Zenith: The Last City – VR’s First True MMO
I strapped my Rift controllers to my wrists, pulled the VR headset over my face, and blindly fumbled with my headset to place it over my ears. I booted up the familiar space of my Oculus virtual home, and loaded up Zenith: The Last City. What I experienced over the course of the following two and a half hours was something fairly incredible.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Zenith: The Last City is a VR only MMO for all platforms from developer Ramen VR, a team with previous experience shipping games co-produced with Oculus, and working at companies like Unity and Google, among others. So needless to say, they have the pedigree.
When I loaded up the game for the first time, I was met with a fairly standard login prompt. E-mail, password, the usual stuff you sign up with. After that bit of formality was complete, I was brought to the character creation screen. Here is where the game stumbles slightly. There are only two options. A female body preset, and a male body preset. Hopefully the game will add more options in at a later time, but for now it’s all humans all the time. There are a few options for faces and different hairstyles/colors, but I suppose I’m just looking for something a little more beefy in my character creation options.
After customizing my avatar, the next decision was class selection. In Zenith: The Last City you have an option to play as either a Blade Master or an Essence Mage, with each class having a subclass option of being DPS, Support, or Tank. Blade masters use twin swords to deal melee damage up close and personal. This class involves using your arms to swing your blades in various ways to deal damage and requires plenty of open space in your play area to avoid collisions in the real world. I would often walk by players who would exclaim things like “I just punched my wall…” or, “I hit my hand on my desk…”.
The less physical class is called the Essence Mage, and involves using dual “Essence Amplifiers” which rest at your character’s hips when not in use. To use them in combat you simply reach down with your controllers and grab the devices which then become two wrist mounted magic “guns”. You can fire shots of arcane “essence” rapidly, or charge up your shots to do more damage, at a cost of using more ammunition. This is the class I chose as my play space is fairly limited and I wanted to ensure I wouldn’t hurt myself while playing. And once my character had been finalized, I was off to the tutorial area where I noticed a few other players like me, standing in awe of the virtual world around us.
One of Zenith’s stand out aspects is the locations. In the tutorial you start in a grimy undercity, which then gives way to the city’s bright and shiny surface, before guiding you into an idyllic open field with monsters a plenty to hunt down for the city’s safety. It was here where I was truly immersed in the world. Thanks to Zenith’s proximity voice chat I could hear other new players talking with each other, trying to get the hang of the mechanics. In fact, as my first piece of loot dropped, I wondered aloud if that loot was for everyone who participated in killing the monster. A friendly voice beside me (a fellow player, several level above me) informed me that loot is individual and I was free to grab any loot that pops up on my screen.
The players I encountered in my short time were incredibly helpful and polite. As I was exploring Zenith’s quite massive open world (something the game rewards with hidden loot chests and ability upgrade items), one attempted to give me a quick tutorial on how to use the in-game cooking system in order to make more cookies (food and drinks replenish your health and give you short buffs). I wasn’t exactly Gordon Ramsey so I put away my cooking station and thanked him for the attempt to educate me.
After exploring some more a group of other players all exclaimed “We’re going to the dungeon to try and fight the boss, we need as many people as we can get!”
Of course I jumped at the chance for some high level monster killing, and despite dying a couple of times, we managed to beat the massive purple snake beast who was TWICE my level.
We all shouted with joy and a feeling of accomplishment as we danced over the corpse of our fallen foe. But this is where I made a fatal error.
Bugs and glitches are to be expected in any game these days, in fact it’s more of a news worthy story when a game ships with no major bugs. I encountered a game breaking bug just after our group’s fight with the snake. As a hidden room just beyond our reach was discovered by another player, my instinct was to use my class’ teleportation spell to get behind the invisible wall. Once I had landed the marker just right, I found myself inside the room. I turned to inform my new comrades of my success when the game suddenly booted me back to the main title and told me my connection had been severed due to “inactivity”. Clearly I wasn’t meant to get in there, but as the man once said, “Life…uh… finds a way”.
To be fair, I was the one going out of bounds so it’s not like I can truly blame the game for that odd hiccup in my experience. The 2 and a half hours I spent in Zenith: The Last City were incredible. And there is still so much more to discover. The game is available now for all VR platforms and will run you $29.99. If you own a VR headset, and you enjoy being immersed in fantasy action, you owe it to yourself to give this game a try. I hope to see you soon in Zenith: the Last City.