
- Salem Begins Open Beta - Posted on February 28, 2013
Join the hijinks of the pilgrims in Salem, a player-driven crafting MMO from Paradox Interactive.