The MMO games market is in a strange place, and players don't really know what they want. They complain about the lack of new features, while not giving smaller titles a shot. We don't want to play in the classics of the genre, at the same time criticizing young or upcoming releases. Among them is Pax Dei, a sandbox project from the former developers of EVE Online. Will the recommendation and ambitious plans be enough to conquer the market? Let's find out!
What is Pax Dei?
Pax Dei is the first MMO from Finnish studio Mainframe, which has received support from Microsoft. The game's budget exceeded $22 million, so theoretically, there is no need to worry about financial backing. Although comparing the aforementioned amount with Star Citizen, it's no longer that impressive. Nevertheless, for a online game project that uses cloud technology, such a budget seems sufficient.
In its conception, Pax Dei will be a large sandbox, devoid of NPCs and focused on player interaction. We will receive about 60 square miles of space, which won't lack attractions. We'll get dungeons, player-created towns, trading areas, and places for clashes between clans.
The game world will be divided into provinces fulfilling designated roles. As a result, there will be no problem with an excess of buildings in each place, and there is no need to be afraid of invasions from rivals - in the so-called "heartland" nothing will threaten us. We will establish a settlement there, search for resources, and focus on the development of our character.
There are no character levels in Pax Dei, but there are skill proficiencies. Just like in Old School RuneScape, we will learn how to fight and upgrade our professions. For instance, the more proficient we are in carpentry, the more items we will create. The game is designed to reward people who specialize in a certain field - they will be the foundation of the guilds. It's a shame that we will only play humans. Magic and special abilities will be severely limited.
What is Pax Dei currently?
I had the opportunity to play Pax Dei in pre-alpha, and in its current form, the game resembles a classic online survival game. We start by gathering wood to produce basic tools and objects. A little tenacious resource gathering will provide access to better equipment, but already at this stage, I felt that an extra pair of hands would be useful. The game clearly encourages co-op.
When it comes to combat, for now, you can forget about battles straight from World of Warcraft or New World. In Pax Dei, we simply wave weapons which proves our effectiveness. In this respect, the system somewhat resembles Albion Online, where we are what we have with us. Here the situation is similar - our role and skills are determined by the items we have.
While playing Pax Dei, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was playing a survival game in the style of Rust, ARK: Survival Evolved, or Conan Exiles. The interface, initial stage of gameplay, combat, building and gathering - these elements looked almost identical. I didn't feel like I was playing an MMO, but something more like a more multiplayer version of Valheim. The comparison is not accidental, because building is also an important element of this game and provides just as much freedom.
I have some concerns about the game engine. Pax Dei is being created on Unreal Engine 5, and this was noticeable during alpha testing. Of course, it's an early stage of production and it's hard to expect good optimization, but with dozens of players around, I have doubts whether the game will work smoothly. In my opinion, this engine is not for such type of game. So we can keep our fingers crossed that the developers will take this into account and will not repeat the mistake of ARK: Survival Ascended.
What can Pax Dei become?
Pax Dei wants to be like a medieval fantasy version of EVE Online. The entire gameplay is based on the players' activity. There will be no classic NPCs and associated tasks. We will not have any factions. We will also not find a specific objective. The community is meant to drive the servers and create their history through alliances, trade, and competition. It sounds promising on paper, but in practice it can go differently if there are no people to play.
It's also hard to write about a full-fledged MMO, since the game world is supposed to be instanced. The server can accommodate even 7 thousand players, but we won't see such numbers while exploring the area. The system will resemble what we know from the current World of Warcraft. There won't be hundreds of people running around the zones. Instead, players will explore in peace and with freedom. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage, as everything really depends on personal preferences.
Cooperation between players is to be the key to success. Each player will be able to create their own camp, and by uniting in guilds, they will build real villages in Pax Dei. Beginner players are to assist advanced ones by gathering resources for them, so they can create suitable equipment. The factions are to cooperate or trade with each other. There are also plans for wars on foreign territories.
All of this will require players. Looking at the EVE Online community, repeating the success of this MMO will not be easy at all. I fear that Pax Dei will also attract many bloodthirsty players, ready to use others to their advantage. However, because of the lack of open competition and the possibility of demolishing rival settlements, PvP may turn out to be heavily limited. And in such productions, this is precisely the driving force behind all sorts of scandals, dramas, or betrayals.
How can Pax Dei get players' attention?
It is difficult for me to clearly indicate to whom Pax Dei is addressed. At the moment, it's like Valheim on Unreal Engine 5 that would like to evolve into EVE Online. The developers' plans are ambitious and I buy their vision of a sandbox MMO based on community. However, observing the market and the players themselves, I get the impression that the lack of a specific vision for the game could be a problem if it is not addressed quickly enough. I have heard promises of handing over the server's fate to the players many times before, and usually it proved to be insufficient to attract gamers. And this type of project needs an active player base.
At this point, Pax Dei is neither a PvE nor a PvP game. This is also not a typical survival game, there is no plot, main goal, or a rabbit to chase after. Instead, the developers paint a picture of a large sandbox, where players will have fun building sand castles and fighting with shovels. In reality, it may turn out that simply no one will want to bring their toys, meaning no one will be given the chance to play. Despite everything, there is potential and ambition. Now all that remains is to finish it and refine it.
Pax Dei hasn't showcased everything it has in store yet. I will definitely be watching the project, because you can never have too many good MMOs. At the moment, however, I treat this game as a curiosity and I hope that the developers will reveal something more than the standard solutions known from survival games. This type of game needs something more, otherwise it will go unnoticed. That's why I'm impatiently waiting to see how the creators of Pax Dei will get my attention. They have time, since they didn't announce the release date.