Saturday, September 12, 2009

Impressions: Wakfu

Rare is the day I am impressed by the visuals of a 2D game. Rarer still is when it is a 2D MMO. I had played an early beta build of Wakfu about 9 months ago, its intricate hand drawn graphics were fairly impressive albeit incomplete. So I came into the newest French open beta version expecting more of the same just with slightly more polish. Instead what I found was almost a completely different looking game entirely. Character sprites have been totally redone in a taller more detailed. and less “chibi” style then before. The completely hand drawn backgrounds have been bumped up to a higher resolution. Many spells now have 3D effects. The game now uses dynamic environmental shadows, and light bloom effects so it no longer looks like you are simply walking across a static picture, rather an animated living world. As an added bonus, you can now zoom the camera in, with just a roll of the mouse wheel and catch all the wonderful little details up close. Wakfu is not just a pretty piece of technical art however, beyond all the pretty, is a substantial tactical MMO with some very lofty goals.


Combat in Wakfu plays out using a modified version of the tactical turn based system that was used in Ankama’s previous game, Dofus, which is similar to the gameplay found in offline games such as Final Fantasy Tactics, Fallout, and Disgaea. This is however, one of the only returning bits of familiarity. The world of Dofus was flooded, and destroyed a militia ago, and most of the familiar locations are now below sea level. Starting in the tutorial you take the roll of one of the unfortunate multitudes that was killed in the floods, and have been standing in a line in the afterlife for nearly one thousand years waiting your turn to go wherever it is the dead ultimately go, however with the help of the spirit king you cut out of line. After being handed a few challenges, which teach the basics of the game, you regain your body, and are sent back to the world of the living to help rebuild this new wrecked watery world.


Rather then going with the tried and true method of questing for NPCs most modern MMO’s follow, Wakfu goes in the opposite direction, by having almost no NPC’s in the game world at all. Ankama the developers of the game hope to make Wakfu a completely player run experience. The player objective in Wakfu is not just to simply grind to the highest level. Instead it is to join a player run nation, and help it build its territory, expand, and make it prosper, while dealing with other nations; diplomatically, or otherwise. The game world is constantly changing, ecosystems shift based on player interaction with them. Over farming, hunting, and use of machines can have lasting negative impact on the surrounding environment, while inversely, left alone too long without suitable predictors, creatures, or plants may over populate an area and throw an ecosystem out of balance that way. It is up to the players to decide how they want to shape (or destroy) the world.


Being a game highly dependent on social interaction, my lack of skills in the French language limited me to what I was able to do alone. It is also yet to be seen what will happen to a world the players themselves have total control over, during an extended period of time. What would happen to new players if all the low level creatures were killed off? Regardless, this is a rare, and striking beauty of a 2D MMO worth investigating once the English version is released, or you can play it right now if you happen to speak French.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Alaplaya: How To Ruin an Arena Shooter

It is no secret that I hate the European MMO publisher Alaplaya. They buy up IP's no one is interested in like DanceBattle: Audition, Fantasy Tennis 2, and the worthless pile of tripe known as Racing Star, then continually punishes the players of S4 League, the one game they have that people actually want to play. The player is presented with a very low quality version of an otherwise high quality shooter. Slow, late, and weak updates, inexplicable omissions of easily included content the Koreans have had for months, and “rebalanced” weapons that do not even need rebalancing are just a few examples of their past crimes. Most of this was tolerable, considering its just a F2P game, however since the new Patch 10 released a few weeks ago the game has gone completely out of control. All semblance of the balanced competitive game it once was, has been tossed aside for the sake of potentially increasing revenue.

For months now S4 League has offered slightly more powerful versions of weapons, and armor for players to rent for up to 30 days for real money, this is old news, and was perfectly fine. Though it did give a bit of an edge to those that purchased this gear, it did not give enough of an advantage that a player of higher skill without this gear could not have a chance against them.
This new patch changed this. In a poorly worked out line of logic, it must have been decided that not enough people were “renting” their pretend clothing, and weapons with real money, because they could just keep using permanent, slightly weaker, duller looking weapons, and armor that they bought with S4's ingame currency PEN. To combat this, they first removed the option to buy permanent anything. All weapons, and armor in EUS4 now can only exist in your inventory for a maximum of 30 days; this includes all PEN items. All preexisting perma-items stayed permanent, but now cost excessive amounts of PEN to keep repaired. This is very annoying but still tolerable, but they didn't stop there, no. The players need more incentive to give us money MORE!
Alaplaya then drastically increased the armor bonus on P2P clothing and damage bonuses on P2P weapons. So drastic that when one purchases these items, they become for all intentions and purposes god like. Able to instantly kill anyone not wearing the new P2P armor in a single hit, and the ability to take entire machine gun clips to the face, and survive, while ignore stun effects completely. When I first started encountering these players I actually thought they were hacking. I have watched a single player in full pay gear totally destroy an entire team in Touchdown mode, single handily, and there is little an individual can do to stop them without fighting fire with fire.

Alaplaya's general response to the extremely negative criticism brought by these changes is “if you don't like getting owned in the face, pay us money too.” I am fairly certain now that nobody in charge at this publisher actually plays the games they host, so they have no idea what a huge difference changing a few number can do to an entire game based on competition. They don't understand they could make just as much, if not more money, simply by adding in new clothing, and weapon designs, with the same stats as PEN gear, and just made them permanent. I personally have never spent any money on EUS4; not because I am just another cheap bastard that wants to mooch off a free game, and complain because it is not as good as a P2P game. There is actually a few pay items I would like to have, and would gladly pay real money to obtain. The reason I have not is because Alaplaya has made it all temporary, transient, limited. I do not want to shell out 5 bucks on a cool pair of pants just for them to vanish a month later. nor do I want to rent a cool pair of pants just so I can actually compete with other people with cool pants.

