Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Summer Haitus

Hey everyone,

As it turns out I appear to have less time in the summer than during the school year; thus I don't plan on posting many reviews for the remainder of the summer. It doesn't help that there have been ZERO new MMO releases since May; the industry has run dry for the time being with many releases slated for Q3 of this year.

In generic MMO news AutoAssault has been shutdown less than a year after release due to poor demand and low populations. Also, Fiesta Online is in closed beta testing; I'll try to add a review for it when I get time to play it more. As of now, I'd recommend most of you try it out.

So that's all for now, have fun and feel free to post a comment if you see a new MMO I would be interested in!


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Lunia Online, Darkness and Light update, and more!


Well, I just noticed it was almost a month since my last post! I've been busy inbetween with finals and training, but I'm settled down into my summer job now so I should be able to update more often.

In the meantime I've had some time to look at Lunia Online, a new MMO by GamenGame (do they ever stop publishing?). Its based around an arcade-style RPG theme, complete with scrolling screens and big mean orcs! As a result, the graphics arent anything to write home about. However, they are done well enough to not cause your eyes to bleed, so bonus points there. My first impression of the actual gameplay was "wow". Its riddled with those classic arcade game touches, including mini-cutscenes with 2d anime characters at every "stop" in the mission. Where it improves, is the ability to level up and QUITE an expansive skill system, which albiet has many different builds.

In addition, there is combo moves, such as ->->A or AAS, etc.. that knock enemies to the ground, allow you to lunge at them and so much more. But what would an MMORPG be without items? So, they've got items of all the normal types for each class, which give stat bonuses and hidden unlockable features when upgraded by doing a quest in town. All this molds together to make a rather sturdy MMO basis, with a decent build system, actual player "skill" involved in attacking, and a wonderful story/quest system.

However, there just HAD to be a downside. The controls are done via the arrow keys, which is fine, but they're completely arcade style; if you're not going perfectly left, right, up, or down you've got a problem. The controls are VERY sloppy and moving at angle is quite difficult. To add to that, the graphics are sometimes not in tune with the ground, thus you cant move to some places you would assume you could. Since movement is SO important in an arcade style game, I found it impossible to play for long periods of time, and thus I cant recommend that anyone play this, at least not without a gamer pad.

6/10 (movement is too crucial for its genre, and no stat system)


And in other news, Darkness and Light recently updated to add 4 more classes and a new map. Also lots of balance changes, check out the website for more info.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Review: Darkness and Light

Hi everyone,

Well its been a while without a review and my exams are done, so here we go!

The game: Darkness and Light published by GameNGame (and therefore F2P).
The website: http://global.onlinedal.com/default.asp

Lets start with an introduction to the game. For those of you who know what Defence of the Ancients (DOTA) is, Darkness and Light (DAL) plays almost exactly like DOTA. The main difference is that DOTA requires Warcraft 3 and The Frozen Throne to play, where as DAL is a standalone game/client.

For those of you who don't know what DOTA is , I'll explain the basic structure of DAL:
Each "match" is a game played between 12, 10, 8, 6, etc.. players. Arranged into 6v6, 5v5, etc.. teams. Once the teams are finalized and the game is started, each player choose a "hero" character, which change depending on the team they are in. In DAL there is two sides, Darkness and Light (surprised?), both have different heroes but maintain a similar structure. I'll explain more about this later.

Once heroes are selected, the game begins and you spawn in your own "town". Each team has a town, which they must defend with their lives. If the entire town is destroyed, or the temple of the town is destroyed, your team loses. To help you, there is defensive towers and guardians to ward off any enemies. To travel from your town to the enemies town, there are paths cut through the forests, which also contain defensive towers to aid you further. When you start the game your heroes don't stand much a chance against these towers, thus each town spawns waves of "creeps" which are monsters whose goal is to run from your town to the enemy town and attack anything in sight on the way there. By killing these creeps you gain experience and gold, with the former allowing you to level up and obtain new skills and the latter allowing you to purchase items from the item shop.

In order to facilitate dynamic game play there are also creeps that spawn on their own, in the forest, that will attack anyone in sight. You can go and kill these creeps to gain experience and gold also. Of course, while killing creeps you may run into heroes from the other team. You can also kill them for exp and gold, or maybe they will kill you! When you die you must wait for the timer to resurrect and as you get higher level the timer takes a minute or more..so avoiding death is always important.

