Free Play Reviews: Dungeon Runners (Archive)

By NCsoft.

Welcome to another issue of Free Play!

This is Riknas once again, and we’ll be going back to NCsoft once more, with their first F2P title, Dungeon Runners.

Getting Started

So, as you might have guessed (by the above screen shot), this is a fantasy game, however you’ll find that unlike most games that try to turn your game-play into an epic adventure after you’re first assigned to kill those super-scary-dangerous rats, Dungeon Runners openly mocks the Fantasy genre with slap stick humor and blatantly downplays your importance.

The character creation is very simple, you have 2 genders to choose from (shocking, I know), and based on that you’ll choose from several faces to have, hair styles, and hair color. It doesn’t matter too much though, since most people will mainly only be seeing your gear.

You also have to choose one of three classes, all three of which should be self-explanatory to nearly any gamer:

The Mage: The caster

The Ranger: The archer

The Fighter: I have big sword, me whack bad guys!

(Note: You can only make three characters, so I’m going to recommend having one character for each class, should you choose to play the game.)

So, now that you’ve got your Dungeon Runner set up, you should be ready to enter your brand new world.

After logging in, you’ll be sent into a rather cartoony world. There, you will meet a chipper, tiny dragon with a wide-smile, trapped in a box, with a large Exclamation point on top of it. He will teach you the basics mechanics of the game, while making you question whether or not you should take those anti-depressants your doctor prescribed to you.

Fortunately for the more experienced players, you can skim through it rather quickly, as the tutorials are really just text boxes. I’m going to recommend reading it thoroughly though, just in case. There isn’t too much to read anyway, so it’s not too tedious.

Story

The story, unlike Exteel(Covered in Free Play #1)), has an extremely in-depth story. And by extremely in-depth story, I mean they decided not to give us one. Admittedly, it’s a bit more solid than Exteel, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually good.

The only things we really know about it, is that there is a “King”, the players are the “Dungeon Runners”, and that the rat people have a black market on carbonated soda. At least it’s…different.

Gameplay

Similar to the story, the game play is rather…simple, in concept at least. Aside from the towns where you get your missions, the rest of the game itself will take place in instances, (or as they call it, Dungeons).So don’t expect any pick up groups in mid-quest.

The combat itself though is just as simple, (If not more) than the quests assigned to you, and is similar to the Diablo set up. To perform basic melee attacks or use your bow/shotgun (yes, shotgun). Simply left click on your enemy, and you will enter the necessary range to attack them, and perform your attack. Spells are also very simple, and you can left click on them from the small skill bar, and then left click on your target, or you can skip left clicking the spell the first time by clicking on the skill’s designated number key, (1-9, and right mouse button). Which you can adjust by dragging and dropping skills to various sections of the spell bar. (It’s just one horizontal bar at the bottom of your screen. The first box represents 1, the last one represents 0. Don’t try to find a “W” box or something).

Also, if you desire to do so, you can probably solo a good deal of the game thanks to the “Difficulty” setting of the game. Since the game is instanced, it allows you to alter the actual stats of the creatures around you to make things easier or harder. The higher the difficulty setting, the more health each creature has, and the more damage they do; although since technically they don’t change in actual levels, you won’t get any extra XP, but they are more likely to drop extra loot. This can, as a result, extend the lifespan of an older dungeon, or give larger groups more of a challenge or reward. While you are likely to be able to solo a dungeon your level on Normal, expect to see the graveyard frequently if you’re trying to solo higher difficulties such as “Formidable” or “Extreme”.

Although being killed has no negative effects, (aside from being sent to the graveyard). it can grow rather frustrating rather quickly.

Leveling is essential in nearly every MMORPG doesn’t mean too much in itself. In this regard it’s similar to World of Warcraft, where, also like Diablo, you are able to add 5 points to your attributes: Endurance, Intelligence, Agility, Strength. However, that’s all you get for actually leveling up. In leveling up, you merely unlock the ability to purchase new abilities.

PVP

This is the one thing you really can’t put a good flip side on other than, “Well, it’s THERE.”  This game just was not built with PVP in mind. You’d think otherwise, what with a class system made so that any class can get any ability if you have enough gold, making it easy to make a well-rounded character for balanced encounters, sprinkled with specialized characters. And yet NCsoft seems intent on alienating PVP players. Even though PVP takes place only in the special arena of “Pwnstown”, you can only access Pwnstown by playing in a PVP server. Other than the arenas, it works exactly like a PVE server, and is now just the “low population” server in my eyes. When all you can do is play Group Death Match, and the occasional one on one deathmatch, there is little point to having a whole server dedicated to housing one little zone, it makes it feel much less accessible, and like a waste of resources.

The Catch

There always is a catch, isn’t there? All MMOs need a way to make some income, and Dungeon Runners isn’t any different. In this specific case, they constantly encourage you to pay for the optional subscription of 5 dollars a month, (Or at a slightly reduced rate if you purchase 3, 6, or 12 months at once).

Fortunately, it feels a lot more like signing up for the subscription would be giving you something, rather than just making free players feel undeniably gimped.

As a free player you have normal functions and have a constant set of advertisements for different NCsoft titles at the top of the screen. This usually isn’t too bad unless the banner is particularly bright, in which case it can distract from the game play. Also, some load screens will delay you from going into the next zone, while it forces you to watch an advertisement. I found the captions for them to be rather amusing, though after you start to see the same one repeatedly, it does get rather annoying.

Being a paying subscriber means no more advertisements, (which is actually one of the reasons I feel almost discouraged to subscribe…)You also get a small bonus to how much gold you get (15%) and you gain experience slightly faster, (also 15%). On top of that, you get 4 more bank pages than a normal player (this really is not a big deal for the most part, at least for me, as I’m usually just selling everything I find due to lack of need ), as well as a discount for the amount of kings coins needed for specialty items.