Alaplaya is trying to coerce their players to fork over more money by adding an arms race into an arena shooter, and this is just completely unacceptable. They have ignored both logic, and their players for too long, they have mismanaged EU S4 League to the point of no return, and have ruined one of my favorite games. Regrettably I am not sticking around to see how this sad tale concludes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sighting: Dragon Ball Online

It's Dragon Ball, and its online. If that's your thing, feel free to scream in glee.
A new teaser site for the game has popped up with some information about the game, as well as an interactive minigame to waste some time with. The game will launch with three playable races, Humans, Nemecians, (the green guys with turbans like Piccolo) and the Majin, spawn of that weird fat pink bubblegum thing late in the series, as well as multiple classes, such as mystics, martial artists, and engineers. The characters start at level 1 as children, and much like the flow of the cartoon get more powerful as they grow up.
Time travel is suppose to play a roll in the game giving the player the chance to relive their favorite battles from the TV series.
No solid news on when the game will be available to the public, but the opening of the official website is a good indication it is on the way.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Closed Beta Preview: Aion

Official Website
A friend and I managed to get into the final three day closed beta event for the US/EU version of Aion and this preview is based on the impressions I took from those three days.

Those that know me know that I have spent the better part of the last five years searching for a MMORPG that could compete with the undefeatable Internet Juggernaut known as World of Warcraft. During that time I have seen a great many MMO rise, and attempt to conquer the beast only to be struck down, swept away, and vanish as quickly as they appeared. It is no surprise then that I have become extremely skeptical whenever I hear people talk about a upcoming game being a WoW killer, so when I first heard of Aion, it was not even on my radar, I knew of it. But paid little attention to the hype. From what I had seen it was just Lineage II with wings. Another pretty, but puddle shallow MMO in the endless parade of pretenders to the throne.
But then articles of Aion's astonishing record breaking success in Asia starting appearing on the net, and as time went on the accolades continued to pour in. I became intrigued, and began doing some research, and was dumbfounded by the shear number of positive previews, and reviews for the Asian versions of the game. So many westerners became so hellbent on getting to play it that there is currently a rather large community of paying English speaking players in the Chinese version of the game with modified English clients. There are already Hundreds of English info, and fan sites. A fully functional armory site, and even two whole separate communities trying to create a private server client. I had only seen one game ever generate this sort of reaction before.
I then knew I had to try this game.

Aion takes place in what I would have to say is one of the most unique fantasy settings I had ever seen. An inside out spherical world where the surface, and the sun and moon were encased in the world itself, making the concepts of up, and down subjective depending on where you are standing. After a disaster that destroyed most of this egg like world all that remained was the top, and bottom haves, and a floating rubble field hovering in between, with the sun suck in a position that lit the lower half, and cast the upper in perpetual twilight. The basic gist of Aion's story is one thousand years after this disaster a three way war plays out between the Elyos, humans that live on the tropical sun lit bottom half, The Asmodian, the mutated bestial people on the cold sunless upper half, and the Baldar, dragon like creatures that dwell in the hovering rubble in between known as the Abyss.
The player can choose to either play as an Elyos, or Asmodian. And choose between four base classes, Warrior, Scout, Priest, or Mage, which after hitting level 10 then branch into two separate class paths. Once you picked your race, and class you come to the character creator which gives a stupefying degree of customization choices, and sliders. I literally spent hours playing around with this thing, just to see how many look alike characters I could make. It is no exaggeration to say it is fully possible if you put enough time, and effort into the task to accurately recreate your real life self as a playable avatar.
It'sa Meeee, Basilisk!

The gameplay, while not reinventing the wheel, is extremely polished, and very well paced, giving plenty of quests, for the player to do, even having actual story events to go along with them to keep you immersed . The games combo chain system adds a lot of choice, and interactivity to what normally amounts to just hitting icons on a quick bar while targeting a mob, and makes a tired old combat system feel fresh again.
Once you complete a questline at lv10 and gain your second class, you also gain a pare of wings, and the ability to glide, and fly. This greatly changes how you play, fight, and explore Aion's environments.
And what environments they are! The world map deceptively makes the world of Aion seem tiny, with only 6 zones per faction, however once in these zones you quickly realize just how massive, and varied they truly are. You can find, a darkened marsh, a sprawling primeval forest, a craggy mountain pass, a massive relic filled desert, and a bright lush jungle all in the same zone on the light side of the world, Elysia. All gorgeously vibrant, and masterfully rendered. However the twilight lands of Asmodae gets my award for most interesting, and just damn trippy environments ever seen in an MMO; hauntingly beautiful, and totally alien. I spent a great deal of time just trying to explore as much as I could with my laughably low level character. The higher the level of the area the more “out there” the environments become. From strangely shaped frozen canyons, to bio-luminescent snow jungles, to lava fields elaborately draped in magma absorbing webs of fungus, to areas I just can not effectively describe with any semblance of brevity.

The music accompanying theses visuals is equally beautiful, and varied. Drawing from orchestral, folk, ethnic, house, and rock; many pieces blending two or more musical styles together to create something unique, yet always fitting the mood, and vibe of the surroundings.
My only real regret with Aion was the woefully short time I had to play it, never getting a chance to do any real PvP or having a chance to mess with the skill swapping stigma system.
I hold little delusion that this will be the game that finally dethrones WoW, however I do know Aion is definitely something special, and I will absolutely be coming back to play more in-depth when it launches in September.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Review: Project Powder

Project Powder
F2P Online Snowboarding Game
Official Website
It has been a long time since I played a snowboarding game, mostly because all the resent ones tried too hard to be realistic, and were just not any fun to play. My all time favorite was Twisted Edge for the Nintendo64, for just throwing realism to the wind, and letting you do completely impossible stunts, and tricks while free falling 500 feet off a jump. In a lot of ways Project Powder brings me back to those good old days. Then again in a lot of ways it reminds me why I am getting increasingly frustrated with F2P design practices.