The main feature DAL has over DOTA is that you can set a time-limit on the game. Once say..30 minutes has expired, a "boss" monster from each team spawns (from your temple) and they both advance towards the "middle" of the map. Once their, they duke it out and the last boss standing wins. Of course, all the heroes are still alive also so they play an important role in who wins. The bosses spawn with a predetermined level (higher level == stronger) which is based on the amount of enemy buildings/guardians your team has killed. It goes as high as 6, and as low as 1. I find this feature VERY appealing because it allows you to sit down and spend no more than 33 minutes on a game (3 minutes for the boss killing), so you never get stuck in a game longer than you wanted too.

So that's the general idea of the game, onto the actual review now. As I mentioned previously, each side has a set of heroes the players can choose from. And although they may seem different, both sides maintain the same structure for heroes. There is a few strength based heroes, a few intelligence based, and a few dexterity based for each team. The characters damage is dependant on the stat they are "based" on. Each hero has 3 stats: str/dex/int, and 6 secondary indicators: def/aspd/running speed/atk/evasion, and of course hp/sp. You can accent your hero by buying items from the item shop in game with the gold you receive from killing creeps. There is a wide variety of items, including healing potions, weapons, armors, summoning scrolls, etc... What adds dynamic is the ability to combine items into "new" items and then upgrading those items further with upgrade stones. There is no shortage of things you can do with money, which I think adds brilliant dynamics to the game and the item shop is accessible from anywhere in the map so there is possibility to change items on the fly.

In order to add the "MMO" title to it, there is a lobby of games to join once you login to the server. Each time you win a game, you get exp points for your account and "cra", which is money you can spend at the "Personal shop". The exp points level up your account, which just gives a general idea of how "good" you are. If you lose a game, you will lose exp (but not cra).
And also, since people leaving mid-game is a huge problem in DOTA, in DAL they are punished by losing 1.5x the exp they could have gained, and getting "dishonor" points. Dishonor points add to your dishonor rank which appears as a huge red strike next to your name and thus its hard to find a host who wont ban you on sight once you have lots of dishonor. However back to this "Cra". You can spend this cra at the personal shop and "rent" items for X amount of days. These items will appear under the "personal" item tab in-game, and thus still require gold to buy. None of them are grossly overpowered, and I think its good motivation for people take games seriously, as cra is a hot commodity.

Overall I find the game very enjoyable and easy to get the hang of, yet hard to master. The community is a lot more "forgiving" than the DOTA community and thus its a lot easier to get started in DAL than it is in DOTA. The only real qualm I have with the game is a few balance issues, but since its still in open beta stage I have may faith things will change. There is also a Korean version of the game which receives regular patches for balance/tweaks, and the GM'ing of DAL is done quite well especially for a GnG game, which are notoriously bad for there customer service.

The game offers a good 30 minutes (or longer if you'd like) of enjoyment and pits you and your team against other players for PVP/PVE style warfare. There is also a new guild feature, which is still infant, but allows for guild communication channels and an emblem to proudly show which guild you're in. A great game for those casual gamers who cant dedicate hours a day to a standard MMO. But, since its not a TRUE MMO in my mind, it has to lose some points on the ratings.




Monday, April 02, 2007

Darkness and Light | Laxe Lore


I've been super busy and will continue to be until end of term (2 weeks), so bear with me.

Only decent news I have is two new MMO's.

First one is called Darkness and Light (published by Game'n'Game):

It apparently plays like DOTA on WC3. Just in a slightly more MMO sense. I haven't had time to try it yet, but its a 130mb download and of course, free to play. Give it a try, and write your review in the comments!

Second game is Laxe Lore Online (created by the makers of Priston Tale):

It looks alot like priston tale...so I'm not sure what to think yet. Download is 382mb, and again if you get to try it, write your review in the comments. I know that is has a stat point system, which gets me a little interested, heh. The servers appears to be having some difficulty however..so I'm not sure if you can get in or not. There is more info on their website forums.

That's all for today.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Acclaim's TOP SECRET Project

As many of you already know, Acclaim has opened up the floor for ANYONE to register for their TOP SECRET Project and actually design an MMO. With the entire community participating (25000+) the mmo will eventually be fully designed, and their programmers will create it and publish it. There is various job opportunities if your designs are selected, and lots of industry eyes on this one. I don't have time for a full post, but here's an example email from them I received:
Hi team,

Thanks for being patient, we are ready!!!

The TOP SECRET forums are now open. The project is a go!

I just checked the sign-ups and today we have over 23,500 people on this team, making it the biggest team in gaming history! Yeah!!!

If you have any talented friends that you want to work with, go ahead and have them sign up. We do allow partners to win, however you will have to split the prize.

We're also signing up moderators right now. These are the people who will help keep everything running smoothly. (These are the people you want to hire as producers down the road.) Our moderators are allowed to join into the competition, as they're not judging any winners.

