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Willow blinked again and again as the fully immersive video ended, having shown her frozen fields, dark dungeons and creatures fighting to stay alive.

Now, she was standing in a room. More of a wooden hut, really. It was sparsely decorated with just a mirror on the other side and a rack of weapons at her side.

*You are now in Helheim Fallen Online. This game is in beta and allows limited contact through outside chat systems.*

While it wasn’t exactly good, this was what she’d expected anyway. She knew that there was limited contact in this game, just text chat and some basic messages. The creators of Helheim Fallen were really strict about how much of the game they were showing before release. The limited contact helped with that.

Well, it meant that she wouldn’t immediately drop out of the chat system with her friends, which was good, but this did prove that the fact that she couldn’t get in contact with Violet before really wasn’t right. That was important.

Willow looked down at herself, but she didn’t exist, she had no physical body yet. She could feel her hands move, she could feel the movements of the air over her hands, but she couldn’t see anything.

A window popped up in her view.

Welcome to Helheim Fallen.

This is the character creation room, you can choose your look at the mirror and your first choice of weapon at the weapon’s rack.

Okay, simple enough, right?

Also, first choice of weapon? Interesting. But since she didn’t see any real way to interact with the game yet, she turned to the mirror.

In it, now appeared a human female, which looked pretty closely like Willow herself. She was wearing a top and trousers from a rough fabric in some dull brown-ish colour. Hmm...

But really... it wasn’t to her taste.

As she looked to the top of the mirror, she saw five symbols and a name appeared as she looked over each of them.

[Human]

[Dwarf]

[Elf]

[Jötunn]

[Draugr]

The first ones were easy to understand, and as she looked at the symbols closer, she turned into a short and blocky version of herself as a dwarf and a slightly taller version of herself with much skinnier limbs as an elf. But the last two she didn’t recognise.

As she focused on the Jötunn she went back to her normal size, but her features distorted and she was suddenly hunched over. It reminded her of what trolls looked like in stories she’d read as a kid. Kind of interesting, but not her thing.

Then she focused on the Draugr and had to take a second breath.

She’d suddenly turned skeletal thin and she was sure that some of her skin was missing in places. Undead. Cool. Really cool.

Okay, she was going to stay with this race. She didn’t care about the stat boosts or whatever, this just looked awesome.

You have chosen to be a Draugr.

Do you confirm this choice?

‘Yes,’ she thought. It wasn’t really needed to talk for these things.

The menus changed and she could now choose the amount of ‘undead’ look she had, her hair colour and some of her facial features. Though not many, as BASE liked to keep some of the player’s looks in the avatar they played.

She didn’t want to look too decayed, she liked having some physical body for her character, so she chose sort of a middle stage between ‘decaying and bloated a couple of days after death’ and ‘flesh almost fully fallen from the bones’. That would have to do.

She didn’t really feel like changing much else about her avatar. The game was awesome at mixing what Willow looked like in the real world with this fantasy race that she now was.

Then she turned, her body now feeling different from before. It felt lighter, like she was really strong, and it also sort of creaked in every joint. Strange, but she’d probably get used to it.

The weapon rack now had fewer weapons on it than before, probably because those other options weren’t available for her race.

But, luckily, there was still a staff available. And that meant that she didn’t need any other option. She really was at her best as a mage, or a caster in general.

She grabbed for it, her almost skeletal hands surprising her, but then she wrapped her fingers around the weapon and it started glowing with a blue tint.

[Seidhr]

Are you ready to cast fear into your enemies with a single look or raise trouble from the earth and elements around you? Then the Seidhr is the right choice for you.

Fight with elements, illness, a companion or your own enhanced strength. The choice is yours.

A companion? Elemental magic? Yeah, that sounded right up her alley.

Willow didn’t even look at the other classes, they weren’t important enough, she’d always preferred mages and casters.

You chose the Seidhr as your first class.

Do you confirm this choice?

‘Yes.’ Again with those stupid confirmation questions.

Then things in her view changed. A map appeared at the top right of her vision, though it was black apart from the small hut she was in right now. A row of buttons appeared under it, though they didn’t seem to be interactable right now.

At the bottom of her view a long bar appeared. There were a selection of slots in the middle, probably spell slots and things like that. On the right side was a tree, and when she looked at it a bar of text hovered over it.

XP to next level 0/400

Okay, interesting.

On the other side of the bar was a darkened shape of an animal, a bear or something, but as she hovered over it nothing showed up. Right.

Different than what she was used to, but whatever.

She didn’t have any ‘spells’ yet and also couldn’t get to an inventory or anything. She was just in the character creation mode right now.

