Salem: The Crafting MMO Preview
"Salem is set in a fantastical New England and offers free form massively multiplayer gameplay in a persistent, mutable and online world. With players taking the roles of intrepid colonists from the Old World seeking to make lives for themselves in the New, Salem provides them with unique crafting, farming and building systems inspired by 17th century alchemy."
A few years back, a friend of mine got me into playing a new MMO. What he showed me was completely different from any other I had seen. It was the first roguelike I had played, and the level of complexity was astounding. Haven & Hearth, the Prequel to the free-to play Salem, was a game based off starting a new life in an unexplored world, full of discovery, danger, and a unique, artistic style uncomparable to any other game.
And Salem only improves on the first game. Based on English settlers coming into the new world with nothing but clothes on their backs and a capacity to learn, it becomes immediately obvious to new players that the game both adds much needed elements that were missing in Haven & Hearth, but also retains the feel and complexity of the original. Players begin in the docks, genderless, nameless and naked, and quickly create their colonists and learn enough to survive in the unforgiving American wilderness. After landing in Boston and finishing the short tutorial (which was completely absent in the H&H), they are whisked away to a spot in a randomly generated world with nothing but a makeshift shelter to call their own.
Of course, it's entirely possible to derp around using the given studying items in random order to figure out what to do, but to have any success, Players need to either have an experienced friend helping them or the wiki page open throughout the game. Much of the game goes unexplained, like the first one, and so to progress, you simply can't do without some outside help. Other players are rare, as the world is so expansive and there are so little people who were lucky enough to get a Beta key that finding one is a task in itself.
However, when starting out, finding one is something nobody wants to do anyways. The game is centered on survival, and that means every man and woman for themselves. You will find yourself stealing from unclaimed homes, being robbed and attacked by more experienced players, and finding neighbors that are just as wary of you as you are of them. And that's not the only danger in the game. Any animal, even a cute little bunny, will not hesitate to attack and knock you out if you lay a finger on it. Snakes will pursue you endlessly once they spot you, and bears... well, it's fairly obvious that if bunnies can take you down, bears aren't the creature you want to start a conversation with. Of course, the danger of being killed permanently, and the challenge of building your little colonist up, and the complexity of every item, every skill, and every activity, is the very same reason why the game is so addicting.
There are some downsides to the game. The added feature of currency, and trading, require you to have hefty amounts of silver to get further than living in a lean-to living on mushrooms and berries. Although its possible to sell enough to get by normally, unless you're willing to spend real money on Salem, it takes a lot of time to progress. Also, the fact that it's still in beta makes the game completely devoid of ambient sound, water animations, and other small things that leave the game feeling quiet and incomplete. The massive amounts of lag from H&H seem to be gone, but the pathfinding AI for characters causes players to run into trees, bushes and small overhangs constantly unless players focus on moving around everything. None of these things actually take away the fun of the game, but it will create a feeling that the game just isn't as good as it could be.
In the end, Seatribe and Paradox Interactive did a great job making a sequel that improved on the first, and the game will definately get a steady stream of players for years to come. Although it still needs some work, and it may not be for those who want something more fast-paced, it's definitely worth checking out for those of you who want something to play to relax, learn and explore in.