So know that the moderators are just cool people trying to help out, so please give them respect, and if you think they're doing a good job, give them some reputation points.

The highest ranked moderator at the end of the project will get a special prize.

If you have spare time and would like to be one, here's a direct link to the details: http://phpbb.acclaim.com/topsecret/viewtopic.php?t=81

The first challenge (MILESTONE 1) is to work out the world the game takes place in, meaning the universe, the look, the style. So if you have any ideas, once we decide that, we can start working on characters, vehicles etc.

Oh, one other thing, as this is all about exposing talent and making games, I'm going to personally hire someone full-time right out of the forums, in the first week!
I've posted details of how to be spotted.

See you in the forums!
Here's a link: http://phpbb.acclaim.com/topsecret/index.php

David Perry
Project Top Secret

So there you have it, see the website for more details, and get your creative juices flowing!


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Granado Espada: Great? I think nada.

As promised, here is my review for Granada Espada (the SG version). The Closed Beta ended yesterday (March 19th) and the Open Beta is expected to start in the middle of May. Without further a due, lets get to it.

Granado Espada; developed by a world famous MMO designer, winner of the 2006 Korean MMO best game award (those things come from the government of Korea!), and quite frankly seemed to be the only decently designed game in to come out this year. So naturally, I expected the most from it. I'll break down the review into sections, as per the norm.

Graphically, the game is very well designed. You get the look and feel of the post-colonial days. Not only is the atmosphere good, the graphics themselves are quite stunning considering the requirements. They are very crisp yet not too detailed as too distract the eye. And the character's clothing fits the era. I did not run into any graphic glitches during the beta, and overall though the graphical side was executed well.

The selling point of GE lies in the Multi-Character Control (MCC) system. It allows the player to play more than one character a time. Therefore each player creates a "family" of at most 3 characters. (You don't NEED 3, but its highly recommended). In order to prevent insane micro-managing, the game also comes with an "Auto Attack" feature, where the characters will attack anything that comes near them(scouts will auto-heal in this mode). And also an "Auto Loot" and "Auto Defend", much like the average Real Time Strategy game. Each character also has one row of the keyboard for skill slots, allowing effective micro managing. In order to cast a supportive skill, each player can be targeted with F1,F2,F3 respectively. The control system is very well designed and allows for quick and easy management of three characters.

Each of the characters in your family contain the same features you would expect a single character to in a normal MMO. Each has a class (fighter, scout(healer), musketeer, elementalist, wizard) and skills, with a mini-skill tree. They also have stat points, but they are unmodifiable (more on this later). And of course, each has separate equipment, but they all share one inventory (which appears to be limitless in weight).

The second claim to fame of Granado Espada(GE) is the Stance System. You set your character on a particular stance, which offers bonuses to attack speed, etc.. Each stance has a set of skills for it, and each stance level (exp gained from killing monsters), grants you some skill points. (It increases as you go higher). So now that you understand a little more about the system, let me tear it to pieces!

The MCC system, due to its "Auto Attack" mode is basically a bot. You can leave it on auto-attack, come back 6 hours later and have gained a level or two. I'm sure this wasn't the intention, but its the reality, and something that needs to be drastically changed. The only two "efficient" methods of leveling are "botting" and mobbing/AoE. Both of which get incredibly boring incredibly quickly. Instead of choosing to have the maps filled with a few hard monsters, they loaded them to the brim with monsters that die quickly. And to add it to, the monsters re-spawn at incredible rates, thus making it easier to bot/mob. The Stance System is not without its flaws either. I'm not sure why they went through the difficulty of making skill trees, and various stances, when in essence you can level all of them up to the max. And you're almost guaranteed to have enough skill points to max each skill in each stance. Thereby COMPLETELY removing the skill-build aspect of the game. Combine that with no stat points, and you've got a bunch of cookie-cutter characters running around.

To add onto that note, there is also RNPC's (Recruitable NPC's) in the game, which you do quests for and they become part of your family. (Ie, you can create a new character like them). Many of these RNPC's are ridiculously overpowered in comparison to the base classes and thus you are almost "forced" to have them in your family if you wish to stand a chance at PVP. Thereby reducing the possible family-build. This results in everyone playing very similar characters near the end, which completely removes the point of having such dynamic family possibilities.

