Final Fantasy XIV finally launched a dungeon system I was very excited about, so when my friends invited me to partake in it with them I jumped on the chance. The new dungeon was called “The Palace of the Dead”. What made it unique compared to any other dungeon was that it had you progress through randomly generated mazes, and it was divided into floors. Each time you completed one, you progressed to the next floor. To go along with this, it also assigned you back to level 1 and had you level up within the maze. It also replaced your gear and you would improve that while in the dungeon itself.
Upon logging back into the game I had to complete a very short quest that just consisted of “talk to this person, then this person, and then you’re good”. We then all met up in town and prepared for our journey.
They had done this before, but for me it was my first time. A new window displayed prominently on the left hand side of my screen in a retro format. I enjoyed the little sprite that represented my Paladin class. I also noted fields for a weapon and armor. My sword and shield were not representing by a blue glow, as were my comrades weapons. I was a bit disappointed with this. I was expecting to enter Terminator style, coming through a worm-hole in nothing but my undies and having to acquire gear from within. This was not the case as the armor you had on remains on display. As you open chests they simply have a chance to increase the level of your weapon or armor, but aside from that don’t seem to do anything significant. There are apparently rewards for hitting +30/+30 and higher tiers, but I was far from that.
The floors themselves were a bit of a yawn to be honest. The early ones are quite small, and the enemies are your standard fair. I’m not sure if it was me tired of the playstyle or the dungeon itself. FFXIV does have a slightly slower than normal combat style. The cooldowns are just fractions of a second longer than most other MMOs, which gives it a monotonous feel after only a short while. I was expecting to have to scavenge for gear, evaluate upgrades, and ration potions. Instead, we were able to steamroll the first set of floors (they are cut up into section of 10) within 20 minutes. It was in a maze format, and you had to first activate a totem like device before going back to the teleportation, but again I was expecting something a bit more significant here. It was arranged in blocks, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as they are interesting. Cruma Tower from Lineage 2 was largely based around a grid, but it was grand and large and each floor felt like an adventure. Palace of the Dead just set you on a race to get through it, as spurred on by the 60 minute time limit.
On the 10th floor of each tier (floor 10, 20, 30 are the 3 stages we completed) there was a boss. Wonderfully animated and interesting, bosses are a fun aspect of FFXIV. These also were just the lower level bosses, so I won’t be too critical here. There also seems to be a little story with the Palace of the Dead, as each time you enter, and then finish a section, there appears to be a witch like character watching you.
All in all, I was disappointed… It was not the experience I was expecting. Perhaps I misunderstood the articles describing the upcoming system. Or maybe my expectations were just too high. I was looking for a fun and unique dungeon, and what was delivered was the same old “run through as quickly as possible and bash the boss” formula. Bummer.
I recently began a project where I am printing off 13×19 posters of all of the avatars I’ve had within the various virtual worlds I’ve participated in for at least a couple months. A lot of these I was able to simply log back in and take a screenshot, however this was not the case for Lineage 2. Lineage 2, as I have revealed, I played largely on private servers. Those servers no longer exist. I had the option to setup my own private server just for screenshots (which is what I did for screenshots for that game in those articles), but I decided it would be an interesting experience to simply create a character on the official servers and see if I could get the same gear I had on the private servers.
While leveling up, I used the situation to see how the game is going. It continues to have free expansions released, and to be honest, I always have a certain weakness for it and consider playing from time to time. I especially became interested when I heard Europe has launched “classic Lineage 2” servers, before all the new content for free to play was added. It requires a subscription, but I’m willing to pay for nostalgia. Sadly, after leveling up through the game to the level I needed (only 60ish) after a few hours, I decided the game was never worth actually playing. It is full of bots, and the few players that can speak English admit the game is purely pay-to-win.
It was very disheartening to see dozens of characters being controlled by AI programs to level up and collect items. They may as well be unresponsive NPCs, except they kill the mobs you want, so it becomes an irritation. That, and for some reason many of them had pet wolves that were left dead at the spawn in points… Not sure why they’d have a pet just to let it die, unless the botting program failed to account for it, which they often run into hiccups like this.
The game holds your hand in leveling up, guiding you from quest to quest (it was nothing like this originally). It also hands you all of the gear you need at each level bracket as far as I got. This means any adena (currency) you get is worthless, because such minuscule amounts aren’t needed as you don’t need to actually buy any gear. You are given top grade gear as you level up, automatically. To have a top grade set was nearly pointless unless you had an alt because it was just that hard to get. It was more of a status symbol or collectors item. Me being a collector, I had many of the sets. Now, they have no point.
