Polemos game expert Dan “Mogglin” Allday has a first look at at a Red Dead Redemption-style blockchain game Alaska Gold Rush.
Alaska Gold Rush, developed by Alaska Games, is a FPP (first-person perspective) title set in the Klondike gold rush in the late-19th century. Players must brave the unforgiving terrain of far north-western America to search for and collect gold.
The game’s in-game economy has been dubbed “win2earn” by its creators – you have to win tournaments to earn tokens – and I found the demo disappointing in most respects, with some hopeful signs.
To access the demo I needed to buy the “Alaska Gold Rush Golden Pickaxe” NFT (around $25), which I did just so I could write this review.
Menus need work, scary NPCs
The menu graphics, design and even layout are underwhelming, seemingly rushed out to get the demo into the hands of the game community. This is definitely not AAA territory: with just 14 team members listed on the website, few with gaming backgrounds, that’s not surprising. The game is being built in Unity.
Where the player follows the demo quest, the environment of a nice quality, with well made ground textures, and the trees and bushes of similar quality to other survival games such as 7 Days to Die. The views looking out into the open lands of Alaska/Canada are actually quite beautiful (the Klondike gold rush was actually in Canada, for the record).
The NPC characters on the other hand: nasty! They remind me of a broken Skyrim NPC (non-player character). Seeing them standing there, slowly twitching and staring at you as you click though the text dialog, is very off-putting.
Granted this is a first demo and not even a beta release, but you have to be concerned this is the best they could muster for the demo.
The town area is put together nicely, showing locations that will be significant in future releases. The developers seem to have accidentally left some of the doors open.
I liked the first-person movement where they added a slight camera lean when travelling in a sideways or diagonal direction. Camera bob was subtle.
The UI (user interface) is basic and survival mechanics are present, with a temperature gauge, health, food and sleep bars.
Riding on the dog sledge was extremely pleasant, with a couple of serious glitches and unrealistic sharp turns.
Combat with the bandits was slightly lacking, and not only because I hate using shotguns: there was little to no damage done when I got hit, removing the threat of six guys trying to kill me. There were invisible barriers from the sledge that blocked my direct shots and no design for me to get into easy cover. The developers had made it easy in the least exciting way.
Story line and mining
The quest line story and missions are simple and fit into the demo nicely, taking you from point to point, explaining the actions in-game and getting you to test them. You practice cutting down trees, fighting bandits with your shotgun and most importantly, mining for gold.
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Mining is extremely simple at the moment. You swing your pickaxe and take the stone or gold that you hit into your inventory. The chunks are much smaller than the blocks in Minecraft. There is only one place you can mine in the demo, a wall at the end of a short mine tunnel, and the mineral vein is only about 2 metres deep. When you’re through that, you reach an unbreakable wall and the mining stops.
The inventory system is basic, like the menus, but worked, with a weight limit that has to be worked around by loading items into the dog sledge.
There is a constant soundtrack of atmospheric music that fits most scenes well, and which I actually enjoyed as I travelled around. Unfortunately it kept on playing right through fight scenes.
The sound effects seem pretty generic, although the echo effects from the loud gunshots ringing out though the mountains are pretty nice.
The potential for the game is still high in my opinion, though a lot of work is needed. The game loops are sturdy, where doing missions and fighting will keep most people entertained, but the mining will probably bore most players. There are a few, like myself, who can fixate and zone in on a repetitive task, and it’s possible the mining will work for us.
There is mention of ways to gain gold using rivers, which suggests panning for gold as a first step to get equipment and start over from a catastrophic loss.
Looking at the game’s economy design: the gold is an off-chain currency used to build up your in-game assets. Earning their blockchain token CARAT happens in tournaments, making the mostly game free-to-play.
Looking at what they have in this demo, the team will need to aim higher to get a large audience to join. The concept and game loops are enticing, but will work only if the other key elements are of sufficient quality. With the beta due before the end of Q3 this year, I would expect the developer’s attention to be on NPCs, and mining, mining, mining.