However, I do feel that one part of the game needs positive mentioning. And since we've covered graphics, core-game system, and skills; it must be items! The item system is GE is easily THE BEST I've ever seen. First off, items drop from monsters onto the ground, so you don't have to right click to pick up things. Secondly, if its a "rare" item (ie, weapon/armor), it makes a soft "ding" sound when it hits the ground, and glows red making it almost impossible to miss. And in the spirit of Diablo 2, you can press a key combination to see the names of all items on the ground, a feature every MMO needs. Following with that theme of Diablo 2 it seems that ANY monster can drop ANY item, and each item has RANDOM stats. For example:
I found a level 36 elementalist firestorm bracelet with +22% aspd, +20% attk. And in the same 5 minutes, from the same type of monster, I found another level 36 bracelet with +98% dmg to demi human and 5% chance to cause terror.

Too add onto this, there in an enchanting and enhancing system. Where you can upgrade your weapon by enhancing (give money to some NPC and it upgrades safely to +4, past that its a risk, much like RO), and you can enchant your item with enchanting chips. These stones are gained by placing 3 "rare" items into the enchantment chip maker, where it spits out a random level enchanting chips. You then apply this chip to a weapon and it will add random bonuses (such as the ones mentioned above). This system offers AMAZING dynamics in the weapon/armor areas, and a wonderful siphon of money from the economy through enhancing(very expensive). So not only can you find random goodies, but you can also make them from random not-so-goodies. It does not require any extra skill or benefit, just need to talk to an NPC.

The quest system in GE is pretty generic, except that it involves a lot of instancing, and the rewards aren't too bad. They are generally EXP Cards (cards that give EXP to a character and can be used at any time), or RNPC Character Cards (required to be able to make the RNPC character described by the card). There is also your generic hunt/kill X amount of this monster, if that's your thing. Overall I'd say the questing system was done well, nothing to cry about, but nothing to brag about either.

One quite generic feature is the party system, otherwise referred to as "Squadding". The squads work like any other game, where party buffs can be applied, and you can see squad members on the mini-map. One of the nicer features in the AI is that your squad member's scout heals your characters automatically, therefore allowing only 1 scout to suffice for a party of two characters. However, I feel that the party system failed in the core idea of a party; you only get an EXP bonus if two people hit the same monster. And because the monsters are relatively weak, this rarely happens. Combine this fact with the "botting" technique, and you are basically just a collection of "botting" players that are sharing exp, with no bonuses to do so.

One feature, which I do think should be adapted by all future games, is the Warp Point feature. Each family has 5 warp points, which they can set at anyone point in the game by simply clicking "Save" in the family menu. It will save that location to the list, which they can return to easily by using a warp scroll, which opens a gate to go back there (just like Diablo!). This is an incredibly useful feature and saves a lot of the pains of walking, and the scrolls aren't "cheap" so its an excellent money drain.

Another interesting feature for an MMO is the auto-resurrect part of GE. Whenever a character dies, it will simply resurrect in X seconds. If your whole family dies, they will still resurrect after the given time has passed. This works in PVP also(next topic), but if your entire family dies in PVP its over. So long as you keep one character alive, you're good to go! It really encourages more "exciting" game play and allows for interesting things to happen, such as every dungeon having a nasty "mini-boss" that pops out at random times in random places and kills you!. It doesn't get you very mad if you know you'll simply resurrect in a minute or two. So you're probably wondering, how do you get back to town!? Well, if you go back to character select, you can set where you want to start from, either your current location, or your save point (town).

Lastly, I'll discuss PVP. I will not be discussing the Faction vs Faction content, because I did not get to experience it and I've been told it will be getting upgrades/changes in the next update, so I don't want to make comments on something that's not finished. As for the PVP system, I don't think its even worth mentioning. When I discussed "botting" earlier, it involved setting "auto-attack" and going afk. However, when someone asks for a dual, the game will auto accept after 30 seconds of no response. Thus a lot of the "botters" get killed in PVP, which sends you back to town. However, this is a double-edged feature. If you sat down and ran to the bathroom, by the time you got back someone may have dual'd and killed you, sending you back to town. It gets very annoying quite quickly, and is a poor solution to the "botting". Other than dualing, there is arena's for PVP in the towns, but that's about it. Its not a large focus of the game (similar to RO). The FvF content did look good, but we'll have to wait and see.

Overall, I feel that the game failed in some of the core components of an MMO, although it does have a lot of new concepts and new ideas which I think could be modified to create something truly amazing. I could not envision a better item system, which is a huge factor in the game. If you are currently a WoW fan, or some other stat less/skill less MMO, then this game is for you. It is by far the BEST game of the "build less" variety that I've played. If you arent, keep looking, because unless there is dramatic changes in the future I feel it'll just be another game where you get to be a clone of someone elses characters.

-bonus marks for originality and masterfully implemented item system
-deductions for core game design

I feel the game has alot of potential, and in the coming updates things may change for the better. I'll definitely be trying it out again in open beta.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Scions of Fate Review: Painful.


