In my never-ending quest for an MMO that hearkens back to the “sandboxey”, virtual world promise of the genre’s early successes, I come across a point of interest every now and then.  Never anything that slakes my longstanding thirst for the aforementioned type of MMO, but something that’s interesting enough for me to waste precious moments of my life on instead.

Today I present you with the browser-based MMO, Realm of the Mad God (also available on Steam); a peculiar little game that features non-stop action, old-school pixelated graphics, and one of the most interesting — and feared — game mechanics to ever be implemented in a persistent online game: PERMADEATH.

What is permadeath you ask?  Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like: Your character dies, and he or she is DEAD…permanently.  Doesn’t matter what gear you had, what level you were at, or how awesome your punny name was.  GAME OVER, MAN!

Realm of the Mad God MMO

The "mighty" sorcerer, Iawa, getting his ass handed to him by a pissed off bunny and gaggle of Sumo wrestlers.

Even though I have a pretty high resistance to some of the MMO genre’s more brutal design mechanics, for typical MMOs that require hundreds of real-life hours to build a character, permadeath is a bit too hardcore for even me.  In Realm of the Mad God, though, the penalty doesn’t feel too harsh, as there are only 20 levels to achieve, and leveling up is rather fast.

The game is of the shooter variety, and the gameplay is basically this: Run around and shoot everything in sight, non-stop.  You’ll occasionally get to pick up weapon and armor upgrades as loot from your kills (as well as health potions and the like), although, sadly, the loot table is rather tiny.  As you advance levels, you’ll unlock more character classes to use for whenever you start a brand new toon, or start over after taking a dirtnap with your original character.

To be honest, this is MMO gaming lite of the highest order, and if it weren’t for the permadeath factor, the game would be pretty worthless.  But that mechanic of seeing how long you can survive before your character is gone forever, has quite an addictive quality to it that’s surprising.  After a few minutes with the game, I had a pretty good handle on what it had to offer and felt I was done with it.  However, I couldn’t stop so easily, and kept having that urge for “just one more game”.

I doubt you’ll make any lifetime friends in Realm of the Mad God, or fill up those lonely geek nights playing the game for hours on end, but for a quick little diversion, this indie title ain’t half bad.