What the hell is a kings coin?

A Kings Coin is (according to lore) a special coin from the Kings Vault, and acts like a gift card that you can turn in for a rare quality item designed exactly for your level, which you can turn in at the specialty stores by the bank. These are all orientated towards a certain class, so they’re not too godly, but they can serve a decent enough purpose, no equipment gives you the best of both worlds anyway. The big thing is that unless you want to grind special harvest items in the same dungeon over and over again, Kings Coins can become hard to come across. In subscribing, what might cost 5 kings coins for the normal player may cost only 3 for a subscribed player, or an 8 KC item might cost only 5 for the subscribed player. For me, this was one of the things where I really thought about pulling out my wallet, because this is one of the things you can’t necessarily just even out that a few extra minutes of playing couldn’t hurt.

Other than the KC, the subscription doesn’t offer anything major unless you really are an avid fan of the game, or want to be alone in the members only server (In which case, just go to the PVP server…)

Final Thoughts

Dungeon Runners is the “Rainy Day” MMO. You can log in and do some quests, and then log out if your strapped for time.

Whether or not you subscribe is as always, up to you. Either way you save more money than you would with a traditional MMO. However subscribing does not make it a new game, it will only lighten a few burdens. And come on, the ads are still funny, when they aren’t trying to pump Tabula Rasa back to life at least.

So if you’re still looking for that next MMO to call home, and nothing quite suits your fancy, give Dungeon Runners a try.

Nothing to lose when you play for free!

See you next week!

((This review was written in the year 2009, and the servers have since shut down.))

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Free Play Reviews: Exteel (Archive)

Hello folks, Riknas here, and I’d like to introduce to all of you, the Free Play Blog. You see, in the opinion of many, MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) are what we could classify as, “Pretty cool” because they make nerds like us feel like more social creatures than we really are.

That said, some people actually go so far as to play alongside each other in MMOGs (It’s crazy, I know). As most MMOG players know, the most popular MMOGs have you paying past the box price, with a monthly fee of fifteen dollars. So, for every month you want to play, there’s another 15 dollars down the drain. Although we like being able to interact with other people, having such a constant drain in your wallet can be pain. In this blog, Andras and I will be digging and, finding all the F2P (Free to Play) MMOGs out there, and go through the pros and cons each of them have; you just might enjoy yourself, and if you’re lucky, save yourself some cash as well. For our first blog, we will try and stick to something relatively recent, NCsoft’s Exteel. This is their sophomore attempt at creating a F2P MMOG.

EXTEEL:

Obviously, most game developers these days don’t release something for free out of the kindness of their hearts, there’s almost always some sort of catch: some way for them to make some money, but more details on that later on.

STORY:

I don’t think this game has a story at all. There is no information of story in the main site, or in the game itself. You are only told that you will be fighting battles in your mechanaut (Giant robot fighting machines, AKA “MKN”), and fight for glory as a mercenary pilot. There are no factions, only vague references of names like “Galaxy Federation” or “Palanamos forces” when reading the description of the weapons you may be using.

Getting Started:

 

After logging in, you see a short but awesome cutscene of robots fighting, and then asks you to create your character name, or as they call it, “Call Sign” (this, and your mechanaut will define you, as you have no avatar, asides from your mechanaut, as mentioned before). As soon as that is done, they will send you through the tutorials. (Note: The tutorials are optional, but you can get bonuses for clearing the later ones, which you can only get by clearing the initial ones) The game takes a third person perspective like most current MMOs, with the camera right behind your mechanaut. The beginning starts off annoying slow, as they refuse to let you move, or do anything for that matter, while they give you instructions and then make you watch the computer move you around first. Only after that, will they let you briefly perform the specified actions. Things begin to pick up a bit during the Advanced Tutorial, because they’re finally letting you fight enemies that shoot back, but the actual waiting time is the same, and you end up sitting around for a bit. Fortunately, you start to get cash and/or weapons for the “advanced” tutorials where it has you finally practicing with the different types of weapons. After finishing it, you will finally be entering the Exteel “world”, and begin kicking some robo-arse.

Gameplay/World:

So, the models themselves aren’t too shabby (though I’ve never played, nor seen, the game at bare-bones settings). After finishing the tutorial, you’re placed into a chatroom with a list of games to join. So, the only thing persistent is your pilot and his/her mechanaut. The rest of the game is instanced arenas. However, you might overlook this if you like PVP, and the gameplay.

You have four types of matches; Territory Control, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and last stand. The first three are pretty self-explanatory PVP matches, where you go up against other players.(Last Stand is where you team up with several other players, and protect your base, or “Aerogate” from an onslaught of enemy NPCs, AKA drones). This may prove to be more interesting than the PVP of games like the famous World of Warcraft. Like the newer MMOs Age of Conan and Tabula Rasa, Exteel features a more fast-paced style, though it is closer to the latter. While piloting your mechanaut, you have a crosshair with a reticule of varying sizes around it, (based on the weapon type your using) if you are within range of an enemy, a smaller reticule forms around the crosshair, and both reticules turn orange to indicate a lock on. By pressing the left and/or right mouse button, you will fire the weapon(s) in your left and/or right hand. Your mechanaut can hold two different sets of weapons, and typically dual wields in both sets, unless you are using a siege cannon, which requires two hands to hold, and is by default the left mouse button…And it’s that simple, once you fire, you fire, (or slash, if using a sword) and if you had that lock on, you should hit the enemy, and they take damage. No dice rolls, it just launches, and hits your enemy. Simple, right? That’s where it gets tricky, it works that way for everyone, naturally. So if you’re standing, you are a painfully easy target to your enemy, and the reverse if they are. So there is constant movement with players strafing while attacking, flying over buildings and running into cover, so it’s never a dull moment whether your chasing after them, or vice versa. However, how well your mechanaut can take damage, and how much damage you deal is dependent on your gear.
Items and Economy:


