I’m not sure what to think of this game. I’ve played it for over ten years now, and still I’m not sure about it. It combines MMORPG elements with a crooked casino where they’re not so subtle about taking your money. It sounds terrible, but it’s surprisingly addictive and it can be incredibly fun. It’s set in a futuristic environment where robots are out to kill every human and take over the universe, for reasons that are never really stated. You can choose to combat the never ending horde of robots using some of the hundreds of weapons available to you, or you could ignore them and make your fortune another way, mining and crafting being the other routes.
The original concept of this game was to be a free-to-play game, but has increasingly become closer to a sinkhole for money. It has a real cash economy, meaning that when you’re spending in game currency, you’re actually spending your own money. This feature is why the developers have stopped referring to Entropia Universe as a game, rather they prefer the terms “universe” and “experience”. I’m fairly sure this is just so they don’t have to submit their loot generation algorithms to any gambling board and prevent the Gamble Aware website being prominently displayed across their game. It is definitely possible to play the game without putting money into it, but it is significantly more difficult and very time consuming to even make small amounts of money.
Gameplay-wise, Entropia hasn’t changed from its core ideas back when it was Project Entropia and still considered in beta. You have three main ways of playing – hunting, mining and crafting. Hunting is what the bulk of people do. There’s always been a lot of variety of monsters to go and slaughter, from animals, to mutants, to robots. All of them provide a good level of difficulty for all levels of players, though obviously there are enemies that only the more experienced or properly geared members of the community can realistically take on. Mining is another activity, and it’s probably my favourite one. You run around with a bunch of bombs and try to find deposits of ore, energy matter, or if you’re on a planet which allows it, treasure. People that have spent years mining have catalogued maps of which types spawn where and the size of the last found deposits there, all of which are incredibly useful for finding loot with the best mark up. Crafting is the third option you have, and it provides little in terms of actual thought. As long as you have the correct amount of ingredients, you can set the amount of tries, click go and then walk away from your computer until it’s done. It’s essentially like telling a slot machine to go one hundred times regardless of outcome and hope for the best. It’s where the big bucks can be found, but it’s also the most boring part of the game for me.
The big draw of this game, and the reason I’ve only included the above three professions, is the phenomenon known in-game as a “global”. These are where you perform any of the three above tasks, and the loot you receive totals more than fifty of the in-game currency, known as PEDs. If you get a global, the camera pans out so it’s in third person, you see your character have baubles floating around them, trumpets are playing a victory tune and you see your name come up in the in-game chat for all online players to see. If it’s a significantly higher loot than 50 PEDs, you may even make it into the Hall of Fame, where you’ll stay for the next 24 hours. Higher still, you have the All Time High list, which has some entries in it that were made in 2005. Not only do you get to witness that amazing scene and get all the kudos from your friends, but you get an incredible endorphin rush which is something I’ve never had in a game before, or since. I’ve never been so excited during gameplay especially during something which is essentially shoot, loot and repeat.
One of the other main appeals that this game has is its incredible community. I’ve played World of Warcraft, Guild Wars and many other online games in the past, but I’ve never once met a community quite as friendly and welcoming as Entropia Universe’s. It wouldn’t be untrue to say that I’ve made some good friends from this game, ones that I’ve even met and had a beer with in person. There are also a large amount of forums around the web stuffed with tutorials for newbies and the game’s elite, should they wish to try something new. Recently there’s been a few applications developed which build in to Entropia and allow you to easily record your daily activities in the game. Finally, there’s even a “rookie” chat in the game, open to everyone, that is frequently monitored by MindArk’s support teams and I’ve even seen players in there that have been around for years answering questions posed to them by the newer generation of Entropians.
Customisation is always key in an MMORPG. You don’t want to be stuck with the same look for the entire duration of your time in the universe, so it’s always good to change it up, be it with new clothes, armour or even a change in appearance. Entropia is really good in this regard as you have a bottomless pit of different options to choose from. Crafters can make clothes and colour them to suit your tastes as well, so even if you don’t like anything on the market, you can always get some paint and some plain colours and make the outfit you’ve always wanted. You’re also able to change your physical appearance should you get bored of it, as there are avatars spread around the game that specialise in the art of making you look better.
It all sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it? For all the positives this game has, they must surely outweigh the negatives, right? At the start of the article I said I wasn’t sure about this game, and this is why. It does have a significant amount of excellent content which you would struggle to find in any other games, but it does have some absolutely atrocious flaws that go with it.
First, the game has so much to do, probably more than you’ll ever get around to doing, which sounds like a great thing, but when you realise that you need in-game currency to do almost anything, it starts to go downhill rather sharply. You are able to make money without depositing money, but it’s such a slow process that anyone who has actually made the game playable for free is always more of the exception than the rule. The necessity to deposit just increases as you try to push beyond your current level. Going from your first weapon to one more powerful can require a significant budget adjustment to continue levelling to reach the upper echelons of the game. It wouldn’t be so bad if prices of items hadn’t gone up so absurdly as time passed. MindArk had thrown in some top tier items at the very inception of the game, but removed them from the possible drop items as time passed, meaning the prices skyrocketed. Some items in game are worth over 200,000 PEDs, which if you convert to real money, is around £13,500. The sickening thing is, people are actually paying that much for things. It makes it impossible for people who aren’t millionaires to join and organically progress to become one of the best in the game.
Another major issue I have is the amount of content they put in, versus the amount of bug fixes they do. Historically, this has never been one of MindArk’s best areas, unless the bug can be abused in such a way that it damages their bottom line. They have improved recently, and bugs in the game have gone down significantly, but for a game that has a lot of real money in it, there are still some horrors on show. They even have terrible servers which cause a lot of lag to players, especially when in areas that are densely populated. During some events, it’s almost impossible to actually participate in it because any more than a few dozen people and the game seriously starts to struggle. That’s even when the settings are turned all the way down to “safe mode”, so they have some serious issues they need to resolve. Even going inside of buildings can be a painful experience as the lag tends to hit pretty hard inside, forcing you to lose the fluidity that you’re used to and makes you feel like you’re moving through treacle.
So, would I recommend Entropia Universe? Probably. It’s worth trying just to experience the highs of it, even if there are considerable, and considerably more lows. If you see it as a pay-to-play game where you put a monthly fee of £10 in, you’ll probably be able to stretch some fun out of it for a few months. But because of the way the game is made, £10 won’t last as long as you’d expect and you may only get a few hours of game play with it if you’re not careful. It does definitely have some perks and you’re likely to make some good friends through just participating in the community, but it needs to be balanced and seen as a trip to a casino, or buying a new game every month.