Thursday, November 23, 2006

Ragnarok Online II Preview!

Hey everyone,

Sorry for such a long time between posts, but dear lord I've had one busy week. Now that midterms/lab exams/stress are finally over for a few weeks, figured I'd post this length preview of Ragnarok Online II(RO2).

The most obvious difference between RO2 and RO is in the graphics department. RO2 was designed from the ground up using the Unreal 2.5 engine. This results in breath-taking 3-D graphics, and most importantly, every piece of armor/weapons/headgear has their own graphical display. Resulting in almost 1000 different pieces of equipment to make your character's sprite unique. But as I'm sure everyone knows by now, I care little about graphics, so lets get to the core of RO2's design.

RO2 is designed around 3 basic races. The Dimago, Normans, and Ellrs. Little is known about the Dimago, but the Ellrs appear to be magically inclined; and use magical stones to battle. The Normans however have the most information, and will be the main focus of this preview. Every Norman starts off as a novice class (similar to RO) and at the appropriate base/job level they are able to change class into one the current 5 other classes: Swordman, Enchanter, Recruit, Thief, and Clown.

Now this is where Gravity put a creative spin on things. Each character may change classes an infinite amount of time. Whenever you change to a new class, your job level goes back to 1 and you are free to learn skills from the new class. If you wanted, however, to change back to your old class; you will still have the skills and job level from before.
As an example: If you were a level 30/25 (base/job) Recruit and wished to change to an Enchanter, you would then become an level 30/1 Enchanter. However, if after a few weeks you decided to go back to Recruit your level would again be 30/25.

What use is this, you might ask. Not only did Gravity allow for job changing, they also allowed the use of skills from all of your previous classes. Of course, you cannot level these skills without changing to the appropriate class, but it presents a lot of possibilities for builds. This would mean unlimited skills, but that is not the case. In order to use skills of another class (called 'specialty skills'), one needs to place them in their specialty skill grid. A 4x4 (at max level, it grows as you leve) grid which you can add skills to. Some skills may require 3 'blocks' of the grid and some may require 1. This makes the skill system much more exciting than RO's current system.

Some of you may be wondering, "but what about our stats! my enchanter is useless with strength and vitality from a swordman!". Gravity also thought of this, and reduced the stat 'system' per say. In RO, the current system is 9:1 (9 stats for every 1 "job level stat boost"). In RO2, the system is 2:3 and the stats have more widespread effects.
Take the example of Wisdom:

  • Increases melee physical attack speed
  • Increases ranged physical attack speed
  • Increases hit rate on spells
  • Increases minimum spell damage
As you can see, that could be beneficial to EVERY class at varying degrees, and thus stat builds have evolved into much more than the generic "pump all int/dex for mage". This also opens the doors for battle priest-style characters.

Now surely, this is incredibly exciting and you want to already play; but wait! There is more!

To further increase the character customization(build wise), Gravity has added more features, the most impressive being the equipment system. If anyone has played Secret of Mana they will be familiar with parts of this system. The basic premise is that two types of equipment exist in RO2: 'leveling' and 'non-leveling'. The leveling type speaks for itself; it gains experience and levels and has stat points the same as a character does. They are bound to your character. The non-leveling type are the more common MMORPG style equipment and they are not bound, but they do have random stats (think Diablo). As exciting as random stats are(I love the system), I'm going to talk more about the leveling-type.

The leveling type weapons are broken into three classes (think Lineage 2).
  • A-class: Max level 20
  • B-class: Max level 20
  • C-class: Max level 20
Once your weapon reaches max level, you must use a special combination item to upgrade it to the next class. Each time your weapon reaches max experience, you must take it to a blacksmith (think Secret of Mana) and have him upgrade it for you. Each weapon has a "growth" rate, in which its stats increase randomly based on that rate. For example:

The C-weapon 'Ellr's Knife' has high growth rate in both melee and magic power. Once it is upgraded into B-weapon 'Kris of Thorns', its growth rate changes to critical attack. So every level, the critical attack will "grow" faster than the other stats. As you can see, this leads to some very interesting builds also.