Visually Project Powder is one of the nicer looking free online games out there right now, especially considering how well it runs with all the graphics wide open on a fairly low end rig. The art style, while leaning towards animeish is not so overtly cartoony that it would turn off people not into that sort of thing, though some of the more recently added course designs do border on the bazaar, like the one where half the track you are snowboarding on grass in an Japanese style sakura garden. My only complaint about the graphics is the default screen resolution is very low, and there is no resolution option for the game at all, so your only choices are playing in full screen pixelyness or play in a claustrophobic 800x600 box.

Music = fail. I do not claim to know what makes for a good authentic snowboarding soundtrack, but I know for damn sure it is not Sonic Adventure style butt rock, mixed in with techno remixes of old Christmas music. Whoever did the music for this game should be fired, and whoever gave the okay to put this crap in the game should be fired too.

Digging into the meat of the game itself, Project Powder has several game modes you can play in, a Coin Grab mode where the object is to grab the most coins before reaching the finish line, Battle, which plays is like a snowboarding Mario Kart, and then you have your standard Race, and Team Race modes. All of which are entertaining enough, and tricks are a breeze to learn as your character levels up, and unlocks more advanced stunts, which you can then add spins, and flips to by simply pressing the left or right arrow keys or the back arrow key while preforming. This can result in some truly hilarious looking mid air flailing once you get the hang of the game, as you take to the sky, and start breaking out a frenzied series of tricks, and holds all the while spinning madly on both horizontal, and vertical axis at the same time, however by level 14 you can have all possible tricks available to learn, after which your level mostly just serves as symbol for how long you have played, since it servers very little else.
There is a pretty decent number of courses in the game, but most of them are very short, and liner, with few alternate paths or big jumps to do all the crazy stunts in the game. Half the time it takes longer to get into a lobby, and get into a race then it does to actually run it.

A big beef I have with Project Powder is the lag, especially when it comes down to the wire at the finish line, I lost count of how many races it looked like I won only for the game to switch me to 2nd 3rd, hell even 4th, or 5th after crossing the finish line because according to the server the person. or persons, behind me were actually in front of me. But my most major kvetch I have at least with the English version of Project Powder is the games host OutSpark took the vast majority of the games items, and clothing, and dumped them all into the cash shop, leaving the players in game money virtually worthless for anything but unlocking the laughably small roster of characters to play. There are literally entire stores in the game that sell nothing at all because OutSpark put the entire inventory in the cash shop, leaving only the most dull, and boring boards, and outfits untouched. A total dick move to be sure, however one that is actually doing the reverse of what they intended.

With no real use for the in game money, and no character progression beyond lv14, there is little reason for most people to stick around long enough to even think about paying real money for anything. So the games population is completely, and unsurprisingly low. And I do not expect Project Powder to last very long if they insist on sticking to this strategy.

Project Powder is actually a pretty fun little game, and definitely worth trying, but it has absolutely no longevity what so ever. It is a good entertaining distraction for about a week, but I doubt many will find themselves hanging around it for much longer then that.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sighting: S4 League Patch 10 Comming Thursday

Rejoice, and/or quake in fear oh lovers of the League. EU Patch 10 officially drops this Thursday. (8/13/09) This is to be the largest patch ever applied to the game, with a host of sweeping additions and changes. The headliner being the new game mode, Chaser, a 1 vs all battle where one player is selected to become the avatar of death, and must kill all other players within a time limit to win. Other changes include weapon balancing, new control options, more clothing, and much needed server optimization.
The full list of changes can be found here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Five Games I Feel Dirty for Playing

My 25th birthday was a few days ago. I have been playing MMO’s since I was 15 years old.
I won’t even attempt to try, and count all of the games from the last decade, but suffice to say it was a lot. Some were good, most were bad, and then in recent years there were the ones that made me really uncomfortable. Games I would never admit to any of my friends I actually played. Games clearly targeting an audience much younger and/or more insane than myself. These are the top five MMO’s that just made me feel dirty.

#5 FusionFall

This is actually a pretty fun game, like a kid oriented version of the now defunct shooter MMO Tabula Rasa. The problem being the kid oriented part. Imagine walking in on a grown man trying to play an MMO with a bunch of tweens where the Powerpuff Girls hand you missions, a bunch of kids in a tree house build your weapons, and you summon chibi imaginary friends to give you buffs, and it not being really awkward.

#4 Asda Story

An otherwise fairly generic free MMO Asda Story (aka MicMac Online) uses a very odd feature called the Soul Mate system. Mechanically it is a pretty handy feature where two players can be linked to each other, and increase a special shared soul mate level that gives progressively more useful abilities, like shared XP even while logged out, higher damage, and the ability to teleport to one another’s location.
What weirds me out is this feature was essentially promoted as a in game dating device, so much so that the games official website even has a page exclusively meant for player to use to actually “hook up”. So you have a game predominately played by teenagers, mostly boys, many of which taking the words “soul mate” quite literally; trying to find love vicariously though a bunch of big eyed toons with ridiculously huge weapons. God help you if you roll a female character.

#3 Free Realms

Made as a sort of “My-First-MMORPG” Free Realms was designed specifically for children, and their parents to play together, really simple easy uncomplicated MMO combat system, nonthreatening mobs and environments, lots of alternative non-combat activities like cooking and…kart racing. This was a game that as soon as I got into it I knew, I had about as much business in it as I did riding on one of those brightly colored, coin operated pony things in front of the Walmart.

