The Pioneer of MMORPGs, A Title That Has Been Forgotten

Meridian 59 is its name, and after more than two decades is still going strong due to its uniqueness.

In this guide we’ll see…

  • Why Meridian 59 is still so good
  • Hints for newbies
  • Origins and fundamentals
  • Beginning, mid-game and late-game

Q: This game seems obsolete as fuck

A: From an inobservant point of view, yeah. But the truth is, Meridian 59 not only is the pioneer of a plethora of mechanics which may or may not be taken for granted in the standards we have nowadays (i.e. guilds, guild wars, guild housing, outlaw system, open world pvp, pvp arenas, dev run events, skill based progression, etc.), it even makes wiser gameplay decisions in comparison of the modern competition.

You read that right: a game released over 20 years ago has certain mechanics that are better constructed than today’s MMORPGs (new players are a testament to that. It’s not full of old grandpas as you may think. Quite the opposite). But we’ll get back to some of the most prominent gameplay factors later, so let’s make a brief comment about a few other aspects instead…

First of all, the retro graphics. It does have a certain appeal to it, an unmatched aesthetic that is pleasing to the eye (or a kick to the ballsack depending from who you ask); the immersive fantasy setting/plot — both the locations and the story itself makes a great job in conveying the image of a credible world, fully imbued with a sense of mysticism and adventure, — the gameplay (which is vaguely reminiscent of Morrowind) and finally, the soundtrack. The latter was a major selling point for me, even though I didn’t actually pay for the game (since it’s free on Steam… Without microtransactions or that sort of bullshit).

Just listen to this and tell me if you don’t feel like you’re inside a butt-kicking 80s anime

Actually, fuck it. I’ll just link the full OST since it’s noteworthy in its entirety.

Q: Ok but, the game is dead… Why should I play it?

A: There’s plenty of practical reasons and counterpoints to that question.

First of all, the game isn’t dead, but it is influenced by peak hours. (You can count a whopping 15 or 20+ online users in these periods of time, way less otherwise; it must be noted however that at the time of writing, it never happened that I was alone. There was always at least two or three other players).

Second, it really isn’t a problem… Although human interaction plays a big role (especially in late game where you have nothing else to do), it’s not like you can get stuck because you’re only one of the very few connected at that given moment; here’s an example: there’s a dungeon with a door with two levers. In this scenario you have three options: ignore the door and the optional midboss behind it, get help to lift the lever simultaneously, or just do it yourself by activating a lever and quickly running to the other (which is considerably harder yet absolutely possible).

To summarize, you will not have the same amount of fun the veterans did back in the day, I would lie if I said that. But you will experience a taste of what was and still is something magic for many (especially since dev-run events are still a thing). The only major difference is that you can’t expect glorious, fully-fledged wars between guilds because those can be pretty limited right now, yet I don’t exclude a resurgence of some sort either, since that’s a possibility too.

You may find some luck in community servers, but that’s a whole other story…

Anyhow, as I just said, the developers are still hosting new events from time to time, and the players are often up to new things. Maybe not as much as before, but you get the idea: the game isn’t dead… Yet.

At the end of the day you should take it as I did: Meridian 59 is, today, a single-player experience featuring occasional and sometimes frequent multiplayer. That’s it. That’s how you can enjoy the game, simply watch it from a different perspective and don’t get discouraged before even starting. This title can be enjoyable and rewarding even if you’re playing with just a few friends (or alone).

a e s t h e t i c

Q: WTF… This obsolete pile of garbage doesn’t even support full screen mode?!

A: Download more RAM.

Seriously though, just resize the window with your mouse (for a maximum of half of your screen… Which may suck at first, but it’s doable and actually useful since you can use the other half for a bigger map of the game, infos for a quest or skill, or why not… Porn).

If you really can’t stand that sort of thing though, you’ll have to download a third-party software such as Borderless Gaming.

Here’s one of the many configurations you may like to use

Q: And what’s with these controls?!

A: Oh yeah, “doom-mode” — as I like to call it — is enabled by default.

Although I do like moving my character’s view with the arrow keys, I found out that in combat it’s way better to either have an accessible hotkey to make a 180 degree turn or better else, enable mouselook (which is the C button by default).

Unexpectedly, you can modify the control scheme as you please, but there’s more. Among the options, there’s other neat stuff, such as binding the commands directly to a function key (we’ll talk about that soon), or the ability to print your own map. Yeah, that’s dungeon crawling at its finest, bitches… Your map gets filled the more you explore, and after you finish it… Reward yourself by printing it! Or just use Gilroy’s map, I guess it’s faster…

Meridian 59’s map. Pretty cool, huh?

Q: Ok then, I’m in Raza and this game seems boring as hell, I don’t get all the fuss over it.

A: Raza is just a glorified tutorial; wait until you get to the mainland, start your first expeditions and THEN draw your own conclusions. If you like other MMORPGs, there’s no way you won’t like this one (that is if you aren’t biased or if you’re too impatient).