So, you want to kick some arse, but you’re afraid that everyone has all the uber l00tz, so you decide to go down to the “store” tab at the bottom of your screen in the main menu (there is no auction house, everyone just works with equipment from the store). From the store you can purchase all sorts of equipment for your mechanaut: Head pieces, legs, arms, torsos, (AKA “Core”) boosters, (for fast speed and flying) weapons, skills (some special powers), repair points, (used when your equipment starts to decay, measured in “Durability”.) and even entire mechanauts (they do not include boosters or weapons). Different pieces of equipment have different properties, some allowing you to go faster, others slowing you down and boosting your overall HP. Regardless of what you do though, you’ll need to pay for this new equipment somehow, because although your starter equipment (the Pinkent Mechanaut and a few weapons) have unlimited durability, you can’t stay very competitive in a free for all death match. Leveling has little bearing over things, as you win matches, you accumulate small bits of experience, and may result in some improved ability with certain weapons, however don’t count on being high level to make you better than anyone else. This is where the catch comes into play, and you finally think about breaking out your credit card…

THE CATCH:

So, now that you want to buy some shiny new gear, you’ll notice there are two types of currencies. Gear costs “Credits”, while others, “NCcoins” and some can be purchased with either. So, how does this work? Credits are the in-game currency you accumulate through playing matches, the better you do in a match, the more credits you will get. The first mechanaut will only cost you approximately 25000 credits, but eventually you’ll find even individual weapons costing 100,000 or more credits. When you accumulate only 1000 or 2000 credits per round, you might find yourself thinking, “Y’know, if I could make this a bit faster…” your wallet will start to open, since you realized that you have to use those credits just to repair the equipment you have. Since as of right now, nearly everything is available to people of all levels, it’s not too hard to find yourself tugging at your credit card, to buy that 450 NCcoin mechanaut, or 80 coin laser blade, when 100 coins is equivalent to only a dollar, to “lift” a bit of the grind. That said, it’s really up to you whether or not those coins are worth it. These coins will not change your gameplay much, if at all, the only thing that will change will be the looks and stats of your gear, most of which can be achieved just by dedicating more time to playing, as opposed to paying for the coins. But for some, those stats and cool looking equipment might be worth a couple bucks.

Conclusion:

Exteel is a fresh game from the traditional MMOs, and may be just what your looking for if you want something new, however with the gameplay taking place entirely in instanced territory, it isn’t for everybody. If you have sufficient restraint, it can also prove to be cheaper than standard MMOs, but for some it could become more expensive, however it’s all your choice with this pay as you go payment plan. That’s it for now everyone, thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!

((This review was written in the year 2009, and the servers have since shut down.))

Making it stick: Guilds (Archive)

This image isn’t directly related, but it looks cool doesn’t it?

The topic has been tackled many a time before, but I figure it is worth mentioning once more. That said, let’s take a look at guilds. In Champions and City Of Heroes they are Super Groups. In some games they were called clans, EVE called them corps, but the most universal term we use are guilds. While the power a guild could have varied, they all still hold true to the same concept. In Age of Conan it allowed to be a collection of people creating a keep. The “City Of” games, as well as EQ2 gave you the option to create teleporters to save you some trouble in transit; For a fair number of F2P titles, it was just another contacts list to keep track of, while in EVE it opened up new opportunities in both trade and conquest. Not only that, without an official guild system people still tried to create their own makeshift communities in games, like in Runescape, and even Diablo 2 (Though the quality of the latter was very, very low). Of course, if you wanted you could go farther to apply this to real life as we have towns, cities, and government. There is nothing particularly new about guilds culturally, no.

But that’s not to say there is nothing interesting about it, quite the contrary. It’s said quite often that if you want to better dedicate to yourself to a game, you join a guild. In the case of EVE, it’s claimed to be the only viable way to play. But this is also a time where solo play has grown more prevalent. In fact, most of the “executive” gamers that review MMOs are rarely associated with a guild. We go into these games alone for the most part as we make our observations. Though, it’s also worth noting that for a long time many of those folks had horrible retention span. But now is a time of flux, as it is made clear Tobold is mostly a WoW guy. Meanwhile, Syncaine is sticking with DarkFall; though rumor has it is no longer the case, the Virgin Worlds crew, along with what I have named: Virgin Worlds Europe ( Van Hemlock and the Yellow Spandex guys) are all playing LOTRO. While these folk do not have a guild per se, they do have a static group. And let’s not forget Karen who runs Revelry and Honor back at EQ2.

A cohort of mine once told me a long time ago in City of Heroes that he thought guilds were a bad idea. He reasoned with me, “MMOs are social games, and creating guilds just divides us.” The statement reeked of a philosophical debate better argued out by politicians; Though I had to admit, he had something of a point. Guild drama had torn people apart, and while some had stayed in their respective game because guilds moved, people have also moved because the guild wanted to. However my friend forgot the nuances of the situation. That wasn’t at the heart of a guild, but ultimately problems with the people. In the end Guilds are just a tag and some tool sets that better allow us to work together. I can’t imagine EVE would be very fun without guilds, and large raid content would be thoroughly trashed without guilds to provide sufficient structure. I can’t imagine life without guilds, but I imagine there must be flaws. I’m sure if they were so great, I would have found my way into a good one by now. Are you a solo player? Is it by choice? If you’ve got a guild, what are the pros and cons? Do you see any barriers to joining a guild?