(I'll be adding screenshots later)

Scions of Fate is the western version of the hit game "Yulgang" in asia. Yulgang boasts about its 70 million registered users (free-to-play). So naturally, I had to try Scions of Fate (SOF) when it came out. So, after waiting through countless delays and tolerating bad community management, I finally got SOF downloaded, installed, and ready to go. And its all downhill from there..

Lets start with the graphics:
As Yulgang is a little old, the graphics are not at their highest potential for a "new" MMO, but nevertheless they are easy on the eyes. There was a few graphical glitches, but the visible distance was quite large, and it was still open beta; thus nothing was too bad. The graphics get a "meh" from me; as they are functional but not breath taking.

Moving onto to the core game play. This is where my enjoyment of the game went to zero. The game play is UTTERLY boring, with no innovation, and a horrible rendition of even a crappy standard MMO. There is no stat points. Infact, the levels in the game DO NOTHING but give you a wee bit more HP/SP. Woohoo! And every few levels you get to go back to town and buy store-bought gear. Woohoo! There is literally no purpose in leveling other than to get the next skill in your tree (I'll talk about that later), or to buy the next ungodly expensive weapon from the store. A total flop.

The character classe.: The game contains 5 base character classes: Swordsman, Bladesman, Spearman, Bowman, Healer. As you can see, the first three are essentially copies of each other, just change the weapon they can use. Whereas the Bowman has incredibly range, and with the proper running tactics, can never be hit. An important imbalance in PVP. The good part is each of the base classes can choose between one of two paths at the first class change. (There is 4 class changes total). For example, the healer can choose Holy Physician or Dark Physician. Which is a system I do enjoy.

To add insult to injury, the item system was poor at best. The items dropped from monsters almost a full second after you killed them, so it was common to walk around and see items all over the ground. As people killed mobs, they would run onward thinking nothing dropped, when something does indeed drop 1-2 seconds later. To cap it off, the idea of customization in the game was the dropping of "rare" gems. Sapphire, Ruby, etc.. Thus, you would commonly have to turn around and check if your monsters dropped anything after you left! You then used these gems at the local blacksmith to "upgrade" a weapon/armor. They did offer a wide variety of customization in the equipment, but they were limited due to the expensive nature and unpredictable results. Since many of the gems sold for incredible amounts of money to NPC's, it simply is not affordable to enchant every time you get a new weapon. (The weapons are purchased based on GOLD ONLY, so if you're level 1, you could have an insane weapon provided you had the gold). But, in SOF's defence, the enchanting/enhancing process offers customization and a semi-build for your character (since they have no stat points.) Although it makes the game far too item-based (IGE anyone?).

The skill system is almost the poorest I've ever seen. You get a new skill every 5-10 levels, and its generally incredibly stronger than your previous one, so there is basically 1 skill you ever use; depending on your level. That aspect of it gets very boring, very quickly. For example, by the time you were a level 60 Beast Slayer (After 2 class changes from swordsman), you would have a TOTAL of 9 skills (8 being useless). That is if you could afford to/wanted to purchase them. There is really nothing more to say. It is simply the worst skill system of any MMO I've ever played.

Moving onto the general game atmosphere, such as quests, leveling etc.. The quests are poor. No other way to say it. You go out and kill X monsters, return to Y NPC, receive Z award. Most of the monsters they ask you to kill are in obscure locations, and thus you need to keep the website open to search for them at each quest. There is nothing innovative, nothing exciting, and definitely nothing fun. I already did my rant on the leveling system, but I'd also like to say that the grind is too hard for the first few levels. It should take minimal amount of time to get to level 10 and get into the game. Past that, I'm fine with increasing leveling time, but at the start, things should not take long. In SOF, it takes a while. And to finish off this segment of the review; the pet system. I WOULD use the pet system as an interesting feature of the game, but its horribly explained in game; and as it turns out, the Cash Shop (real money for in game items) is the prime way you get pets. And not to mention, the Cash Shop causes other broken features.
Such as:
"Gold Supremacy Charm: lasts 30 days"
1. 20% increase in the experience gained by hunting.
2. 150% of the Ki points from hunting.
3. 120% of gold gathered from hunting.
4. You may participate in premium quests.
5. 1% decrease in the experience you lose from your character dieing.
6. You may save up to 4 locations on your Charm of Passage.
7. 120% of the gold from selling items to NPC shops.
8. 5% increase in item enchantment success rate.
9. 5% increase in item strengthening success rate.