A few final features of RO2 that many people have been asking for are:
  • The ability to swim, jump, and move via WASD (keyboard). Also, the path finding has been improved so you do not run into walls when clicking around sharp corners.
  • Loot will be collected from a corpse's body (removes looting, which plagued early RO)
  • Facial expressions instead of emoticons.
  • INCREDIBLE sound track, composed by Yoko Kanno (google her name for some of her work), she composed over 90 songs for RO2.
Overall, I suspect RO2 will be a mega-hit. The character customization is amazing, and the various builds..are limitless. It will be quite exciting indeed. Currently Korea, Japan, Brazil, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia all have licences purchased to host the game in their respective languages. No official word on international RO2 yet, but I assume its tied closely to the Korean version, as iRO is a subsidiary of kRO. Open beta is slated for December/January in Korea, and the other countries should not be far behind.

Note: I did not discuss PVP, WoE, etc... because there is no info on them currently. We have been assured it will more exciting than RO's current implementation.



Monday, November 13, 2006

Guild Wars - A niche market.

Hi guys and gals!

I know this is a little overdue, but I'm reviewing the first Guild Wars. I'm only doing the first one because I don't have extensive experience with the expansions; and they maintain the general game design of the first.

I'd first like to point out that I am a hardcore MMO player, as opposed to the casual 4-6 hours per week type.

The basic premise of Guild Wars is about removing massive grind (PvE) and replacing it with a wide variety of PvP. Although they did keep some PvE in the game, its limited at best; the PvP is not involving enough to warrant playing for 6-8 hours daily. Thus this is not a game for hardcore players. However, due to the lack of a monthly fee, its a very viable option as a "second" game you can play when taking a break from a primary MMO.

On that note, the most enjoyable concept of the game is the skill/PvP system. Each character chooses a primary and secondary class. With the main focus of the stats orientated for the primary, yet gaining the skills of the secondary. Each class has roughly 100 skills, making for a total of 200 skills for each character. These skills must be either purchased from an NPC or stolen from a monster using specific skills/items. The exciting part is that you can only ever bring 8 skills into a PvP match (PvP games are instanced), and you are always warring with a guild or party or random collection of people. Thus coordination, teamwork, and quick wit become very important aspects of the game.

The stat system is unique in that it adds specific bonuses to various aspects of your damage or character abilities; such as an "increase fire damage" stat for a Elementalist. The nice part is that these stats can be modified almost daily, to reduce one, or add to another. This is required as your "build" or "strategy" of skills you bring into battle may change, and thus you may want to increase lightning damage instead of fire damage.

As you can see, the coordination of highly skilled guilds will dominate the GvG scene. And there is many tournaments/rankings in this area to encourage such competition. Also, the PvP comes in a wide variety, from a variation of capture the flag, kill all the other team, various "castle siege" styles. And even surviving onslaughts of NPC's; with I'm sure many more varieties offered in the expansions. They really focused on PvP and made sure it was enjoyable.

The PvE aspect of the game is almost entirely instanced, as you start doing basic "instances" of quests with 4-6 party members. You can hire NPC's if you wish to do it solo, but the party members are generally easy to find. It is in the PvE that you find much of your rare gear and you can "steal" monster's skills. In addition to the instanced PvE, there is an actual "world" also, where you can explore, find monsters, and find gear. It is quite large and has many hidden bosses (big arse dragons), however its not very populated by anything but open space and monsters. And with a level cap, it takes at most 1-2 weeks to reach it through conventional grinding.

I think the game is done brilliantly well, with the only exception being limited PvE, and thus a lack of hardcore players. But with the current business model of zero monthly fees, you just purchase the game, it offers some competitive entertainment for the casual and hardcore player alike. If you like for PvP, this game is your holy grail.


Advice for casual gamer:

Advice for hardcore gamer:
keep it as an option


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rappelz Review - Ugh.

