Ryzom is a science-fantasy MMORPG where players forge their own path in a sandbox world, by leveling skills in one of four schools: Magic, Combat, Harvesting, or Gathering. Or players can mix and match skills to become a versatile character.
|Publisher: Winch Gate
Release Date: September 19, 2004
Pros: +Dedicated community. +No classes. +Player-designed areas.
Cons: -Needlessly complex. -Dated UI/graphics. -Animation Bugs.
Ryzom is an MMORPG incorporating elements of both science fiction and fantasy. Players create their character by choosing between one of four races, with customizable sliders to distinguish their appearance. There are no classes in Ryzom, but players level skills by performing corresponding tasks: the more time spent crafting boots levels up player's crafting ability. Ryzom features a complex skill system, where players craft their own techniques by balancing abilities and resource costs, leading to an unrivaled level of customization in the way actions are performed. There is no clear direction in Ryzom’s sandbox world; players are tasked with forging a path however they choose. Explore a vast dynamic world where seasons, weather, and the time of day is constantly shifting. Immerse yourself in a dedicated community that has been supporting Ryzom’s distinct spin on MMORPG’s since 2004.
Ryzom Key Features:
- Dynamic Environments - night, day, and weather cycles are cosntantly changing, from bright sunny days to darkness drenched in sleet.
- No Classes- level up by practicing whatever skills you prefer from one of four schools: Magic, Combat, Harvesting and Crafting.
- Open Source tools - utilizing Ryzom's open source engine players can create their own worlds.
- Complex Skill Customization - every skill is made up of stanzas, that can be customized to cater skills to particular tactics and play styles.
- Intricate Crafting - become a master of crafting through perseverance to create the best gear in the game.
Ryzom Featured Video
By, Sean Sullivan
I have been reluctant to play Ryzom for quite some time. It wasn't it's age, it’s Western style, or science-fantasy theme that made me leery. Something nebulous tugged at my thoughts; perhaps it was Ryzom’s dated web-layout. Setting aside my preconceptions to the best any critic can hope for, I installed the 2004 sandbox MMORPG, and the portents dissipated—but I won’t be playing Ryzom past this review.
Sculpting a Hero
I always start with my favorite part of any MMORPG, character creation. Each of the four civilizations highlights their physical characteristics through female mannequins that look like they’ve been addicted to junk for half a decade. Yes, the game is dated but World of Warcraft is also an antique and I never envisioned Freeway Ricky Ross when crafting my character. Settling on the Fyros Civilization—the most human-like—I adjusted sliders to see how anatomically incorrect you can be in a science-fantasy universe. To my delight, Ryzom does let you create disproportionate bipedal beasts, although not to a degree that satiates my appetite. Nevertheless, I chiseled away until the marble resembled a hero from the Trojan War. With a name worthy of Jove, I set off into Ryzom’s world as “SSJSonic.”
My second favorite part of any MMORPG is decimating pacifist wildlife populations bordering pockmarked encampments. Combat is fine, being familiar but lacking gusto. Your strikes have no presence, nor do your abilities, culminating in a blasé experience that’s repetitive after your first hunt. The only indication of steel and fur clashing is your avatar’s grunting sounds, like a beginner Karate Class: “Kiai, Oss!” Overemphasized combat sounds are the only SFX decorating the landscape beyond a constant tempest. Rather than push forward as a dagger-wielding troglodyte I made a new character who would channel magic; fingers-crossed I would find my purpose on Ryzom’s battlefields. Discovering my effeminate nature I played as Aryatara, specializing in the dark arts and plastic surgery.
The more you practice a skill the more fluent you become in its application. Garner enough experience and it’s time to skip off to the trainer to learn new techniques. But accumulating skills isn’t as easy as two-clicks and you’re done. Ryzom presents its mechanics like occultism, forcing you to peel back layers of UI to make any headway. Skills can be crafted through player-end editing, made up of“stanzas”—a sequence of steps that must be properly balanced to be viable. Every action has a cost and it must be met with Credits, or regenerative properties such as Stamina. I created a spell called “Leary’s Special Water,” causing acid damage to the poor creatures surrounding the encampment.
It’s systematically unique but needlessly complex for the masses, and daunting to the unprepared. Purchasing Cold Damage 1 encompasses five stanzas and three credit types. While the player isn’t forced to craft the skill themselves, maximizing skill effectiveness requires tinkering like a mad scientist. If you’ve ever built a macro before then the system will feel familiar. There are some interesting combinations to be realized, sacrificing range for cast time or vice versa. And it does enhance Ryzom’s claim as a true sandbox experience, and I applaud the mechanic for its uniqueness. The custom skill system is my favorite feature, but I am not surprised that other games have avoided it’s intricacies.
