Pax Dei, the new MMO from EVE alumni, is attempting a magic system where 'you might be the only one' who's discovered a new spell

 Pax Dei gameplay screenshot.
Pax Dei gameplay screenshot.

In the MMOs where I spend most of my time, big achievements tend to be things like guilds completing a raid before anyone else, or being the first player to hit max level at the start of a new expansion. And as impressive as some of these feats are, they are still part of the largely linear journey that most players will eventually experience. Pax Dei, a "social sandbox" that's launching in early access soon, is doing things differently.

Mainframe Industries want to make a world that "does not feel like a journey", says game director Reynir Hardarson. There are no levels or classes, so you don't progress from level 1 to level 60. "It's more of a place where you live in it."

You find some land to call your own, or maybe join a clan and build a house, inn or shop in a village, or help your pals build a huge castle on the side of a mountain. Then you find a role: a trader, a tailor, a smith, or a soldier sworn to a knight, who serves a baron, who's just one noble in a kingdom.

"So there's no predefined paths," says Hardarson. And that extends to how you discover new things. While lots of crafting recipes can be unlocked by crafting or constructing prerequisites, like learning to make certain iron goods by first building furnaces and forges, you'll need to explore to expand your knowledge, uncovering secrets lost to time or new ideas. And that includes magic, in the form of divine miracles you can cast.

"Everything is discovered in the world itself," says Hardarson. "You will find new magic, new skills, new recipes in the world; it's not part of a level unlock. And you might even be the only one who has this new magic, or found it, and then that kind of spreads out through the player organisations."

This way, knowledge flows through the world realistically. Someone makes an incredible discovery, then shares it with their clan, or their kingdom, or maybe the religion that they belong to. Miracles will also be distributed by parishes, so becoming one of the faithful and joining a church gives you some tangible benefits. One such miracle is the ability to use churches to fast travel. This is why God has never once needed to flag down a taxi at 2am after a night out with the lads.

My conversation with Mainframe also touched on the feudal system, the player-run economy, PvP wars and the effort I went through to make a pair of scruffy trousers, so for more take a look at my full Pax Dei preview. You'll also be able to check the MMO out for yourself when it launches in early access on June 18.