As she looked up, she saw a door she hadn’t realised was there before. Or maybe it hadn’t been there before at all.

She walked over to it, touching the handle.

Are you ready to choose your name, leave the character creation and start playing?

‘Yes.’

Please fill out your name below

A screen popped up.

Name:

Race: Draugr

Class: Seidhr

She smiled a little, it’d been a long time since she saw one of these short character breakdown screens in a game. Old school but interesting.

She pulled up a keyboard and typed her name.

Willow

That name has already been taken. Please choose a different name.

What? Okay...

Willow sighed, next try.

\/\/1770\/\/

No punctuation can be used in names. Only the Latin alphabet. Please choose a different name.

Frustrating, though, ‘\/\/1770\/\/’ would have been annoying anyway.

She tried to come up with another name. Most games didn’t care much about a unique name, as every account had a unique identifier within the BASE platform anyway and that was what the system remembered, not just the name of a character.

Meadow

It was the other name that her parents were thinking of giving her. And it was a little more uncommon as far as names went.

Are you sure you want to take the name ‘Meadow’?

‘Yes.’

If you are sure about your choices, touch the door handle again and you will be transported into the game.

Name: Meadow

Race: Draugr

Class: Seidhr

Willow looked around one last time, not sure what would be waiting for her on the other side, but she couldn’t stay here. She had to find out what was going on and she needed to be in the actual game to do that.

She reached out to the door handle, touching it again.

It was all or nothing now.

***

The world around her came back into view. She was standing in the middle of a village. Although, maybe it was more of an encampment.

The huts around her looked similar to the one she was in during the character creation. The low walls were made of rough wooden beams. The roofs were made of branches and mud, some even had grass growing on them. Around her in the ‘streets’ there were some piles of snow and everything had that blue tint that signalled ‘winter’ in most games.

There was no question that she was in a game that took place in an old Norse setting. That definitely looked like the old pictures she’d seen in books about Norse civilisation.

The area she spawned in wasn’t really that busy. But that wasn’t unexpected, most people with beta keys would probably already have left this area, since it’d been more than two days since the new batch of players had arrived here.

But maybe that was a good thing. That way she could explore the area more comfortably, and not get all overwhelmed by all the players.

A creature appeared at her side, like a ghost or helper or something. It looked a lot like a fairy, but not the ethereal type that was so common, this one seemed more down to earth. It had wings like a dragonfly and the body of a tall almost goblin-like creature. Eek.

“Welcome hero, we are so glad that you have chosen to join us in our fight against the invasion.” It started blabbing at her about the village needing more heroes and things like that, but Willow zoned it out. Instead, she reached at her side where she suspected her ‘bag’ would be and her inventory appeared.

The inventory had sixteen slots, which was pretty common when it came to inventory size in most games. In her inventory she already had two health potions, two mana potions and a potato.

Wait, what?

Soleil had said that she would get some item that she could use to get deeper access to the game. Where was it? Did she have to pull up another screen or something?

She grabbed the health potion and the creepy creature started a new sequence about the use of health potions in Helheim Fallen. That wasn’t it, obviously. Then she grabbed the mana potion, and again the creature changed tracks to explain the use of mana potions. Still not it.

Finally, she grabbed the potato and the creature shut up.

Good.

[Potato]

You better not eat this one, it doesn’t taste that nice.

Okay... She frowned, then interacted with it and menu popped up.

[Player Rights]

[Bug Catchers]

[Help Requests]

[X-ray Vision]

She focused on the X-ray Vision and a screen popped up. Not a screen like one where you can put text in, but more like a viewer, like it was doing an x-ray of the area around her as she looked through it.

Willow could see some of the code that controlled the creature in front of her. The helper was pretty limited in what it could do. Just a couple of set sequences of explanations and it would try to guide her to the first quests, at which point it would despawn. Neat.

This must be the item Soleil talked about.

Then she put it back into her inventory. That was enough playing around. She probably wouldn’t be able to find anything in just the starter village, at least, there wasn’t anything around her that looked off.

And what was it with her spell bar? Why hadn’t she gotten any spells yet?

“If you’re ready for your first adventure, please follow me.” The creature floated up and down in the middle of her face.

Well, it wasn’t like she seemed to have much of a choice on it.

Willow sighed and looked at the creature. “Sure. Show me where I need to go.”

The creature slowly started floating ahead of her. “As a Seidhr, you control the elements and can use natural curses...”

Willow zoned out the creature again as she followed it. Why did this stupid game not have a setting to turn the spoken words into text pop-ups? And where was her normal settings menu?

What was it with this game? Why did it have to be so annoying and closed off?

She loved games that were linear, but this was a little too linear, even to her taste.

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