Feb 2018: Viorar
Area of the Month for February 2018 is Viorar!
A template format for your review is below; click 'edit' at the top of the page, copy-pasta from the ---- to the next ----, and fill in the gaps!
How does the area's room descriptions(descs) work for you? Do they give you a good idea of the area? Do things that stand out in the desc and NEED explanation GET that, either from flavor text(extra-descs) or NPCs in the room or anything?
What about mobiles(mobs) and their descriptions? Can you get a decent mental image of who or what this NPC/monster is? Do they respond when you talk or interact with them?
Some areas have interact-able objects like fountains. Do they stack up well also?
Balance: X/10 (OR N/A)
(NOTE: combat will be most accurately gauged when your character is in the area's suggested level range.)
If this area has combat, how does it feel? Does anything jump as horribly overpowered and impossible to deal with? What about the flipside, anything far too easy to beat?
Are purchased or rewarded items at the appropriate strength levels? Is the effort required to obtain rewarded items reflected in their usefulness (or uniqueness and fancifulness)
Why would you suggest someone come to this area? Is it just a good place to grind experience(lots of mobs)? Does the area provide a chunk of good gold and loot?
What about the quests? Does this area's quests feel properly done, or is there some part of it that you feel needs work?
For towns, are the shops good? Any other non-combative attraction for the area?
How easily and well does this area connect to its nearby areas? Does it make sense thematically to be connected to the areas it is?
Any comments you'd like to make that you don't feel apply to the other sections can go here!
Player: Bree (as Wylynn, level 4 Geomancer) - Token'd
Review Date(s): 02/05/2018
Just about all of Viorar's descriptions are vivid and atmospheric, from rooms to objects to NPCs. They can sometimes be on the longer side, which might discourage some new players, and there are cases where the level of detail gets a little ridiculous (seriously, look at Roy the next chance you get). For the most part, though, they're very well thought out and paint a decent picture of the city and characters. The color of the text, of course, adds dramatically to the atmosphere and the feel of the area.
My biggest complaint is a big lack of extra descriptions. They're abundant in a few rooms, like the south gate, but most are devoid of any level of detail beyond the base room description. So while the overall picture is clear, the minor details are seriously lacking. Rooms will frequently mention specific objects, and nine times out of ten, you won't be able to look at it. This is especially disappointing for things like windows overlooking the ocean, or...the entire vista point. Even a short or reused extra description would be worlds better than nothing.
I think it's also worth mentioning that the way the city is laid out basically condenses all of the major points of interest into a few areas, leaving some parts of the city feeling pretty bare. I actually think this helps the atmosphere in a way - a bustling metropolis would have a much different feel to it, and it wouldn't really fit as well. That said, it takes away from it a little that they're empty of EVERYTHING, even extra descriptions.
I'm not aware of any combat.
Viorar has all of the basics - fountain, bank, morgue, shops, etc. Besides that, though, the shops are actually fairly varied, offering a few crafting materials, a larger selection of food, a store dedicated to selling lights, and even a pet store. Weapons and armor sets are offered up to level 10, but there are some extra pieces in a couple of the shops that help add some variety.
I admittedly haven't done all of the quests, but the ones that I have done have been pretty fun and involved. The only problem here is that they're definitely not newbie friendly. Some of the outlying areas help compensate for that, and there is the temp agency to help point beginners in the right direction, but I can't help but feel like most beginners would end up lost and confused.
The most important feature of Viorar, in my opinion, is Etansel Library. The books within contain essential backstory, some interesting (if largely outdated) information on items and spells, an atlas, so on. Thing is...it hasn't had any new submissions since 2013, and I honestly have no idea when it was last updated. Etensel is a very cool feature that is in need of some serious love.
To the north, Viorar has quick access to several very cool areas by way of Zigolis Swamp and Faron Woods - namely Behemoth's Skull, Midnight Garens and Carnival Night Zone. The docks in the west similarly provide access to a bunch of areas - three islands that connect exclusively (I think) to Viorar, Gold City, the S.S. Zelbess (and by extension Truce), and even the Red Rose and PvP arena. To the south lies the absurdly long Luon Highway, which puts Viorar pretty far from anything else in the south. In the east, you've got Bequerel Mines and Chimp Caverns. While those do link to the eastern part of Fa'Diel, it's by no means quick or convenient.