Speaking of gyrating horses…

#2 Toon Town
Morbid curiosity was what brought me to try Disney’s ToonTown several years ago. A game where you can in fact roll a dancing anthropomorphic horse as your character if you are so inclined. Shockingly there is actually a substantial, even enjoyable tactical game in there, buried underneath all the wacky cartoon ridiculousness. However just being there in a game hosted by Micky Mouse, full of nothing but eight to twelve year old kids, and an occasional parent made me feel like that creepy old guy that just hangs around the children’s playground all day.

#1 Luna Online
Luna is a mystery wrapped in an enigma, encircling a question, and sandwiched in a big fat WTF.
Why do all the player characters look like they are six years old? Why do all the NPCs look like adults?
Why does all the hand drawn female character art in game, and on the website look like it was meant for a hentai dating sim?

What the hell is up with this video?

And most importantly, exactly who, or what was the target demographic for this whole schizophrenic mess in the first place? Where Asda Story merely added a partnering system, Luna goes so far as actually promoting in game dating as an actual feature, which would be creepy enough to even think about participating in on its own, but the creepiness is magnified tenfold by the fact that all the avatars look like small hyper cute children. Every time I logged into this game I swear I half expect Chris Hansen to burst though my door with a camera crew coldly telling me to “ have a seat over there”.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sighting: The First of "Last Online"

Eden Entertaintment had just opened the main website for an upcoming MMO ambiguously titled Last Online.
Fans of action oriented MMOs might want to put this one on their radar after watching the trailer.

If ever there was a Devil May Cry MMO, this would be it.
Don't get too excited though.
The Korean closed beta won't be till this fall, meaning we will probably not see it over here before 2010.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

MapleStory Must Die

It is a rare thing when a MMO gains such popularity that it actually has multiple TV commercials airing in the united states. So rare in fact that only a small hand full have ever achieved such market penetration in the history of the medium.
What completely befuddles me is how this one particular game released in 2005 managed to ascend beyond the obscure realm from which it spawned, and become a international super Juggernaut that claims to have enough concurrent worldwide accounts to fill a small nation.
It befuddles me because the game is horrible!
No not World of Warcraft; I am talking about MapleStory.
If you have never at least heard of this game then I do not really know how you found this blog.
MapleStory is the flagship MMORPG from Nexon; the companies bread, and butter.
When it launched back in 05 it was a one of a kind game, a 2D platformer MMORPG where you ran, and jumped, and fought much like in the old Castlevania games. It also pioneered another innovation that has become almost standard among eastern, and even some western MMOs, the Free to Play, and cash shop systems.
Rather then having to buy a boxed copy of the game and then pay a subscription on top of that, players instead were able to download the full game directly from the developer, and play as much as they wanted for free. Then if they REALLY liked it they could pay real money for special items, and clothing unattainable though normal play. Back in the early to mid 2000's this was a radical departure from the standard pay to play norms of almost all MMOs, and was the key to the games early success.
Nexon throwing up banner ads from hell to breakfast also might have had something to do with it as well.

But times change better games come out, and MapleStory must die!

The very fact this game has the astronomical sum of 70 million world wide accounts just sickens me. Well that's actually a lie, the 70 million accounts I mean, not me being sick.
MapleStory being a free game, an account costs no money, so many people create multiple accounts for whatever reason.
Then you have to factor in the millions of dead accounts, closed accounts, banned accounts, and god only knows how many of those 70 million are goldfarmer/goldseller accounts.

The day the game was released its graphics were already a decade out of date.
I am by no means a graphic snob, but when you launch a 2D title that looks like a TurboGrafx game, has 3 frames of movement, and pixels large enough to kill a small dog YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG!
Of course Nexon has used the fact the game looks like Bonk's Revenge to their advantage.
MapleStory is constantly updated with new zones, and mobs because they are just so piss easy to make. What they have never updated however, is the games frustrating, tedious, and completely broken gameplay.
To start, why make your MMO a platformer at all when the characters can barely jump as high as Mario in the original DonkeyKong? You are not going to clear any rolling barrels with those weak ups, and you are certainly not going to jump over the games mobs, which deal damage to the player just by casually rubbing against them. This has created an enormous problem since the games release, and has never been addressed.
To get through groups of mobs you either have to kill them, or just run through them, and take the damage.
“Whats the big deal with that? Just kill em.” you say.
That's where the problem with MapleStory's monster claim system comes in.
Say you are fighting a monster trying to level up, I come rolling in, and see you fighting this thing in the way of where I am going. I am a pretty high level guy, but for whatever reason I don't feel like taking the damage running through your mob, so I hit it, and kill it.
The game credits me with the mobs kill instead of you, and all that fighting was for nothing, You are now mad at me, and will probably start shouting at me in misspelled caps locked sentence fragments about how I am a kill stealing fag, and you hope my mother dies of malaria or something equally ridiculous.
Which segways to the games worst aspect, the player base.
If you are a regular player of MapleStory, please do not take this the wrong way, but you're an idiot.
Everyone either is, or at the very least acts like they are 13 years old.
MapleStory has become the 4chan of the MMO kingdom. A feted warren of raw concentrated dickery, where all logic, kindness, and common sense has long died, dried up, and blown away. This goes for all forums, and online communities associated with the game as well; doubly so for the godless pit known as

The most terrifying thing about Maplestory is not even the game itself, rather it is other developers looking at its numbers, mistaking it for an actual good game, and making clones of it.
Wind Slayer. Ghost Online, WonderKing Online, all near identical carbon copies of a game that is fundamentally broken.
LaTale is the only exception, being the only MMO platformer that has come in the wake of the MapleStory craze that is even worth playing at all, because it's the only one that at least attempts to fix whats wrong with the formula.