I was able to get my full Doom Plate Armor handed to me by the game. The Damascus sword was an issue since the game didn’t provide that, but I found a friendly player who simply bought me one. This was enough to take a screenshot of my character for the poster, however it wasn’t quite a match. I had a Damascus Sword +16, which was extremely hard to get and featured a bright red glow to reflect its level of enchantment. That would be all but impossible to try for without investing dozens of hours into the game at this state (hundreds in the old setup). So, I decided to call it a day as soon as I got that screenshot.
All in all, the game simply isn’t worth playing at all anymore. The community is rampant with bots. The leveling system is stream-lined. All the mystery and fun has been taken out of the journey. It all revolves around an end-game that is apparently heavily pay-to-win. All in all, I’m afraid Lineage 2 is dead to me. But that’s ok, it left me with a lot of great memories and experiences.
Black Desert Online launched on March 3rd, 2016. It was developed by Pearl Abyss and originally launched in Korea in 2014. It was published by Daum Games for North America and Europe. It uses the buy-to-play model, and sells in-game cosmetic upgrades and costumes.
BDO was a title I was immensely excited for, and once again went and purchased a top tier founders package that granted me a three day head start. In anticipation of launch, I had joined a guild that I knew would be making a concentrated effort at being the best on the server. I already reflected upon the character creation in another post on the site which can be found here, so I’ll dive straight into the gameplay. I will however reiterate one unique aspect of BDO. Classes are gender locked.
First and foremost, no MMO comes close to the graphics and beauty of this world. The detail on the avatars, the lighting and shading. It’s simply amazing, and likewise requires a high-end computer to manage the load. The storyline of the game has you dealing with a mysterious black spirit who seems linked to your soul in some way. Honestly, I didn’t follow the story all that well for two reasons. Firstly, it’s not that interesting. Secondly, I was in a very hardcore guild, and didn’t have the luxury of taking my time. But mainly, it wasn’t that interesting.
These “Black Spirit Quests” guide you from area to area, unlocking new powers along the way while guiding you to areas that have their own quests. Which brings us to our second unique aspect. Quests don’t grant XP. Yup, you heard me right. Instead quests give items, money, Contribution Points, and Combat Points. We all know what items and money do, but it’s the contribution Points and Combat Points that bring us to the third unique aspect, progression.
Combat Points are more straightforward, so we’ll start there. You earn combat points and use them to level up certain skills. You don’t have enough to develop all skills, so you have to pick and choose based on your play style (which matters due to this being action based combat). Contribution Points allow you to purchase housing, activate nodes, and probably a few other things. Honestly I didn’t delve too much into this, but they are crucial for a full experience as housing also serves as crafting stations, and you have to rely on workers to gather and craft materials. If you want to build a trading empire, you absolutely must rely on this. Combat points are based on individual character, however Contribution points are available among all your characters, and all of their quests contribute to that total.
So with that out of the way, let’s move on to the game play and combat. This is where the game goes from a great shining example of an MMO to blinding light. The combat is fast, fluid, reactionary, and simply amazing. You can take on scores of enemies or a single one and actually enjoy it. Since you gain no XP through quests, this means you HAVE to grind. The good news is, you will ENJOY it. Initially you are unable to track the health of mobs, and simply have to go off their health bar changing colors. The more you fight them, the more you “learn” about them, and eventually you are able to see their health drop appropriately. This adds a refreshing dynamic to battling new enemies. Your range of skills is also rather diverse, and you can activate them and combos using your keys in a certain combination, so you don’t have to rely on pressing quick keys. The game actually doesn’t have a max level, though it becomes exponentially more difficult to increase your level once you hit the “soft cap”. At launch this was level 50. Level 55 could be obtained through countless hours grinding to those most dedicated, but to go beyond that would be futile.
To coincide with level, we of course have to talk about gear. Gear is extremely straight forward in BDO. Counting the expansion that released a month after the game launched, there may have only been a dozen or so sets of gear. These would be available on drops from mobs, or easily picked up in the auction house. The weapons were a bit more involved as you had to gain reputation with the vendor through a mini-game. Or, pay a bit extra to pick them up on the auction house as well. Note: Several Expansions have launched since my playtime, and now Bosses drop unique gear, so it could be a bit more in-depth. This made the gear system feel a bit akin to Lineage 2, were there were only a few sets that any class could wear, but the perks only benefited certain classes. The more involved aspect of gear is enchanting it. This is done with weapon and armor stones that you get for completing quests, and can be obtained as drops. Enchanting armor is safe to +5, weapons to +7. If you fail enchanting beyond this, you lose durability in your armor that can only be restored by combining it with another of the same type. The higher the enchant level, the greater chance it will fail. Every time you fail, your chances for success on your NEXT enchant go up. This creates a whole system of strategy in regard to enchanting your gear, as most people shoot for +15.
