Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Rohan Online: Blood Feud

Hey there,

This review is focused on Rohan Online, a new English MMO (translated from an older Asian based MMO of the same name), which just happens to share the abbreviation RO with both Requiem Online and Ragnarok Online. I'll be calling it 'Rohan' instead, to avoid any confusion.

The game entered its Open Beta phase in late May (around the 27th), and shortly after opening the servers were overflowing and disconnecting. To remedy the problem they added 3 more servers within a day, which all but eliminated the lag/disconnect issues: props to them for quick action in solving the problem. The Open Beta phase is free, with no wipe before going Gold (your characters in OB will be playable in the gold version). It is a Free-to-play game with a cash-shop where you can buy skill stones (more about these later), stat/skill resets, and various other aesthetic items.

The fundamentals of the game are akin to its MMO peers; level up through grinding on monsters or performing quests, job change a certain level, etc.. What sets this game apart from many others is the fact that it contains a well thought out status point system and skill system. For each character level you gain one skill point and four status points. The status points can be alloted anyway you choose into 6 potential areas (strength, wisdom, psychic, agility, dexterity, vitality). Each area has no limit, thus at level 99 (the maximum level) you could theoretically have 400+ of a single stat, which leads to a great variety of builds appearing in the game. The difficulty with going for maximum damage (mass dexterity as a ranged character) is that you give up vitality which offers much needed health and defense, thus it is not all about pumping a single stat.

In order to compliment the status system, the skill system uses skills that deal percentile damage, such as 800% of your wisdom as damage, or 250% of your attack as damage, etc.. This means that even the most basic skills will easily scale up and be useful from level 10 to level 99, depending on your playing style and build style. It also means that the way your status points are alloted will be a very large determinant to your success in the later levels and in the PVP environment. This is completely opposite from most of the current MMOs, where your equipment is the sole determinant of your success. The skill system also contains a wide variety of 30-minute long enchantments for every class, this forces you to make a decision of whether you'd like to get all the enchantments for large passive buffs, or pump all the active skills for large burst damage. And of course, to balance, some classes have the ability to remove your buffs, or silence you from casting active skills. Because the skill system is point based (one point each level to invest) there is no need to save up money to buy new skill, and you can truly create individual builds. An addition to the skill system are the skill stones. These stones allow you to upgrade a skill beyond its maximum level, at a random chance. As an example suppose a skill is max level 5 and gives 800% psychic damage at that level; if you used skill stone to get it to level 6 it may do 850% psychic damage, and using another to get level 7 it might do 1000% psychic damage. Most skills have a skill stone maximum though, usually topping out at level 7 or level 8. The stones are incredibly rare, and are generally obtained by fishing (a mini-game) or buying them from the cash shop.

The class system in Rohan is quite similar to most other games, you must pick your races when you make your character and once you reach level 50 you can change into one of two possible classes. As there are 6 races in Rohan, there is a total of 12 end-game classes. They range from the powerful Warlock to the armored Defender. Each class has a skill-tree, including the "default" race class (such as Knight for the Human race which then changes into a Guardian or Defender), so there is a wide variety of skills to choose from. The individual classes are very well balanced in respect to the others, such as the Assassin having the ability to critical for massive damage (420% of their agility) but the Wizard is able to prevent their entire party from receiving critical damage for 60 seconds. Such counter-balances are present in each class towards some other individual class. Because the game is Open PVP, it is very important to level together in a party later on, lest you run into your classes' counter-class and get killed.

Why is the game open PVP you ask? Because certain races (the Dhan in particular) have the ability to gain experience from killing people in PVP. In order to achieve they must change their mode to "Assassination" mode, which causes city guards to attack them on sight, and if they die to other players they have a higher chance of dropping equipment. In order to prevent massive ganking, Rohan has a revenge list feature. Every time someone kills you, their name goes onto your revenge list. At any time, you can click on their name and warp directly to them in order to kill them and seek revenge. You only get one chance though, once you warp to them they disappear from the revenge list. However, if done correctly, you can easily assassinate a higher level player just as they are in the midst of a boss-battle. But don't worry about getting dropped so easily in PVP, because the damage modifier for PVP is 33%, thus any attacks will deal 33% of their normal damage.

