Virtuverse First Impressions | Upcoming Real Cash Economy PC MMORPG

Virtuverse real cash economy MMORPG

Being a bounty hunter in an unexplored and inhospitable world is no easy task. Trying to get to the riches in damp, creepy caves before everyone else is a tough undertaking, even more considering that we’re rookies in this whole colonization thing. Those huge alien creatures aren’t shy when it comes to seeing you as prey, turning the tables on what you were initially hoping for. But hey, who knows if we can’t team up with a few buddies to share the rewards and make the challenges more bearable? And sometimes, making a run for it could turn out to be the best tactic in the book. That's Virtuverse in a nutshell, the new real cash economy MMORPG that we got to play during one of its early alpha tests.

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You are now watching Virtuverse, an ambitious and promising MMORPG that is aiming to become one of the staples of the real cash economy subgenre – we thank them for sponsoring us. There are very few serious games that give you an opportunity to trade with real money in a bid to earn some extra bucks, and I can already hear you shouting “Entropia Universe!” at the screen. Yes, that is indeed an excellent comparison, and you’re bound to find a few similarities between the two games. However, Virtuverse comes with that characteristic brand-new car smell that makes you feel good inside, and I really like the whole Starship Troopers atmosphere, with the rookie soldiers exploring a brave new world, deadly giant bugs everywhere you look.

The Virtuverse creators seem to be very upfront and honest about everything surrounding the development, sharing their plans and acting on feedback suggested by the community through their social media, in particular the Discord channel. If you want to learn more about Virtuverse right now, I mean, apart from this in-depth video which you just can’t miss, even if I say so myself, you have all the links that you need in the video description below.

One great example of the honest and direct approach to development is how Virtuverse goes on about early access testing. Instead of being limited to Patrons or other supporters, anyone can join in thanks to the frequent release of public betas. Just go over to the official Discord, download the game, and if the servers are up, you’re off exploring wild planets. Virtuverse is also releasing on Steam, the official page is already available, so it will be easily accessible to everyone, and free of charge – this is a free-to-play MMO, after all.

Before diving into the gameplay, let’s have a look at the player-driven economy that powers this game. Well, in fact, it’s the Unreal Engine 4 that powers this game, but that’s the other side of the coin. As far as monetization goes, Virtuverse is free-to-play, but you can get a monthly subscription if you so wish. Everything in the game revolves around the in-game currency called Aurum, which you can acquire through gameplay, purchase, or withdraw back to real world money. I’m adamant that many things may change before the game officially enters open beta by the end of next year, so the current values are subject to change and are only meant to reflect my experience during the EA4 test.

For this test, every player started with 10,000 Aurum, and the current rate – let me remind you once again that this may change in the future – is $1 dollar for each 1,000 Aurum. You can spend your currency in many things, from weapons to ammunition, armor, resources, and even lease or purchase a plot of land. There’s a housing system in place ready for you to explore, as you create different elements to build your own house or shop. You can also craft tons of gear and items that can be quickly sold in one of the many vendor machines, or openly trade and sell with other players. This is a very concise explanation about how the economy works in Virtuverse, but there’s a lot more going on under the hood that you can only learn through experience, such as supply and demand rates.

Virtuverse real cash economy MMORPG PC Cave

Evidently, concerns about pay-to-win are going to be raised, something that happens for every free-to-play game, let alone one where you can invest and withdraw real world money. I can’t say if anyone is going to get rich playing Virtuverse – we’ve all heard stories of some players making hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit by selling a virtual property –, but maybe a regular player will be able to make some profit here and there. We’ll see.

Let’s now teleport to Planet Stig, a sci-fi planet that is the first and only one currently available in Virtuverse. More planets will be released in the future, each one with a different theme, so color me curious – some players seem to be asking for a horror-themed world, an appealing prospect, although some of the caves in Stig already send a few chills down my spine. The potential is huge, although I prefer a couple of well-thought-out planets over five or six large but empty game worlds. Moreover, there’s always the danger of cannibalizing the player base with the release of each new planet, turning the previous one into a ghost world. Tough choices ahead for the devs, for sure.