Speaking of auction houses, they are based on cities, and only that city. When you list items, they can only be viewed in that city, and when the item sells, the money can only be obtained in that city. So you gotta know the markets and take a walk if you want to collect. The same goes for your warehouse. No more “magical” warehouses that you can access all of your stuff even while on a different planet. If you want it, you have to go get it. There is also no quick travel in this game. If you want to get somewhere, you have to go by foot or mount (which are horses, which can level up, be tamed, and bred!). This might sound dreadful, especially once you learn that going across the map can take 20 minutes or more. However, BDO has yet another unique aspect. You can “auto-travel”. Simply right click your destination on the world map, hit T, and you’re character will automatically start running to that location! For the most part this was great, as you could just go off an do other things, like when on a flight path in World of Warcraft. It also kept player’s avatars active in the world… meaning they were still vulnerable to being killed.
PVP Is another big factor of BDO. The combat is intense and designed from the ground up to accommodate this. Castle sieges and node (resource) points only launched yesterday, but guilds had been preparing for them for months via PVP arenas and guild wars. The guild I was in held weekly practices in preparations for large scale battles. They also held training sessions for the individual classes as well.
And this is where we get more into my experience with the game. I had a bad time. Though no fault of the game. I was in a hardcore guild with great ambitions that instantly jumped to the top of the server ranks (Oh yeah, by the way, the server ranks not only guilds, but professions, and tons of other measurements such as wealth in active leader boards). Many of them played nearly non-stop. I was trying my best and was keeping pace, but it was eating up every spare minute I had. Between a full time job, graduate coursework, and enjoying the outdoors, I had a very busy schedule, and this guild made this game too demanding. I formally withdrew from the guild after a month. I then started another character and progressed at an easier pace, actually paying attention to the story this time (it still wasn’t interesting). Having a higher level character, I could simply buy and enchant all my lower character’s gear (there are no level requirements for gear). This made my character virtually untouchable, which was fun, alas I never progressed very far. This game’s farming system wasn’t as fun as ArcheAge, and the game actually prevented players from trading!!! This was done to combat gold sellers, and hurt player interactions a bit. However, the amount of grinding had me for the first time in years messaging other players, asking random people to team up. I was over joyed to have to resort to this, a tactic long missed with games that make it too easy to solo everything.
The player housing was also interesting. Players could buy homes in cities. Much like the “housing” feature in Final Fantasy 14 (in which you owned a room), you simply selected to enter yours or another at the door, and then it would open and feature that selected players contents within the home. A fair compromise to a system life Rift that has it all instanced, and a system that ArcheAge that has it open world, yet obviously limited land available. You could also buy homes in remote hamlets and there were even random tree forts.
I will even go so far to admit that the player housing was a better feature than ArcheAge’s version, however, ArcheAge had better player interaction I do believe. The limited trade system between players was a huge disappointment. In ArcheAge I could run along alone, farming, and then selling my goods to players directly OR through the auction house, and then go home and feel accomplished. In BDO, I felt alone in this regard, as I could only deal with NPCs. The only time I needed other players was when I was doing PVE or PvP, which again was nice, but I wanted a bit more… Which is odd, because BDO’s biggest weakness is the sheer volume of activities you can do! I mentioned things in passing like horse taming, and completely omitted things like Fishing, alchemy, crafting, trade runs, and much more. It’s a bit overwhelming, and can make it difficult to find what actually is the most fun for you. For me I thought it would be PvP, but even that proved to be a challenge as the intensity takes some real practice and people are very serious about it. I was never very good at fighting games sadly. I do however much prefer combat that relies on skill and reacting to your opponent, so I hope it was just a matter of inexperience. As I said when it came to PvE, it was simply fantastic.
Since my time playing BDO, several expansions have launched for free, adding several new classes as well. Writing this article has gotten me a bit excited, and a new expansion and Ninja class launch on July 20th, so I may just dive back in and check it out a bit. All in all though, I highly recommend giving BDO a try. With a group of 2 to 3 friends, it would be an absolute blast as you all get lost in the combat. If you’ve played TERA and enjoyed it, you will find BDO far superior.
Final Fantasy 14 would have originally fell under the “Fling” list. I bought it when it dropped to a mere $15 just to try it out. It was horrible. I mean, one of the worst MMOs I had ever touched. The graphics were FANTASTIC, and that deserves all caps. They pushed PCs to the brink and the results were stunning, pending you could run it. Sadly, as soon as you started playing the game it all fell apart. The questing was confusing. The leveling was an intense grind. Everything seemed disjointed. The story wasn’t really there. Nothing made any sense. Though it was still better than FF11… I guess it has that…
You don’t even have to take my word for it, because Square Enix announced its failure. They even removed the subscription fee that it launched with and promised not to charge it again until they had “fixed” the game. The game had launched on September 1st, 2010. The producer and director were removed in December 2010 for their abysmal failure. The game shut down servers November 2012.
