Following his level up notification, another notification window appeared.
「You've been granted the title, "The Tutorial's Champion."」
"A title already?" This notification surprised Merlin, titles were one of the most important things in New Genesis. Due to there being no such thing as assignable stat points in this game, titles were one of the few major ways to increase stats, the others being equipment, souls and occasionally knowledge.
There were a few methods outside of those four to increase stats, but they were the major ones, everything else was an exception, such as being too unique to even bother mentioning.
Merlin checked the title he just received, a window appeared before him.
[The Tutorial's Champion.]
Granted as a reward for completing the quest, "The Tutorial's Challenger."
• Vitality: +1
• Strength: +2
"Wow, those are some pretty good bonuses." Merlin was genuinely happy with this reward. At level zero, all of your stats started at one, you gained one point into every stat per level up. After reaching level one, Merlin's strength was only two, and his health was twenty.
This title added an extra ten health, raising Merlin's current health pool to thirty, as each point in vitality granted you ten health. His strength score was also doubled, strength contributed to things such as your carry capacity, load bearing ability and physical damage.
"I never expected to see such talent here, I'm impressed." Gaia's voice echoed throughout the endless field once more, followed by a notification that even surprised Merlin.
「You have earned +1 familiarity with Gaia.」
Earning familiarity was somewhat uncommon of a reward, usually tied to larger quests for most NPCs. But to earn familiarity with Gaia herself, it was unheard of. As far as anybody knew, she was just the AI designated to run the game. While yes, she had backstory within the world, everyone just thought it was flavour text for the world's lore. Nobody stopped to think that she would be an actual NPC within the game, not even Merlin.
"Traveller, before I can allow you to run free in my world, I must share some dire news with you." Gaia began speaking, Merlin already knew it was the part where they explain the use of souls, but there was unfortunately no way to skip the tutorial.
"When outsiders travel to our world, part of their existence is lost during the transfer." Gaia's voice took on a more solemn tone. "Fortunately, it grants you a rare opportunity not present within the world's natives."
"This right here is a soul." A strange wispy red orb suddenly appeared a few metres in front of Merlin. "This particular soul holds the lived experiences and abilities of a young adventurer who was talented with the blade."
Two more wispy orbs appeared, hovering around the red orb, a blue and a green orb. "While these are the souls of a legendary seamstress and one of the goblins you had just slain."
The souls maintained their positions for several moments before suddenly vanishing. Gaia spoke up once more. "Souls are the embodiment of a person's accomplishments. However, not every soul is strong enough to manifest."
"Souls are an uncommon yet valuable resource to the people of my world. They're important crafting materials that master artisans can use to create artifacts." Gaia continued. "However, travellers such as yourself have found another use for souls, forging them into their own bodies."
"By utilising a soul forge, and using their body as the forge medium. Travellers have discovered that they can integrate with souls by forging them into their own bodies, gaining the experience and abilities of those souls, but more importantly, becoming whole once more." Gaia explained, "There are risks to such a feat however, but if you are interested, feel free to visit a soul forge for further explanation."
Eventually Gaia stopped talking, and a flash of white enveloped Merlin once more, "Traveller, I welcome you to my world." Gaia spoke one last time before Merlin was swiftly transported away from the grassy fields.
When the light faded away, the first thing Merlin noticed was that the temperature had dropped tremendously when compared to the last area he was in. Taking a moment to absorb his surroundings, Merlin found himself in a worn down ruin atop a large hill.
Merlin was standing in the centre of some long abandoned place of worship, some form of circular shrine. The floor he stood on was designed with rows of worn stone bricks laid in a radial pattern, and on the furthest edge of the structure were several weather-worn Greek pillars. Some were in better shape than others, with a couple still retaining the Corinthian style ornamental pillar caps.
This was the spawn area for new players in the beta test. Merlin walked towards the edge of the structure, and stared down the hill. There was a village at the foot of the hill, as well as an overgrown staircase that lead down the hill in the village's direction.
Realising that the other players should be appearing soon, he decided to make his way down the stairs, any kind of lead over the rest of the group would benefit him, even if he did have thirty years of future knowledge.
As Merlin reached the half-way point on the stairs, flashes of light began appearing atop the hill, it seemed everyone had finally arrived. It was going to get a lot more crowded soon, Merlin had to grab what he needed and leave before everyone started swarming the village.