Virtuverse is described as a sandbox-on-rails, a conflicting expression if I’ve ever heard one. However, it does make sense because you are tossed into a brave new persistent open world where you can go anywhere and do whatever you want, but it pays up to follow the story and unveil the lore of the planet once in a while. Quests, missives, and timed world events are just a few of the options to increase your mastery in various professions, but you’re never going to be spoon-fed – you must strive for success. Take this tricky quest tasking you with locating the whereabouts of Arnaude. After many hours of exploration and quite a lot of risk-taking and some cursing, I’ve managed to find where she was hiding, and I can say this much: it is going to be a challenge for you as well.

That leads me to an interesting point about this Virtuverse early access test. I’m talking about the map, or a lack thereof, to be exact. Nowadays, we’re used to having a mini-map onscreen to guide our travels and catch our bearings, but there was none during this playtest. After trying to get my head around the terrain and make a lot of mental notes that included lake format, cave locations, and that iconic metallic bridge, I couldn’t help but feel like I was back in the days of 8-bit and 16-bit gaming. You know, when you had to put pen to paper and chart your own journeys, discovering secrets that you would then trade with your friends. It was a heartwarming nod to days when the internet wasn’t widely available.

While the 2×2 km world isn’t massive, there’s still a lot of ground to cover and several biomes to visit, including marshlands, forests, deserts, plains, mountains, and more. You should also add a cave system to the mix, enhancing the discovery potential of planet Stig, along with its lurking dangers.

But not everyone is going to enjoy this map-less approach, so to speak. So, what is the solution? A cartographer profession, that’s what. According to the devs, this feature will be added at a later stage, allowing players to create their own maps in-game. I’m yet to see how this is going to look, but I know for a fact that you can buy or sell cartography services to other players, so you can avoid charting this and other planets if you have the Aurum to hire someone instead.

Virtuverse real cash economy MMORPG PC Tutorial

A quick detour to character creation will be your first step in Virtuverse. You get to pick from male or female, a few hairstyles, and customize hair and eye color. There isn’t much to go on about here, hopefully we’ll get some extra customization features in the future to add to the diversity, although in all honesty, everyone is going to be wearing a protective helmet anyway, so it’s not like you’ll be able to see many faces anyway.

Virtuverse features a classless system, giving you the freedom to experiment and shape your own playstyle. You’re not bound to a class, being free to use various types of melee, ranged, and science-based weaponry to hunt the wild creatures of Stig.

The short tutorial guides you through the basics in a straightforward way, allowing you to learn about the inner workings of the user interface, something that isn’t entirely obvious at first. But let me tell you that I hate that smug, no-good Christopher Rubin with a passion, why does he have to be so mean to every rookie that innocently asks him for some guidance? Well, I guess that does mimic real life to some degree.

There is no auto-play of any kind, you must actively participate in everything, from combat to building or exploring. Crafting plays a huge role in Virtuverse and you’re going to spend a long time creating gear and items, so make sure that you fully understand how this works. Schematics are crucial to develop your character and are always worth trying when you are crafting something – your research won’t always amount to something, but when it does, you get a brand new recipe to produce a distinct or more advanced item – there are more than 150 schematics planned. Optionally, you can turn auto-sell on if you don’t want to clutter your inventory with useless items.

As of now, crafting is something of an idle task that may eventually be the subject of a slight revamp in the future. This is how you level up professions such as Technician or Master-at-Arms, with more than 30 professions to work on simply by becoming proficient at it – you know, practice makes perfect. For example, you excel at gathering and mining the more you do it, as you explore the dangerous fauna and flora of planet Stig. Oh, and there’s fishing as well, if that’s your thing – I know many players wanted this feature badly, for some reason.

