Despite having been occupied with setting up a failover IRC server for Aardvark, I had a little time this past week to try out a new (to me) Minecraft mod pack called Departed.
The Departed pack is based primarily around the Nevermine 2 mod, also known as "Advent of Ascension," so to get a feel for the concept behind the pack, I started there. I've never heard of Nevermine before, but the mod is impressive in its scope. There is far too much content to list here, so you'll have to deal with the unfortunately garish layout of the mod page to get specifics. Or you could just install the pack (via the FTB Launcher) and find out for yourself.
Beyond Nevermine, the Departed pack features the usual assortment of utility mods, such as WAILA and NEI, as well as a few other major content mods. Specifically, it features Tinker's Construct, Thaumcraft, Botania, and Witchery. Clearly this is a pack structured around natural and magical building, as opposed to the usual technology and science.
Unfortunately (and I don't intend on getting involved with the apparent developer wars surrounding this issue) this pack does not come standard with OptiFine, so before playing I had to do a bit of customization.
Initially, I used the FTB Launcher to download and install the pack. This is the first time I've used it, and I wasn't familiar with the way it works, so I decided to import the Departed instance into MultiMC to do my customization. After installing OptiFine and a few of my other must-have utility mods (sorting, minimap), and removing some of the superfluous mods that come with the pack (automatic backup, menu graphics), I started it up and connected to Aardvark's Departed server. I spent a minute configuring my graphics settings and key bindings, then set out to make a name for myself in this new world.
It didn't take long for a few glaring problems to show up. The first was that a known bug would cause the server (not the client) to crash when any player tried to read the little red book that players are given to start with. Not only was this a big problem for the server (for obvious reasons) but the fact that the affected book was the basic survival instruction manual for Nevermine made the initial experience rather unpleasant. I'm not opposed to looking for mod documentation, but the idea that I have to go watch "Let's Play" videos before I can get started in a mod pack doesn't sit well. It feels, for that matter, like a bit of marketing.
The second problem was that every few seconds I was experiencing a very noticeable drop in frame rate - so much so that the game was unplayable. However, after playing with various Java settings, launcher settings, and graphics settings, I still don't know the root cause. I do know, though, that by returning to the FTB Launcher and figuring out how to customize the mod loadout there, the problem went away.
The First Night
The first thing you'll notice when you log in to Departed for the first time is the HUD. This was confusing to me for a while, since (as I pointed out) I'm not fond of starting a new mod by digging through a wiki. Eventually another player explained one of the icons, and the rest made sense after that - they aren't active skills that you can use, they're passive bonuses that you earn by completing various activities. For example, the icon that looks like a pickaxe gives you some nice random drops (including coal, diamonds, and ender pearls) as you level it up, which you do by mining. Some bonuses don't seem to do a whole lot, others are just not implemented yet.
The second thing you'll notice is that when night falls, it gets real nasty real quick. A foreboding sound plays, the system lets you know in its own words that night is a bad time to be around, and immediately the custom Nevermine mobs begin to spawn in. That's if you're lucky. If you're unlucky and get caught in one of the "blood hunt" or "soul scurry" events, things are going to be that much more painful for you. In vanilla Minecraft, you can usually get away with messing about for the first few nights, looking for that perfect vista to ruin with your giant golden house (Warning: NSFW). In Departed, however, your first priority is to gather wood and hide in a hole. Probably log out for the duration of the night, as well.
Something particular to notice about Nevermine is that the mobs have different spawn conditions from normal mobs. The little red book will tell you a few important things to know for building your home: that it needs to be above sea level, and that you should use slabs or stairs for the floor. Depending on how you like to do things, you may find these constraints to be a little prickly. I wasn't initially fond of the idea of flooring everything in slabs, but that quickly fell by the wayside as I concentrated on building a metalworking setup in Tinker's Construct and pushing my mine deeper. I suspect that the use of slabs causes issues with spawning at your bed, however.
Overall, I only managed to experience the slightest fraction of what Nevermine and Departed have to offer: a few mobs, some strange new merchants, and a handful of items. In the end it was the bed bug that pushed me to set this pack aside, though the issue may well reside with vanilla code and not with this pack at all. The prospect of trudging the watery, mob-infested kilometers between the global spawn point and my home until I diagnosed and fixed the bed-spawn issue just didn't appeal to me.
I like the idea behind this pack, and I will very likely return to it in the future, when the memory of broken beds has faded. In the meantime, for anyone that really wants something fresh in their Minecraft, I would recommend giving Departed a shot.