With the unbelievable amount of free online games on the market now, there is no reason to still be playing this broken crappy game anymore.
If you have never played MapleStory, don't.
If you use to play it, and wonder if you should try it again to see if it has got any better, it hasn't.
If you are playing MapleStory right now, stop, and look at all the infinitely better options you have.

No wait.

Learn to spell first, then go find something better.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

2 New Articles

Sorry for the lack of updates.
I have two new articles up on right now.

My Love, Hate Relationship with S4 League
Cross Review:GhostX vs. Dragonica.

Read dim junks.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sighting: "So I Herd U Liek Team Fortress"

Recently announced Korean third person action figure shooter H.A.V.E. Online has been making waves in the shooter community for the last few weeks, but not for it's original setting or it's concept of adorable anime dolls coming to life and shooting each other to bloody plastic stumps over a rare, precious power source known as the Double A.

No, this is what people are talking about.

Comparison shots: H.A.V.E. to the left, Team Fortress 2 on the right

Seeing as virtually everything in the Korean gaming industry essentially apes styles. and features of preexisting games, I usually let it slide when I see some things from one game superimposed in another.
Western gamers love to find similarities between things and cry "RIP OFF!" that's no news, however when the Korean gamer community starts to point it out themselves, you know it's got to be bad.
Based on the trailer, it is.
Having nearly identical graphics, weapons, and gameplay would be enough to get people upset, but the trailer even used a big band style jazz track that has an uncanny resemblance to the now iconic music found in many of the Team Fortress 2 Meet the Character videos.

After being inundated by the largely negative response to the likeness of H.A.V.E. Online's trailer to the preexisting first person shooter, publisher SK iMedia released the following statement.

"Debating (as to if it's a rip off or not) is like having blind men touching an elephant and describing what it looks like,"
"We will reveal the gameplay soon. Other than that, we have no comment at this time."

Here's hoping the trailer was simply an homage to Team Fortress, and H.A.V.E. Online has some radically different game modes from TF2 by it's release, or we could possibly see Valve get involved with legal action before this is over.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Top 5 Upcoming MMOs You Never Heard of

The second half of 2009 is shaping up to be a very interesting time here in the realms of obscuria.
Here are the five games that will see release before the end of the year that I will be keeping my eye on, and so should you.

#5 Dragon Nest

A 3rd person action dungeon crawler, The overly cute artstyle, and loud obnoxious voices is sure to turn a lot of people off to this game, (or on) however the gameplay looks fast paced, solid, and even fun.
There are only a hand full of classes. but they are all nice, and varied with different gameplay styles. This looks like it will be a great game to pick up and play when you do not have the time to get involved in one of the deeper games out there.

#4 Trinity Online

As an old school arcade Beat'Em Up fan, Trinity Online had to make it on my list.
This game perfectly captures the aesthetics of classes like Double Dragon, and Streets of Rage, while adding the RPG elements of gear and levels for that additively crunchy MMO flavor.
Trinity is actually in open beta in Korea right now so if you can figure out how to navigate the registration page you can try, and give it a whorl.

#3 Continent of the Ninth

Starting it's open beta sometime this August is Continent of the Ninth; a game calming the be the first true action MMORPG, the game has some very nice graphics, the kind you have come to expect from big name Pay to Play games, and I am very interested in trying out the crazy over the top attacks this game will let you do.

#2 Tera Online

Coming in at number 2 is Tera Online, right off the bat the first thing you have to notice is just how gorgeous looking this game is.
The second would be OH MAH GAWD RACCOON MEN!
Striking me as a sort of hybrid between console games Dynasty Warriors, and Monster Hunter,
Tera Online looks like a top tier title, and really should be getting a lot more media coverage then it is getting, which is to say almost zero.
Tera Online will most likely hit beta around the holidays.

#1 Mabinogi:Heroes

Remember Mabinogi? I just reviewed it a few days ago.
Currently in closed beta testing; Mabinogi: Heroes is the long in development "Prequel" to the original Mabinogi, but other then the games title, and obscure story references this game has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the original game.
Gone are the cute and comical anime style graphics.
Gone is the life sim gameplay
Gone is the rock paper scissors combat.
Mabinogi: Heroes is made using Valve's Halflife Source physics engine to render a realistic, dark, and violent world where the environments are fully destructible, and you can literally pick up anything, and beat horrible inhuman things to death with them.
Heroes looks more like a big budget Xbox 360 game then a humble free to play MMO; which may not be too far off as rumor has it, the game eventually will be ported to the Xbox 360.
This is the game that could change everything.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mabinogi Review

Free to play MMORPG
Official Website

Mabinogi is a game that just refuses to die.
It has not only existed in one form or another sense 2003, it has managed to stay financially successful the entire time.
That is an obscenely long lifespan for any Korean MMO without the word “Lineage” in its title.
Just the same, I had passed on the game countless times, because it just didn't look interesting.
Based on the screen shots and promotional videos it just looked like another mindless, cutesy, big eyed anime mob grinder drifting in a sea of countless other mindless, cutesy, big eyed anime, mob grinders.
In fact the only reason I finally took the time to download, and try the game at all was, because I wanted to find something to write a totally negative review for.
I admit it.
I was intentionally fishing for a crappy game.


the beast I ended up dragging to shore was absolutely nothing like I was expecting it to be.

Okay lets just get this out of the way right now.

