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PC Preview - 'Irth Online'

by Mark Crump on June 17, 2005 @ 1:26 a.m. PDT

Irth Online is a virtual world in which players role play characters in a free form, fantasy-based storyline. Players join Irth’s history at a period when a fragile truce exists among the far flung civilizations of the snowy Arcadians in the north, the southeastern swamps and marshes of Morbus, and the southwestern tropical region of Mezoteks – and determine the course of history for each civilization.

Genre: MMORPG
Publisher: Self Published (digital download)
Developer: Magic Hat Software
Release Date: July 2005

In July of this year, Magic Hat hopes to answer the question Can a small developer play in the big boys' space?" with a resounding "yes!" when they introduce Irth Online.

The premise is simple: a plague has wiped out civilization, and from the wreckage three smaller civs have been reborn: Arcadia; Morbia; and Mezzo, who are ideologically opposed (in other words, at war); and a fourth, neutral civ called the Avarians. These civilizations will be made up of two races, the elves and humans. Their hope is Irth Online will have a heavy emphasis on role-playing and story, and players determine the fate of these civilizations.

The advancement system is skill usage based, There is an initial trainer get you going, but one thing that’s neat is if you untrain a skill and want to relearn it, you’ll gain it back faster. Since the game isn’t class based, it’ll be possible for you to create a hybrid-type character that’s more suited to your style of play. Combat is very Diablo-influenced, with lots of special attacks and a fast pace. At least here you won’t hit auto-attack and go make some popcorn while the fight resolves itself. A local radar will show points of interest.

There will be a crafting system, and you’ll need to run around and gather up lots of resources to make stuff. Their goal is to make it so that player-made items are the best items in the game, but they aren’t going to be stingy with the quest rewards for those who don’t want to rely on a crafter.

Oddly enough, the game the developers claimed as their biggest influence isn’t EverQuest, but rather Ultima Online. That’s readily apparent in the death penalty, where other players will be able to loot your corpse. Fortunately, that won’t be able to happen in most zones.

Graphically, the game doesn’t set any new standards. They do the job, but it’s not the prettiest game around. The character models are blocky and the terrain is reminiscent of Dark Age of Camelot’s when it launched. The monster models aren’t bad and have been rumored to have been purchased from Wish when that game died.

While I’m all for a small company to make a splash, the MMO pool is already filled with enough fantasy-based MMOs to float Noah’s Ark. I saw nothing that hasn’t been done already, and arguably by developers with more resources to throw at the inevitable issues (and have the strength to survive). The game will also be only available for purchase online, which may make it tough for customers to find out about.

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