I still remember my first expedition a few months ago… I went to kill some nasty monsters out in the wilderness, my map still unfilled, only a few mushrooms to eat, a badass mace which had just two or three frames per attack animation, and an ass-kicking soundtrack that made everything even more adventurous than it already was.

Maybe I’m just a nostalgic fuck but I’m not joking when I say that this game woke up a sense of unadultered fun I didn’t know I still had; it reminded me of simpler times.

Damn it, the more I read what I just wrote the more I think I’m being overly nostalgic about a game that unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to experience in its prime. What can I say, those technical limitations, those chunky pixels… Make my flaccid and weak pp become the rampant and powerful pp.

Raza, home. At least it was before I fucked my character up.

Q: Yeah sure. I’m on the mainland now and I’m even more confused than before: what do I do now?!

A: Now the real adventure begins! If you chose your initial stats wisely (I sure hope you did. Experimenting in this game can be a reward in its own right, but it’s also pretty time consuming. I would suggest you to check out these two Steam guides, specifically the one with the “stats” and the one with the “basics”. Again, it will save you a lot of time because if you end up with a screwed character you’ll probably want to start all over, which is fun and all but maybe not after the 10th time you do so. Understanding these stats is pretty easy and yet there’s lots of impatient users who don’t pay attention to this stuff, and later on they cry about the fact that their character can’t hit the sea while falling from a boat, so to speak);

you can aspire to be pretty much whatever you want with some minor limitations. You like shooting with a bow? You like casting spells? Playing your bard’s lute? Smashing stuff with a mace? Or a sword? Or maybe you like punching? Why not all of it? That’s the beauty of this game. You can build your character however you want, hybrids are a viable thing… But don’t get too excited because you can’t be an ace of all trades either. Your options are: focusing on one or two schools to get the best out of them, specializing in a few more to get a broader level of knowledge, or learning whatever thing you see and ending up with a good for nothing character. It’s always a matter of fine equilibriums.

(Please note that your INT stat highly influences the amount of skills and spells you can learn from the various schools, hence it’s a great parameter for anyone, even for pure warriors. You can see a chart for this kind of stuff here)

Q: How does that answer my previous question though

A: Yeah sorry, it wasn’t that apparent.

Let’s summarize with what I would like to call the three “invisible acts” of the game (and trust me there’s lots of those unwritten rules here and there, which adds to the mysterious feel of the game… Stuff that I won’t spoil to you if not strictly necessary): first of all, the “Calm Before the Storm”.

At this point your sole objective is to solve quests, gain loot to sell and level up your stats. You get new levels for your parameters just by using the skills related to them (for example, you can upgrade your dodge by dodging, slash by slashing, and so on and so forth).

This is also true for your HPs. Before you hit the 30 HPs’ treshold, it’s all cool and good: you’ll be immune to other players’ attacks and, in that arc of time, you’ll get considerably stronger. You’ll probably get a few new spells and skills, as well as better overall equipment; and that’s when the second act begins.

After the 30th level, you must be careful of other players because, well, they can kill you if they want to… And you’ll probably be weaker than them. So that’s the part of the game where you are always alert of other players, dubious of your companions and the chance they could betray you, when the dopamine and the adrenaline rushes through your body and, to be frank, when you’ll be the sheep among the wolves.

On a side note, the official servers are 101 (more aggressive playerbase, but more populated) and 102 (more friendly, less populated)… Don’t trust these words! That’s what the game tells you, but in reality there’s lots of good fellas in 101. I would suggest you to start from there, even if you’re a newbie.

That being said, the third act consists in you becoming considerably stronger, and your choices will be proportionally weightier just as much. Your chances of surviving in PvP will be higher, of course, so you can be an outlaw and kill other players for your own good (this will label you with a red name which can be removed, but until then you’ll be marked as a target for hunters), or help out the noobs who are still on “act two”, so to speak, by killing the outlaws… You can also mind your own business, of course.

If you want to enjoy PvP without the rewards and consequences related to it, you can also fight in the arena with consentient users.

So… To finally answer your question of “what do I do now”… Just get better at the game! Level up your character, explore the world, fill your map, learn new things, kill monsters, sell the drops you get or keep the loot for yourself, buy new stuff, and all that other sort of MMORPG stuff!

And of course… Get drunk at your nearest tavern!

Q: This game is a grindfest, that’s what you’re trying to say…

A: I mean, did you ever play a MMORPG that wasn’t a bit grindy, to some extent?

What makes Meridian 59 different is that that part of the game can be dumbed down by being braver.

Usually in these kind of games you have a bunch of monsters that are on a level similar to yours, so you kill them in sequence, up until the strongest one. In Meridian 59 however, you can be a bit more daring and start killing creatures who aren’t recommended for you. If you don’t exaggerate, you’ll see that there’s a soft spot where you pretty much level up way, way faster… This is riskier, of course, but you should consider the payoff.

If you want to know if fighting a certain enemy is easy, doable, difficult or impossible for you, you need to examine one of said enemies in order to know how they’re called without actually engaging them, then say their name to Rook, a NPC located in Cor Noth: he will tell you how strong those dudes are compared to your character.