Hi everyone,

I know I said I wouldn't even be trying Rappelz, but I figured that's not fair to my readers that they should not get a review just because I find concepts of the game bad. And a friend asked me to play, so I had to! So lets jump straight into the review:

My expectations going into the game were low, as it does not have a stat point system. But nevertheless, it is possible to make the game fun and require 'skill' without a system, just much harder. So I decided to make an Asura race character, and go for Strider or Sorcerer class. So when I logged in, first thing I noticed was the graphics. They are done well enough as to not make it an eyesore and still impress me, so it gets a passing grade in that department. However, the next thing I noticed was the movement, which is point-and-click via mouse. It simply wasn't smooth. If you were running and decided to change direction, it takes your character about 1 second to realize that you clicked somewhere else, which is really quite annoying. Especially since you can be walking towards an NPC, and talk to the NPC whilst walking, and when you leave the "range" of the NPC the chat closes.

Aside from the response time issues, the beginning of the game is rather standard. You spawn, are asked to kill X of monster Y and do this a few times, then move to the next set of quests that asks you to similar tasks and so on. By the time you are level 10, you are complete the "training", and can change class. (Each race has 3 possible classes, with 3 races, meaning 9 total classes). By this time you've learnt a few of the more interesting aspects of the game, such as summoning a creature(to ride or fight with), upgrading armors (similar to L2), and the use of force chips (use one, weakens the enemy for a few seconds). Which is all fine and dandy. But, while I learned more about the game, my opinion of it began to quickly fall.

First off, the skills. They use a job point based system, where each kill gives you X experience and Y job points. You use these job points to either level up a skill or level up your job level. This is not explained very well at the beginning of the game, as many people waste their job points in beginner skills when it requires base level 10, job level 10 to change class. And although they offer "mastery" skills for almost every weapon in most classes, they remove any and all "skill" required to play the game through their system. This is done by not capping job points(jp) earned. So with an unlimited amount of playing time, you can have every skill for your class at max level. Couple that with no stat system, means that as soon as you find some interesting strategy to kill monsters/players with, using a combination of skills; someone can simply copy it since they have all the skills you do. The only limitation in the amount of skills you have is the amount of time you spend leveling, which is a system to base a game off of.

I can give it props for the potion system, as they either heal instantly(with a cool down) or heal over time (with no cool down), so there is no pot "spamming". I also found the camera slightly annoying, as you can scroll out a long ways, but cannot adjust angle of viewing very much without zooming back in. Lastly, I found the PVP poorly thought out, I believe this problem is only for first class characters (they have second class planned), but if you're a melee character, fighting a ranged character, the ranged need simply to walk in zig-zags while attacking and your character can never respond fast enough to hit. If this was meant to be fixed through the second class skills, they should have included second classes in release.

Also have to give it another point deduction for its system, or lack thereof. The monsters drop no rare items except for cards and cubes used to upgrade a weapon. Anything else they drop can be purchased from the store. Thus you cant even find a "rare" weapon, unless you purchased it ingame or used the cash shop to buy upgrade materials for it. Truly disappointing.

Overall I give this game a dismal rating, as it tries to be like Lineage 2 or WoW but simply doesn't compare in any aspect. I would recommend almost any game over this one, including WoW. The fact that it is free does not make up for its flaws either. Lack of a stat system, horrid skill system, poor response time, poorly developed PVP, countered by only a few good concepts makes this game a prime candidate for my newly developed MMOTRASH bin.
In it goes.




Saturday, November 04, 2006

Short Blurb on Infinity, Monato, Goonzu

Hey everyone,

*Finally* done my midterms for this semester, just a few projects to get out of my way and I'll have this week off of homework. Woohoo!

Onto more important matters. During the past few weeks I've tried the various open beta, and to sum it up nicely, have been disappointed. I'll start with Monato Esprit.

To identify the game in one acronym, it be WoW. It is essentially a clone of WoW, except of course its from Korea. The graphics are done well, but it gave me the eerie feel of WoW with a little anime thrown in. The game content is the same, with the generic quest NPC's in town and quests progressing as you go on. The most important aspect is the stat points, or the lack thereof. Overall it felt like I was playing WoW. If I had desired that I would simply have played WoW instead.