All in all, despite having pretty much exclusive access to several very cool areas, its location isolates it from just about everything else on the continent. Thematically, I think that seclusion actually fits in well with the feel of the city - cold, dark, and lonely. The surrounding areas also tie into the theme very well, generally providing a darker, more serious alternative to many areas on the east end of the continent.
It's no secret that I've always loved Viorar. It's a beautiful and unique city with a lot of potential to get even better. I really enjoy browsing the library, and I can't help but imagine how great it'd be with more material. The city is also a good hub for exploring some of my favorite areas. I think all it needs is some touching up to make it a really great area.
Player: Aludra!(Gambler/49) - Token'd
Review Date(s): 02/24/18
Compared to several other areas, this place is a diamond. It's not flawless, but it has its facets. Plenty of highlighting for important things. The rooms themselves seem to have a color theme based on the type of environment. The rooms have mostly unique names, so getting lost inside the city isn't too big a deal. The mobiles all have charm and panache and individuality, from the way they react to their actual descriptions and inventories.
I was way, way out of league for this zone by time I showed up. I didn't really do much combat as a result. But there are some cool things for sale I would have love to have found early on. Seems like there's reasons to go back at a lot of levels.
Huge change of pace from what I've been seeing. I don't remember seeing very many enemies in the town itself. Like I mentioned before though, there's a lot of cool treasure in the shops that I haven't seen anywhere else. And Merlee's there! I couldn't afford her Blessings, but they sound pretty cool.
I kept getting lost in the swamp. I'm not ultra familiar with the surrounding zones, but it looks like there's plenty of variety to find and conquer.
Honestly, if there were some sort of express line between here and Truce, I'd like the place a lot more. Supposedly there's a boat that bridges the two areas, but it's infrequent and the airship takes a month and a half so it's easier to walk through aggro-infested areas. Overall though, I really like the layout of the area and the individual charm. If I hadn't been warned away from it at chargen as a 'zone for experienced players,' I might have preferred it to Truce.
Player: Kolem (Playing as Paisley, L.5 Thief)
Review Date: 2/24/2018-2/26/2019
"I can't wait for you to eviscerate Viorar!" -- Ageatii
So, Viorar. The nighttime gem of Fa'diel, this will be be my second review of the city. As the first has been lost to time (and a forum deletion), it will be nice to review the city again and evaluate what, if anything, has changed over my time and years away. As Viorar is aimed more toward an intermediate player than Truce is, I will do my best to bear this intent in mind when evaluating the zone overall. Viorar is a city of surprising highs, though as all cities do it has its problems--and I might occasionally compare and contrast it to Truce, but I am going to do my best to remain objective as a reviewer. Additionally, I had some delays due to personal illness and wiki eating my work in progress, so I am resorting to the much slower and more reliable method of backing up my review and analysis on notepad. I am going to give special dispensation to various elements of the town, but I will explain these in their relevant sections. I should also state the disclaimer that I am in no way familiar with its source material, unlike Truce. Also, I acknowledge that Viorar is much, much, MUCH larger than Truce--it took me actual hours on hours to do the research for this evaluation. Here we go!
Perhaps surprising no one, I immediately tripped over an elephant in the room when writing this review. With that in mind, please bear in mind that for the purposes of the following analysis, I will not be including Etansel Library--the entire purpose of Etansel Library is its look descriptions, while I was trying to do my best to evaluate the surrounding area (e.g. streets, parks, roads of Viorar). With that said, refer to the "attractions" section for my discussion of the library proper. I hope this compromise suits everyone, and it took me a bit to come up with.
