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Risk Your Life: Path of the Emperor

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Planetwide Games
Developer: Planetwide Games


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PC Preview - 'Risk Your Life: Path of the Emperor'

by Tim "The Rabbit" Mithee on April 18, 2005 @ 1:21 a.m. PDT

Risk Your Life is a persistent universe or role-playing game (RPG) in which you assume the role of a Warrior, Cleric, Wizard, or Thief (over 20 classes) and explore the many beautiful and exotic locations within the game where they meet other players, complete quests, fight monsters and other players.

Publisher: Planetwide Games
Developer: GamaSoft
Release Date: June 28, 2005

MMOs come and go, and I've been involved in a great many of them, even if passingly. From Ultima Online, Meridian 59, and The Realm through to today's standards like World Of Warcraft, City Of Heroes, and Everquest 2, I've seen the biggest successes and the devastating failures. Now that the genre is fully established in American gamers, smaller players are starting to vie for the same territory.

Risk Your Life is one of those new entries, hoping to grab away gamers from the huge names dominating the market right now. Currently in open beta, the game is very near release – pre-orders are being taken for an unspecified release date – and a cache of gamers are already embedded in the world of Iveria. Your plucky writer, fresh off a World Of Warcraft high, was sent in to see what's up and if the beta is a shining star or a tin man.

First impressions are everything, so they say, and Risk Your Life -- RYL to everyone involved – doesn't seem set to impress. Character generation is extremely simplistic, with only two races. Each race is split into just five classes and the standard two genders. Character design is also exceedingly simplistic, consisting of nothing more than a few shirts and hairstyles. Pick a faction, and the adventure can begin.

Once into the world proper, you're placed in a city with other players and set about your business. You'll get a very, very brief introduction to the control schema – a bit of a mess, featuring two independent layouts, one mouse-based and one keyboard-based – before being let free to wander. The city I played about in was a monstrosity of generic stone and grass. The initial mission led me about to the choice vendors, buried amongst a sea of user-run stores, all sporting signs (like Ragnarok Online). It's hard to get over the blandness of the environments; plains are spare green regions, with a bit of grass or a tree here and there, while all the buildings of the town look...exactly alike. Given the forced similarity between players, it's almost like a clone war, gone horribly wrong...

After a bit, the "run about and find these people" missions concluded and were replaced by something key designed to make any veteran RPG player cringe: the dreaded grind missions. I'd been told to go down and get an item – in this case, a certificate – from a trainer for my class. This trainer told me, in no uncertain terms, that I could have the certificate if I did a job. And I could do the job when I went through my first class change. That can't happen until a character is level 10, and I was level four. The only thing to do was stab things. A lot.

In its current state, RYL is all about the combat. Using a fairly intriguing design, combat happens as fast as your character can swing their weapon just by holding down the mouse button. Skills are selected from a hotlist and activated with the right button. It's simple, and some of the skills have stunning sounds effects the first time you see them – swords clang, energy flares, smoke blows over fields and fires burn. They won't stay fun for long, though, given how often you'll have to use them just to survive. Combat is the main point, the key element, around which the entire rest of the game is built. There are really no "support" class characters; everyone is designed to get out there and beat up on things. Grouping seems to become vital to success after a point, with groups of dozens of players wreaking havoc on the high level areas.

That's not to say that nothing shone to me. I genuinely appreciate the much faster pace of combat, and the skill system is remarkable. Each level allows you one more skill slot; via a fairly large series of books — both generic and class-based — you can learn an entire catalogue of impressive moves, spells, and passive abilities. Anyone can be unlearned at any time with no penalty (though the book is destroyed by learning in the first place) and easily replaced. The weapons and armor, though small in over all number and design, are bent towards their intended class, with weapons built around Dex or Int instead of raw strength. This means that characters who can't stand to focus on their muscles won't be left utterly unable to fight back against what will be a sea of enemies. The support staff seems to be talented as well, more than capable of making sure that things get fixed or at least handled (despite screaming over the chat channels to the contrary).

As it stands in this beta (v1.30), RYL is pretty ... mundane. It has what could be an excellent combat system and an adequate mission system (with a few perks, like "show quest target on map"), but it's all buried in a heavy coat of Same Paint. The fighting will certainly bring in an audience who could care less what things look like – the same people who stay in places like Anarchy Online or Ultima Online – and it certainly has fun moments. The amateur feel will have to be dealt with extensively in order to counter the inevitable comparisons to more modern entries in the MMORPG arena, or RYL will simply be another also-ran that never had a chance.

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