The item system in the game is quite well thought out. Every item that drops has completely randomized bonuses. For example, you could get a sword with +4 wisdom and a rod with 2% melee damage, or vice versa. In addition, in order to use the equipment you must meet the level and status point requirements (such a sword that requires level 33 and 35 str, 27 dex). If you don't meet the requirements, you can bring the item to an NPC and get them to downgrade the requirements for you. This works by a random dice roll, if you are lucky the requirement will go down by the number of levels, or stats, you specified (more levels at a time costs more and has a higher chance of failure). If you are unlucky, the requirement will go up by the number of levels, or stats, you specified; but it will never go above the base value you started with. Many people have spent entire fortunes trying to decrease a level 33 weapon down to level 27 so they may use it; it can be quite addicting. But thats not all you can do with your equipment, every piece of equipment in the game is an ingredient to a rare or unique piece of equipment. You make these by bringing them to an NPC so that they can be forged together; there is of course a chance of failure, especially if you add additional orbs that give other bonuses (such as a +5 defense orb). The completed rare/unique weapon will have all of the bonuses that the ingredients had, thus the equipment you find from monsters/quests can be very useful. The game also features an auction house which functions like most auction houses in other games. The item system allows for a huge variety of items, especially once combining, and it is a feature I hope to see in future MMOs.

In order to help you level, or just for aesthetics, there are a wide variety of pets you can purchase and feed/level. Their bonuses range from +30% HP to an ability that allows you to teleport to a set location with a cool down. They are quite expensive however, much like the mounts, thus don't expect to have one of these until you are nearing level 40-50. While we're on the leveling topic, the questing system is very generic. Hunt X monsters, come back for a reward, or go talk to these NPCs then come back. I found the EXP rewards for questing to be quite poor, but the item rewards are amazing, thus I only did the quests which gave me a new weapon or armor that I needed.

One of the more unique features of the game is the M.Kill system (Monster Kill). This is simply a counter that tallies how many monsters you've killed, once it reaches 19 the next kill will give 7x the experience. Once it reaches 39 the next kill is 10x, etc.. until it reaches 99 in which the next kill will give 20x the experience, and then the counter will reset back to 0. This counter only works for solo-leveling, once you are in a party every kill in the party goes towards the party's MKill. The party MKill goes from 0 to 25, once you reach 25 its 5x exp and then resets back to 0. The MKill system is a very nice addition as it makes leveling quite a bit easier and more active as you should use the bonus exp kill on a harder monster. I found that both party level and solo leveling were roughly the same speed, provided you were efficient at both. However, in the later levels the exp starts to come very slowly, taking many hours to to achieve a single level at level 40.

Last but not least, the graphical aspect of the game is nothing to write home about. They are not amazing, even a little choppy at times, but all in all they do not hurt the eyes and there is a wide variety of monsters (each race has their own area with their own monsters) and monster sprites. The sound is also decent, but not amazing. Not really much to say about either categories, you can make your own opinion from the screen shots.

Overall the game is quite enjoyable, especially playing with a group of friends. It has all the aspects you'd expect in a top notch MMO, including good customer service (which is rare for F2p games). My major qualm with it lies in the grinding and cash-shop, but such things are necessities in order to keep the game afloat. The Mkill and item combination features are things I hope to see in future MMOs, along with a more detailed pet system. If you're bored during the summer I highly recommend you give this a shot, but be careful of the boss monsters, just because they are 5 levels lower than you it doesn't meant they go down without a fight!


-cash shop stat/skill reset decreases the allure of a status system
-very very grindy in the higher levels
-poor quest system
++ MKill system
++ item system
+++ status/skill system



Monday, June 09, 2008

Requiem: Bloodymare

Hey all,

Its review time for one of this summer's hot games: "Requiem: Bloodymare", published by Gravity Co. and open beta started a few weeks ago. The website is located at: http://www.playrequiem.com/ but there is a caveat; the game will most likely be rated M or R and thus it requires you to be over a certain age to view the content (I believe its at least age 14). It is a P2P game.

So, now that we have the boring details done, what exactly is Requiem? It a MMORPG built on a horror theme, complete with flickering black loading screens, dark colors, blood, gore, and even a nightmare mode. The general premise is the same, be the best possible character in order to dominate in the PVP environment, more about this later. Lets get onto the actual review now:

The visual content of the game is as its name suggests, very gory. With each attack blood is sprayed in all directions and with each death body parts go flying while the corpse slowly falls to the ground and fades away. Not something that many parents, or females, would approve of but it makes combat somewhat exciting. Apart from the gore, the graphics are done in a very "dark" theme, and done well as you seem to get sucked into the moment when playing at night. I even looked behind my back a few times while playing, just in case something was coming to get me. . One note for the male players: Requiem puts a lot of uhh.."attention" on the bums/bosoms of their female sprites, they have gotten many compliments by players in game. Thats all I'll say about that.

The class system works much like the Ragnarok Online class system, with 6 base classes to choose from (two for each race) and then two specialized version of each base class (making a total of 12 specialized classes). If the past is any indication, I'd wager that each specialized class will have another upgraded class to change to in future expansions. I'd rather not list all of the classes, you can check the link for details though there is nothing unexpected, complete with warlocks, warriors, mages, and rogues.

