Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shin Megami Tensei IMAGINE

Name: Shin Megami Tensei IMAGINE
Publisher: Aeria Games
Genre: Fantasy SciFi RPG
Price: Free, Cash shop
Visual: 12/30
Audio: 14/30
Fun: 14/20
Community: 15/20
Final score: 55/100

Shin Megami Tensei IMAGINE is a spinoff of the popular RPG series of the same name. It’s advertised mostly as an Anime MMORPG. I wouldn’t really call it an Anime MMORPG. While it does have some of the Japanese aesthetics found in anime, but also has its own style that strays away from most anime.

The visuals in this game are decent for an MMORPG. The game is rendered in a somewhat bland 3D. The entire environment of the game is a colored in a dull shade of gray. Most of the environment is indistinguishable if you just blur it a little. Individual elements, like monsters and special search points, stand out and almost clash with the dark environment considering that a lot of the monsters are brightly colored. Your avatar on the other hand is a similar shade of gray to the environment, and most of the clothes you can buy for your avatar does not fix this.

The game does provide some cinematics at certain parts of the game, making it feel more like a console game than an MMORPG. These are not the most spectacularly animated, but they depict enough action to make the game exciting. Unfortunately, these a few and sparse in the game, but that just means the aesthetic value of them won’t wear out as fast.

The gameplay is certainly unique. Battle is not the standard “click on a monster and wait for it to die” style, rather, you have to aim at a monster and skillfully combo your attacks and defense. This makes battle pretty exciting, as you have to pay attention and apply some timing to each move. Unfortunately, this makes grinding for levels annoying. It is easy to lose against even the weakest monsters if you’re not careful, and when you die, you lose experience points. It’s possible to level down too, so you’ve got to be really careful. Similarly, with enough skill, it’s not hard to beat a monster that is stronger than you, but this does require a significant amount of patience.

Another thing that makes this game stand out is a feature that defines pretty much all of the SMT franchise: the ability to tame and fight with monsters. In their Persona spinoff, they’re called Persona, in this game, they’re called Demons. There are a huge variety of monsters to tame on the main world alone, and even more that you can create through combining monsters. This is really the main focus of the game, as raising your Demon well is the other half to succeeding, the first half being leveling and building your own character.

Character customization in terms of stats is above average compared to the average MMO. Instead of choosing classes, you choose skills. In this way, you can mix, for example, physical attack skills and magic skills to create a hybrid class. There are a lot of skills to choose from, ranging skills that help you tame monsters better to skills that help you attack better. Naturally, it’s more beneficial to choose a certain set of skills, and some skills unlock stronger versions of similar skills. Skills level up by using them rather than adding points to them. Instead, this game uses a system where you have a set amount of points to apply to skills, so you can’t just level up every skill and create the ultimate hybrid character or anything. Besides, that would take too long.

From my time on the game, I met a lot of nice people. There were plenty of people willing to go up to a newbie and help him or her if they needed help. I think I learned a lot of what I needed to learn from other people rather than tutorials. There are some people who like to hog grinding areas, and because the map is comparatively small, it isn’t uncommon. But it’s also not hard to simply ask to share an area. The developers also provided a special area that encourages team play, and the GMs often hold events in this area. This makes for great community building.

The economy in this game is decently balanced. Not much else to say about that. I didn’t see anybody exploiting the value of rare items or selling some items under misleading pretenses.

SMT IMAGINE is really a game that appeals to those who are already into the SMT franchise. It is free to play, making it accessible to everybody, and you aren’t losing much if you’re not paying for premium items. The variety of demons really makes the game, but other than that, I don’t know if many MMO fans would actually enjoy the game.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Luna Online

Name: Luna Online
Publisher: GPotato
Genre: Fantasy RPG, Social
Price: Free, Cash shop
Visual: 28/30
Audio: 16/30
Fun: 14/20
Community: 15/20
Final score: 73/100

I got the chance to play the Luna Online closed beta. I have been eying this game for a while, and was excited when a North America license was announced.

