Sky Saga First [Alpha] Impressions

I would never have known about Sky Saga if it wasn’t for the rage-induced community support group that the Windborne game’s Steam forums had become. Sky Saga was suggested by one player as an ointment to the afterglow of the production-stilled Windborne. I checked out Sky Saga’s website. Someone on Twitter also mentioned to me it was guided, similar to HQM Minecraft or Windborne’s quests.

The suggestion to try Sky Saga was enough to sign up for the “alpha”, which is fairly open. The servers are open right now for a limited time, and I was able to play around over the weekend to get a feel for the game.

The reason Sky Saga has a colon to it’s name is because “Infinite Isles” is probably the most important aspect. Each player gets their own home island floating in the sky where they start out the game with the tutorial. There I was guided towards learning the basics of gathering and blocks. Anybody familiar with Minecraft (especially FTB) should easily understand the crafting system.

Tangentially, I will say that this was awfully polished for an “alpha”. The developers might be taking baby steps on soft-launching this game, but it is definitely more in the “beta” phase with high-polish for the parts they want demo’d. That being said, the game feels a bit incomplete.

The tutorial ended abruptly before I really understood the crux of the game. I had built a few tool blocks, such as a woodsmithing jigger, and I had cleaned up the ruins of my to-be home since there was an offending iron ore vein running through it. I was directed to make a portal stone from another offending vein of crystals in my ruins, and that was that.

I was mildly directed to my in-game book, which notes everything from materials to quests. The book, in part, felt like Minecraft’s NEI mod in spirit. In mod-heavy Minecraft packs, there is no way I am going to inherently understand how to create some of the heavy items. NEI guides players on the steps toward building those things. Sky Saga’s book and quest system were no different.

Now without a tutorial, I had all these options… in the architect line I could build some flags for my island home. In the blacksmithing line I could make some swords. A simple button added them to my quest bar UI, where (nodding at NEI) I felt, it was not a mere check box. No, for my sword I needed an anvil. The game saw I was missing this critical piece of equipment, and so instead of just saying “build a sword”. It was guiding me towards that from square one. I really appreciated that. I kept chugging along until I ran into “gather paper”.

What? Somehow I was to gain paper… not build it. There was no wood pulper equipment I had to build. Apparently I had to get paper from elsewhere.

And, this was the biggest thing missing from the tutorial, which in my opinion identified the whole game’s feel. I was to use that magic crystals to head to another island that I could destroy to my heart’s whim in the hopes of finding paper and whatever else my island needed, but could not create.

Sky Saga took the concept of say “dungeons” and ported them over to destructible islands. Each island was also a shared instance, and random people would enter, where we might pass one another or follow one another like crows looking for carrion.

The island I mostly explored was a “forest” island having a town, with a bandit mini-dungeon below the church, and a small tower a ways from the town. Everything is destructible, and I could have spent my time building a sniper tower or making pits for the bandits.

I found my paper by destroying books and paintings in town. Largely, when I was done with each island adventure, I was heavily loaded down with new materials. This was the heart of the game, I felt: resource collection by raiding shared instance-islands filled with combat, exploration, and destructible things. I felt the tutorial really needed to get the player this far, and I can imagine a lot of players did not get to this understanding after the tutorial had dropped them off.

The creative part is really for the home island, which you can decorate with your craftings and lootings.

Getting back to that shared instance thing. It didn’t feel great for one reason. The chests around the island were shared. That meant if I got to the chest first, after we both spent our crystal token to get to this virgin paradise of resources, well winner takes all. The mobs appeared to respawn after some time, which was better than not, but the player rushed resources did not.

I would guess there are (hopefully at least planned) islands that are dangerous enough that you want this shared instance feature, However, for the starting islands were I was building a resource base, I did not enjoy trying to rush for chests. It was even worse when I entered an island a few minutes after another player, and there was no rush.  I entered the island looking at empty resource chests. Felt like a waste to me.

I know that some islands will also apparently be PvP places, which brings a really interesting aspect to the game. However, unlike say Crowfall, I do not feel that PvP is a core facet to the game. There are still nice bones to Sky Saga, and I feel the developers can add a lot of systems on top of the bones to make interesting scenarios.

The music and graphics were really nice. I particularly enjoyed the music. The system felt really smooth all around, but at times a little “cloddy” in movement and mining. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it felt a bit slower than Minecraft. My kids are excited, and when the game [soft] launches out of alpha, I expect they will each get their own account.

–Ravious