I am giving extra dispensation to this category, this time. I admit it is for a very personal reason, because, with the exception of the Library proper, Viorar has always felt a little empty to me--oh, there are many shops, and all the beginning town basics, but here I am referring specifically to the extra descriptions that are or are not in the area's streets, avenues, parks, et cetera. However, because I distrust my memory and acknowledge that my perspective is completely subjective, I performed a room by room survey of Viorar Proper (excluding the Library of Etansel), with the intent of scouring each and every room for extra descriptions--whether concealing extra goodies, as Truce does, or simply for the purposes of rewarding the curious and look-minded. The results are as follows:
Of 50 total rooms walked, 29 have observable extra Descriptions that I was able to discover after effort. From this, we can take away the fact that there are 21 Rooms lacking extra details. Additionally, most extra descriptions were utilitarian in nature: Things like signs, for example, or map chunks, and I noticed that some were copy and pastes. I was particularly saddened by the lack of any such rewards at Vista Point and Luminescence Park, which seem like obvious choices for fleshing out extra details. A shortlist of other possible suggestions for look chances include but are not limited to:
--Any shop (most seem to lack any extra descs)
--Vista Point and Luminescence Park
--The pier which references the ocean but does not allow you to look at it, or any related thing
--Correcting 'chimey' near the Forge
Additionally, I noticed in my review that Morning Moon Alley seemed to be crafted with more regard to extra descriptions than some other areas. Is it perhaps newer?
I would be remiss in discussing only the negatives, though. There is clear and serious effort put into the non-extra descriptions of each streetway and alley in Viorar, with the whole zone having a very distinctive feel that is distinct from just about anywhere else in the Cleft--the closest thing I can think of in terms of coloring would be Carnival Night Zone, and that's saying something. The tone is also very, very different. I do wish there was more diversity in the creatures who are present in Viorar; besides the one Matengui Policeman and the Shady Magikoopa, Leon, and Baobaba's shop, I can't think of anyone 'out and about' in Viorar the way they are in Truce. Perhaps this is merely an atmospheric difference.
I also acknowledge the sheer enormity of the task involved with brushing Viorar over. It is a huge, huge zone, and a much bigger project than Truce is.
The final score for this area, beginning at the base of Five: Minus one for extensive underuse of the Look command, but a full plus two for consistency of full descriptions. Riddel's balcony view is worth another half point on its own, for a final score of 6.5: A healthy score, well above average, but with distinct room for improvement.
"What!" I hear you exclaim, "But this is a starter town and has NO combat, not even two like Truce! How can you give it a Balance score?" Now, bear with me, please. This is an area I want to credit Viorar in, in that it has all the traditional starter services (Mage, Necromancer, Banker et all) but also several shops and services very well suited to the intermediate player. Notably, many of these fall under 'attractions', but compared with Truce's general-purpose outfitters which are highly dense, Viorar offers:
-Low level gear more suited to the magically inclined
-A listing of implemented crafting treasures and locations they are used
-Various unique and exotic consumable items which are specialized and not suited for all players but extremely useful for the curious
With these additional features in mind, Viorar gets a full three bonus points and a Ranking in the Balance Category for being well tailored to the curious and experimental in its shops, which is something very nice to see, as well as expected of the intermediate player the zone is described as geared toward.
And now it's time to discuss that Elephant I mentioned before: Etansel Library is an INCREDIBLE resource. It gives hints and references to quests all over the world, and welcomes player submissions. It has a fantastic feeling, and is deliciously rich in ideas and seeds for quests as close as Viorar and as far as distant space. Alone--just by itself, for the sheer effort and tenacity it must have taken--it is worth three entire points, and would be a shoo in to make any city, anywhere, worth visiting. But it is not the only attraction in Viorar; there are also many, many shops. There's Hector, who offers a different variety of wands than Akahana of Truce; Mummy Seeker, which is practically a hook for quests in the form of crafting itself, and Potions from Baobaba as well as a variety of resources throughout the many stores of the Viorar streets... which is not to say that this area is perfect in this regard.
Although Viorar earns three full points from the Library and another full point from its varied and vibrant shop lists, it has limited attractions outside of the two categories of 'information' and 'things to buy'. Contrast truce, with its fishing, minigames, and thicker quest list, and this lack of variety hurts it a bit and keeps it from a perfect score. The Library is a fantastic, intense addition, full of high quality hooks, but variety is the spice of life. Final score: Eight of ten--very above average, hurt slightly for lack of diversity. If I could give suggestions for improvements, some intermediate-skill quests, akin to Forde's, would be appreciated--these could expect more from the player, as well as a willingness to experiment and push out into the wilderness. Additionally, it might be nice to fish in the river in Morning Moon Alley, or a further development of the mysterious circumstances of the Lighthouse. There are many possibilities--the area outside of town on route to the mine shop seems particularly like it has room for development.