As you can see, that's grossly overpowered. Most importantly the "premium quests" which offer godly rewards and can be repeated as many times as you'd like. Essentially FORCING you to "pay" for the game if you want to play competitively.

Overall, I have to say the game is a total flop. With the only interesting part of the entire system being the item enchanting/enhancing. I'm losing faith in F2P MMO's quite quickly. Into the MMO Trash bin you go SOF.




Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Granado Espada Singapore Version (English)

Hi everyone,

Sorry for my absence of late, I had a week of midterms, followed by a holiday, followed by a week of midterms! And in my few spare moments I've been playing Granado Espada (GE).

I definately recommend you check it out at http://granadoespada.sg its in "Closed Beta", but pretty much everyone who applies gets accepted. Its a different spin on an MMO, and quite enjoyable.

The Closed Beta ends March 19th, afterwards it shuts down for 2-3 weeks to upgrade to a newer version of the game. Which then leads to pre-open beta sometime in Mid-April. There will be a character wipe between closed -> pre-open. But there will be no wipes after pre-open beta. I'll have a in depth review up after it closes on the 19th, for those who didn't get to play.

If you are playing, drop your family name in the comments below, and maybe we can duel! Hasn't been much else for news in MMO industry since, other than Acclaim's "Top Secret" project, where they are selecting members of the community to design an MMO that they will then produce. But there is no details on that yet, so for now we remain in the dark.

As always, enjoy!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Lord of the Rings Online: Review

Hey all,

As many of you know, I've been in beta for LOTRO for a few months now, and after the stress test last weekend I decided to write a current review on the game.

So lets get to it!

Lord of the Rings Online has been in development..for almost 6 years publicly. It started as "Middle Earth Online" being produced by Vivendi Universal. However, after a few years, they decided (not sure of the reason) to pass the game onto a company called Turbine. Turbine had
previously made and managed Ascheron's Call 2. So, after almost 6 years the game finally entered into closed beta Q3 of last year. It's advertising points being that it stayed as true to the
books as possible and offered an exciting MMO experience.

Now that we've gotten that covered, lets get into the actual game itself. I of course like to start with the core game system. For those who like to speed read, LOTRO can be descried in one word: WoW. The game systems are eerily similar, almost to the point where it should be a copyright infringement. The characters have no modifiable stat points, ie, each level you gain does absolutely nothing for you except the possibility of learning a new skill if you've reached the next level threshold. In fact, the skill system appears to be an exact replica of WoW. Once you reach level X, you can buy skills W,Y,Z..etc. Therefore, I was EXTREMELY disappointed in that aspect of the game. As for the stat system, you can modify them through your equipment, and something called "Traits". You gain traits by completing "Accomplishments"; exploring, doing the lore, and just plain grinding. For example, if you kill 1000 goblins, you may become
"John the Goblin Slayer", which is simply a change of title. But, if you find all of the 7 ancient stones in a particular area, you may gain a trait that gives +1 to int. These traits can be applied to your character by talking to the town's Bard, who will set them into one of your trait slots(you gain more as you get higher level). They can be switched out at any time, so it does allow for a slight bit of difference between characters, but you need to have alot of time on your hands to get the various traits. Traits would be an excellent compliment to normal stat system; but if they serve as the only means to differentiate yourself, they become more of a time sink.

Moving onto the graphics. As Turbine has been known to produce some good graphics, I was expecting the very best when first signing into LOTRO. And I was not disappointed. With graphics settings on max, the game looks absolutely stunning. From the life-like water, to the facial design, to the details of the buildings, everyone was done to perfection. My only qualm is that the overall graphic style and especially the fonts, look EXACTLY the same as WoW. If you changed the name and put the graphics on low it would be very hard to tell the difference for a novice MMO player. Irregardless, Turbine did an amazing job on the graphics (6.8 gb client!) and I'm sure as they near closer to release they'll only get better.

Now, getting to the classes. The current list of 7 includes: Champion, Guardian, Captain, Minstrel, Hunter, Burglar, Lore Master. The first question you might ask is "Where is the wizards!?". Turbine decided not to include the Wizards because it would go against Tolkien's Lore, as there were very few wizards in the books. But, nevertheless, the Lore Master serves as a pseudo-wizard for those who desire Magic. The rest of the classes are the standard run of the mill classes, so I wont say much about them. There are also 4 races, Human, Elf, Hobbit, Dwarf. With certain limitations on what class each race can choose. For some reason, they decided that you should not be able to play the evil races from the lore, I'm not entirely sure what sense that makes.