The thing that attracts me to this game is the art. This game features some of the prettiest 2D as well as 3D art. I feel like a pedophile for liking it, but it’s really quite adorable. A lot of the art edges on questionable, but considering its origin and target audience, it’s very effective. The game is done in the cute anime style and all of the characters look like little kids (except for the NPCs). When talking to an NPC, a nice picture of the NPC is displayed next to the textbox, complete with different emotions and poses according to the dialogue. It’s all very charming. I was saddened after completing the tutorial; the NPC guiding me was just so cute that I found myself just leaving the dialogue box up just to stare at her (maybe I’m a pervert).

The game’s main selling point is the social part. Luna Online is partly advertised as a fantasy RPG, and partly as a kind of dating service. I don’t think the game hooks you up in real life, just character to character. The first quest you receive is to “become a resident” of the world, and it involves creating a profile so that you can be matched with someone. It’s a dating service disguised as an MMO! Anyone can date anyone; couples are not limited to only one boy and one girl. There are even instance maps for couples only, so you and your significant other can have a map all to yourself.

And those instance maps are probably necessary. Most of the maps will have many players on them. The game has a lot of sound effects, like one for casting a spell. You character will actually chant a spell before casting. This is nice, but when there are 50 people on the same map casting a spell, it just gets annoying, and I actually had to mute the sound effects.

The community wasn’t bad. I found a lot of people were using the world speak not to sell items but just to chat and have fun. For the first few levels I was alone, but the game encourages social interaction, so there is a quest that can only be completed by a party. When I took this quest, I found myself happily invited into a large party. We never ended up completing the quest, but it was fun nonetheless.

The music was nice to play to. It was relaxing. There were plenty of tracks, one for each map, so there was a nice variety while playing.

Since the social interaction is so important, the game provides many different emotions you can display as a bubble above your head, or animations that your character can act out, such as dancing or kissing. It’s cute and all, but there were too many and I never used them all.

The grind isn’t bad, which leaves plenty of room for social interaction. I nearly got to the level required to change classes within a few days of playing. The quests will keep you busy running around town, and if you ever get bored, you can talk to an NPC (you can’t actually talk to them, but their dialogue pictures are very cute).

The game has an option to duel someone, a simple PvP match. As far as I know, this is just for fun, or to show off to your friends.

Character customization is very broad only when you get far into the game. When you create your character, you can choose a hair, face style, race (there are two), and gender. Unfortunately, you can’t choose your hair or eye color. You also have three classes to choose from, the standard close range, far range, and magic class. The equipment you put on changes your appearance accordingly, and there are also costume pieces that you can put over your equipment purely for appearance customization.

Leveling up stats was simple, you got a few stat points when you leveled up, and you put them into whatever stat you want. The starting stats are decided by your race and class, already optimized to your character. Learning skills wasn’t as simple. When you leveled up, you got skill points, but to learn a skill, you had to use both skill points and your earned gold. You had a large list of skills to learn, but if you wanted to max one skill, you had to save for several levels as the required number of skill points to learn the skill increases as your learn the skill.

When you kill a monster, you don’t have to worry about picking up loot, you do it automatically. Just makes grinding and item hunting a little easier, but your inventory fills up pretty quickly.

There is a little timer and kill counter at the top of the screen. This keeps track of the number of minutes you’ve played and the number of monsters you kill. The game will reward you for playing a certain amount (say, 100 minutes) or killing a set number of monsters. It’s a nice little bonus for playing actively, and I found the timer to be helpful for timing my sessions.

This release was a closed beta, and things are subject to change, namely the community, but all has been considered in this review.

There are plenty of quests to finish, people to meet, and NPCs to stare at. The game is fun as a casual game, a good time killer. The music is nice and relaxing, though the sound effects can be taken down a notch. The game is extremely pretty, and if you like the super cute anime style, this may be the game for you.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Perfect World International

Name: Perfect World International
Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment
Genre: Fantasy RPG
Price: Free, Cash Shop
Visual: 25/30
Audio: 15/30
Fun: 4/20
Community: 17/20
Final score: 61/100

Perfect World International, the North American localization of Perfect World Online, is a high fantasy RPG by Perfect World Entertainment. It boasts beautiful graphics and a high level of character customization.

The game doesn’t disappoint in that aspect. When making my character, I was amazed at the absurd level of appearance customization. Open up the advanced tab, and you can adjust the smallest detail to whatever level you want. It isn’t hard to make an absolutely beautiful character, or a terribly horrifying one.

