It’s very obvious, or at least it should be, when you’re dealing with an independent MMO made with passion. Fantasy Tales Online, as I’ve been told, is being developed by a team of three people at Cold Tea Studio. Right now the game is gearing up for Steam early access, and I was contacted and offered a key to get in a little early.
As far as graphics go, Fantasy Tales Online is virtually future proof. It is retro-inspired but not basic, the kind of style that will still look good in ten years time compared to making a polygonal game that looks like it was born out of the early Everquest era. FTO advertises customization, dynamic raids, player housing, a massive world, and more. But can it live up to the hype? Sure, why not.
The sure sign of an addictive game is one that steals time, and somewhere along the line after booting up Fantasy Tales Online I lost five hours. I hate to make comparisons to other games, but it feels like a higher functioning RPG MO, which is in turn an homage to RuneScape Classic, which is probably why FTO set my clock forward the length of a short work shift. It also bears a strong resemblance to another game that is taking up a lot of my time, Stardew Valley.
FTO is played from a top down perspective using the mouse, keyboard, or combination of the two. You can move by clicking or using the WASD keys, and you can mostly disregard the mouse by enabling targeting which places a key binding over interactive objects on screen. A very handy tool that you don’t normally see in games, and as you’ll hear me say quite a bit in this game’s coverage, it’s the little things that go a long way.
There are a lot of little things that make the world less stagnant and boring, while also giving players little hints on where they can go next. Walking through the mines early on, I noticed a rat immediately get smashed by falling debris, warning the player of impending danger. NPCs run around the towns, giving random bits of dialogue and pointing toward places of interest while actually giving the area a living feel. I accidentally said hello to one of the NPCs, I won’t lie.
Dungeons are where Fantasy Tales Online becomes something of a Diablo-esque romp. Each dungeon you enter is randomly generated at the start, a series of interlocking rooms with plenty of mobs to mow down and loot to obtain. There are traps, a few simple puzzles inserted so far, and bosses at the end that will probably knock you around the first few times you make your way through. The first boss you encounter has a trick that took me a minute to figure out, you have to knock out the support beams to destroy his armor. For some reason that makes sense.
I like how quests are written, if only because it’s a nice change from the usual first person view of quest text. Quest lines are a bit more like Dungeons & Dragons, written from the perspective of an outside narrator giving exposition. “Mayor Donnoville say this time he would like you to eradicate one hundred squirrels.” Now I read the quest dialogue in pretty much every MMO that I play, and I can get behind any game that strong-arm’s the player into reading the text to know what is going on. Quests are somewhere between standard and RuneScape, a bit heavier on the story and slightly more in-depth than you standard go here and kill the things until you get the stuff.
Crafting is pretty basic at the moment with the most fleshed out area being the ability to create a wide variety of potions that boost health, strength, armor, etc. There isn’t much to say here other than that reagents can take up a large amount of space in your backpack along with potions and loot, and since you can only have one buff active at any time it’s best to travel light. Inventories at the moment can’t be expanded and you’ll quickly find them filled with loot.
Of course, the game is not without its flaws. This is early access, after all, and the only glaring issue that I can find at the moment is that your character’s attacks are rather unreliable, which the guys at Cold Tea Studio have attributed to a few unfixed bugs. While generally not a problem, your character will occasionally not engage in combat without multiple button clicks. It is semi-frequent and, if inattentive as myself, will probably get you killed a couple of times.
Another gripe I have is with the game’s crafting system, if only because it is different and I am inattentive. Right now, you need to manually remove your ingredients and final product from the crafting screen, not unlike Minecraft. If you don’t remove your items, they are wiped after about an hour (according to one of the crew in chat).
With about eight hours of game time so far, Fantasy Tale Online is shaping up to be quite an entertaining game. I look forward to seeing what the small team can accomplish. For now, I will continue leveling and providing coverage.