Unlike most games that just shut down, never to see the light of day again, Final Fantasy 14 was different. Square Enix began a salvage operation the moment they cut the producer and director. They related updates and when they shut the servers down they had a huge vent meant to mark the end of an era for the games story. When the game would re-release, it would be completely revamped and starting a new story. I’ve seen games get updated, more user friendly, more streamlined, but I have never seen a transformation like Final Fantasy 14 made.
On August 27th, 2013 Final Fantasy 14 relaunched was “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn”. The servers were filled to the brink on launch. The load was so tremendous that they had to suspend online sales of the game. For a couple weeks the only way to get the game was to buy a physical copy, which resulted in people buying them and reselling them for three times their value online (I had to pay for graduate school somehow…). The servers had login queues that stretched hours. Players soon realized they could avoid this by simply never logging out. This was however fixed about a week later in a patch. Had this been any other MMO, this could be seen as a huge mess up. In ArcheAge, it was crippling to players as every second count to grab land. FF14 however didn’t have anything like that to worry about. I also feel the players gave it a pass because no one expected the game to be THIS GOOD after such an abysmal first try.
I had played the beta myself leading up to the launch, so I knew I would be interested in the game. The graphics were still stunning despite being years old now, and the story seemed to adopt what Guild Wars 2 had done with personal story, as so many MMOs have done now. They had also launched a character creation tool (I love it when they do this! Saves me hours!) to design your desired avatars before launch. The customization for the avatars was great. Height adjustment, plenty of hair styles, plenty of colors. You were able to add tattoos as well. There were 5 races. The Hyur (Humans), Elezen (elf-ish race), Lalafell (cute little… uh… cute things?), and Miqo’te (cat tails/ears people). All of the races were wonderfully designed and pleasant to look upon.
The game starts out like a typical FF game. You aren’t quite sure who you are, you have strange visions with crystals, and you’re the chosen one. And, let’s be honest… we love our final fantasy’s that way. The game has excellent cut scenes and voice acting guiding you through your characters main story. The overall story is the same for all characters. Not all quests are voice acted though, only the main ones. The normal quests are your normal MMO quests; Kill 10 of those, collect 6 of these. It’s not always a drag however as you are battling creatures you are fondly familiar with from the Final Fantasy game series. This is the same benefit World of Warcraft had working in its favor, players already familiar with the story, characters, and land. Of course if you’re not a fan of Final Fantasy games or have simply never played them, we have to rely on the gameplay itself.
The game uses tab targeting. Your skills are activated with the number keys. It uses the standard tank/healer/dps system, featuring classes from the final fantasy universe such as Gladiators, Marauders, Pugilist, Lancers, Archers, Rogues, Conjurer’s, Thamaturge, and Arcanist’s. What made Final Fantasy XIV unique in this area was that any character could be any AND every class. You just had to level each one up independently. After reaching a certain level in two of the classes, you could then obtained a “job”, that was a sort of higher class. For example, someone who leveled up Gladiator and conjurer could become a Paladin. A Rogue and a Pugilist could become a Ninja. You could also do the same with any profession, you simply had to level them up. This was great for the fact that you could do EVERYTHING with 1 character, though at the same time it was bittersweet for people like me who like having separate characters. This made it kind of pointless to do so, as doing it all on 1 character also allowed him additional abilities and stats.
The dungeons were also another strong point for FFXIV. They were detailed, diverse, and well themed. Even using the built in dungeon finder, the dungeons required skill and communication, and the boss fights were always fun. During your story quests you were also sent on missions to take on the famous Eidolons/GFs/Summons (whatever you want to call them) from the Final Fantasy series. Ifrit, Ramuh, Shiva, and many more whose names I can’t remember. Those were glorious battles and you would automatically be put into a dungeon group to take them on. The fights and the bosses themselves were spectacular both graphically and action wise (though Titan is frustrating!).
You have the action, the monsters, the summons, the story arc, airships, black mages, everything that SCREAMS Final Fantasy, and its simply spectacular. I leveled up a Paladin to max level, but stopped as the end game gear and content was quite grindy. I loved the game entirely, and the bonuses of player housing (Guilds own guild halls in instanced zones, and players can own their own room and decorate it within it). AND they added the golden saucer. THE GOLDEN SAUCER! Complete with chocobo racing, games, and the FF card game from FF8! They introduced this post-launch through their steady stream of content updates. They also released their first official expansion in July 2015. I have yet play this. I hope to return to this MMO soon, as it is certainly one of my favorites I have ever played.
