Posted on September 18th, 2007 in Uncategorized by Axel Night

No, not Life the board game.

Hello, fleshy masses of nerves and bone.  It’s Monday, September 17th, 2007.  I’m reviewing the biggest game to hit the streets, Real Life.

RL is one of the first MMORPGs, released by Heaven sometime around when Pong came out.  It was innovative for its time, though like every MMO, they did take a lot of ideas from Ultima Online.  I’ve had an account since 1981, and when I went back to play it, I realized it hadn’t aged well at all. 

Graphics

In game shot of a "car" from a later expansion pack.

It’s my firm belief that graphics don’t make the game, but you can’t deny the charm of a well presented atmosphere.  RL is critically acclaimed for its graphics and amazing cut scenes.  Most areas are varied, flow well, and are appealing to the eye.  Real-time cut scenes merge seamlessly into the in-game content, and you never know when they’re going to pop up.  I often found myself wandering aimlessly, just to explore the areas, which change dynamically, depending on the players’ actions.  A tree I saw one day could be cut down the next, or could actually be left to grow over time.  Despite its age, very few have managed to surpass RL in pure graphical presentation.

Rating: 9.5/10 – It’s no "Gears of War". 

Sounds

Again, Heaven comes through with some amazing sound.  The effects are lush, full, and realistic.  Tracks by a seemingly endless supply of famous artists, and even some lesser known ones, pack this title to the brim.  Some players literally play the game for the music alone.  I have a few complaints, however.  Despite all of this musical talent, most areas don’t have any sort of default track playing.  While the background sounds of cars rushing by or the wind in the trees is impressive, if you spend a lot of time in the same types of areas, they get old fast.  The areas that do have themes are rarely good, and sometimes even annoying.  The game does offer the ability to purchase items that can set an area’s background music, but I really think this should’ve been a free feature from the start.  The developers really could’ve put this part together better.

Rating: 7/10 – Maybe if my home area didn’t have so much reggae, I could give it an 8. 

Controls

Extremely complicated.  The learning curve is literally several years.  The lack of a manual really hurts this title, and severely frustrates its users.  Once you get the hang of it, you can do a lot of things, but the effort necessary to do the most mundane tasks, which really should’ve just been automatic from the start, makes the freedom more harmful than useful.  It’s almost surprising that they didn’t force you to hit "breathe" every few seconds.  I have nothing nice to say here.

Rating: 1/10  

Gameplay

Here is where the game can make it or break it for you.  RL is basically a lot of mini-games, strung randomly together, with no real cohesion.  I really like freeform games, but there really seems to be no direction in this game what so ever.  It can be fun, but despite all of the other players, I often found my character alone in his room, with no idea what I should do with him.

You could try leveling up your character, but I found the process slow, tedious, and with level numbers being either subjective or non-existent, measuring your progress can be next to impossible.  The wide array of available skills was a nice touch, allowing a heavy degree of character customization that partly makes up for the lousy character generation system.

I can’t go too far without mentioning the highly hyped "sex" engine.  It seems strange at first, but most innovations are.  Once you get into it, it’s easily one of the best parts of the game.  I won’t get into too much detail, as it has to be experienced to really appreciate it.  Though, I did find it interesting how they tied it in to inviting new players.  It really expands on an already featureful system.  I only have a couple of complaints.  For starters, it is horribly unbalanced.  Certain character builds have an obvious advantage, especially if you rolled a "female" at chargen.  It’s obvious Heaven made no attempt to balance this out, leaving the player to fend for himself however he can.  Also, forming a group (usually just two members is sufficient for most quests) is almost as hard as it was in Final Fantasy XI.  Some players abuse these two flaws, actually charging money just to let you group with them.  There are single-player quests, but there’s not much reward for doing them, and they lack any reasonable storyline.  I guess they’re an alright way to kill time, if you get into it.

Most of the mini-games are divided into two types.  Ones that you can play to make in game currency, and ones that cost in game currency.  The ones that cost money are often fun and enjoyable and really show off the potential of RL.  The ones that make money are often dull and repetitive, and you really only even play them to unlock the fun games.  This can turn off a lot of new players who don’t want to stick through the grind.

Be warned, Heaven has made it very clear that there are no respawns or continues in Real Life.  If your character dies, your account is suspended.  There’s been talk of expansions for RL that correct this.  The projects go under many names, though many believe the final titles will be Heaven (aptly named after the developers) and Hell.  So far, these are still vaporware titles, with not so much as a screenshot having been released.  If anyone has played these, they are under a very strong NDA, and haven’t said a word.  While some are calling it the next Duke Nukem Forever, many people are excited about the release of Heaven, and millions of preorders have already been placed.  Hell seems somewhat less popular, and is expected to be a sequel to Daikatana.

Rating: 6/10 – Lots of content, but poorly managed. 

Conclusion

Many of Real Life’s flaws can be chalked up to the age of the game.  They did a lot of things right, and set the stage for a lot of better games in their wake.  Many aspects just seem random or chaotic, almost as if there weren’t even any developers at all.  So badly so that some rumors actually credit the game’s existence to an almost impossible combination of corrupt bits that just happened to be further shaped by the community that played it.  Despite all of its flaws, it has stood the test of time, and my 26 year old account is still going strong.  Maybe we can expect something better in the future, but for now, this classic will remain one that everyone loves to hate.

Final Rating: 5.7/10

 

What are people saying about "Retro Review - Real Life"?

No comments have been posted. Be the first by posting on the forums here. If you're not a member of the forums, register first.