Let’s smash these fuckers… Even if I’m a bit underleveled.

Q: Say their name? What do you mean by that?

Meridian 59 was considered, back when it first came out, a GMUD (graphical multi-user dungeon). The game has its roots in a few genres, one of which are text adventures. That means that typing is not only useful for talking to players, but also to talk with NPCs, that way you can get new informations, solve certain quests, buy and sell… Of course, it’s not like everything is structured around that concept, but for for some particular things, you gotta type.

If you don’t like that, don’t worry! There’s hotkeys for that sort of stuff too. For example, instead of typing “say buy” in chat everytime you need to buy something from a NPC, you can just press the key combination for it (or bind it yourself. In my case it’s CTRL+B, but you are free to experiment however you please).

Q: …I’m managing to do well, but I don’t know how to increase my mana, nor I know how to get new skills/spells

A: Regarding mana, there’s several mana nodes scattered around the world; they’re blue/greenish globes you can examine and use… And get more MPs in the process. Simple as that.

You can buy new skills and spells from certain NPCs scattered across the world, as well as start the game with a limited number of them. However, I suggest you to start your journey with basic skills such as dodge and block not only because pretty much every character needs them, but because you’ll get the chance to upgrade this stuff since the very beginning. Of course, you’re free to experiment with everything the game has to offer (and that’s the beauty of it).

Q: My character got cursed! What do I do now?!

A: You need a certain spell to get rid of the curse, and some players will gladly do that for you. But if you don’t want to get through the hassle, there’s another way…

I’m telling you this because it does seem pretty evident when you see it, but it’s really not, and one of my guide’s objectives is exactly that: helping you understand how the game is structured in the big picture, without spoling.

So… There’s a certain NPC on Marion who sells “remove curse potion(s)”. The twist is that you can’t use it if you’re under 30 points of Karma! The first time I struggled a lot with this thing, because it’s something that is never mentioned. Anyhow, just kill those enemies that raise your Karma level, and you’re ready to drink the potion — it’s pretty easy to guess which enemies aren’t innocent: those are the ones you want to target. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, just kill stuff and see if your Karma is raising…

Oh and by the way, you can see your Karma just like any other parameter on the stat section, right-side of the HUD. You know which one I’m talking about if you read the “basics” guide I’ve linked above.

By the way, if you got cursed by picking up items with the homonymous modifier, that will teach you. Remember that is always wise to examine equipment before picking them up or using them… And if the description doesn’t give it away that easily, you can always use a wand of identification.

In fact, there’s lots of useful and not so useful items in this game, and as a newbie you may want to visit the city of Tos exactly for this reason: there’s a chest in the hall of this town which is often filled with powerful equip and other stuff that pros give out to needy players, for free. But now I’m digressing;

 Q: My character got killed! What do I do now?!

Git gud scrub.

No but seriously, go back and pray that your loot is still there. Beware however, because PKs (player killers) are known for setting traps such as leaving said loot behind exactly to trick you and kill you again.

And this is where I introduce the concept of “the mule“.

You can have two characters per account: the first one will probably be your main, whereas the other will be a “mule”. As the name suggests, this character can have a multifarious of purposes, like giving you the chance to try out new skills/spells you couldn’t learn with your main, or scouting an area for PKers, etc.; when a mule dies, you probably won’t care as much as if it were your main, and that’s because upon death you lose both your items AND the progress you made in your parameters. Not all of it, often it’s really not that much… But no matter the amount, you get the idea.

It’s never wise to die, especially if you could’ve avoided it. You don’t want to work again for a level you already got before… This is why you must at least minimize the loss when that happens, by having a mule who can get back the loot and who knows, maybe even avenge your main! Better else, join a guild with other players: along with the various benefits, you’ll have more protection and a powerful bond with your allies. Death is a hard thing in this game, and that’s why said bonds are often pretty strong. That and the fact you don’t wanna tarnish the guild’s reputation, of course.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s wise to deposit precious the stuff you won’t need in a vault, and your money in a bank. Do carry with you some coins, but not that much that you will regret it if something or somebody kills you. Oh and don’t think that you’re safe if you don’t see red names online, because they often use a mule to spot you and then log in with a PK just to hunt you. They can be pretty smart, you know… And that’s exactly why you must be smarter than them (and hopefully someday you can protect yourself against these dudes… Or even join them! That’s your choice).

Q: How about (XYZ)? How do I do that?

As you may have guessed at this point, you have two friends in this game who can give you more informations on whatever you’re trying to achieve:

Other players (beware however: asking too many questions in chat — especially the ones with obvious replies — will give out your newbie status, thus drawing the attention of bad apples. Check out who’s online first, and if there’s too many players, prioritize private chat rather than public; and of course, if you happen to make some friends, ask directly to them).

Gilroy’s Guide (a valuable and irreplaceable source of informations. It’s been this way for decades and you may want to check it out if you happen to have some questions you can’t be bothered to find out for yourself).

Have a nice hunt!