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Secondhand Lands is a fantasy MMORPG set in an eccentric fairytale land. You choose from four races and can undertake various quests in order to level up and develop new skills and abilities. It is not an attractive game and the gameplay could do with a shot of adrenaline but there is a sense of humor at work here and it has a certain bizarre charm to it. You can download the game for free at the official Secondhand Lands website.
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Installation and Set Up
Secondhand Lands is reminiscent of Runescape visually speaking and both are completely free to play. Sadly Secondhand Lands does require an install and unlike Runescape you can’t just run it in your browser. The install involves downloading a client and you have to start the game via the Pixel Mine Launcher which also gives you access to their other games. It takes a while to set up and you need to create a log in but once the game is installed you can select Secondhand Lands and then choose your server and away you go (there was only one server available when I played). The initial loading screen and overall presentation during the set up is poor and it doesn’t really whet your appetite for getting into the action.
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Your first task is to set up a new character and you can choose from four races - Wolves, Sheep, Catgirls and Scrappers. The wolves are obviously the most attractive of the bunch and they are stealthy and primed for combat. The sheep are better fighters in Secondhand Lands than they are in real life and they also have some useful defensive capabilities. Sheep also like to flock together while wolves are typically loners. Catgirls like to dance and they have magical powers. They are also slow but to make up for that they can ride sheep or wolves. Scrappers are a bizarre collection of creatures including bears, dragons and skunks. Despite their name they don’t like to fight and they seem to focus on crafting equipment.
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As you undertake quests you earn skill points and you can buy various skills. The large interface is a little awkward and your powers are listed across the top of the HUD with an expandable menu of options on the right. You can target enemies by left clicking on them and then right click to attack. Right click is the general action button so it works for talking to people or trading too. The combat is typically dull RPG style, click and wait, occasionally alternating powers for maximum effect or to heal. Once the enemy is dead you can loot their corpse and sell the goods in a village. There is nothing in the gameplay that really stands out as new and Secondhand Lands is not the sort of MMORPG you'll play obsessively.
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AI and Quests
There are various AI characters in the game who assign quests. There are also AI characters for each faction who will trade with you. The quests are all explained via pop up text boxes. There is no voiceover. The early quests are very simplistic and involve retrieving various objects which you do by monotonously killing large numbers of weak AI characters. You are also joined by a Fairy Helper character and they essentially serve as tutorial tips. They help you to learn the basic gameplay concepts and the game is basic so there isn’t too much to learn. There are over 150 written quests in the game and the fairytale references are great.
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Art and Sound
The environments in the game are one area where the indie development of the game is evident. There really isn’t any way around it. The textures are drab and low res and the buildings, plants and trees are extremely low poly. The characters are also poorly modelled, the sense of scale is random and the animation is very limited. Even the menu system is ugly with overlapping screens, poorly drawn 2D icons and a drab and blurry art style.
The sound in the game is limited to a handful of cheap sound effects and some faint classical music. The atmosphere is lacking.
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Writing and Humor
The main strength of Secondhand Lands is the sense of humor. You can visit the Badly Animated Forest, you can meet down on their luck fairytale characters and you can embark on some comically weird quests. Some of the text brought a smile to my face and depending on your sense of humor you may deeply enjoy this aspect. The strange mixture of characters and the faction politics in such a setting were funny in themselves and for fans of the surreal this might conjure some enjoyment.
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The community may be fairly small but for the most part it was friendly and welcoming. People were always mulling around discussing the game and agreeing to accompany each other on adventures. Experienced players seemed happy enough to offer advice and while there were a few elitists with no time for newbies they weren’t rude about it.
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It is great that there are indie developers out there creating alternative MMO games, especially games suitable for kids. This game may not be particularly suited to a game like myself, but I can certainly see its appeal for a gamer looking for whimsical gameplay. Some people may suggest it is a good free introduction to MMORPG’s for young kids. There are definitely better free MMO games out there.