Black Desert Online is releasing on March 3rd, and the second beta test begins February 18th. In the meantime, they have gone and released a character creation tool.
I always love it when company’s do this that have very detailed character creation screens (Final Fantasy XIV is the last one I recall using). I can waste a good couple hours crafting an avatar just the way I want it, and with the amount of customization Black Desert Online gives you, this will save me many hours indeed.
The tool took a whopping 6gigs of space, but operated flawlessly. I feel I must note, that these graphics aren’t exaggerating or higher-rez for the character creation. They appear this way in game. All the screenshots you see of avatars and this game, are real. Nothing prerendered. They are truly this beautiful. As soon as it launched, I set to work designing my Warrior and Ranger. Usually I’ll design my main character, a male of some type, and then a female for fun. In Black Desert Online, classes are gender locked (sadly). So my Warrior was a male, and my Ranger a female. The Ranger will likely be my main.
This wasn’t my first time designing the characters, as I had also done it during the first closed beta.
This time, I tried to model the male character more after my own appearance (I didn’t do a very good job). From the screenshots you can see white/highlighted areas. You are able to individually mold all of these. Not only are there a dozen or so on the face, but each body part is also adjustable, length, width, girth. They also offer tattoos, alternating eye colors (which you can also adjust the iris, shape, and several other unique alternations to eyes), make up, and probably more that I of course didn’t use on my male. I was surprised to see no scar selection however. I modeled his body to be what I considered a warrior should be, a bit built, solid, but not too large.
I then moved to designing the female, which I knew would be a much more in-depth process. Let’s face it, males are simple. This is the first time designing a female avatar that I have ever had to stop and go “wow, I don’t know how women work…” I came to this issue when coming to the facial cosmetic options. There is blush, upper/lower eye-liner, eyelashes, lipstick, eye shadow, whoa! One of the coolest features I believe is being able to customize the hairstyles to such a degree. From the screenshots you can see white lines with dots in equal spaced intervals. Each of these allow you to control individual strains of the hair style to make it your own. I generally design a female avatar after what I find attractive. Long hair, blue eyes. But this time I had more control, I thought less about aesthetic, and more about practical. I knew I was making an archer, so I thought of how annoying it would be for her hair to be in her quiver, and scratched the long hair and went for a short cut in the back that had bangs (I think they’re called bangs?) in the front. And then I thought about her reaching back for an arrow. “My it would be annoying to pull your hair while reaching backward, girls have it tough” I thought. I then began to play with the placement of the hair. After several attempts, I was able to get it up behind her ear and out of the way. I played with the back and made it as long as possible without hitting the quiver, and to satisfy my taste for longer hair, I made the other bang as long as possible. I also changed the color of her right eye and added a lens that would insinuate she uses that one to aim.
The designers are also hosting a “Beauty and the Beast” character creation contest, in which players can submit their most beautiful and ugliest screenshots for prizes! You can see it here!
In 2013 I presented a paper at an anthropology conference based on what we put into an avatar and what they represent to us. The more detailed and intricate our avatars become, the more they play a role in our online experiences. I’m excited to see what future MMOs can offer us as the standard continues to rise.
Blade and Soul is an action MMORPG released by NCsoft that launched in Korea on June 30th, 2012 and just recently made the jump to the west being released January 19th, 2016. The game is free to play and offers a cash shop. The game is heavily influenced by Asian martial arts and this is a dominate theme throughout the game I do believe. The game has the action of TERA, with graphics equivalent to it or Guild Wars 2, and features a story that seems a bit like Jade Empire. Like Guild Wars 2 and many other current MMOs it features progressing through a single player story-line while also taking on additional quests in the areas you venture to. Because this game didn’t seem to offer anything outside of real-time combat, it never really caught my eye and is one of the few major releases I didn’t bother buying a founders package for. At release I attempted to try it, but the servers were simply too full to get on. Within a few days they increased performance and launched new servers and I was finally able to try it out.
Starting off, the character customization is above par with what you would expect in this day and age. It features four races, three of which are pretty much humans (though the Yun are a female only race), and the Lyn which appear to be fox like perhaps? Each race can only select certain classes. The Blade Dancer class for example is only available to the Lyn. Plenty of color options for hair, eyes, tattoos, plenty of pre-built models, and able to customize the size of every limb. The avatars seem to have a great deal of detail, and you will most likely take your time crafting them.