So this one gets an:
The next game I tried was Goonzu Online. I'm going to warn you beforehand, its not 3-d, and the graphics are very "simple", but I found them done well enough to enjoy it regardless. The most exciting feature of this game is the stat system and market system. Player guilds control towns, taxation, which NPC's set up shop in their towns, and the town's dungeon which was fa
scinating as a "goal" for a guild.

The economy and market system was VERY well though out. Every item is sold at the "market" price to an NPC. If there is increased demand for that item, price goes up, and thus so does selling price to the NPC. The only items ever in the the economy are those players sell, thus the market system works brilliantly for controlling inflation and such.(Exception of healing potions of course). Also almost every dropped item in the game has some sort of purpose; whether it be a questing, crafting, or feeding your pet, everything had a value.

Next is the skill system which is also done nicely, increasing your levels in a skill by learning from "books" which are sold to the market from other players and thus you can buy them. Goonzu also has various crafting books in everything from armors and weapons, in what seems like an endless amount of them. These require ingredients, such as steel, coal, silver..etc which are made from other crafting skill
s. Thus you can see how every item in the game is used someway or another. Lastly, another exciting feature was the pet/summon system. Once you reach a specific level you get a "pet", a very weak low level pet which helps you in battles. As you level, so does it, and once it reaches certain levels it has the opportunity to evolve. You must buy special tickets for this evolution to happen and sometimes the results are unpredictable, but this evolution can occur hundreds of times. Thus leading to a very wide variety of pets and when you obtain a "legendary" pet its announced server wide as an accomplishment. And on that topic, there is also a market for horses, which level up as you feed them/use them to gain faster speed and weight, however they eventually get too old and leave you for "retirement". The game does contain a lot of walking if you are going to high level dungeons so having a horse is quite useful.

Lastly, the stat system is a standard 5-6 different stat points and they affect your characters damage, attack speed, health..etc. Which is almost a requirement for me to play an MMO. However, the reason I'm not playing it right now is.... no PVP. Absolutely none, there is no way to fight against other plays shy of KSing them on monsters. They went into each aspect of gaming so detailed, I was so happy, but they failed to address the most important part of MMOs.

Thus this game gets a:

Lastly I'm going to review Infinity

Initially I thought a system of skills involving mouse click combinations would be a good thing. However, in practice, the system is poorly designed and results more in "random clicking" that actually performing various skills. I also found the character movement to be horrid and almost "choppy". I was initially lead to believe it would be an MMO style, but it turned out be a "GunBound style" where you join a game room and complete the mission in that room. There was also PVP rooms but they were nothing more than complete chaos of people hitting random buttons hoping to get combos. Overall its poorly designed and horribly implemented. Without further ado:


That's all for now folks, hope to get Spellborn open beta soon or a few other games, right now none have caught my eye. I'll keep you posted as usual. Also as a note; I will not be reviewing Rappelz, or even downloading it, as it has no stat system and is a clone of L2 in almost all aspects.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Upcoming Betas

Few open betas coming soon I'd like to make everyone aware about:
-(shorts posts because I'm busy this week)


-You'll see a rather scathing review of it in my review list but that was the first 50 levels only (closed beta limit), so I'm hoping to at least try up to level 100 before I make a final decision. Regardless; to each their own, it may just be the game you're looking for. Currently in closed beta.

- Currently in closed beta also. Has a good stat system with a unique skill development and overall character development system. I've yet to experience the PVP or Guild vs Guild modes. Might be something to look out for in terms of game content.

Priston Tale 2

- Should be open beta soon(previous pres release said November 06). Warning: it pushes Unreal 2.5 engine graphics to their limits, might want to check system requirements before you get too excited. The first one was very well designed, just had a few problems with the grind and loss of experience from death(you could lose whole levels). And this one has been in the making for quite some time, so I expect great things.

Thats all for today.