I had just finished riding a zipline across a field and landed safely back on my feet on a balcony overlooking the Fractured Plains, the first large questing zone you explore when starting your adventure. A large, angry-looking Sylphid stood at the end of the balcony guarding a treasure chest. I was only level 2, but I wanted to take him down to see what I could find stashed away behind him. After a long battle of slashing and blocking, we were both near the end of our life bars when a friendly level 4 player dropped in from the sky to help me finish off the large monster.
I waved and gave him a thumbs up, to which he nodded and waved back. We made small talk and marveled at the size of the world before going our separate ways. Then, hours later, I came across this same player struggling to take on waves of enemies in an underground cavern, so I jumped in to help him out and heal his wounds now that I’d unlocked more of my Support skills.
After the fight we exchanged waves again and talked about our adventures that day. It was a genuine, wholesome, and purely coincidental type of exchange that wouldn’t be possible in any other type of game.
Zenith: The Last City is a huge MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game) designed from the ground up for VR headsets. When you put the headset on and log on to your server, you’re no longer in your room with a hunk of plastic on your face. Instead, you’re a swordsman or mage traveling across a vast and dangerous world in search of new gear, amazing powers, and comrades to go on quests with. I’ve dreamt of a game just like this ever since I was old enough to play my first MMO in the early 2000s, EverQuest.
Meeting someone in the game organically and becoming friends feels amazing in a VR MMO. Instead of fumbling with a chat box to quickly send them a private message saying thank you or typing out a message before they run off, I can just wave. If we both have our mics unmuted (all VR headsets have built in mics so usually people are more than willing to talk) I can quickly say thanks instead. Real, physical gestures like a thumbs up or a wave are as simple as doing those exact things in real-life and perfectly translating it to your character. Your tone of voice, nonverbal body movements, and genuine personality shine through in the digital world since your avatar is an extension of yourself rather than a replacement on a TV screen.
While most of this is all true for non-MMO multiplayer VR games, it’s all elevated when the world is persistent and your growth and progression take place across dozens or even hundreds of hours. As a guild leader, people on my server remember and recognize me in-game in a way that could never happen in a non-MMO VR world. Your level, power, and progress all grow in time and you get to become part of a separate, digital life that exists whether you’re in-game or not. It’s a living, breathing world.
Elevating with VR Interactions
Zenith has the difficult position of needing to not only be a good, competent, and rewarding MMO that is worth spending time in, but also needing to be an immersive and interactive VR game. Until now, those two things haven’t really existed in the same game to this level of success.
For example, fans of MMOs will find lots to love here. Characters fit into one of three roles: (DPS attack, support/heals, and tanking) which is a familiar trio for fans of the genre. You can group up with friends, go on quests together, explore massive open landscapes, and collect resources to craft powerful weapons and armor. It’s got all the foundational building blocks of a great MMO and that’ll only improve over time. After just a single week of being live, the team at Ramen VR has already announced plans for a third class and outlined plans for new quests next week as well as big updates like player housing features and more over the rest of the year.
Then on the VR side of the equation Zenith features a tremendous amount of hand-based interactivity. You can wave at NPCs to initiate quest dialogue, you can climb literally anything as long as your stamina lets you, and you can stretch your arms out like a bird and glide through the sky. The freedom of movement and verticality of the game world is a special kind of liberating when you consider how vast the world is. And did I mention the cooking? Instead of just clicking buttons in a menu, in Zenith you actually flip items in the pan, chop vegetables, and craft dishes to boost your stats in real-time. It’s a whole entire game within a game since you have to collect ingredients and unlock recipes in the game world itself.
One of my favorite things in Zenith is how it finds ways to reward you for everything you do. In addition to treasure chests being hidden everywhere containing valuable crafting resources, rare cooking recipes, and great gear, you can also collect magical tear drops. You can speak with a large statue dedicated to the Goddess Amara and collect her “children” which manifest as hundreds of tears spread throughout the entire game world. If you listen closely, you can hear a twinkling wind chime sound effect to let you know where they’re located.
For every batch you collect you can turn them into the statue in order to permanently upgrade your maximum stamina. To be honest I’m obsessed with seeking them out. At just level 22 I’m already working on my 5th tier of stamina upgrades from having found so many of them.
And somehow, remarkably, thanks to being powered by SpatialOS by Improbable, there are zero loading screens between zones on Quest 2 and most other platforms. Unless you’re fast traveling or entering a portal for something like exiting the tutorial, you never have to look at a loading screen at all. You could walk from the capital city itself, Zenith, all the way to the far ends of the game map without ever seeing a loading screen. It feels like magic.
Just The Beginning
Like any good MMO, this is just the beginning for Zenith. After one week of playing heavily (probably over 30 hours at this point, I’m a little bit addicted) I am over halfway to the game’s max level with tons of zones left to explore. I’ve heard the end boss is best experienced with over a dozen max level players and I can’t wait to see that in action for myself.
Ramen VR’s roadmap mentions all kinds of exciting things and the new Cyber Ninja class sounds awesome. They’ll even have a bow and grappling hook! They’ve also teased more crafting professions that are fully interactive like cooking, more guild features, and even instanced dungeons for big groups of players. Fingers crossed we get news on player-versus-player competitive modes at some point as well.
As a lifelong player of MMO games that started over 20 years ago, Zenith: The Last City is a game I thought I’d have to wait far longer to play. It isn’t a “full-dive” type of MMO game that you see in anime like Sword Art Online and we aren’t quite on the same level as Ready Player One in terms of technology, but Zenith is the closest we’ve gotten yet and it’s incredibly fun. And for more insights on the future of the metaverse, make sure to listen to our metaverse-focused episode of That Other Gaming Podcast, featuring an interview with Meta’s VP of Play, Jason Rubin.
For more on Zenith: The Last City, check out our launch blog Q&A which includes tons of insights from Ramen VR CEO, Andy Tsen. And don’t hesitate to grab the game for yourself on Quest or Rift for $29.99 USD. Zenith is also a cross-buy title for both platforms and is fully crossplay between Quest, Rift, Steam, and PSVR headsets.