Now for some really good news. Viorar has improved by leaps and bounds since my last review, now having three major exits with a shortcut available to those who go the extra mile, as well as its very own airship station and ferries! From the town itself, it is possible to go north or south to Zigolis Swamp or Luon Highway, as well as there being a ferry to Destiny Island--three full newbie areas, much as Truce possesses. There are also connections to Bequerel Mines, a level 11-15 area, as well as connecting to Joel Island, itself a challenging and intriguing area for those level sixteen to twenty-five. The Zelbess makes port here, allowing level sixteen players who regret their life choices to come to Truce (or simply who wish to get there without traversing the major pathways of greater Fa'diel and Guardia, and who can blame them). Players have direct connection to Cactuar Island and Gold City by Ferry, giving surprising ease of access to areas which are high in level, but for the piece de resistance, the Airship in town goes directly to Murkyur Mountains if you can catch it--a level 70+ area which is massive in challenge for the more casual player. Viorar is something of an inverted case from Truce, in that while Truce's areas have grown to envelop it, like a heart, there has been a deliberate effort in this case to develop Viorar itself to be more connected. While I wish the areas surrounding the city had more interconnectivity, the way Truce's surroundings do, this is not the fault of Viorar itself. Every effort has clearly been given here, and so Viorar deserves Top Marks--well done! An assured improvement.
I try to be somewhat objective in my reviews. I can't claim to be perfect, of course. Viorar is a stunning city, with loads of untapped potential. It has grown tremendously by becoming more accessible to various areas, though there is still room for it to grow. Notably, I don't think there is a single thing about the city that should be taken away--everything I can think of are additions to a city that has already seen serious and deliberate improvement over the past several years. It is my sincere wish that it continues to grow and improve as it has over the past years, with new and exciting developments to match its improved station as a central location in Fa'diel. Having said that, the stores being closed for longer periods does irk me, at times. Artificial wait times always do.
Suggestions for improvements:
--Consider adding extra descriptions to more zones which lack them, particularly scenic locations such as the Park and Vista, as well as in shops
--Consider additional attractions outside of the Library and shops, such as interact-able things within the city streets themselves, as well as in the immediate vicinity (the area near the Mining shop seems especially ripe for development)
--Regarding the library, why not implement the call for books within the library itself? I do not know if players are aware they can submit stuff
--Balance tweak: I suggest moving activated charcoal from Baobaba's boat to the Reckless Abandon; it is too useful and low level an item to bar behind a 1pm opening time
--The zone as a whole seems to lack NPC diversity; this might be intentional or not compared to truce's moogles and hylians and saiyans and whatevertheheck Norstein Bekkler is. Esper? Floower is a good start, but there is almost no one on the street, which makes it feel kind of empty'
--Obtuse nitpick: fix the "chimey" typo
Other suggestions may come to me as events warrant, but for now, I have spent far too long on this already.
FINAL SCORE: Across four categories, Viorar earns an average score of 8.25, an impressive and suitable score for a starting town. There is clearly room for improvement here, and unlike with Truce I have a specific understanding and lens as to what I would suggest, but the highs and effort that have clearly been put into this area set it apart from many others. I only hope that it continues to improve, grow, and thrive.
--Kolem / Pix / Mazarti / Ivan /toomanyothersreally
Player: Jacen Review Date: 2/28/2018
Descriptions: I know I have not even begun to scratch the surface of what Viorar has to offer, but every room, shop, or area of this town seems to be full of descriptions and objects to look at and explore. Room descriptions are fun to imagine, and, as is fitting for the city in eternal darkness, mystical to dream of.
Balance: While Viorar is a starter city, it definitely feels (to me) to be a place to begin on a secondary, or remorted character. In my experience items/quests/surrounding areas take a little more effort to locate and complete. This can be both a good thing, as well as a bit aggravating. It gives the area more locations and places to go see that contain different useful. Most of the general items are spread among the multiple shops and require extra time to equip for a venture.
