Wurm Online

I’ve mentioned this game a couple times, but since I’ve been playing it for a few weeks now, I figure I could give a more complete rundown of what it’s like. Wurm is a sandbox MMO made by a tiny development house in Sweden. Minecraft creator, Notch, once helped build the game before moving on to form Mojang, and you can see where he got some of his ideas when he started making Minecraft. Where Wurm and Minecraft differ, though, is in complexity. Wurm is unbelievably complex. As an example, in order to put up a house wall, you have to use both planks and nails. Planks are crafted by cutting down a tree, chopping it into logs, and then turning those logs into planks. Nails are crafted by first finding iron ore, smelting it to make iron lumps, turning those heated lumps into a small anvil, then using additional heated lumps on the anvil to make nails. All that, and you still need 20 planks + 1 handful of nails just for a single section of wall. The game isn’t for everyone. A lot of people would find it boring or tedious and rewards come slowly and after great effort. But when you get something made, you feel like you did something.

The level of depth is hard to even articulate. Every day the game manages to amaze me with something new. Just yesterday I learned if you have a high enough digging skill, you don’t have to use the Examine option on a section of land to figure out how to properly level it. May seem like a small thing, but it’s a lot of help for someone who is trying to level a large plot of land. And yes, you can terraform the land around you.

When you’re injured, it’s not just a simple hit point damage that heals over time. You can have multiple injuries, from a very light bruise on your right arm that will heal on its own to a severe wound on your chest that will kill you if you don’t get it properly treated. You could even have a dozen light injuries that make it look like you were beat with a sack of potatoes.

Other little things: Wind direction affects sailing speed. Dropping meat on the ground will attract predators. You can breed your domesticated animals (saw someone in chat offering to rent out his stud horse to another player to impregnate his mare). Pregnant mares have a chance of miscarriage if they’re injured. The seasons change visibly. You can only harvest during certain times of the game year (which lasts six real-life weeks). All that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Now for the bad stuff: graphics and animations and a lack of polish. Terrain graphics look fine. They aren’t top-of-the-line or anything, but as you can see by the screenshot above, they are far from horrible. It’s the characters and mobs that suffer. There are exactly two player models in the game: one male, one female. That’s it. They look identical to every other male and female model. You can’t even see armor on them. Creature graphics are similarly plain, with the exception of the few that have been upgraded (more on that later). Even worse than the graphical look of the models is the animations. Creatures (player and mob alike) have very minimal animations. Most creatures move by scissoring their legs and gliding across the ground. Characters don’t really look like they’re sawing boards or swinging their swords or anything else. Even more obvious, players stand on their horses, wagons, and boats.

This extends to combat. The only way you can tell you’re in combat is for your combat box to become active and the combat log to start flashing. Otherwise, characters stay perfectly still, like they’re having a staring contest, except in the end, one of them dies. The result of this is that combat isn’t very engaging.

The lack of polish shows in other areas, like the fact that there’s not a proper patcher/installer for the game. Instead you have to download a .jnlp file and run it (Java file). The tutorial could also use some refinement. It does a good job of showing you a lot of what you can do, but it throws a lot of information at you at once, not all of which is necessary, and it makes a few mistakes like allowing you to fail in crafting. (Which is realistic, because you’ll fail in the game until your skills are high, but may cause a lot of people to give up without ever getting out of the tutorial).

Even with the poor animations, Wurm is simply the most sandbox-y MMO I have yet to find. And it’s constantly updated. There’s an animator working to improve animations. You can see them in a few of the creatures already if you use the unstable client build. The new bison, for example. I watched one for a while and saw it twist and bend its head and noticed its chest moved as it breathed. Small things, but stuff that really makes a difference. In the short time since I’ve been in the game, they’ve added the ability to create interior walls to houses and added the materials to make papyrus to allow you to write notes and leave messages. I believe the next big addition is multistory housing. There was even talk about the ability to rent out rooms, so players can make apartments and inns.

A subscription is ten euros for two months (approx. $13), or five euros for one month + five euros to get five silver coins (the in-game currency). There are other subscriptions available, but ten euros is the smallest amount you can spend. First time subscribers get two free silvers and a /refer code they can give or sell to another subscriber. The only currency inside the world comes from the Wurm store, which completely eliminates gold-farming. You can also spend ten silver to buy a village deed and another ten silver if you want an NPC trade merchant. Neither of these are required. You can build anywhere outside of deeded land without needing someone else’s permission, and there’s plenty of places that are undeeded, especially on the less populated servers. (Keep in mind, there are something like eight servers and the most I’ve seen online in the entire game is about 800, so there’s plenty of room to go around).

There’s a generous trial if the game sounds interesting to you. Skills are capped at 20, and you can’t do a few things like found a village, but what is available is more than sufficient to get a feel for the game. I would love to see the population grow so the economy can really take off, so I hope this convinces some people to give the game a try.

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