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Worlds Adrift – First Look

Worlds Adrift entered Early Access in mid-May, and after a hectic schedule of press events and timed closed-betas, I finally got a moment to sit down with it. A few websites and early access reviewers have been singing the praises of the game, one even going so far as to claim that it “made them believe in MMOs again”, and what I found when I finally played it was… okay.

Worlds Adrift is an open-world crafting MMO with a focus on PVP. You start by creating your pirate, and then you’re plunked into the islands that make up the game’s world with little fanfare. From there you’re free to do whatever you please. There are a few tooltips that give you basic tips, but beyond that, there’s nothing in the way of a tutorial. A lot of the early game is trial and error button pressing; admittedly, it didn’t take long to figure out, as there aren’t a ton of mechanics to worry about when you first start.

One thing you will notice though, right from the beginning, is how beautiful the game is. The game has a cel-shaded and cartoonish art-style. It feels a lot like a more fantastical version of Fortnite, and it works well for this type of game. The sound design is also on point. The ambience is relaxing without feeling empty. This makes it easy to hear when other players are approaching or doing other things near you, so others won’t catch you unaware if you’re not completely zoned out. The user interface needs serious work, though. In its current state it feels unfinished, but I’m willing to chalk that that up to this being an Early Access build.

The controls in Worlds Adrift are easy enough to pick up. You aim with the mouse, move with WASD, and switch items with the number keys. It’s a lot like Stardew Valley in 3D, but with less crops and more murder. The only real challenge was learning the finer points of the grapple gun. It works fine enough for scaling things or swinging around. Finer movements, like trying to pull yourself onto the hull of someone’s ship or through an awkward opening can be tricky though. Once I mastered it, it became one of my favorite ways to move around in the game. It allows for you to pull off some crazy slick moves.

The core flow of the game, once you’ve mastered the controls, is hunting materials. You have a harvesting tool that allows you to get resources from almost anything. You need to know how to make things to use any of it, but gaining knowledge isn’t hard. You start with a scanning tool that can scan just about any object you see and grant knowledge points. Once you’ve got enough, you spend them on a progression tree to unlock new things. A word of advice: spend early points on vehicle related things. You’ll need a ship to make the most of the game’s world.

Of course, to build a ship you’ll need a ship-yard. You can claim any unoccupied shipyard you find. This will serve as a makeshift base for your quest. If you can, I recommend building a personal respawner as soon as possible. This lets you respawn at your shipyard (or wherever you place it) rather than at a random tower, which is the default location.  From here, most of the gameplay is getting enough knowledge to build a ship so you can explore more islands and earn more knowledge.

Doing this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Players were everywhere in my time with the game. Everyone starts with a handgun and bullets as well. If you manage to kill someone you can take everything they have on them, except for items on their belt. The same goes for you too, so if you have something you need to keep, put it in your belt slots or build a storage container at your shipyard. The combat itself feels okay, but there’s a bit of a Fortnite situation with the guns where shots don’t seem to go 100 percent where you’re aiming them. This doesn’t really damage the experience, but unless you’re a Fortnite diehard it could take some adjustment.

One of the game’s most ambitious features is that the game world is, at least in part, community created. Players can create and explore their own islands, and even submit them for the community and developers to review. Bossa Studios plans to include the best ones in the final game. The tool is robust and allows you to seamlessly switch between building mode and playing mode for testing.  You’ll want to tinker with settings like “Surface Align” and “Random Rotation” to get things looking just how you want them. I built an island with huge climbing and swinging challenges, which you’re seeing an early version of now. You can even select different architecture types to change the look and feel of your island even more.

That’s honestly all there is to the game that I could find in my time with it. The exploration and crafting are a ton of fun, and the PVP adds a cool sky-pirate flair to the game. This is especially true if you get a crew together and engage in ship combat. I think I had more fun with the island creator than the game itself. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of focus to the game beyond building and PVP. The game has almost no PVE content beyond crafting and a few monsters roaming about. In fact, I don’t even know if this qualifies as an RPG. Like I said, it’s fun and all, but with its lack of any tangible end-goals, it’s a far cry from making me believe in MMOs again.

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