I’m curious.

Fit The Part: Feeling Like A Hero (Archive)

((This archive post has been edited with new images and  change of sentence content))

Now, it is a rare occasion indeed where I feel so compelled as to let people know what I’m doing in terms of gaming. Because to be quite honest, I doubt any of you care. More often than not, I don’t think about what everyone else is playing. Tobold might be finding the time of his life playing Hello Kitty Online, but it doesn’t mean a lot to me. Syncaine is playing Darkfall? Whatever. Unless you are doing something so amazingly out of this world that you’re actually not even playing an MMO, but are instead locked into the Cyberspace of the internet because you tried to shove a fork into a USB port, I’m probably not interested. Rather, I am reading to hear your theories and thoughts, hopefully something profound. Perhaps it is a bit hypocritical of me to say, since very rarely do I say anything concrete, but I do like to believe that there is something we are trying to convey to people. Using your blog as just a form of twitter without a word count isn’t really all that great. Drop it.

Unless you actually have something you want to say about the game’s mechanics or style, let’s try to keep it real. “I’m having fun” doesn’t help me at all. My sister is still probably having fun playing Web Kinz but I’ll be damned if I think that her having fun on it will equate to me enjoying myself on it. Some men may enjoy wearing high heels or other women’s clothing, but again, that doesn’t mean I want to go and do it. Why are you having fun?

Why do I feel like I’m going to see you again?

Surprise surprise, this does relate to what I was previously saying. As I recall, I do believe Ethec over at Ten Ton Hammer did a post about feeling cool in an MMO (Though, from the sheer length of the newsletter he may very well have a post about existing in the universe). In particular, he said he felt cool grinding in Aion. Now, this had very little relevance to me at the time, because even as an Aion player I never felt particularly special during the grind. In the end its still a grind to me. That said though, I must speak of something far different, for recently I began to look at Champions Online. From the things I heard, I went into the game with a very heavy heart. However, I was amazingly surprised to find that all the words of mediocrity washed away to become instant moments of glee as I finished using Cryptic‘s famous character creator, and popped into the game. Never mind the impressive graphics, but I was amazed at how I just felt a degree of joy that seemed to stomp all over my experience in Aion. And when I became aware of this, I became horribly frustrated.

Was this just the new rush that I felt from playing a new game, why did I enjoy this compared to another game? The cutscenes perhaps? No, they were few and far between. The cheesy voice-acting? Certainly not. And I pounded away as I looked at the game. Perhaps I really enjoyed making a superhero. I did enjoy City of Heroes a fair bit after all, and that did seem to be a logical similarity, and became my conclusion, though I felt sorely unsatisfied with my answer. Only when I looked at the tag of a simple gray enemy as I passed through the tutorial area that suddenly Ethec’s article came to mind that I was able to piece two and two together. And what was the tag of the simple gray enemy you might ask? It only said, “Henchman”. But the concept worked all too perfectly as I pondered on it further. One thing that Cryptic had mastered so perfectly was capturing the feeling of being a hero. The costumes and graphics helped a lot, and the combat was good enough, but I had for ages failed to consider the importance of the categories of enemies. So many games have us fight creatures one at a time, sometimes two, maybe three, unless you are an AOE fighter.

In both the “City Of” Games, as well as Champions, we would fight countless henchmen before meeting the boss. But we would fight these creatures in packs. The base concept of many an Online Role Playing Game of Massively Multiplayer origins involved you fighting one enemy at a time. When has it ever been okay to pull in a Raid? Never, to my knowledge. There is a very precise limit to how many enemies you could fight on par at your level. In both the hero games though, you can take down countless weak henchman on your own, and only does it become a one on one fight as you take on the apparently equal supervillain (Or hero) that stood in your way. By the end of that, I truly felt like a hero, a step above the rest. It may be mostly psychological, but Cryptic struck a gold concept that needn’t remain just in the Super Hero genre. This was briefly touched upon by the early Tabula Rasa until the developers felt that players were burning through enemies too quickly, which would ultimately make content too easy to progress through.

Conclusion: More fodder, more special feelings!

MMO Purgatory (Archive)

Now, try not get caught up in the “Hell” part of the diagram, because frankly I have no idea what MMO hell is like (Wait, I take it back, here it is). Or MMO Earth for that matter. While I read a post about Funcom by OpenEdge, I went through a series of flashbacks from previous conversations I had in several MMOs. Although not conversations I necessarily participated, I recall having a familiar reaction every time I saw the familiar phrase. Almost always the conversation had near the exact same phrase, “I’m just staying here until ____ comes out.” For Age of Conan the inserted game was Warhammer. For Warhammer, the next game was Darkfall. In EVE the game was JumpGate: Evolution (RIP). Suffice to say, at this time you can insert Guild Wars 2 as the next game that we’re going to finally make our “real” MMO.

And every time I saw that, my brow furrowed and I mentally sneered at them. It seemed so horribly obnoxious. A planned temporary stay in an MMO? A trial perhaps, but who would be so obnoxious as to lead an MMO on like a woman who wrapped a man around her finger until her real boyfriend came back from vacation. The nerve! The gall! An MMO is designed to go on for years after all, if you didn’t plan on staying for the duration, why be there at all?

That thought stewed with me for some time, and I tried to rationalize it out as best I could, why I must clearly be right despite my own prior MMO hoppings. I would ultimately come to believe it was because of the plan. When I came to a game it was at least with the intent of staying as long as I could. That seemed far more reasonable.