Picking up the pace, Merlin dashed down the staircase, eventually reaching the village. Merlin's first order of business was to visit the soul forge. Although he didn't have any souls yet to use the soul forge's main feature, the soul forge had another feature, the opening and closing of soul slots.
Souls were a unique mechanic that gave New Genesis its interesting gameplay, besides the full dive of course. There were a seemingly infinite amount of souls, with each having its own abilities, bonuses, theme, etc.
The most interesting part of New Genesis was that there wasn't a class system, you weren't even restricted to what souls you could use, these souls could be swapped out at any soul forge, at any time.
If someone who had played tank for several years decided he wanted to try magic, he could swap out his soul specific to tanking for a magic based soul. Alternatively, if he had an extra soul slot to spare, he could keep the tanking soul enabled and add the magic soul.
That is where soul slots came into play, they were always a controversial topic amongst players, even thirty years into the future. Soul slots were an expensive trade, they granted the player the option to have more souls active at one time, but in return made it progressively more difficult to level up. You were trading progress for power.
Merlin was travelling through the village, eventually he arrived at the soul forge. The building looked like any other blacksmith's workshop from the outside, but upon entering the building Merlin could instantly see where the differences were. The main difference being the massive obsidian obelisk in the middle of the workshop, this was the soul receptacle, it was a glorified global bank exclusively for souls.
Merlin walked over to one of the NPCs manning the counter. "Good day, I'd like to modify my soul vessel."
"Of course, please rest your hand on this tablet." The NPC directed Merlin to a gold encrusted obsidian monument with a flat plate sitting on top of it, this was the soul forge.
As Merlin rest his hand on the tablet, a notification window appeared before him.
You are modifying your soul vessel, how many slots would you like to open or close?
Experience requirements for levelling up are listed on the right.
➤ 1 - 1.0x
• 2 - 1.5x
• 3 - 2.0x
• 4 - 2.5x
• 5 - 3.0x
• 6 - 3.5x
• 7 - 4.0x
Warning: Modifying your soul vessel will cause a change in how your experience is calculated. If you reduce your open soul slots, a percentage of the experience shared with that slot will be deleted.
"Three slots" Merlin verbally selected three, meaning he would need double the amount of experience to level up. As the soul forge window closed, another pop-up window opened.
「Your level has been reduced to level 0 due to the level requirements changing.」
Unfortunately, this was something that had to be done, it was more efficient to do so earlier so Merlin didn't have to run back here later, especially when it was about to be crowded.
"Open inventory." Merlin commanded, causing a window to appear, showing his starter equipment and ten copper pieces, the lowest tier coin within New Genesis.
Merlin walked around the town for a little while, trying to get his bearings. He figured his best option at the moment was to visit the barracks and obtain his first soul, but before that, he had to meet an old friend.
Merlin visited a nearby food stall and purchased two cooked beef skewers. Continuing on his travels, Merlin slipped through several back streets, eventually finding himself in an isolated courtyard, surrounded by various potted plants and other vegetation.
But the most important thing here was the handsome gentleman resting on a rocking chair. His vibrant green eyes were locked onto Merlin, as he was a stranger who had just invaded his area.
Merlin walked closer and pulled out the beef skewers, he began pulling the meat from one of the skewers, chunk by chunk, laying them on the ground not too far from the rocking chair.
Eventually the handsome gentleman stopped observing Merlin. He left his perch on the rocking chair and approached the beef. His long orange fur elegantly flowing with every step he took. After sniffing the beef for a moment, he determined it to be safe. He began eagerly scarfing down his feast, only looking up at Merlin after finishing the skewer.
"Don't worry buddy, I've got more for you." Merlin playfully responded, pulling more beef from the other skewer and placing it in front of the fluffy cat. The cat gave Merlin a friendly meow, before going back to eating. A notification window suddenly appeared before Merlin.
「You've been granted the title, "Friend of Fluffernutter."」
Another window opened, showcasing his new title.
[Friend of Fluffernutter.]
You became friends with Fluffernutter, the local cat.
• Fluffernutter likes you.
「You have earned +40 familiarity with Fluffernutter.」
The old friend Merlin so desperately had to see was this cat, Fluffernutter.