Mabinogi is an ugly, ugly game.
Most of the graphics and sound are barely more complex then Mega Man Legends; a PlayStation 1 game released in 1997.
The games music sound like old MIDI files.
Many of the games older zones have a locked draw distance that is so short that you can barely see any object at all until you are almost at interaction range with it.
The newer zones draw distance is much better, but just makes the fact that the old zones draw distance is so low that much more annoying.
Even with six years of graphical upgrades with shades, and bloom effects, shadows, and lighting the game just looks ancient.

However as some ugly person once said,
"But I have a great personality!"

So lets talk about whats under the hood then.

If I had to try and draw comparisons to exactly what this game is like, I would have to say it's something between Asheron's Call, and The Sims.

...Allow me to expand.

This is a game where you quickly discover you have a lot more choices on how to progress your character then just declaring jihad on the local rat population.
In fact many players will argue that combat is not the focal point of the game at all.
When you first start the game your character is essentially a blank slate (if your character is human anyway; more on this later).
You learn new crafts and abilities from NPCs, books, or other players, ranging from various combat maneuvers to farming, to crafting, to learning how to actually write and play your own music.
You can tend to a flock of sheep, or get a part time job in town.
Get your own house, open up your own store, or even join a guild, and build a whole town of your own.
It is conceivably possible for a especially pacifistic player to happily play the game, and level up a fairly high end character without even so much as picking up a weapon.
Your character also ages, the longer you play, the older your avatar gets, you eventually gain the option to have your character reborn which rolls them back to a level 1 child, but retaining all their belongings and skills.
Another point of interest is that NPCs also have a more predominate roll in Mabinogi then they do in most MMOs.
Many of the games quests, items, and abilities are accessed by interacting with the games many non playable characters using a keyword conversation system not so far removed from ye olde text based adventures of long forgotten yore.
Your character may even become friends or enemies with many of the NPCs depending on how you treat them, which can in turn change how other local NPCs react to you.

All this text is surprisingly well written; not the best I have ever seen, (Neo Steam still holds that title) but considering the head crushing amount of dialog in this game, it's more then serviceable.
Put all this together and many of the games players have gravitated to playing the game more like a online Harvest Moon rather then a Everquest.
However even with all of the alternatives to combat, the game has not slacked too much on the more traditional MMO conventions of burying an axe in a goblins skull.
The game offers many random dungeon locations that change their layout, mobs, and loot depending entirely on what kind of item you sacrifice to the alter located at the entrance.
Mabinogi sports a battle system that functions some what like a momentum based game of rock paper scissors; which is fairly easy to learn, but may take a while for most players to master.
Blocking beats combos, Smash attacks beat blocking, so on and so forth.
Many players may quickly find combat in the game overly frustrating though. especially early off as Human characters as most battles either end because you killed your target in two shots or because your target killed you in three.
This is where the Elves, and Giants come in.
Where Humans are pretty much blocks of clay that can be sculpted into any roll given enough time. Elves and Giants are a bit more like prefabricated model kits.
Giants excel at melee combat right out of the box, and Elves master bows and magic very early in their tutorial quests.
The disadvantages being they are nowhere near as flexible with what skills they can access as Humans are.
They are locked out of much of the early games Human generational quests and content as well.

PvP in Mabinogi consists almost entirely of either “whoever has the best gear, and the highest level abilities wins”, or in the rare case of two evenly matched opponents, “whoever gets the first hit in wins.”
I have yet to see any of the big faction war battles advertised on the games website, I don't know if anyone has actually, so its restricted almost entirely to duels.
This results in an atmosphere where you have a lot of kids swaggering around town looking for fights solely for the purpose of stroking their E-peen over all the “skill” they have for one shotting newbies.
I don't know about other people but I found this a major turnoff, and I couldn't help but notice almost everyone wearing combat armor behaved this way.

Other complaints I have with the game are things like the inexplicable fact that if you close out of the game it will empty your hotbars, yet it remembers them from switching characters or even accounts.
Another thing I can't stand is XP loss when you die.
XP loss from death was, is, and never will be a good design choice, and I spit on whatever bastard that first came to the conclusion that it was.
Mabinogi ups the ante Ultima style by making not only XP loss a penalty for death but the chance of you dropping your hard earned equipment also a very real danger. . .


Here comes my biggest gripe with the game. You either pay $9.50 for something called Nao's Support Service, or $14.90 for the Fantasy Life Club.
Services that prevent the drop of your items from death along with a bunch of other varied, and mostly pointless bells, and whistles depending on which one you buy.

They expires every 30 days.

You know that sounds an awful lot like a subscription to me.
Which I would really have no problem with except for the fact that other things like pets, and mounts also cost real money, and have to be bought individually for individual characters for upwards of 10 dollars or more each.
Which reminds me, any additional characters after the first have to be bought for up to 10 dollars each as well.
You tally those numbers up for an avid player, and this free to play game quickly becomes potently the most expensive MMO I have seen since AOL stopped charging by the hour for the original Neverwinter Nights.

Mabinogi is immensely deep for a Korean MMO; maybe the deepest ever.
Get past the pug fugly presentation, and it might just suck you in.
Be aware, while fully possible to play the game without ever paying a dime, Nexon, the games publishers have done their damnedest to inconvenience you as much as possible for it.

I recommend this game for people looking for an alternative to all the pure combat focused online games out there, however if you plan to spend any substantial time with the game, just be warned Mabinogi does not like cheap dates.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sighting: Battle of Destiny Open Beta

Battle of Destiny

Official Website

Chinese online 2D Brawler RPG, "Battle of Destiny" has just started it's English open beta a few days ago.
I have not got a chance to try it yet, but if you are an adventurous sailor of the Obscuria the client is only 1.1gigs, and you can't beat the price of free.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Neo Steam Review

Neo Steam
Free to play MMORPG

In a world where the slick shininess of a games website had a direct correlation with the quality of the game itself, Neo Steam would probably be one of the finest, most polished, F2P games ever forged.