But that could do nothing to satiate the thoughts that nagged at me. It reeked more of naivete than good intentions. What good was it to be part of a persistent world if you weren’t just as persistent in your existence in this world. Only then did it finally dawn on me; I was depressed. Not in terms of existentialism, but I was depressed at the thought that I wouldn’t actually stay with the game forever, and with such futility in mind, why should I even bother? Why should I buy the next shiny new game, if I would only purchase it while wistfully looking at the horizon for the next MMO that was really going to be “the one” this time? It was like playing an MMO after the announcement was made that the servers were shutting down; You were just passing the time.

One could say the point of games was to pass the time, but who actually approaches a game thinking, “I’ll get this much closer to death!” You look forward to actually having fun, not the explicit goal of passing the time. I’ve long since gotten over this, acknowledging that I’m here to have fun with people if I can, and if I’m going to stay for years on end, it will be because I haven’t stopped having fun, NOT for the purpose of feeling more permanent.

Do you ever feel like you lost the fun, waiting for the next big thing?

 

((This archive post has been edited to better relate to the current times.))

iCan’t Wait (Archive)

Hello again Internet, it’s been too long my friend. It’s Riknas again, and I actually have something worthwhile mentioning, unbelievable as it is. While some people say otherwise, it’s a little known fact that Pocket Legends isn’t actually the first Mobile MMORPG (Or MMMORPG, if you will). Rather, the first attempt was Era Of Eidolon. Unfortunately, the game is now deceased. In fact, I only once came across it myself, not even on my cellphone at the time. Instead, I first discovered the main (Now defunct) site which encouraged me to play the game using a drawn cell phone, so what few keyboard buttons I was able to play with would show the corresponding buttons of the phone being pressed. Essentially, it was encouraging me to start clicking on the phone interface, and then to download it to my own phone. At the time, I was disgusted at being forced to do something so silly as playing a game on something other than my computer. Never mind that, when I did, they had the gall to force me to pretend I was playing on a phone!

In retrospect, I regret not playing it more, as the experience literally lasted a matter of minutes before I was dissatisfied with the controls and dropped the game, not even bothering to try putting it on my personal phone. Far from a masterpiece of a game, its a shame to see something so different disappear. Even trying to dig up any mention of the game was remarkably difficult; which just goes to show how quickly the game slipped under the radar, as I was unable to find ANY information about the progress being made in the game, or why it even shut down. Albeit, if there’s no information at all and no one covered it, it’s likely to say it wasn’t able to develop any audience of any kind, which made it all the more tragic. Even the original company, WatAgame has either shut down, or seen radical changes making something called ‘goSupermodel’, which is supposed to be a special community for girls, (Don’t you dare ask me to look at that…though I probably will anyway, as part of a separate entry). In the end, I feel almost responsible for the game’s disappearance because I never gave it a chance myself.

That said, while Pocket Legends isn’t the first to tap into the Mobile audience, it is the first to try making an MMMORPG (sorry, you’re right, it’s too long of an acronym) in 3D. Furthermore, considering the fact we’ve heard of it, that’s a good sign that the game will have at least more longevity than its predecessor. I haven’t looked at it, but considering that it is debuting as both the first MMORPG on both the iPhone and recently released iPad means that both Space Time Studios and Apple will be getting themselves a foothold in a new market. Color me interested, I’ll be investigating this game soon.

This is Riknas, signing off!

Land As Far As The Eye Can Sea (Archive)

Hey guys. You wanna chat? If yes, you probably should go talk to someone, because these paragraphs, although they say a lot, never let you get a word in edgewise (In other news, I’m still not that funny).

Poor humor aside, I’m willing to bet money that if you read this blog you also probably know about Dark Fall’s Sea Expansion . While I applaud them for working on this game so diligently, I’m most interested about the fact that Aventurine is actually letting people sail the seas of Agon. Like it or hate it, you have to at least give Darkfall credit for staying so true to itself. Although I’ve played the game and know that it isn’t quite my thing, every time I see an update on it I feel like there is a crowd of the “cool” people cackling about the fact they’re in the cool game while I go around flapping wings and fighting crime.

Back to the sea though, I must say that water and I don’t get along much anymore. Sure, I drink plenty myself, but after falling asleep in the shower enough, suffering from sea-sickness for nearly every-boat ride I have ever been on, I have learned to be quite wary of it. Quite honestly, I wish I had straight rocker hair like Beau, because I have to completely soak my hair when I get out of bed so that it doesn’t come out as some surreal mohawk.

Imagine it like this, only worse.

But…uh, yeah. I hate water. Despite that, I always feel especially fascinated by it, and I was remarkably disappointed when Pirates of the Burning Sea flopped. In the end, I was underwhelmed by the execution, though I was glad they gave it a try. Never the less, that hardly means my desire to see sea-faring was satiated. I distinctly remember feeling somewhat entertained waiting for the boats during my brief sojourn in WoW. And always I enjoyed get aboard that boat and searching the few rooms in it, and watching the boat go across the water, which would ultimately transfer into a boring loading screen. I almost wished that it just hid the loading screen with just a longer wait aboard the boat. I’m not even saying I want to be captain aboard a bout. More than likely I’d be horrible sailor because I was too busy throwing up overboard, or even worse on the deck or something.

While I’m not going to pound on the devs for not thinking of this or declaring this to be a must in the next MMO, but why don’t we even use boats as a setting anymore? In the same way people wanted to walk aboard their starships in Star Wars Galaxies, and plenty more clamored and begged still to explore more of the ship space in Star Trek Online. Even DDO, with so many instances, nearly all of them are just going through large land masses or dungeons of some kinds. Of all these IPs, and some as vicious as they are, I somewhat doubt that the only thing the ocean is good for, is to be a convenient excuse for a loading screen.

Are there any sort of settings you’d like to see presented more often in your game?

((This Archive post has been edited to better reflect the current market. Other minor changes to improve quality were made.))

