I've had this on my mind ever since I went back and played BDO recently.
No MMO has given me the same feeling that Mortal Online has; it truly felt like a real place, and danger was quite literally at every turn. I know that Mortal was not a "good" game. It had tons of bugs and issues, and near the end the community became very toxic. I want to break down what I think made Mortal special, and what I think differentiates it from other "Sandbox" MMOs such as ArcheAge, BDO, EvE, and etc.
- The world was massive, and there was no "official" map. I distinctly remember stumbling across dungeons and other areas that I had no idea were there with my little group of friends.
- The community. I know this is a divisive one, but at its peak the community (Including the PK'rs) were pretty great. For instance one time A group was camping outside the gates of Tindrem, and a large group of players pushed out in order to escape. Also, having to find a crafter willing to craft you specific gear that you wanted was very fun, and you could often get it done for significantly less than the market price.
- The PvP. Again, I know this is divisive, but the full loot PvP definitely gave an edge to the world. Maybe it's just me personally, but I love games that have a real risk vs reward, and a simple XP penalty or item degradation just doesn't cut it for me. Having to plan what you wanted to bring on your adventures and coordinating with other players to go places really kept my adrenaline flowing.
- The locations. While Mortal was certainly not a pretty game, some of the locations were very very atmospheric and helped lend a hand to the feeling of being in danger at all times. For instance, in one of the starting towns there was a relatively safe graveyard where new players could farm zombies for money. Also in the same town was an underground sewer filled with thieves whose body parts could be sold for even more money than the zombie heads. However, this area was not safe, and you would often be ambushed by other groups looking to take your stuff to sell it. To build on this, the area outside Tindrem was notorious for being dangerous, so players often travelled in groups to stay safe when they were going to other areas. It was the little details and design choices that helped lead to the grander sense of immersion.
- The camera angle. First person games are my jam, and in my opinion they help you to see the game world and its scale much better. It also constantly keeps you on your toes since you cannot see behind you. Being in a cramped sewer and constantly checking behind you for other players was very tense and made your success feel that much more rewarding.
- The combat. Another hot take, I know. I fully realize that the combat was not perfect in Mortal, but it was some of the most enjoyable MMO combat I have ever played. BDO and its flashy action combat is very fun, as is the more traditional tab targeting combat, but nothing can beat the feeling of seeing your sword connect with someone's head and watching them crumple to the ground. The combat felt very grounded, and I found it to be very enjoyable (when it worked).
- The lack of direction and hand holding. Oh boy. I know that sandbox MMOs are very niche, and this only helps to make them even more niche, but starting from nothing and making your own goals and achieving them is very rewarding. While there was a meta, there was no certain way you had to to do anything in the game, and the game itself quite literally gave you no direction. Again, while that is not for everyone and sounds very off putting, it was very gratifying once you got ahold of the mechanics.
- The server politics. As I said before, the community did get toxic. However, even in the midst of that, hearing about battles and watching guilds try to fight the campers made the world seem like it was in a constant state of motion. Something was always changing, be that guild keeps getting raided or a small group of PK'rs getting taken out.
All of the above reasons (and some more I probably forgot about) combined to be why I loved and feel like no other games have gotten close to achieving the feeling that Mortal gave you. You weren't some grand hero or the chosen one, you were just some schmuck trying to live in an absolutely brutal fantasy world. You weren't special, and that is what made the game special.
I remain optimistic for Mortal Online 2, and while I know Star Vault has had its issues in the past, I sincerely hope the game succeeds.
TL;DR: Mortal was not perfect, but no other game has came close.
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