Salem – The end of the world as we know it

It seems I may have neglected my faith, for yesterday a mysterious voice announced that “The End” was now “nigh” and that I should say goodbye to this cruel world. I expected frogs raining from the heavens or lava to gobble me up from beneath. Alas, no such thing occurred and it turned out to be just a server wipe. Wait, what?! What about all those hours I spent living off dirt and mushrooms? All for nothing? Ah well, I guess one should never become too attached to Beta Characters.

My latest achievement in Salem was indeed a major leap forward on the evolutionary ladder. I managed to teach my character carpentry, and could now construct a sawbuck to make wooden boards. However, this is where the game hit the first little snag in the road: I needed nails to construct the thing. This reminded me of something Björn Johanessen had said in an interview: Salem will be a free-2-play MMO with a payment model based on microtransactions. “Players will be able to buy all sorts of things to speed the game up…. like nails, etc.” Back then I didn’t know what was so special about a bunch of nails. Now I know: You need them to step forward into the actual “building stuff”-part of the game, and you cannot get them any other way but to buy them from the market stalls in Boston.

So I needed some cash. But since Salem went the “realistic” route of not letting me sell sticks and stones to random merchants in Boston, I needed to  find something of value. Study items that raise your stats are obviously a good choice, so I went the slightly “less realistic” route and stood in the marketplace, yelling at everyone that I was selling food and small stones for cash. Honestly, I felt like a 7-year-old playing market in my parents’ garden! It was kind of awesome.

In the end, I found a nice player who bought some stones. When you meet other players, you don’t immediately see their names. A neat and realistic idea. Instead I get to name them to remember them. “Stone Guy” then explained that if I added him as “kin”, I could see his real character name. I now felt a little less alone in the wild, wild wilderness of the New World. I still needed money, though. The fastest way to get cash was either to kill crickets and sell some cricket-based-toys, or to find an Indian feather and arrowhead and sell some Indian charms. Since my last combat experience with crickets went rather badly, I decided to forage extensively – and lo, after an hour or two I stumbled upon two Indian feathers! Selling the charms gave me enough silver to buy nails, and the game went onward smoothly from here.

The sawbuck enables you to craft wooden boards. With boards and flint, you can construct the Nine Men’s Morris boardgame that raises your fighting skills.

Salem is a lot about grinding up your skills. I crafted countless children’s masks made out of leaves, spinning tops and straw-dolls to raise my arts & crafts skill. I whittled away at hundreds of pilgrim’s crosses to raise Faith & Wisdom. I collected and studied hundreds of smooth stones and plants to gain more knowledge about the Wilderness. I ate so many slugs, mushrooms and berries that I wondered why my character wouldn’t get sick. Although this may sound boring, it has this undeniable addictive quality to it. The motivation to build new stuff, find new items and raise your stats becomes obsessive rather quickly.

As a first beta conclusion I can say that I really like Salem. It has all the excessive attention to detail I would expect from a crafting / exploration / sandbox game. The graphics look cute and are sufficiently pretty for this type of game. The skill and attributes system proved unusual and refreshing. I’m looking forward to starting a new character soon, if the Beta continues as before. This time, I’ll try to teach her some combat a little earlier!


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