Sadly, customization is pretty much limited to your appearance. Your class is dependent on your race. Want to be an archer? You HAVE to be an elf. Fighter? You’ve got to be a human or “untamed”, which looks kind of like a beast.

Gameplay is nothing special. You can move with the WASD keys, which is a nice change from the “click to move” style gameplay. Otherwise, it’s pretty standard for an online RPG. Take some quests, kill some monsters, level up, take some quests, kill some monsters, level up, buy new armor, takes some quests…

The music is nice, but nothing memorable. The game uses the seamless world style, not unlike WoW, and there aren’t that many world loops, so you’ll find yourself listening to the same song for a while if you’re grinding.

The world map itself is pretty standard. It is expansive, almost to the point of ridiculous. The developers tried for a somewhat realistic look, which doesn’t work for a game like this. Everything just looks dark, and the setting looks all the same: grassy, or dirty, or both.

The community wasn’t bad. Most people were recruiting for their clan or selling stuff, but I found a few people helping me when I was starting off.

The balance between players who can pay and players who can’t is present, but the paying players don’t brag too much. There are better weapons and equipment for players who can pay, but you aren’t missing out on too much if you can’t.

One really interesting thing I found was the ability to “embrace” a character. If you’re a guy, you take the girl into your arms; if you’re a girl, you hop into the arms of the guy. It sounds really simple, but it’s got great potential, and it looks really cute.

The game includes the basic features of an MMORPG, including player shops, guilds/clans, crafting, upgrading, and pets. Additionally, the game has a marriage system, but it must be between a male and female character. The game also has a mounts system, again, not unlike warcraft. These mounts allow you to fly and otherwise travel in style, though it’s not much faster than walking. Oh yeah, you can swim too, but that seems standard nowadays.

If you like fantasy and pretty things, you might like this game, but it’s really nothing new. It feels more like a free alternative to warcraft than anything else.

A Good Online Game

My definition of a good MMO is the following.

The first thing that attracts me to a game is how pretty it looks. I’ve got a little bias towards the anime style, but that doesn’t stop some games from being attractive. The purpose of ads is to get you to join or whatever, so if the ad works, something’s got to be good.

Trailers work kind of like ads. Trailers can show a lot more. A trailer shouldn’t be completely pre-rendered graphics or animation; it should show off the game. Pre-rendered graphics are nice looking, but they’re supposed to be nice looking. They’re NOT what the game looks like though. It would be impressive if the game did look like that, but I’ve yet to find a game that is.

Something that can be seen in trailers is gameplay. Gameplay is a vastly important part of a game, it’s the part of the game you play. If the gameplay looks like a grind, most would find it boring, unless you’re really into grinding. MMOs are limited in gameplay, but that shouldn’t stop developers from making innovative games.

Music is important too. While many just listen to their mp3 players while playing, there are those who actually enjoy the game music. It doesn’t bother me too much if the music is simplistic or crappy, as long as it isn’t irritating.

Last, people depend on reviews to decide whether they want to play a game or not. That’s where I’ll come in. Reviews reveal what trailers don’t, all of the ups and downs, stuff about the community, the likes.

Stay tuned, hopefully I’ll have a real review up soon.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

First Order of business

just a quick lost of what I need to do, format and scoring wise.

should probably be all official


will be in these categories

Server/Community: includes server quality (how laggy) and community quality (how nice or mean)
Other notes: Like how hard it was to sign up, etc

based on

Visual: /30
Audio: /30
Fun: /20
Community: /20
Final score: /100

Gotta remember to include sceenshots, maybe even video. Gotta get a full version of fraps or something

Visual: /30
Audio: /30
Fun: /20
Community: /20
Final score: /100

Review down below the table

New blog for my old addict

Alright, I play enough online games that I think I should review them. Who knows, maybe this will turn out good if I keep it up.

The games I am really into right now are Pangya, Ragnarok Online, and Phantasy Star. Of course, I'll have a full review of these games, and I'll try not to be so biased.

I'm probably downloading some more games as we speak. I'll make sure to have full coverage and fair rating.

I'll also try to make sure I keep up with this, not post one review and give up.

I need a creative way to review other than blogging (think: Ben "Yahtzee" Crowshaw). I'll come up with something.

Hope to have some reviews up soon.