There is an intro section which explains the controls and also lays the back story for your characters motivation. The main quests are voice acted, but there are no dialogue options. This felt slightly disappointing with the existence of Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic, but being realistic, not every game can obtain that. The world was very detailed, the graphics pleasurable, and great contrast of bright and colorful environments and dark and dim ones.
The dialogue focuses in on whatever character you’re talking too, and while reading the dialogue little bubbles sometimes appear reflecting the characters actual thoughts. I found this enjoyable as they are often humorous, and gives the game a light hearted feel. Given the setting, character designs, and loading screens, it also nearly has an anime feel to it.
The game does have a unique method of movement, and that is gliding on the air. This is activated merely by double tapping the jump button. While there is a sprint, there is no dodge mechanics. Instead of portals or hearthstones, players utilize “windstriding” to quick travel.
I was also happy to see that it keeps track of all the screenshots I was taking! Granted, I use dropbox to keep my shots sorted, but seeing the tool and effort there was nice. They also have periodic surveys you can do for rewards (a feature I’m only used to seeing during betas), and even a great screen when you’re logging out that shows you everything you achieved during that play session!
Changing the topic to the game play, the combat was quick, fun, and fluid. I had elected to go with the Blade Master class and can only assume I was a bit of a DPS type character? At this point I am unsure if it uses the holy trinity (dps/tank/healer), but from what I saw in character creation, I don’t believe this to be the case. In my three hours I didn’t get to anything that required a party. I also stumbled upon the weapon upgrade system, in which I was able to take weapons I didn’t need or couldn’t use, and use them to upgrade my starting weapon. I found this to be an interesting feature, and it made me quite the killing machine.
Armor on the other hand appears to not be a thing. At least what we normally consider armor. I was given a chest piece with no stats, and later received another one with no stats, it merely changed the cosmetics of my avatar.
While leveling up, your class trainer keeps having you meet them in various locations to show you new skills. Each time I had reached them though I was already quite familiar with the skills and how to use them. The experience may be different for someone less familiar with MMOs though, and perhaps more useful for them. Considering it was always done along your path and not out of the way, it wasn’t an annoyance really.
So what do I think after 3 hours of play? I think you should try it! I myself am going to have to try it out more to see what else it holds, but I was certainly impressed enough with the start that I am very optimistic. Though I don’t believe it features my normal preferences like Player Housing and an economic side game that exist in sandbox games, it did seem like a solid theme-park MMO.
So with this post I am introducing a new process where I take on MMOs I haven’t played recently, or ever, and give a basic introduction of them via 3 hours of game time. Why 3 hours? Well, I originally wanted to do one hour, but for most MMOs that’s really only enough to MAYBE complete the introduction/tutorial. So three hours seemed like the next logical jump. Plus in this time constrained world, I thought three hours was a good amount of time to give a video game to see if it was worth holding your attention. The drawback is this amount of time likely won’t actually get you any real time experience with the “Multiplayer” content in an MMO, but since these are MMOs I wouldn’t normally come across, I guess we’re not at a loss anyway. And of course that leaves us with the bright side, if they’re actually good, then I will of course have to delve deeper and write more material on it!
So. We all have those relationships we form just to get by… Ya know, the filler in-between the main story quests. As my time with the MMOs I’m about to list was always brief, I’m including them all under one post, in the order that I played them (or at least think I did). As with my World of Warcraft post I acknowledged there were MMOs in-between my stints with WoW, its slightly out of chronological order in regards to World of Warcraft, but they all happened before the next main MMO for me which was Star Wars: The Old Republic.
TERA was an MMO that had me quite excited for a couple of reasons. First off, it was done by a team led by former Lineage 2 developers. Secondly, it featured and active combat system. Unlike most MMOs where you simply hit the Tab key to target creatures and then mash key numbers on your keyboard to do your attacks, TERA had you actively using your mouse to aim your attacks, choosing when to strike, and when to block by using left and right clicks respectively. This gave combat a much deeper dynamic, and you had to actually pay attention to what was happening on the screen instead of just staring at your keyboard and pressing numbers in rhythm based on cooldown.
TERA Launched on May 1st, 2012. It was developed by Bluehole Studio and published by En Masse Entertainment in NA. I had gone out and bought a collector’s edition as I had high hopes. It featured amazing graphics, refreshing combat, and BAMs (Big Ass Monsters).
The game featured seven races and 8 classes (now 11 as of posting date). The graphics were a mix of realistic with a unique art style as hands and chests were a bit more bulked up than what you could consider “real”. TERA also became well known for it’s “Elins” race, which was a small female only race that could have animal tails and ears and is the root of many jokes. There was also the “fury” race, Popori. We also had the options for Humans, Aman (draconian humanoids), Baraka (giant, males only), Castanics (elves with demon horns?), and High Elves. The character avatars looked great, though customization was a bit limited.
