Preview: Felled by Ambition, MyWorld gets Lost in the Sandbox

MyWorld — Action RPG Maker is an ambitious game, even in early access. It sells itself as “Little Big Planet meets Dark Souls, Zelda & Diablo!”, and aims to provide the player with everything they need to enjoy an immersive RPG experience. MyWorld asks the question: sure it’s fun to play an RPG, but wouldn’t it be more fun if you could make your own, too?  MyWorld’s aptly named developers, The Game Creators, invite players to make, share, and play rpgs and build a community all in one package. On top of that, MyWorld includes multiplayer so you can play with (or against) friends.

The idea of an RPG maker that’s just as fun to build in as it is to play is an admirable goal, but when it comes to games as massively complex as RPGs, indie developers often bite off more than they can chew. Unfortunately, this seems to be the case with MyWorld.

The life of a brave knight.
MyWorld – Action RPG Maker, developed by The Game Makers

I’ll start off with the best thing about MyWorld, which is its environment. The low-poly style that MyWorld embodies is charming, especially when paired with bright colors and memories of more lighthearted medieval RPGs such as Fable and Zelda. Knights in shining armor are sometimes at their best when they aren’t taken seriously, and even when you’re crashing through skeletons in MyWorld, the player is made to feel as if they’re doing so in an environment as nonthreatening as a meadow. Before I got into playing the game, my initial thought was that I’d be in for a more relaxing experience than usual.

In this style, the Little Big Planet influence can be found. But as lovely as MyWorld looks, the game’s strongest point quickly leads to the first of its problems. There’s a reason that Dark Souls doesn’t take place in a friendly world; it would cause a disconnect between the gameplay and the style that would make the player feel as if they had been misled. Light environments with dark gameplay only work if there’s something sinister beneath the grins, and as a result this style is much better suited towards horror genres, or games that can explain this disconnect through storytelling. That’s why games like Bioshock infinite, American McGee’s Alice, and more recently, We Happy Few, have drawn such adoring crowds. These games are unsettling representations of extremes—models of worlds where everything is fine until it’s very, very wrong.

Enemies standing proudly over your dead body. 
MyWorld – Action RPG Maker, developed by The Game Makers

MyWorld is nothing like these games. Despite being billed as an RPG maker, it has no real story to speak of in the few sample levels, and it’s difficult to create one yourself with such limited quest-editing options. Only so much story can be told when your only possible tasks are to collect or kill a certain number of things. The combat you have to engage in to complete some of these quests is indeed Dark Souls like, I can give the developers that, but only in the sense that it is difficult to the point that it’s not always enjoyable. Dark Souls is well known for punishing difficulty, but its fanbase is largely motivated by the fact that the game’s enemies can be conquered with enough skill. In MyWorld, the player is confronted instead with enemies that shouldn’t be very difficult, but they’re so poorly equipped to handle them that death comes often. The player starts out far too weak compared to even the simplest enemies, with no real opportunity to advance themselves and train against anything more on their level.

There’s a distant promise of better armor and gear to be collected, but such achievements seem impossible when you can only take two hits before dying and it’s nearly impossible to fight back. As of late I’ve been playing more challenging RPGs and rogue-likes than any other genre, which makes it even more obvious that the combat in MyWorld is so slow and clunky that it’s prohibitive. There’s no real way to block effectively, so you can only perform a slow roll away from the enemy. The game’s lock-on feature ends up hurting you more than helping you, since there’s no strafing system and rolling while locked on just moves you closer to the threat. Each character has a few different powers, which does include a temporary shield, but they take a little too long to charge to be useful when you’re surrounded by multiple enemies.

The success? Short lived.
MyWorld – Action RPG Maker, developed by The Game Makers

As for the characters, the differences in them are disappointing. The classes are divided into damage dealer, tank, and glass cannon, but they all fight in essentially the same way and are mostly differentiated by how many hits they can take before they die (which, no matter the class, is not very many.) You can level up these characters by collecting experience from fighting and completing quests, but with every quest being essentially the same thing with different filler text, this has a tendency to make the entire game feel like grinding. Spells, ranged combat, and bows are promised for the full version, but at the moment combat and character class is limited and, as a result, ultimately unrewarding. While it’s possible that the combat would be much better when played with a friend to back you up, my own attempts to join in on some co-op fun were foiled by a bug that instead left me stranded, alone, and shoulder-deep in the middle of a hill. Hoping that friends can save you seems futile anyway, as MyWorld’s difficulty increases the more players there are in a game.

Then again, perhaps it’s unfair to focus so much on the gameplay of a title that seems to focus on the exciting potential of building. After all, it’s an RPG Maker, so it seems unfair to not speak just as much of the game’s creation system. There are entire (and quite popular) games that focus only on building and managing worlds, so this aspect of the game deserves as much due diligence.

Maybe this is why it’s disappointing that The Game Makers haven’t honed the building half of the game as much as they make it seem.

MyWorld’s editor mode.
MyWorld – Action RPG Maker, developed by The Game Makers

The controls in creation mode are unfortunately just as clunky as combat. Something as simple as moving forward over your map becomes difficult, and you wind up zoomed in all the way when you’re just trying to navigate. The game’s assets and themes are charming, thematic, and well designed, but placing them in the world becomes tedious due to an un-intuitive UI and some basic oversights. For example, there’s no ability to select a group of objects and copy and paste them, which means a forest map must be decorated one tree at a time instead of in groups. Strangely, MyWorld’s editing tools don’t allow the player to insert bodies of water, unless you count painting the ground blue.

NPC interactions in editing mode are limited only to quest dialogue, and despite the game’s sample levels seeming rich, the player will quickly discover that there a few things that cannot be recreated (such as custom non-quest speech bubbles for NPCs or grand-prix racetracks.) The game’s hubworld has different portals that lead you to the steam community page to find guides on how to play and create in MyWorld, but these only serve to take the player further out of the game. It’s difficult to feel immersed when a game so strongly rooted in a love of RPG uses youtube videos projected on a hubworld TV screen as its tutorial and doesn’t let you include even some of the most basic elements of an RPG in your own creations. And while I’ll admit it’s satisfying to be able to raise a mountain one second and climb it the next, that moment of pleasure is then quickly ruined by the problems of the gameplay. With no option to scale the difficulty of enemies that you place in your own worlds, it can become impossible to enjoy even your own levels.

Various portals in the Hubworld, which lead you to the Steam Community pages. 
MyWorld – Action RPG Maker, developed by The Game Makers

Oversights such as these leave the player with a lackluster creative mode. While it would make sense to focus the review on the game’s creation aspect, there simply isn’t enough content currently there to talk about. Combined with MyWorld’s poor combat and the lack of harmony between the game’s reality and how it is advertised, It’s not something I can recommend. For now, ambition seems to have gotten the best of The Game Creators. The concept certainly has potential and it’s a game I’ll keep my eye on throughout the next seven months of its development, but unless The Game Creators can produce enough content to give the player the story and combat that are so key to the most successful RPGs, MyWorld might never make it out of the long shadow it cast for itself.

MyWorld — Action RPG Maker is available Early Access on Steam for $14.99. For more information, visit The Game Maker’s official website.

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