The item and equipment system is done like most common MMOs, complete with randomized stat bonuses, a range of damage, an attack speed, and drop from random monsters. There is also an item enhancement system (much like crafting/upgrading) where one can add abilities, upgrade the damage/armor, or create new items. This works very similar to the crafting/upgrading system seen in other games, not much to talk about here. The only minor difference is that when participating in the large scale PVP battles you can win items/ingredients for use in this process. Overall I'd say the item system is slightly above average because of the wide variety of items, and the randomized nature of them; leading to a very active market place.

The skill system is somewhat unique in that you get skill points for each level, but you must use those skill points to buy a skill; not just select it from your list. This way its something like a cross between a WoW styled "buy this skill" system, and an RO styled "use skill point to upgrade a skill system". I do think this is the best way to do it, as it drains money from the economy, but does force you to think about which skill you want as you cannot get them all (you only have a limited number of skill points). The skill animations are well done and they appear to be balanced (although this can only be proved after a few months), so there isn't anything to criticize here. A bonus is that during the first 10 levels of being a novice character (no specialization chosen yet) the skills you use will be undone when you change jobs, so one does not have to worry about benefit of getting a skill now versus getting a stronger one later (like I did before I found this out).

One would think that since Gravity is involved it should include the key feature of their previous games (RO, ROSE): modifiable stat points. But, I was wrong, the game features no modifiable stat points, the only semblance of modification is in the DNA system (much like LOTRO's character traits system). The DNA system requires items to imbue into your DNA, which essentially makes it another piece of equipment that only affects your character. This was extremely disappointing because the game will, in the end, boil down to who has the best gear and thus who has the most time to play. But I cannot be all doom and gloom, the DNA is at least an improvement as it does offer some customization over your class (due to the wide variety of possibilities).

The "selling" or key features of the game revolve around its dark theme. The game goes through a daily life cycle in each game-day (shorter than normal days), complete with night time and day time. Certain monsters will only spawn in the morning or at night, but more importantly, at a specific hour the game world enters into "Nightmare mode". The screen will flicker black for a brief second, the music will get dark and mysterious, and then for the next while Nightmare monsters will spawn in various areas. These monsters are very very strong and require large parties to handle, but the spoils are quite worth it and thus during this time you'll see bodies of players strewn about the ground as they tried, but failed, to kill the nightmare monsters. The second key feature is the DNA system, in which you align your DNA helix(strand) to your liking, giving your strengths in certain areas, weaknesses in others, as you please. It requires DNA items and some in-game currency, but it can be quite entertaining.

The last key feature also deals with the bloody theme; it is referred to as the beast system, or possession beast system. Once you reach the required level, you can perform a quest that gives you the ability to transform into a nightmarish beast. The beasts strengths/attributes are determined by how it was created when you combined various pieces, or stones, of the beast system. There is a vast variety of possible combinations, and the combinations can fail; it is quite a lot of fun to play around with. Also the stones can be sold by other players, so one does not need to grind to eternity in order to find the neccessary pieces. Once you have the beast you want, whenever the hardcore gauge is full (fills by killing monsters) you can transform into the beast for a specified length of time.

The last topic on Requiem is the PVP system. It has an arena/WoW battlegrounds feel to it, as the modes range from 8 vs 8 to 96 vs 96 (massive). The winning team receives awards that are used in the crafting/upgrading system. It requires immense coordination, especially as you go from 32 vs 32 to 96 vs 96, to be successful. Somewhat related to this is the group/party system, where you and some buddies can enter an instanced group-only quest much like the dungeons in CABAL. I wasn't able to try this, so I cant say much on it.

-- no status system
+ meaningful PVP system
++ beast system
+ nightmare system
- has a generic korean grind feel


PLAY (if you like WoW or Lineage or those style of games)
AVOID (if you like RO or ROSE or those style of games)


Monday, June 02, 2008

Well well..here we are..a year later.

Hey all!

As you can see from my previous post, it appears I've spent a little too much time on that hiatus. Summer flew by with no interesting MMOs, then school came around and I was too busy to notice anything exciting happening; to be honest, there was nothing good in the MMO world for an entire year. But..here we are at another summer and this time there has been quite a few exciting MMOs released lately, and I've had a chance to play them. I think its about high time I got back to reviewing, so spread the word!

On this week's agenda: a brief review for Requiem Online and a full fledged one for Rohan Online.

Next week, along with some interesting tidbits about upcoming MMOs, I'll be posting a short review on the Age of Conan.

As an added bonus, I think its time I go back through my review catalogue and see if I can update any of my previous reviews. I'll most likely be doing a brief update for World of Warcraft, Ragnarok Online, and maybe a few others.

Stay tuned!