The combat was indeed amazing. I have never had more fun playing as a tank and healer in a game. As the Tank I had to keep on my feet, remain moving, and know when the block the big attacks. Failure to pay attention would result in all our deaths. This was so refreshing compared to games like World of Warcraft where blocks were handled automatically. Timing a block just right could cause your opponent to clash their weapon into your shield, knocking them backward as they were thrown off balance, leaving you the perfect opportunity for you to strike with your spear. As a Healer, I was constantly moving. The bosses were more often than not the previously mentioned BAMs, giant bosses capable of striking across large areas, and taking up good portions of your screen. Because heals actually had to be aimed, you had to make sure your line of sight was clear so you could throw that critical heal when they needed it. To account for this, they had an ability they could use while running to generate mana, adding a whole new dynamic to resource management while in combat. Combine that with back flip, jumping, and dodging abilities, and every battle was a pleasure.
I never made it to max level. Actually I never made it past the free month. I made a tank character, didn’t align with any guilds, and didn’t really make any friends. Grinding through the quests was uninspiring. Sure the combat was fun, but having to run from spot to spot to kill dozens upon dozens of random creatures just wasn’t thrilling. The dungeons were fun and the bosses amazing, but you’d have to run one a dozen times to gain a level. The grind was steep, common for Korean MMOs, and I just wasn’t feeling it.
In February 2013, the game adopted a freemium model. This is when my friends adopted it and began to play and I started my role as a healer. It was fun for a bit, but I was unable to keep up with them as I had classes and they quickly advanced to the max level. A few months later we played again during an XP event which made the game progress at a much more acceptable rate, I even paid for a month. However once the event ended, so did my interest. The game did have crafting mechanics, but nothing that interested me. I am sure I am wrong with this statement, but it just didn’t seem to have much to offer. TERA falls into the realm of being just one of the MMOs I hopped to and never stuck with as I searched for the next great MMO of my life. The game also launched on Steam and has actually seen moderate success in its free-to-play model.
Guild Wars 2 was an extremely anticipated game. Released on August 28th, 2012, it had many features which had gamers drooling from the start.
Guild Wars 2 was of course the sequel to Guild Wars, a MMO-esque game that I only briefly touched upon myself. It was called an MMO, however there were 2 major things about it that made it quite different. First off, it had no monthly subscription. You bought it once, and you could play it from that point without paying another dime. The game did have several expansions which unlocked more areas, classes, and quests, but they were not required. The other difference, and a major one, was that the game was only really an MMO in the sense that cities acted as player hubs. As soon as you left a city, the only people you could see were those in your party. This seemed akin to chat room lobbies in Diablo 2 to me, and was the reason I called it ‘MMO-esque’. The game was also oddly limited to a max level of 20, with a clear vision of player ability and gear dictating the character, and not a lengthy XP grind. It gained acclaim for its quality and lack of subscription fee. When the sequel was announced, it caught the attention of many players and non-players alike as Arena Net had developed a reputation behind Guild Wars (also worth nothing NCsoft actually owns Arena Net).
During development many wondered just how Guild Wars 2 would be set up. Would it actually be an MMO this time or town lobbies again? Would it have a high or low level cap? All we knew for sure approaching the launch was that it would have stunning graphics, use the same buy to play model supported by an in-game store, and players were meant to be able to have an impact on the game world.
I was able to get into the beta, and I was pleasantly surprised with my first impressions. The character creation was really interesting. You had the usual selecting the class, sex, and class of your avatar, but you also selected their personality test like questions. The game featured a good deal of avatar customization, as well as selecting the base colors of your gear from the get go. You could also change this at any time utilizing dyes, which you received in the game or bought from the cash shop.
The beta (and game) guided you through the intro quest to the game where a village is under attack. Short story even shorter, you help people out, are alarmed by a bad guy, and you faint, because, that’s just what heroes do. It’s actually a bit hard to remember it actually, maybe I hit my head when my character fainted? So let’s just get to the game.
The game had a relatively stable launch. The game would be a true MMO setting, with players able to see and interact with each other outside of just towns, unlike the previous title. The level cap had been raised from 20 to 80. Skills were based not only on class, but what weapons the character had equipped. And of course, there were “guild wars”. Three faction battles (which were actually server vs. server, as the game didn’t actually have factions) that were fought on a massive map involving of course PVP, and even siege warfare.