After playing Ryzom I understand why the majority of screenshots on the game’s site are tilt-shifted. Without veiling the world behind an Instagram-like filter, it’s a dull period piece. That can be fine. Aged graphics don’t hinder Ultima Online or EverQuest, but some aesthetic properties do hurt Ryzom. Bushes placed outside the starting encampment are solid objects, impossible to pass. And while shrubbery appears decorated by navigable foliage, they’re actually cubed squares taking up space beyond their visual perimeter. While wooden fences with posts separated by the width of your character are inhabited by invisible walls.Every cliff face protects players with an unseen force field, forcing players to circumnavigate to level ground. Invisible barriers remind me that I’m an avatar chained to the confines of the game world’s parameters, a disconcerting notion I'm glad I've never discovered in reality.
Ryzom is impressive for introducing weather patterns and seasons, an ambitious undertaking for a game over a decade old. But through a modern lens the systems are not enough to balance the visual crudeness; it’s a world that looks better as a static image than it does in transition. However, when the sun set I was impressed. Spell effects have a luminous glow that’s gorgeous. And the camp sites illuminated by torches show off the engine's potential. I believe Ryzom would benefit visually from a perpetual night.
Crafting and Gathering
While gallivanting on my adventures I came across phosphorescent green balls, indicating buried resources. Equipping my pickax I chipped away at the soil to extract raw materials. It’s an automated process where a timer ticks down while the quality of the source in question diminishes. Salvage the material before it's destroyed and you can line your pockets with whatever science-fantasy mat you’ve stumbled across. It’s an interesting enough mechanic—as five resources bars countdown—but quickly drowns in monotony. As is expected from an older gathering tool, you’re completely divorced from the process. And modern games haven’t improved the mechanic much either. Oftentimes the picking animation would break and my character would stand above the material source, idly awaiting like an impatient congregation at Christmas mass.
But as with any game, you harvest to craft. And in Ryzom crafting is as intricate of a web as every other aspect of the game’s micro systems. I admire the emphasis, as the best gear in the game is player-crafted, making crafters and harvesters an essential part of the game’s economy. Following combat, crafting skills are made up of intricate macros (stanzas) to negotiate when creating an item. I highly recommend browsing the Wiki if you’re a fan of crafting. Ryzom will not disappoint fans of complex crafting systems, especially since the world cherishes their position.
Ryzom is free-to-play up until a point. You can’t level skills past 125 without paying for a subscription. Considering Ryzom’s emphasis on grinding to level skills, albeit old school MMORPG’s, any player who needs to consider subbing should have no qualms doing so. It’s likely Ryzom stays afloat (server costs, maintenance, and continued development) thanks to dedicated community members who do opt into the subscription.
Final Verdict - Good
Call me jaded, but a 2004 MMORPG is like a Achilles’ futile race against the Tortoise without unlimited funding to give it a boost. It will never catch up. Complex mechanics can’t hold their own when a cumbersome UI and drawn-out learning curve present gameplay as a tedious endeavor. Only players addicted to micro systems steeped in rich complexity will find the experience rewarding. And perhaps that’s why Ryzom has endured. It is a game that holds its own for a select player-base that doesn't include myself. If you feel modern MMORPG’s hold your hand too much, and you’re desperate for an open-ended experience you ought to download and try Ryzom.
Operating System: XP / Vista / 7 / 8
CPU: Pentium 4 2.0GHz or Sempron 2200+
Video Card: GeForce 6100 or Radeon X1200 128mb
RAM: 1 GB
Hard Disk Space: 7 GB
Ryzom is also available on Linux and Mac OS X.
Ryzom Additional Information
Publisher: Winch Gate
Nevrax CEO (Former): David Cohen Corval
Open Beta (First): April, 2004
Open Beta (Second): August 30, 2004
Open Beta Ends: September 14, 2004
Development History / Background:
Ryzom was developed by European game development studio Nevrax, and is now owned and operated by Winch Gate. Work on Ryzom began in 2000 and launched four years later in September, 2004 under the title The Saga of Ryzom. The name was dropped and changed to Ryzom in 2006. Ryzom failed to attract widespread attention and Nevrax announced their company would likely fail on November 21, 2006. The Free Ryzom Campaign was launched to garner funding to purchase Ryzom and released it as a free-to-play title. Since 2009 Winch Gate has owned and operated Ryzom. The Ryzom source code was fully released on May 06, 2010.