Monday, 8 September 2014

Phantasy Star Online 2 (SEA Client)

Gamespot Score: n/a

My Score: 7.5

(+) Pros: - Gorgeous 3D anime style visuals, - Fantastic character creation, - Decently good story for a MMORPG, - Fun and addictive action based combat system with many elements, - Hunting for loot and rare equipment can be exciting, - Plenty of likable characters and NPCs, Great boss battles.

(-) Cons: - Lots of restrictions for "free to play" players, - Slow progression, - Gets very grindy very quickly.

Gameplay time: -

And so here it comes. The critically acclaimed "Phantasy Star Online 2", one of the most anticipated MMORPGs for many players around the world. Unfortunately for the western audience, Sega hasn't announced any sort of confirmation (sorry for rubbing it in, I'll be rooting for you guys), but somehow, Playpark managed to get the okay from Sega to release it over here in the SEA region. I'm not a fan of Playpark and how they manage their MMORPGs, but this is "Phantasy Star Online 2" we're talking about! No matter what, I had to give it a spin. So I did, I hit the maximum level cap (during the time of this review), and played as much as I could. While I can safely say that the game is fun, its not really all that its hyped out to be. Its a solid MMORPG, but it has its flaws...and most of these stem from the original "Phantasy Star" games. If you're fine with older "Phantasy Star" games, you'll be fine going into this one. If you're not, then expect the same problems.

Arks is a space organization meant to fight against the Darkers, a hostile alien species that evolves from devouring foreign life forms. Such is the way of life, Darkers will consume all, eventually becoming the master race that will threaten all of existence. Of course, humanity isn't going to take this lying down, thus, Arks was formed. Stationed in many parts in the galaxy, the story now takes part in one of the many Arks fleets, as a bunch of new Arks recruits have arrived to join in on the fun. You are one such individual, and on your very first mission, you are accompanied by fellow newcomer Afin, a newman ranger. Together, you both venture to the grasslands planet Naberius, only to be attacked by Darkers. After witnessing their true power, you must now lend your assistance to Arksm as a special new ability awakens inside you.

Yeah, this looks pretty good.

Before you start "PSO 2" you're already going to notice one thing if you're an anime fan. This game looks delicious. Yes, if you're a fan of anime styles graphics, "PSO 2" is going to grip you nicely with its enchanting looks, and its not going to let go. Beautiful character models with well animated features such as movement, facial expressions and physics. The game is amazing to look at, especially your character, no matter who you play. Hell, even some of the well customized CAST look freaking badass, and yes, a female CAST isn't as bad as you think (some manage to look cute as hell). Cutscenes make everything better, and rest assured, the game's story has plenty of those.

The environments may not look as lush (you've got your standard forest map, ice map, volcano map, desert map...standard "Phantasy Star" settings), but the monsters and bosses do. You've got a rather decent variety here, birds, yetis, rolling armadillos, gorillas and even freaking elephants. Sure, the game does follow a trend of previous "Phantasy Star" games where they will repeat and reuse enemy models in future levels by just giving them a pallet swap, but it doesn't happen AS often in "PSO 2". Of course, the bosses look menacing as hell, even the first one (hi Rockbear).

You can now create your own cute and adorable robot!

Character creation is one thing you can't f**k up in MMORPGs, and luckily, "PSO 2" does a fantastic job, even if some of the good stuff is locked away in the pay to play version. While most of these features can be available in other MMORPGs, this is practically the first game that allows me to create my own ANIME styled character in an MMORPG, a LEGIT one (not with games like "Fiesta" or "Ragnarok", "PSO 2" actually manages to make your character not look like a chibi). You get to choose from 3 races from the get go, Human, Newman (the game's interpretation of elves) and CAST (mechs, it doesn't get cooler than that). Within there, you get to choose from 3 main combat classes, Hunter, Ranger, or Force, more on this later. 

The game manages to replicate your character in CG for cuts cenes, so that's a plus. Oh yeah, "PSO 2" has a decent story, one that actually gets you to care through cut scenes. It feels like a solo release on its own because of this, instead of having you to interact with NPCs and read all of their dialogue, cut scenes carry the story of "PSO 2", just like in a good old RPG. You'll actually care about the characters and story, though at this point for the SEA version, it isn't quite complete yet (there is more episodic content in Japan's version of the game right now).

Big dragon...let's go.

I mentioned this before in many of my MMORPG reviews. If your combat sucks, the game won't last for long. Fortunately, "PSO 2"'s combat is pretty solid, and while its similar to most games in its franchise, its a lot more fine tuned here. As usual, the combat is action based, so no clicking on an enemy to watch an animation play out. Here, you attack and move on your own, you need to dodge attacks, enemies can dodge your attacks, there is no auto lock on, everything here, you need to do yourself. In that aspect, the game excels, because it sure doesn't hold your hand. While the game doesn't necessarily punish you too much for dieing, you definitely WILL die while learning the game, because well, it can be hard.

Enemies, including normal monsters, can do a considerable amount of damage already, and if you do play alone, things can get sticky quickly ESPECIALLY if you're a beginner. Thankfully, the game throws in AI partners for you just in case you didn't start the game with friends, while they won't be NEARLY as helpful as a human ally, they can keep up by providing you with the additional support that you will need. The game splits into 3 primary classes, which you can further improve later on with sub class bonuses and passive skills. 

Yeah, get off me this instant!

A hunter fights close range, primarily using swords, partisans and wired lances (that make you feel like a character from Shingeki No Kyojin). A ranger is the ranged DPS provider for the team, fighting with rifles and rocket launchers. A force is self explanatory, they are the primary mage/support class, wielding staves and decks, they can dish out all sorts of magical damage or heal the team. A mixture of these for your team will be perfect, but certain classes do some things better than the others. Like how hunters are good for hitting fast enemies and rangers/force are stupidly good versus bosses. Oh yeah, bosses are REALLY well done here. Most have different phases during their battle, attack in different ways and pose a good challenge. While you don't primarily learn skills from leveling up or adding them in your skill tree, you pick them up from fallen enemies (a system carried over from previous games in the franchise).

This in turn brings me to looting in this game. There is a lot to be found here from monster drops. Weapons, skills, and more. While regular weapons drops are nothing special there are instances where monsters will drop RARE weapons. Most of the time these are really good, better than the ones that you already have at the moment. And while the game does introduce upgrading (its fairly simplistic here), there are no defense bonuses on armor here, its just mostly for decoration. NPCs are fully voiced (by popular japanese seiyuus, if I might add), and there are plenty of likable ones, especially those involved in the story. 

I hate this boss as a melee...

For the "free to play" version, the SEA client of "PSO 2" poses a good deal of restrictions (at the time of this review). For one, you cannot trade items, which in my opinion, GREATLY hurts the in game economy of this game's market. Next, you can't have your own room, which isn't that big of a deal, and you also can only have ONE character (which bugs the f**k out of me). The game also progresses far too slowly, you'll get a lot of story missions early on, but later they become scarce and rare. Then there's the leveling requirement....holy shit. Its not too bad at first, but the EXP requirements shoot up the roof later on, making it much more of a grind fest since you'll surely run out of quests before you level up.

"PSO 2" isn't the mega blockbuster MMORPG that its supposed to least not yet for the SEA version. There are more classes, more story content and overall a lot more to be added on before it becomes the badass that its supposed to be. For now, its pretty good for a "free to play" game, but unless you intend to pay and go premium, there's quite a lot you're losing out. For SEA players, I suggest you give it some time before it slowly becomes better.

Happy gaming.