Anyone who has spent any real amount of time around these F2P games know that reality is usually the opposite.

I already was well aware the base Neo Steam game was garbage before I even installed the American client.
I had installed the Filipino version some months before, and uninstalled it in disgust in less then an hour of play.
So why try it again? Because the US client is being handled by the new online gaming branch of Atlus USA a company well known for their legendarily epic quality localizations of Japanese console games, I figured if anyone could salvage this game it would be them.

Were they successful?
Neo Steam is a standard point and click to move Korean MMORPG set in a fantasy/steampunk world called Chrysalis where a war between two factions, The Republic of Rogwel (Steampunk) and The Kingdom of Elerd (Hippies) are in a state of constant warfare over this blue glowy stuff called Neo Steam; some kind of magical fuel used to power machinery.
The game has seven playable races two of which are exclusive to one faction or the other.

I have to stop right here, because this is where the game gets weird, and I encountered the first of many inexplicable design choices I have found in this game pop up.

When you create your first character in Neo Steam you have to select one of the two warring factions. What they do not tell you while you are doing this is once you roll your first character, that is it.
You can not play on the other faction on that account PERIOD; not even on a different server.
You have to set up a whole nother account to be able to play as the other faction.
The second comes immediately after selecting your faction while creating your character.
You will notice there is a gender select option, however it does not actually work for any of the races except one.

So you want to be an Elf? You are a girl.
You want to be a Lupine or a Tarune? You are a guy.
Lyell? Girl.
Human? Two separate races entirely; one male, and one female for absolutely no logical reason I can ascertain.
The only race you can select the gender for is the Pom.

These things.


Gameplay wise this is pretty much the definition of a Korean MMO.
You point, you click, you run up to random mobs, you click on them, and you trade blows till something falls over dead.
PvP is mostly same song different verse.
You get a list of skills you can learn, and power up by using TP you gain from either fighting and leveling up, or
(here comes another one of those design decisions.) by sitting AFK in front of certain NPCs for several hours.
Atlus tried to adding WASD controls to the game but as the games movement was designed for point and click, the WASD controls just feels sluggish, and awkward.
If you don't like how any of the of the controls are set up, too bad because there is no option to change them.

What Atlus did right was the translation, true to their reputation they have made another world class effort, I dare you to find another F2P Asian MMO with a better more seamless translation into English. Not only does all the text, and NPC dialog make perfect sense, but characters are even given personality though your exchanges with them.

Visually the game has a mildly interesting anime art style, the graphics are far from the best I have seen out there but some of the environments with the games dynamic lighting options turned on can be actually quite pretty.
However any praise I give for the graphics are immediately taken away because of the atrocious amount of pop up, and the just god awful way the characters in this game move.
It is not something most people think about, but in any MMORPG your character running is the thing you are going to see more then anything else, in Neo Steam everyone runs like a tard.
Every single playable race. I honestly couldn't believe it, that has to be some kind of record.
Elven warriors wielding eight foot long battle axes run like eight year old girls late for the bus,
Humans look like they are about two seconds from falling flat on their face.
Tarune, and Lupine look like they are struggling in vain to find a bathroom.
And Poms do this bazaar run that looks half waddle, and half Nazi goosestep.
And that is just one animation loop.
Just about all the games character animations are awkward, ridiculous, or just plain strange.
This extends to a lot of the enemy models as well.

The games music and sound is pure derivative fantasy fodder.
I can not remember a single track that stood out, and I wrote most of this review with the game running in the background.

I really was hoping Atlus could have done something with this game, but I can not recommend Neo Steam to anyone.
I appreciate what Atlus USA is trying to do, branching into MMOs. But why on gods green earth they picked Neo Steam to be their first online outing just befuddle me.
You polish a turd, all you are going to get is a shinier turd.

Boring same Jane gameplay, crappy forgetable music, gimpy absurd design choices, stupid animations, The only thing the game has going for it is the writing, and for an open world MMO that is just not going to cut it regardless of how good the writing may be.
Do not let the pretty website fool you, just stay away from Neo Steam.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

GhostX Closed Beta Impressions

What do these three games have in common?

Absolutely nothing.

Until I found GhostX
Game Website

A weird looking, horribly translated free to play South Korean online game in Beta Testing I figured I would play for a day, and delete.

It has been over a month and I CAN'T STOP PLAYING IT!

GhostX is a game that has absolutely no obvious reason to be as fun as it is.
The graphics are horrible, the game is laggy, the missions are insipid, and repetitive, the Bosses are either stupidly easy, or stupidly cheap.
I could go on, and on naming reasons why this game should suck;
yet it doesn't.

The general idea of the game is you are some anime looking schmo in downtown Seoul South Korea fighting an invasion of demons and spirits that look like they escaped from a Tim Burton fever dream.

Rather then fight with regular weapons, you have these little freaky one eye creatures that act as both a noncombat pet, and you're weapon. the whole game is centered around building, fusing, evolving, and collecting them to get more and more crunk looking weapons. It's like Pokemon, only instead of Pikachu getting some crappy single animation Thunder Turd at level 12 it turns into a electrified battle axe that lets you cut down swaths of monsters.

I became so enamored with this game that I even made a video.

Then I made another.
And another.
And then another!

It is the classic peanut butter and chocolate scenario.
The combination of Brawler, Online RPG, and the gotta-catch-em-allness of Pokemon create a game that while technically doing nothing that new, still feel fresh and interesting enough to warrant far more attention then this little diamond in the rough has been getting.

Requiem: Bloodymare Review

Requiem: Bloodymare
Free to Play MMORPG.

If I had to sum up the entire game into one sentence it would be this.