Attractions: Viorar has so much that I have not even begun to scratch the surface. I personally use Viorar as access to the “other” half of the world, and never take the time to look around too much. -- - That being said. The Library… Sooooooo much great information and never enough time. I would highly suggest spending more time there to anyone, newbie or veteran alike.
Linkage: As my general access to Fa’diel, I feel Viorar is well connected to its ‘half’ of the world. With multiple secluded areas to the north, and access to the rest of the world though both the Bequerel Mines and the massive Luon Highway, you are never far away from something regardless of your level. My only real complaint echoes what I stated in my Truce review: I would like to see a more dedicated Ferry/Portal/Direct Airship to connect the two starter towns.
Personal: This is probably sacrilegious to say, but Viorar has never been in my top 10 areas in the Cleft. Aside from using it as a hub to the southwestern part of the world, I tend to shy away from the area. Nevertheless, it is a very worthwhile area that deserves much praise for how it fits in with the rest of the world. It provides a different experience for anyone bored with the “standard” of Truce. All in all, a firm 8-9/10.
Player: Baccarat (Level 1-10 Gambler-in-training) - Token'd
Review Date(s): 02/29/18
So, I want to give a little preamble before we begin. This is my first area review of, hopefully, many, as I love the Cleft dearly. I want to start by giving any readers a little bit of context into me as a person. I am always much more interested in the atmosphere and aesthetics of a game, the *feeling* it gives you, than the mechanics itself. I will be giving into this bias unabashed here, so if you are looking for an objective review of balance and mechanics in my area reviews, I'm sorry, but you're not going to find them here. What you will find here, however, is a review of what these places feel like to be in. I know that can be a little subjective, but I think we all know that reading a physical book by candlelight feels different than reading an ebook. That feeling, that charm, is my ambrosia. And hopefully, dear reader(s), we find that ambrosia in Viorar.
So, firstly, I want to say that the writing work for the individual rooms of Viorar & surrounding areas is fantastic. Truly, the imagination runs wild with the vivid depictions of the city of eternal night. I never felt like I lost immersion in the atmosphere of viorar in any of the rooms, and each street felt that little bit different, a little bit unique. Signs and shops are placed expertly, and the map is just clear enough to give you a good sense of direction once you've piddled around a bit. Viorar, as a city, is not structured like Truce, and utilizes the non-cardinal directions beautifully to make the town seem skewed in that little way. Every street being an alleyway, the fountain being surrounded by huge buildings on all cardinal sides, and the downtown shops truly being downtown--and having different establishments on each floor--really gives viorar that (nearly) non-euclidean victorian feel, almost like Bloodbourne's map. Everything is connected and placed particularly, and you can really get a feel of a lived-in city, a city which is home for many folks, and a city, which is enveloped in darkness. Earnestly, I've fallen in love with viorar, and the rooms and denizens really have come together to be the cause. The NPCs in this town are wonderfully fitting, vivid, and various, and the quests and people you will find in Viorar feel just that bit more seedy than what there is to see in Truce. The dreamy, hazy, oil-lamp-lit feeling of the city of night never abades.
However, this place is certainly not without its faults. You may have seen a few other reviews bemoan the lack of extra descriptions, and it's absolutely right. There are many things you may see in viorar which cannot be looked *at*, and I think this is a major issue in a place with such vivid atmosphere. It builds the feeling it's trying to give you so perfectly, yet as soon as you ask for more, it politely declines. I found myself consistently disappointed that various items did not have look descriptions, or that various NPCs only had one dialogue response. I feel that in a town that is darker than Truce, with more depths to explore, there ought to be more mechanical depth to support that. The open/close times and changing inventory of several shops do a lot to alleviate this issue, but I think more NPCs could have timed dialogue to fit the theme of a day/night cycle shrouded in eternal night.
I could keep going on here, but really, my biggest problem at every turn is simply, "This is a 10/10 pie, but I only got to have 8/10 slices." I have nothing but praise for what Viorar has. I just need a bit more.