Community: You’re Doing It Wrong (Archive)

My father once told me, if I have nothing to say, I should not bother saying anything at all. However, this is also the same person who told me to go play in traffic, so I’ve since decided that his wisdom is as practical as shoving a fork into an electrical outlet. However I suppose I will make a disclaimer in saying the following words are composed of not-nice things, to which some may call, “mean”.

You see dear reader, both you and I are online gamers. As such, we have the inherent good nature of being connected to each other via this online community. This is something that MMOs especially have as one of their major positives. By being part of an MMO, you become inexplicably connected to your community. You connect with the people on the forums, you connect with the people in your guild, the guilds have their coalitions, and you’ve developed a connection tolerance to the people who never shut up in global or zone chat. It’s really quite charming, don’t you think?

It seems only natural that other game companies have been green with envy as they wished they had such a heavily layered community that tries to get so intimately involved with them. Tell me, when was the last time you heard of the players who all partied together as they hopped on with EA and asked about their next MADDEN game? If you can tell me, I’d actually rather you didn’t, and I would encourage you to realize you are the minority, and to note that I hate you. I also request you take your keyboard, place it on the floor, and step on it until the keys stop working.

Obviously game journalists try to talk to developers, it’s part of their job and its something they are very passionate about. But for the most part MMOs and a few exceptions rarely have such strong bonds. This is especially the case where the games are single player. Honestly, how much interaction do you expect to milk out of people playing Assassin’s Creed? And the developers are catching onto the answer: Not much.We are seeing this evidenced primarily by Bioware (And their infamous DLC fueled by Bioware Points , Bungie with their Halo Waypoint, and most recenty Ubisoft pushing forward U Play. With the exception of Bungie, I would say this, “You’re doing it wrong.”

Now am I not against progress (Or whatever you want to call it), fostering brand awareness/loyalty is not a crime, and I could not stop it anymore than I could stop the sun from setting or the wind from blowing, or from Cold Play making the same album over, and over (Yes. That’s my one music joke for the year).

But that doesn’t mean I can’t point out the flaws in their methodology. The first obvious problem, would be the flawed attempts at advertising, which essentially equates to the fact that there aren’t enough. Never while playing Assassins Creed 2 did I learn of “U Play”, instead I was only perplexed by the occasional “U” that popped up on my screen. I then shrugged, assuming it had something to do with one of my achievements, and moved along. Meanwhile, BioWare took a step in the right direction by essentially handing you a free piece of content, to whet (Yes, there is an “H’ in this case) but ultimately falls short in the actual page execution where they insist on letting you buy more than you can actually use. From a design perspective it makes sense to have there ahead of time as a placeholder; someone might even buy more than they need ahead of time! To this, I present an image to illustrate their understanding of PR:

To all, with the exception of the extremely thick, letting you buy more than you can do anything with makes you look bad. Even if you are money grubbing, you’re not supposed to tell me up front. Most importantly, it makes you look like you’re not sure what you’re doing. Both Bioware and Ubisoft try to push out these new ideas with only one game to back it up; it’s agonizingly obvious their testing it out instead of taking a confident move forwards. Perhaps I sympathize too much with typically Asian business ideologies, but implementing an idea with only one thing backing it is horribly uninspiring. Like the 3D Vision technology Nvidia is trying to ram down our throats. Sure, some people want to be on top, but who wants to buy into a technology no one is really using right now? I don’t care how you want to approach it, but I would recommend a stronger show of confidence in a project. One method would be to spearhead it with one new game while seeding in retro-active content for earlier games, though this may be a bit of work logistically speaking. On the other hand, designing games with this in mind sounds far more plausible; Assassins Creed 2 has it, and the latest Splinter Cell will no doubt have it as well, couldn’t you wait for both to come out first to make a better impression?

Come on guys, let’s shape up.

/Rant

Free Play Reviews: Shaiya (Archive)

Shaiya by Aeria Games

Well damn, number nine and we’re still here. Hard to believe it’s already been two months huh? Although some say that people will pay more for better quality, Andras and I will stay here to demand the best of both worlds.

Let’s get right into it then, eh?

The Story

The back-story to Shaiya is a simple one, however it leaves a feeling that you are part of a rather epic battle.

The idea is that after the Nordein people (a large brutish race) were removed from their throne up high in the heavens of by the goddess Etain, the Dumianas (Elves, really) grew angry with her, and actually killed her. As a result, gods fought each other for the control of Teos, plaguing it with monsters.

Eventually, it would come down to two goddess, one representing light, and the other representing darkness, still fighting over the world of Teos. As a result, the Dumianas split into two factions, both siding with the different gods. Those allying themselves with the goddess of light would call themselves Elves (told you), and on the opposing side were the Vail (I don’t care what anyone says, these are just Dark Elves).

As the war raged on, the Nordein returned, calling themselves “Death Eaters” came to the aid of the Vail, and the Humans appeared to ally with the Elves. You must choose who your loyalties lie with, and help bring an end, to this ongoing struggle.

Getting Started

So, now you’re pumped to play right? Let’s get that character set up. But before you do that you need to pick which army to ally with. You can either join the Alliance of Light, (Elves and Humans) or the Union of Fury (Vail((Dark elves)) and Nordein). This sounds important in the beginning, because you can only be on one side per server. But since there’s two servers to choose from, it really isn’t that big a deal. In the end it hardly even matters what side you take, since each race mirrors the other in the classes they use, and their only real difference is in name only.

Humans are mostly like the Nordein, and Elves are similar to the Vail (And vice versa). Although this removes a layer of uniqueness, this makes sure everyone is on even ground.