Moving onto the Combat system. The combat at ground level is very similar to WoW. Well, to be precise, its exactly the same as WoW(Starting to notice a theme?). Regardless, there is some
details that you cannot see without actually playing the class. First and foremost is the combo'ing of skills. If you were a Hunter, you could fire a "Barbed Arrow" which would cause the target to bleed and run slower. Once you caught up to the target (or they to you), you could slash them with your dagger, aiming for the wounded area by using the designated skill, and do a large amount of extra damage. This is just one of the simple combos present in the lower levels of the game. They get far more complex later on. The most exciting of which is the "Group Skills", which allow a "Fellowship" (party) to attack in unison doing many complex combos. It truly adds to the group-based combat and is a fantastic idea. I'm not entirely fond of the solo combo skills, because they are powerful enough that they become the only skills you use, making the other skills grossly inefficient and therefore useless.

Next we go to the environment of Middle Earth. The world itself is massive and quite well detailed. The mapping system is again very similar to WoW, and travel can be done by foot or through renting/riding a horse. Guess what? You need to be level 40 (or was it 30..) to purchase a horse, and it costs an arm and a leg. You can rent a horse to go from area to area, but it follows a designated path. But you can jump off the horse at any given time, which is nice. However, most of the game before level 40 you'll be walking, so prepare for a lot of walking (hrm..sounds like WoW). There is also an auction house in every major town, which works the exact same as WoW's does, so nothing too exciting there.

Going onto what is pretty much a standard system in MMO's these days; crafting. The different professions of crafting are: Prospector, Forestor, Scholar, Cook, Weaponsmith, Woodworker, Metalsmith, Leatherworker, and Jeweler. Its obvious to see which ones are denoted as "Primary" and which are "Secondary". The primary crafts, or rather the collection crafts are very similar to WoW. You gain a skill that helps you locate your respective resource, and then you go and collect that resource by equipping an axe, or a mining pick, etc.. Once you've collected from one resource (ie, a mound of copper, a branch of rowen), it disappears and you go off to the find the next one! When you've gotten enough of the resource, you go back to town to turn it into something useful with the secondary professions. You may whittle the wood into a bow shaft and then into a bow. After doing this so may times, you advance the craft and get to go collect the higher-level resource and do fun things with it. As I'm sure you've noticed this is almost identical to the WoW system. The items you make are useful, and usually stronger than what you can buy at the NPC's. But it takes a significant amount of time to level it up enough to keep up with your level. So I wouldn't rate it as anything amazing.

Nearing the end now, we get to the Questing. Questing is the basis of LOTRO, you actually start the game in an instance quest, and then once completing that, you enter a pseudo-instance world. Where all the new players exist, but once they complete the quest they are warped out into the "real world". Questing is where one of my biggest complaints with the game lies, so I'll try to be as unbiased as possible. The basic system is again similar to WoW (or any other MMO), you go kill X monsters and you'll receive Y money/exp/items. Or, go find the NPC named John and then return to me with what he says, etc.. Again, nothing is new. But, the annoying part is the absolutely massive amount of exp/money you receive from doing a quest, as compared to just grinding. You may get 1-3 exp for killing a wolf, but get 800 for killing 10 and completing the quest. It makes absolutely no sense to "grind" in the game, and thus the rather boring questing is forced upon you. Some of them require a group to go kill boss monster X, which is NOT instanced. This leads to a lot of spawn camping (even in closed beta) that makes it not enjoyable.

Lastly I'm going to skim over PVP. There is no PVP in LOTRO. Turbine decided that it was against the lore to have humans fighting hobbits (so why didn't they enable evil races, I asked myself). Thus the current implementation of PVP is going to an NPC where you get to take over a mob and fight other players with that mob. I really don't have much experience in the matter, because quite frankly it sounded boring and there is level restrictions on it. If anyone actually did try it, please post in the comments a little review and I'll add it if its appropriate.

To sum it all up, I'm quite disappointed with the overall features of LOTRO. My belief is that when it started, these concepts were all new and quite enjoyable, but after the years of development, they are now antique, with the exception of the graphics. I do feel that with a modifiable stat system and a slightly better skill system the game would be top notch, as it does contain many good MMO features, and some new ones (group combos). With that said, I think it will steal alot of players away from WoW, because of the obvious similarities and the fact that its simply a new game in the same genre. And because they followed the lore so closely, even in the quests, it will attract a lot of Tolkein fans. We'll see what new content Turbine thinks of after the inital development phase is over. But for now, I would avoid any high hopes, as there are other better games already released, or being released at
the same time as LOTRO.




