|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: RealU||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: dtp Entertainment||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: TBA 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: TBA (MMO)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
January 28, 2009 - The world can be a crazy place. From the moment of our birth until the day of our departing, living can be one long, strange trip. The only guardrails in life, therefore, are our physical limitations. In the reality of the mind, however, the imagination is a world without borders. Otherland, created by Tad Williams, is such a place, and it will also soon be a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) that promises to turn the genre on its head.
For those unfamiliar, Williams' Otherland is a four-part collection of books based in virtual reality. It takes place in the not-so-distant future (roughly the latter part of this century), and in Otherland, people can connect directly to "The Net" via a device that plugs straight into a user's mind. In the books, the characters of the story find themselves trapped in a virtual world, and reality therein can be a pretty whacky ride.
Otherland, the video game, is based completely on the book series, and Williams himself is actively involved in overseeing the production. It's a gaming concept that is pretty far out there, and MMO gamers looking for something completely unique might want to pay close attention as the game gets further into development.
The undertaking of Otherland is being handled by dtp Entertainment. You may know them for such hits as My Pet Hotel 2 (Nintendo DS) and Crazy Frog Racing (GBA). Yeah, their track record perhaps doesn't suggest a company poised to make the next-greatest MMOG, but with the help of child company RealU in Singapore, they have already managed to put together something altogether impressive.
The game is still less than a quarter complete and details are shrouded in complexity, but from what we could gather thus far, you'll start off as pretty much a clean slate; your character will evolve by way of experience and exploration of the myriad worlds in Otherland. The game starts off in the central hub of Lambda Mall, which seems to be the virtual representation of a character's own mind. From this neutral area, players make their way out into the digital worlds within the game.
Not all of the game's worlds are available from the onset, and a level system seems to be in place to prevent players from "byting" off more than they can chew, so to speak. Everything in Otherland is considered "code," and only by acquiring new code can you evolve to a state that will allow your character to access new, more intricate worlds. What's perhaps most interesting about this concept, however, is your ability to alter code, thus changing the environment around you or even changing yourself (since your character, too, is comprised of code - everything in Otherland is).
On the face of it, it's an incredibly ambitious game to tackle, yet many common gameplay features seem to play a large role in the experience. Combat, for one, is a key element in the game, but even here, things play out quite a bit differently than your typical MMOG. Though you can choose to use weapons (in real time), such as swords and guns, some worlds are better suited for battles of the mind. The worlds themselves evolve over time, and players will want to consider these changes when developing their character.
A character's ability to survive in Otherland is determined by their "thermophic capacity," or what we interpret to mean their capacity to retain a high temperature (?). Similar to the Diablo games, if your character succumbs to (virtual) death, they'll leave behind their body (code), which can then be collected by other players online. It's still unclear what death will mean exactly in terms of the penalties that accompany re-entering the online fold, but one thing seems abundantly clear: being a virtual vulture and assimilating code promises to be quite the enterprise for those folks looking to rise quickly within the game's ranks.
Otherland is being created with Epic's Unreal Engine 3, so it should prove to be as visually complex and extravagant as its overall gameplay concept. It's too early yet to put a stamp on system requirements, but considering the vastness with which Williams has envisioned the game, as well as running all those textures, shaders, and other visual bells and whistles, there's likely to be something of a high demand placed on your PC.
From what we've seen so far, Otherland is looking quite beautiful. Even at this early stage in the game's development, there's an impressive amount of diversity between worlds and the coded peoples that inhabit them. It will be very interesting to see just how far the developers allow players to build upon what's already present.
Otherland holds a ton of promise for folks looking for a truly unique MMOG experience. dtp Entertainment and Williams are working toward something grandiose, and if it all comes together as planned, it might just knock one out of the park with respect to expanding the scope of story-based, online multiplayer. The publishers are expecting to launch the game internationally sometime in 2010, and they feel strongly that Otherland is a concept that will appeal to a wide audience, regardless of cultural boundaries. We look forward to watching the evolution of this project unfold.
CCC Freelance Writer