A departure from the usual EQII-related fun and games. Norrath is still going great guns for me, I’m dividing time in-game between completeing missions in Butcherblock (rather enjoyed the variety of the Talvrae T’Zyth line at the entrance to Greater Feydark, especially being given the chance to temporarily play act as a pet-owning class with the nearby Yarpsnarls), progressing the Lore & Legend: Kobold quest, and earning the guild some points by processing tradeskill writs back at Kelethin (although if I have to make one more pristine bloody vase I’m likely to go crazy).

Been getting some damn good armour drops/rewards too and am finally getting a handle on my class by choosing to dress in gear that maximises my Wisdom/Power stats, while also allocating AA points into useful Wis-boosting options rather than the more fancy-lookin’ blasting spells – all aiming towards being the best damn Florence Nightingale impersonator I can be.

So all going well there. But today’s post, as mentioned, is actually about a different MMO that’s taking up a lot of my time now that work deadlines have eased and I’ve more time to spend playing games. I had started casting around at a few of the free-to-play titles, just to see if they were as awful as I remember (I’m looking at you Lineage II) and had dabbled in some of the more ‘unusual’ choices such as Bounty Bay Online (I remembered reviewing this for a magazine prior to Pirates of the Burning Sea’s launch and while not being overly impressed, I did enjoy its more varied exploration options and ability to stand naked in front of Queen Victoria and Shakespeare) and Project Powder, a believe-it-or-not Snowboarding MMO which is great for wasting a hour over lunch with if nothing else.

But then, just as the rest of the world was rapidly falling head over heels in love with (and just as rapidly out of again once the novelty wears off) Spore, I discovered a potential gem in the not-as-untapped-as-I-would-have-thought-given-I’ve-just-mentioned-a-snowboarding-MMO-a-few-moments-earlier sporting MMO genre – Empire Of Sports. Here is a plucky band of French programming rebels, defying convention and going out on a limb and trying to create something just a little bit different to the usual phalanx of elves/sorcery/sci-fi ’em ups that litter the MMO landscape like a field of landscape litterers (sorry, by the end of a magazine deadline I’m usually as out of humorous similies as a man that’s mentally exhausted and plum out of humorous similies).

EOS is pretty much what it says on the tin. You run around a futuristic London (or Paris – more to come later), playing sports such as Tennis, Football (soccer), Basketball, more Tennis, Skiing, a bit more Tennis, Bobsleigh(!), track events, a little bit more Tennis and some Tennis. Tennis being the most popular of the events currently it seems. You also have a gym to build up your character’s physical attribtues, have to keep an eye on stats such as Arm Power, Forehand Speed, Hoop Awareness and so on (seriously, there are a ton of stats for each sport), form Teams to play other nations in tournaments and just run around a bright, somewhat too spread out cityscape, buying clothes and equipment and watching your metabolism.

Yes, it’s a touch basic at the moment, there’s a long way to go before it’s fully released and the population is pretty light right now – but it is sort of still in a beta phase, although it’s open to join and runs pretty smoothly. The actual sports aren’t as detailed as ‘dedicated’ individual sports games you can buy, but for the MMO medium it does a good enough job and the overall sense of fun and happiness and positivity is evident throughout. It makes a nice change not to be killing things to progress and if the population can grow a little, the cities might not feel as empty as they do.

I’d recommend giving it a try if nothing else. It’s free of charge (they appear to be going down the whole micro-transaction route, charging for premium clothing and equipment options) and makes for a fun diversion when you need a break from hitting kobolds on the head in the vein hope you can harvest a spleen for study.