Monday, January 29, 2007

LOTRO Review


I wrote up a rather lengthy review just now, but upon reviewing my terms of the NDA with Turbine I must wait until it goes into open beta before I can post it, so it'll have to wait.
In other news:

Granado Espada, the winner of the 2006 Korean Game of the Year Award is being brought to the US and Europe by K2 Networks (same people as WarRock). They plan for a summer release and it will be Free-to-Play with a gold package of Buy-to-Play (no monthly fee). I'll be writing a preview for it shortly!


Thursday, January 25, 2007

LOTRO Stress Test Weekend

Hey everyone,

Since there is ABSOLUTELY no news in the MMO industry of late, except for something I'm currently writing a preview for. I figured I'd post this little update(thanks for reminding me evanio).

Lord of the Rings Online will be having a stress test this weekend. You'll need to have gotten an email from Turbine if you wanted to participate. I'll be writing a review for it after the stress test is over. So stay tuned for that also.

That's all for now,


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Corum Online Review

Well I've had some time during the weekend to play Corum Online. I cant say that I played it very long (that's how truly horrible it is), but I played enough to write a review.

I'm usually not picky about graphics...but I have one requirement: that they don't hurt the eyes to look at. Corum breaks that requirement. The graphics look like they've been created in MS Paint and animated with PowerPoint, very poorly done would be an understatement. (The screenshots don't do justice to how bad it really is).

Now that I'm past that, lets discuss the game play side of things. Upon previewing the game, I saw that it had stat points(Ego, Dex, Str, Vit, Int) which generally excites me as they offer good character dynamics. Sadly, upon gaining a few levels I noticed that the stat points system is elementary at best, and really offers nothing to the game. Str simply adds attack damage, Int adds SP...etc. They all do one thing, nothing more, and the game itself offers little for you to modify. The only visible data the game shows you is attack damage, accuracy, dodge. Basicaly giving the game absolutely no point for a stat system as its quite obvious each class levels the same thing. Especially since int only affects the amount of SP, not the magic damage.

Lastly, the controls are awkward and dragging skills onto your "hotbar" is not done the way you would expect. When attacking a monster, your character has a delay, like its trying to figure out what to do. And my last rant has to do with the class I chose, the hunter, whom for the first 15 levels of the game gets a healing skill. Whoopie.

This is the second game published by Gpotato that I can say is horrible (at best), and thus my faith in them is falling quite quickly. I will not be holding my breath for the next game they publish, if their past two are any indication.

0/10 (you couldn't pay me to play this game)


Good day!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Corum Online -> Psuedo-Open Beta

Hey all!

Long time between posts of late, I'm finally back in school and on a normal schedule again, so hopefully things should go back to normal. The MMO industry has been pretty quiet for new releases lately, it seems everything is getting pushed back, so hopefully they give me something to work with.

Todays preview is on Corum Online, a new game by Gpotato (publishers of Flyff, Space Cowboy, and Rappelz). Webby is http://corum.gpotato.com .

The basic points of the game are pretty standard; it has six classes: Fighter, Ranger, Sorcerer, Priest, Summoner, Hunter. They each specialize in a certain area, which is rather obvious from their class names. The website causes unneeded confusion because it names each classes "sp" differently, such as the Fighter's version is called "Aura", the Ranger's is "Chakra", etc... Aside from that, it appears there are 5 basic status points (immediate bonus to the games rating for me!), EGO, STR, DEX, INT, VIT. I've no clue what Ego is centered around, but the other four are quite obvious.

A notable difference from other games in regards to the priest class, is that it is ranked 3rd for physical combat strength, meaning it may make for a decent solo class. Also, the sorcerer has the ability to cast multiple spells at one time, such as; targeting one monster with a simple spell while casting a complex spell to deal with a mob of monsters. Downside is that this practice drains SP faster, but its decent trade off in my opinion. And lastly in this odd-ball category, the summoners text says "If the summoning power of a summoner reaches the extreme, then characters from other servers can also be summoned." I've no idea what that means, but summoning characters from other servers sounds pretty funky.

Moving onto some of the game's systems. There is large scale PVP, small scale PVP, and 1 vs 1 duels. The large scale PVP can be classified by a type of guild wars, in this case called "Dungeon Siege". You can take control of a dungeon, and have a guardian protect you and the dungeon produces equipment when it levels up (which happens naturally over time). The system sounds VERY similar to Ragnarok Online's War of Emperium (Guild Wars) feature. The game also has an alignment system, chaotic good, chaotic evil, etc... but that's all the info that was released about it.

The Open Beta (as long as you have a GPotato account, which is free to register), starts in 2 1/2 hours from this post time, or 24:00 PST. I'll be trying it first, then writing a complete review. For now, the stat system and guild wars feature will be exciting, and I'm always curious to see how each game implements questing and equipments etc.. See you all!