No matter what profession you choose, combat is always going to be an aspect that you can’t and shouldn’t ignore. Improving your weapon skills is crucial in order to become more resilient to the dangers on Stig. Despite being action-based and having the core mechanics in place, combat feels a tad too robotic right now. These are early days, and I don’t want to sound too harsh on something that is clearly a work-in-progress, but the erratic creature movement and repetitive attack patterns make things somewhat less exciting than expected. When you’re in a party, things improve as you coordinate your attacks and combine melee and ranged forces, so there’s visible potential there, as long as the enemy AI is improved.

Virtuverse real cash economy MMORPG PC Forest

I’ve got to hand it to those pesky buggers though; these aliens will chase you to the edge of the world. Their commitment to chew on you is commendable, and that is why the sniper rifle is going to be your best friend, if you’re just like me. A PvP arena is available in case you want to try your skills against other players, but your first challenge is to find its location, since it’s hidden inside a cave. It’s fairly easy when you know where you’re going, but what if you fail to spot that entrance for many days? Or perhaps you’re not a PvP kind of guy, there’s definitely a lot more to focus on in Virtuverse.

You can explore Stig to your heart's content, running as fast as you can, as if you were being chased by a bunch of rock-flinging titans – that does happen, I’m not making that up. During this early access test, stamina doesn’t deplete as you sprint; however, there is a dodge mechanic that is extremely useful in combat, but you have to keep an eye on a meter. You can’t infinitely Dark Souls yourself out of harm’s way, but the rolling mechanic is so effective that you’re going to use it a lot.

A day and night cycle livens up the ecosystem on Stig. A full day lasts for three real hours, with two hours of daytime and one hour of nighttime, a schedule that affects creature behavior – some will only come out during the night, while others prefer to hang around during the day. I’m guessing that some quest may require you to time your expeditions right, since you may be on the hunt for a certain creature or a specific type of loot.

You may want to take a trip down a particular dungeon or two, if you can find them, that is. To enter the dungeon, you must loot a key enabling you to access it, but going in alone is likely suicide. You can setup a party of up to five players to increase your chances of success and improve the rewards. While the dark and dank caves may be full of threatening creepy crawlers, at the end of one uninviting dungeon awaits the Broodmother, a gigantic scorpion boss-thing. The whole cave system is giving me horror vibes, and the procedural dungeon system allows you to scale some aspects of the dungeon, so that you can finetune the difficulty according to the rewards – this could make all the difference between going in solo or teaming up with a few friends.

Graphically speaking, Virtuverse is looking solid, and way ahead of the aging competition. The quality is a bit uneven depending on which biome we are looking at, but some of the forests can be quite a sight. The models and game environment are functional at best, but the caves can be breathtaking, with colored crystals lighting up the place and lending them a mystical and mysterious undertone. As development progresses, we’ll eventually see some improvements in this aspect as well, but the core gameplay loop and service-based mechanics seem to be the main focus of a well-oiled and extremely promising machine.

I’ve said so much about Virtuverse and yet I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of this real cash economy MMO. It’s quite an impressive feat for such a small indie team, and I truly hope that they get the support and backing they need to further develop and realize their vision. This is the kind of game where you start slow and gradually unravel its secrets, even if there is some expected grind to it, eventually opening up several gameplay crossroads that will force you to choose where to focus your effort.

Given the right push, I can see Virtuverse evolving over the course of years and, much like Entropia Universe, becoming a game with a loyal and helpful community. The concept of paying a tiny tax to support the servers and the ongoing development sounds fair and could eventually lead to some players earning a lot more than they have invested in the game, but I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, Virtuverse is shaping up to be a solid entry in such a risky genre, and it looks like it is first and foremost a game, and secondly a platform where you can earn some extra cash. First impressions are extremely encouraging, and we’ll keep following this game to see where it is going next. A quick glance at the Virtuverse roadmap shows that the fifth public early access should be dropping by early 2021, followed by another test sometime around summer, and ending with the open beta release by late 2021. If you want to learn more about Virtuverse or even support their Patreon, all the relevant links are in the description. Who knows if we won’t see each other on planet Stig during the next public early access test?

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