Being guided through the story quest took you from location to location all of which had their own quest chains. You of course started in your races own area, but could travel freely and quest wherever you so choose. Traveling through the world was unlocked by accessing quick travel points that you could move to at any time for a fee. Making it to the central city of Lion’s Arc also made it so you could quickly access the other starter towns. All of which were magnificent to gaze upon, the graphics were bright, wonderful and colorful.
There were 5 races in the world of Guild Wars 2. There was the races of Humans, Sylvari (plant humanoids), Asura (little grey humanoids with an affinity for technology), the Charr (beast like humanoids that run on all 4s), and the Norn (a northern/cold based race of humanoids that were a bit taller and bulkier than your standard every day human).
Before playing I was on a Game of Thrones kick and a big fan of the Starks. While 90% of the time I chose humans if available (I’m so creative, I know), I decided to go with the Norn’s, as they looked human, but were basically the starks. Guild Wars 2 also had the class of Hunter, which meant I could have a pet, specifically a Wolf (Dire Wolves anyone?). The problem I had though was that you couldn’t change the body mass of the avatars all that much. The Norns were simply big and bulky, and in my mind that does not make a good hunter who should be slender and quick. I was torn between making a Human Guardian (tank class) like I always do, or an unattractive hunter. But then I came up with a fix, I made a female Norn hunter, Relina Stark.
I advanced through the story and made it all the way to the level cap at the time of 80. The game had several innovations that made it very enjoyable. One of which was your skills were based on the weapon you had equipped. Sword, shield, long bow, short bow, staff, etc., they all had their own skills that you had to develop through use (this was quickly accomplished), and then were also able to swtich to another weapon on the fly to use its set of skills. You class also developed skill points which you would invest into skills to also use on the skill bar. This preset weapon skills and limited options for active class skills (5 at a time I believe) made it so you focused less on your skill bar, and more on the task at hand. This contributed to the roll mechanics which allowed you to roll out of danger with a double tap in any direction. This allowed you to quickly dodge a Giant’s club or a dragon’s fire breath. It also kept you focused on the action, and not that bottom bar across your screen.
Another great feature was one of an absurdly simple concept. Whenever you walked into a quest zone, the quest immediately popped up and you could start the progression in it. You didn’t have to first go hunt down quest givers. Upon completion, you could then go hand in the quest. Guild Wars 2 also had active events constantly happen in the form of invasions or wild animal attacks, much like the rifts from Rifts. Players could actively participate (or ignore) these events, and were credited based on their contribution. There also were no penalties for assisting someone killing a mob, so there was no need to worry about griefing or losing XP. This encouraged players to help each other instead of fear each other, a huge step forward for MMOs when all the leading MMOs had players playing with their heads down, ignoring the community at large as you were too preoccupied for your own progression.
Yet another great feature was the way they handled their cash shop. Normally a blight upon most games as they offer unique features to those willing to shell out the cash, or gouge players by placing key features of the game behind pay walls, ArenaNet took a different approach. Firstly, the store was nearly purely cosmetics, those boosts for XP and other rates were offered. The other key aspect was that you could purchase gems (the currency to use in the cash shop) with in-game gold. Players in need of gold, sold gems, players in need of gems, bought them with their gold. You never actually had to spend any real life money on Guild Wars 2 aside from your initial purchase of the game! This was brilliant! I had used my gold to purchase a pirate costume and some pets.
The game also featured underwater combat, which required you to use underwater weapons. By default, all characters had an underwater breathing apparatus, and these sections of the game were also beautifully done. They stood out right alongside the northern lands cased in ice, the jungles, the deserts, and your typical temperate zones. Everything stood out and came to life on the screen. NPCs would move, have dialogue, and interesting stories and circumstances. With the live events thrown into the mix, another layer of dynamic interaction was added. The world truly felt “alive” for its time, and still surpasses many MMOs today. To further create this sensation, there are many server-wide events that the developers call “Living Story” that happen throughout the year and actually have impacts on the game world, continuing the story-line and changing the landscape. One such example was the capital city of Lions Arch being attacked and destroyed, leaving it in ruins from that point forward. These events would take place over a week or two, and the results permanent. I myself took part in one of the early ones that involved battle creatures on an island. This event only happened once, and could not be redone. A once in a lifetime experience.
Because you could go to any zone and quests were automatically distributed upon walking into an area, all you had to worry about was your level. I reached level 80, but never actually finished my storyline completely. I was still in undergrad and Guild Wars 2 was being used for one of my research projects. I always meant to go back, but have yet to. Guild Wars 2’s first official expansion launches next month, and with I they have announced the game going free to play! ArenaNet has made magnificent strides in the realm of MMOs, and still are not pulling any punches. It will be exciting seeing how the game will continue to develop, and I hope to return to it someday soon!
This article was originally written prior to the launch of their expansion, but actually posted much later.