"Cyborg Elves with rocket launchers shooting mutant feral Zebras in half."

Try to get your head around this setting. a fantasy world goes all futuristic and ends up nuking itself to hell.
A couple hundred years later you play as one of the only four sentient races to survive the blast, fighting to keep yourself breathing amid the armies of now mutated fantasy creatures and derelict steampunkery.
Despite the over use of brown, gray and over the top violence, I dug the setting.
Other then Humans who seem to be immune to awesomeness no matter what, the other 3 playable races are all fantasy gone twisted. Orcs are now big gray spiky dudes with Wesley Snipes hairdos. Dark elves are now over sexed bioweapons with massive demonic talons, and High elves have thrown out all their hippie crap and have turned themselves into machines.

The gameplay for the most part is pure WoW mimicry. Kill X number of Z quests, Battlegrounds, flightmasters, hell all the games classes even play as remixed versions of the classes from World of Warcraft.
Now one could try and debate that WoW's classes cover such a large range that you would always have overlap in another MMO. To which I would mostly agree, but when the “Warrior” class does the exact same Charge ability and has a taunt that uses an icon that almost looks like a recolor of the one from Warcraft, one does start to come to conclusions. Not that mimicking the most successful MMO on earth is a crime, and it's not that the game does not bring in a few interesting twists of it's own, kudos to being one of the only traditional style MMOs I have ever played that allow you to move and cast spells at the same time. Also Kudos for the ability to target both a friendly and a hostel target at once, as it makes it the first MMO I have ever seen where the main healer can toss attacks between healing without ever having to switch targets. The games raid UI also surprisingly far more useful and robust then WoWs default setup.

Unfortunately even with the positives I can not recommend Requiem for two reasons.

Number One: the game has a level 70 cap, yet only has 30 levels of actual content.
Meaning from level 1 to 30 you can happy quest at a fairly brisk pace to gain levels, however after 30 the number of quests and “finished” dungeons pettier off until you have no choice but do nothing but grind mobs for hours and hours on end. The last time I checked I was pretty sure we were completely over this kind of garbage around 2005.

Number Two: The game has not been given any major updates bug fixes or patches in almost a year.
The developer of Requiem, Gravity Interactive (also the developers of Ragnarok) are in serious financial trouble over the development of Ragnarok 2 a game that has been stuck in development hell for nearly 2 years beyond it's original launch date. For lack of money and resources they have all but abandoned poor old Requiem.
Compounded with an ever shrinking community bringing in less and less money, the future of Requiem is almost as bleak as the world it's set in.

Requiem was a solid foundation that never got built upon, which is a damn shame because it could have become something great. Don't let my words stop you from trying the game though, just don't get too attached to it if you do.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Chronicles of Spellborn Review

Spellborn came completely out of left field, never noticed it, never heard of it.

Screen shots really do not do the art in this game any justice, here's a Youtube video I found.

Much like World of Warcraft the game runs on a fairly unimpressive graphic engine, however what the artists did with said engine rivals even the artistry used in Northrend.
That's what first caught my attention, but what interested me even more was the gameplay, something very hard to describe in a condensed fashion; but I'll try.

battle is a hybrid of first person shooter, third person action, and a card game.

To clarify, there is no traditional MMO targeting system in place; instead you actually have to manually aim at a target, likewise if a mob attacks, and you move out of the way, it misses, no dice rolls, no stat checks, it just misses.
The pseudo card game aspects come in the form of how you set abilities in a tiered "deck" and how most abilities have double edged effects, like a fireball that does a crap ton of direct damage, and a damage over time effect to a target, but drops the same DoT on the caster if the conflagrated target is struck in the next 8 seconds with a physical attack.
Another departure from traditional MMOs is the games complete disregard for gear.

In Spellborn all weapons and armor have no inherent stats on them, and no class limitations. anyone can wear or wield anything they want.
Instead of gear with preset stats, players can either find, make, or quest for items that can be inserted into these blank pieces of clothing, and kit them out to have whatever stats the player wants.

What makes the game even more appealing is the price point.


Well actually thats partially a lie.

While you can download and play for an unlimited time for no money, you can only level up to a maximum of level 8, and you only have access to 2 of the games some odd 24 zones.

There is no 50 dollar box to buy to go beyond that, but the game does have the usual $14.99 a month subscription fee. This was during my time with the game, enough of a deterrent for the legions of cheap bastards that never intend to pay for anything on the net to stay behind.

There is a jarring disparity between the numbers of those that are under level 8 choking up the first two zones and those that actually shelled out the dough to press on, the world beyond is hauntingly beautiful and begging to be explored, but the most massive hurdle I have encountered with the game is after the first couple of zones, (which are very solo friendly) the game focuses more on group oriented quests, which would be fine of course except 80% of all the players are still dicking around in free land making the task of gathering a group together for a quest past that point from the pool of the ridiculously few people in any given area a frustrating and often fruitless endeavor.

Other complaints I have with the game are the frequent and loooooooooong load times both for logging in, and moving between zones. Serious, I literally went, and made a sandwich once and made it back to the computer in the time it took to load in to the game world from the menu. No real means of fast travel implemented at all at this point, no mounts, or checkpoints; everything on foot. Vague useless tool tips on abilities make selecting skills when you level up a gamble. Also lag spikes seem to happen every now and then that render you helpless, and at the mercy of whatever is beating the crap out of you at the time.

Most of these things can be considered minor complaints however, as the game is still very new, and I imagine most of it will eventually get smoothed over.

As is, the game is a surprisingly polished product giving how young it is, and both it's gameplay and European art style make the game a unique fish in a sea of “Me Too” MMORPGs.

Chronicles of Spellborn is a game definitely worth checking out.