One thing that is however interesting about the classes is how the classes are set up in description, and is similar to Anarchy Online’s (Also covered in Free Play #5) class system. Although Shaiya doesn’t actually slap a difficulty level on the classes, it does have a set of bars rating the Attack, Defense, Group effectiveness and Solo effectiveness, making it easy to figure out what class suits your play-style best.

Lastly, you must decide what difficult you want to play on.

What?

This goes on the aspect of “interesting” things in the game (Note I didn’t say “good”, just “interesting”). There are four difficulties: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Ultimate. On easy mode you double the experience you gain, however you can not learn “Special” skills, and only can reach level thirty. In normal, you go at normal XP gain, but can also reach level fifty, etc etc. Now, you might be thinking, “Well, I’m going to just start on Ultimate and not have to grind through those first three difficulties.” But, of course, you can’t. You must beat Normal to unlock Hard, and hard, to unlock ultimate. I was initially impressed at the concept of “easy” for just helping you dip your foot in the water, but forcing you to go through three more difficulty levels, each at a higher level cap, and slower speed seems cruel.

However, to some it is a pleasant way to extend your full game experience (If you actually enjoy being forced to do that sort of thing, I don’t want to meet you.)

But let’s not be dragged down by that quite yet, it couldn’t hurt to give the game a try can it?

GamePlay/World

Yes, yes it can.

This opening has got to be one of the most disappointing beginnings ever. After a brief in-game tutorial, no matter what race I play, I get some kill-quest to find some strange animal, which happens to be so powerful, that the guards can’t handle it. In the case of my human fighter, apparently they are being overwhelmed by a plague of thief monkeys.

Thief Monkeys? Really? Okay, fine. At least it’s different. So it looks like I’m going to go hunt for them in the forest and then make some gold I guess.

Except that’s not the case either, I walk maybe ten feet outside the town to find that it seems the entire road is covered in these non-hostile monkeys, who just walk back and forth, barely straying from the road if at all. When one is killed, moments later another comes back in a bright light.

…Maybe the guards just couldn’t see the monkeys with those big helmets they have on, yeah?

As I completed quest after quest, all amazingly close to each other, I noticed that they occasionally have timed quests, which I also call “grind quests”. The entire point of these quests is to kill as many enemies of a certain type that you can within sixty minutes and still get back to the quest giver. Usually there is a minimum amount that you need to kill for the reward, but the higher amount of enemies killed, the better the gold reward is. So, that’s kind of interesting, not bad either. However it was on my third timed quest for my Nordein where I realized why all quest enemies are so close to each other.

They don’t give directions.

That’s right, for some inane reason, the developers thought it would be a cool idea if they gave you a marker to find people you owe quests for, but not for where your actual targets are. It then became a painfully long time attack to scour the map for that one type of enemy, because it has to be a specific type of enemy. For instance, kill five Doomfall Sentinels. Not a thing else. Doomfall Warrior? No. Doomfall…Hero? No. Just the sentinels. Now I’m no longer looking to find where the enemies are, but where I left my sanity as I wandered up and down the hills to find those Arachne creatures.

Although in the overall scheme of progression, it can be a pain to get some of these things done, playing the game itself is very nice. The in-game animations are very realistic and fluid, making you feel much more immersed in the game play as you use your double sword to slash your opponent to the side, or bringing down your large two handed axe onto the enemies head. And that’s just using auto-attack. All attacks are well done, and is definitely a step up from World of Warcraft.

PVP

Although the PVE in Shaiya is lacking, the PVP in it is a shining beacon to other games, and can be compared to a more limited form of Lineage 2. Shaiya sports 1500 vs 1500 realm versus realm combat, with  the Union of Fury and Alliance of Light players going head to head for dominance. The winners of these battles are given the blessings of their goddess, empowering them even further. For those who’d rather fight on smaller scales, there is Guild Versus Guild combat, and an Arena for all to compete in.

The combat has a nice combination of number crunching (Distributing points into stats and skill strengths) and fast paced combat, by knowing when to conserve your energy and use your skills, while double tapping the left, right, and back movement keys to avoid getting hit.

Admittedly not many games are good at PVP, but this game really knows what it’s doing in this regard.

The Catch

Aeria Games, like most Asian F2P MMOs, features a Micro-Transaction system to buy in-game items. One special thing about it is that you first must buy “Aeria Game Points”. Aeria points are a universal RMT system that you can utilize in any of Aeria Game Entertainment’s MMOs, so that if you buy an excess, but get tired of one of their games, you can use it in one of their other ones.

The only downside is the one that follows all F2P MMOs is that the paying players can have the upper-hand over the free players, however that can’t be helped, as they’re trying to add incentive to get you to pay. However there is no actual problem that makes it even harder for our fellow cheap-skates.

Conclusion

Shaiya online is mediocre at best if you like PVE content, however it is a great place to go for people who enjoy PVP. If Lineage 2 is starting to burn a hole in your pocket, but you don’t want to give up bashing other players, I’m going to suggest giving Shaiya a shot.

However, if you’re looking to adventure and slay dragons with your friends, look elsewhere.

This is Riknas, and I hope you got some good info from this Free Play Blog.

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((This review was written in the year 2009 and may not be completely faithful to the current state of the game))

Free Play Reviews: Dofus (Archive)

Hey guys, Riknas again, if you didn’t pick up on it from the title, this week I’m covering Dofus by Ankama. Take a seat, and enjoy (Or try, at least.)

The Story

This game takes World of Warcraft’s accessibility to a new level, by giving a simple story that most children could understand, it’s so short it hardly warrants its own section. I don’t even have an excuse why it does have its own, other than “I feel like give it one.”

There is legend of seven elemental eggs, each with great amounts of power, as an adventurer, you seek to collect them, and become a great hero. It’s not much more complex than that. However if you really want to read it, just click here.