So I will say immediately that I think the shops in Viorar are super cool, the crafting shop is incredibly neat, and there is stuff here to find for a ton of different player levels. However, in my limited experience, I was unable to complete a single quest in Viorar. Granted, I am not here at high level, and I am not the most experienced player. I come here reading Cleft more than I do playing it, though I do love both. But the brick wall I hit in the black market quest was very disappointing to me, for reasons you will soon find quite familiar. It is a *really cool quest*. I think it has, so far, been my favorite since I started playing Cleft. It is a mystery, and I have found different sneaky ways to figure out more information in that mystery, some by accident! However, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing to solve the rest of it, and I think that's very unfortunate. I truly have no idea if I'm simply going to stumble upon another quest hook for this very quest later on in life, or in a different area, or if I've simply missed something hiding in plain sight. But my disappointment in this quest sorely sours my opinion on the balance of Viorar. As a starting city, there truly is not much to do for quests in Viorar, *especially* when you compare it to Truce. In Truce, you start out with a quest, for God's sakes. And sure, you don't have to do it, but it's there for you to do right from the beginning. Viorar just starts a bit slow, I think. I hate to bleed into Connections, but I do want to say I think this problem is alleviated a bit by the fact that all of the areas surrounding Viorar are scaled up very fluidly in levels, I did complete every single quest in the Zigolis Swamp which I am a big fan of, and I think that being able to leave the town to do other stuff helps this town not feel so darn slow at low level. However, the problem is... none of those strengths are strengths Viorar can claim in *this* section. The shops give a couple points above 5, and the lack of stuff to do knocks it right back down to just above a dead average. Honestly, considering what Truce offers, I think that this score may even be fairly generous.
The shops here are fantastic. Lot of really varied stuff and some items I've never seen anywhere else. The crafting shop alone puts this town above average. Sure, we heard about it in the Balance section. But you all know why we're here.
The library in Viorar is beautiful, unique, gigantic, and necessary. I think that those four things, each by themselves, would be worth a point, here. But all four in tandem... Hoo, golly, that's a doozie. Honestly, if Viorar didn't have the library, this would probably be like a 4-6. There's not too terribly much to do here, as I regrettably covered before. However, the library by itself is an amazing tool, which I think is very, very cool, and I would recommend making the trip to Viorar just... just to read. To read a *lot*, my friends. to read a damn lot. Now, the only reason I am giving this less than a 10, to be quite honest, should not surprise you at all.
I need more books, boys. I need more books in my life. The library could be updated, it could be worked on, hell, I think the library would make an absolutely *perfect* and *stellar* place to stow more RP logs and information. What a thrill, to literally read a ton of RP logs as an in-universe book? Can you imagine? That's the sickest thing I can even think of off the top of my head and I have *seen* a dog skateboard. In person.
As a full disclaimer... I really don't know how realistic it is to expect something so build-intensive as a library to really get expanded to that extent, considering that A. it is already expansive and B. it sounds like a real mother hubbard to actually build all of those layers in layers in layers. But a boy can dream.
Yeah, Viorar's neighbors are freakin' awesome. The swamp is vibrant and has really cool quests and characters, the mines have one of my favorite shops in the game (I think that muffing up the traditional shopkeeper code layout really helps to spice it up in flavor), freaking CASINO NIGHT ZONE, the highway is long but just long enough to make it feel properly long and not to bore you, and there's never any time where you feel like you can't grind properly or get where you're going. Top it off with a dedicated transport to truce, different islands you can get to via the port, and a brand spankin' newly linked super-high-level area, and you got yourself a done deal, buster. This, THIS is why Viorar can be a Starting City, and not just a City. This is what we came here for and we got it. Kudos, for real, I love this place.
Well look, I think I made my whole review damn near personal enough, but as an afterword, shoutouts to everyone who made this city and this game a thing. To the people who link this up and build these beautiful places, this game is a work of art, and I really would like everyone reading this to just take a moment, smile, close your eyes, and think about your own mental image of Viorar. If you've been there, and if you have the imaginative steam, you'll see something. You'll see a beautiful city behind those eyes of yours, in the darkness of the night. That city only exists because of a couple of people who want you to love what they made for you as much as I love writing about it. It's the least I can do to try to contribute to make it even that much better.
8/10, I love what there is, and I want more of all of it. Much love,