Tree of Savior relishes in an old MMO staple: grinding
It's a trying task to pinpoint why grinding in games, especially MMORPGs, is a beloved gameplay point to some while absolutely loathed by others. Not everyone likes to meticulously kill thousands of mobs for fame and fortune, but those that do should be happy Tree of Savior's slowly making its way to release.
Tree of Savior calls back to a more simple time. The game, toted as Ragnarok Online's spiritual successor, puts a great deal of emphasis on grinding even now in international CBT2. EXP rates now are much higher than they will be at release, and leveling still feels slow to most modern MMORPG players who didn't dip their feet into the MMO genre pool in the late '90s to early 2000s.
You primarily grind for three reasons in the current build of Tree of Savior:
- Recipe materials
- Silver (and gear drops to sell for Silver)
Grinding for crafting recipe materials and EXP has all but been phased out of most modern MMO design for gathering and a rigid, streamlined questing regime. These two concepts can even seem foreign to anyone not familiar with the brutality of old-style abysmal drop rates and ever-steepening EXP curves.
When you see several people asking what grinding is in the first week of a game's beta or release because they can't figure out how to progress, there just might be a problem. And that problem isn't necessarily the game.
"Grinding? What's that?"
Grinding has been phased out in most games for quest grinding: AKA being bombarded with quests that keep you chugging through the game world without skipping a beat.
Quest grinding is what the average modern MMORPG player expects from the genre. They expect to be told where to go, what to do, and how to do it. Most often these games have the players go from one area to the next with little personal input or choice outside of quest order and combat ability usage.
Quest grind-oriented MMO design is an easy way to keep people playing a game because their objectives are so clearly laid out. There isn't much thinking involved and there's no shortage of quests to complete -- but since most of the quests still want players to kill X amount of whatever mob, quest grinding isn't all that much different from pure grinding. It just comes with a comfortable amount of hand-holding.
166 quests finished before level 60 on my Sapper.
Quest grinding exists in Tree of Savior. There is no shortage of quests to get your EXP fix until you get to be level 80+, but the quest NPCs are not indicated on the map and you're still going to have to pair quest grinding with pure grinding.
Many players hit around levels 40 through 60 and start to wonder why they're getting under leveled and can't kill mobs efficiently. This comes about because they aren't keeping their equipment up to snuff, missed the level 50 dungeon, or they haven't been talking to every NPC they see sprinkled about the maps for those much-needed side quests. But sometimes they just need to whip out their weapon and start whacking on stuff.
Tree of Savior does have quest grinding, and you spend a good amount of time doing it, but pure grinding is more of a facet here than most modern MMORPGs. You grind for the three goals I mentioned above: recipe components, Silver, and EXP.
Just to clarify, "pure" grinding refers to just getting out there and killing a bunch of mobs in succession, often for a prolonged period. Doesn't sound interesting, does it?
Pure grinding is not very exciting. Running around a small area, blowing everything up, then changing channels (or sitting at a Bonfire and waiting to recover) repeatedly is not a particularly fun endeavor. But the point isn't fun. The point is the work it takes to get to the fun, which in itself is enjoyable for many.
There's a big gap between something being "fun" and something being "enjoyable". I don't find mob grinding particularly fun, but I do find it enjoyable and even relaxing. Whittling down my grinding method to peak efficiency is enjoyable. Heading back to town, selling all those drops, and seeing my Silver balance swell is enjoyable. Not everyone sees this process as a good thing.
Tree of Savior is not much for hand-holding outside of the basic tutorials and story quests. Outside that realm, you're mostly on your own -- which means you need to figure out the best way to progress. Often that best way is (surprise) just grinding. This is especially going to be the case as the EXP rates are brought down in later betas and release. As the EXP rates go down, and leveling becomes more difficult, so will general interest in the game.
An old grind in a new industry
The fact is, your average modern MMO gamer isn't looking to figure out what they're supposed to do or where they're supposed to go. They're not trying to party up with other players to progress. They're certainly not specifically looking for a game where grinding, something many consider to be archaic, is a requirement.
Tree of Savior seems destined to failure in an industry where players get worthless data trophies/achievements for doing something so simple as the first series of objectives and button mashing combat is the norm.
One thing that's easy to forget is just how badly some people want the style of game Tree of Savior is trying to present itself as. The world is massive, albeit split into maps a la Ragnarok Online. The combat is quick, responsive, and can be attuned to your tastes with skill points, stats, and attributes. Secret treasure chests, quests, and monsters can be found if you keep your eyes peeled. And you have to work hard for the things you need.
Hidden treasure chest in Sirdgela Forest.
None of this is to say Tree of Savior is perfect now, because it certainly is not, nor is it to say it will be perfect later. The game is, however, a wonderful throwback to a different time in MMORPGs that is just modern enough. I'm not in a sewer grinding from levels 10 to 15 for several hours like I did in Ragnarok, but I am holing myself up in a room in a temple to grind money for an hour or two. Not because I have to, but because I want to.
No one is going to expect Tree of Savior to be the next big thing, but it certainly has its market. That market is only going to grow once the game hits release and a new generation of MMO players find out whether they can deal with being forced to be in a party because they're not a solo class, and whether they're bad enough dudes to tough out an all-day grind just to throw a bunch of Silver all over the floor as they fail enhancements. The only way for this small demographic to go is up.