That said, if you’re a big fan of huge back-stories and the like, you might want to just turn back now…

Getting Started

Okay, so you’re still reading. If you are, then I would assume that you’re either interested/not-bored by the story, or  you just really like reading what I have to say (If only that were true…).

After booting up the game, if you have not chosen a server to go on, it will automatically choose one for you with priority first on your location, and then on population.

Soon after, it will ask you to choose your gender and class.

The classes all have basic stories behind them(All about as complex as the main story…), and each represent a different race and god.

The twelve races consist of:

Iop’s Heart: The knight character, with decent defense and attack.

Cra’s Range: The archer.

Feca’s Shield: The tank.

Sacrier’s Blood: Your berserker DPS class.

Sadida’s Shoe: A witch class, focusing on using living dolls to attack their enemies.

Osamodas’s Whip: Another summoner class, sending animals to do their bidding.

Enutrof’s Fingers: An adventurer class, focused on weakening enemies to make them easier to fight themselves.

Sram’s Shadow: A rogue class, with emphasis on traps to start combat.

Xelor’s Sandglass: A time wizard (Or something like that…) that has emphasis on preventing the enemy from participating in combat.

Pandawa’s Pint: A warrior class that gets strength from ale (Similar to white-trash like myself), that enables them to carry their allies to safety.

Ecaflip’s Coin: A warrior class that bases everything on chance, giving you the opportunity to do tremendous damage, or actually heal your enemy.

Enirispa’s Hand: A caster class, focusing on buffs to empower their allies and themselves.

After choosing what suits you best (Or picking which furry you like most, you dirty perv) You should feel free to customize your character, once again though, don’t expect anything too elaborate. In this character creation, the biggest change you’ll really have is the gender of your character. The rest you’ll be effecting is the color of your outfit and hair. Yea. I tried thinking of a joke to make about how painfully simple that is, until I realized a week had gone by and I had a dead-line to make.

After that, and a brief cutscene you’ll finally be able to enter the world, where you find yourself in front of a statue of your god, and an Eagle Man who is willing to help explain the world around you. This is also rather brief, and only really explains combat, which is already rather simple. However you also will have a small blue pet called “Boone” that will explain things to you as you go along to explore the world.

GamePlay/World

This game is unique both graphically, and in how you play. You view the world beneath you, looking down on your character Diablo style, as opposed to the traditional MMO where your camera trails directly behind your character. On top of that, the world has a very anime-cartoon ( I don’t know if that can be considered an actual phrase, but I don’t care) look to it. Movement is performed by clicking where you want to be, and your character goes to that location the fastest way possible. The world is heavily instanced, and you travel to different areas by walking onto little compass shaped symbols placed on the edges of the area you’re in.

On top of that, it boasts a unique combat system which is similar to the Xbox 360 (And now PS3) game Enchanted Arms. If you liked that, you’ll probably like this style of play. In Dofus, when you enter combat (Which is performed by walking into hostile NPCs you see) you are sent into an instance of the very instance your in, and the area suddenly becomes a grid, covered in squares. Your enemy is given several starting positions to choose from (Which are marked in red) and you are also given several squares to position yourself in (marked in blue). Once you click the “ready” icon the battle begins. It will (usually) start as your turn, and there is a timer for you to decide what to do. Based on your character type, you’ll like either try and keep a distance from the enemy, or move into attack. Certain character classes can attack from farther away from others.

For example, as you might imagine, an archer will be able to attack from several squares away, where as a swordsman will usually be only able to attack from one or two squares away. As the number of enemies you encounter on the grid increase in the higher levels, you’ll find yourself needing to use more and more strategy, as you decide how to best use your action points (mana/energy). Because your health does not regenerate (unless you level up), you might find yourself constantly trying to weigh the risks of whether or not another fight is a good idea. Of course, you could just find yourself increasingly annoyed, and since you are not introduced to a store to shop at in the Free version, the lack of potions and equipment can have you going back and forth to the health fountain might just make you sick of your miserable existence on the computer.

Crafting is like most traditional MMOs, where you learn to gather and create things with them. The only issue people might have is how specific each crafting skill is when you can only have three professions. For example, Shield smith, Axe Smith, and Sword smith, are all their own professions, and you clearly can’t learn them all without having a gathering skill, so being entirely self-sufficient is out of the way. This isn’t helped by the fact that Free gamers are not allowed to join guilds, and have no access to the markets.

The Catch

I’ve eluded to the catch several times, and I still haven’t even went into all of it. Have you noticed the lack of the PVP section? You know why that is? PVP is just for members, which includes factional warfare. As I said earlier, you also can’t access merchants, or join guilds. You’re stuck in one zone, which is known as Astrub village, and are thus stuck fighting monsters no higher than level 20, and with levels going all the way to 1000, it’s hard not to feel left out. You will also be unable to equip items found outside of the village (though I guess that won’t be too much of a problem if you’re stuck in there…) and are unable to have pets of your own.

Really, the game isn’t actually a Free to Play one, so much as  a game that just happens to offer a free trial/demo.

Conclusion

Dofus is a game different from the traditional MMO, however different isn’t necessarily good. Although easy to install and boot up, the cartoon-like art style tries to appeal to a younger audience, but the game itself may also appeal to fans of turn based games like Enchanted Arms and Final Fantasy.

However, the game isn’t Free Play, so much as it is a discount MMO, at the cost of only 7 dollars a month, or 65 dollars a year (For those who pay up front ). So if you’re curious, give it a try. It won’t cost you a thing, aside from time. But if you’re into MMOs, you probably have plenty of it…

This is Riknas, and I’m signing out, until next time folks…

((This archive post was written in the year 2009, and may not remain faithful to the current game.))