Review by DHauck
"Much ado about nothing"
If you want to play on the same server as your friends, you have to spend about an hour plus making your character over and over until you randomly end up on the same server as they do. Perhaps square/enix does not realize that gone are the days when MMORPGs were played by lonely males with no friends or life to speak of -- todays players have lives and real life friends they also want to play with.
The cost system is strange. It's $13.00 plus $1.00 per additional character you create. You can still only play one character at a time. Do more characters on the server take up more system resources? As a player I put just as much load on the system if I have 10 characters (but only play one at a time) or have 1 character only. I fail to see the reasoning for this price structure.
Gameplay-wise, this is cookie-cutter MMORPG meteriel. After choosing a race and class, you are put into a world where you solo for a few levels to get used to the interface and then join a party. Many of the newbie areas are overcrowded, and leveling becomes time consuming very quickly. Quests stop the gameplay from becoming too repetitive, but most quests boil down to the same old thing (clear a dungeon, deliver a letter, etc.) after a while. While quests may be ordered, there is no way to tell if a quest is really appropiate for your level or not. Not as technically advanced as FFX, this game offers no in-game character voices, not even for NPCs. It is completely text-only and the GUI is only minimally configurable.
Monster speed is inconsistent, when you want to attack a monster you must first select it, then run after it and catch it until you are close enough to attack it. I did not come across a monster that I could not chase down on foot, some move more often than others but all are rather slow. However, if you get in over your head and have to run away, the monster will inevitably get a speed boost and be able to chase you down. So running away is not realistic, and with a very high penalty for death this game becomes little more than a 'grind' of easy, repetitive battles since it discourages any risk-taking.
There are some things for the high-level game like conquests and territory to claim and high-level quests but most players will simple quit in frustration before they reach these levels. MMORPGs, at least in the local market, are hotly competitive and there are much better choices than this game (unfortunately, none as cute). The ability to switch class at any time is a big plus, but you cannot get the advantage of having more than one class until you complete a high level quest.
In-game, sound is bearable. Interface is so-so, but suffers from 'perpetual big-ness' and an inability to zoom out far enough. Graphics are not exemplary, but quality-wise, they are acceptable. The problem with the graphics is when there are other player characters around. The framerate drops to 5 or less, and meaningful control becomes imposible. In order to target something, you must click on it twice and then select 'attack', but clicking on anything at < 5fps is next to impossible. Turning the graphics to the lowest resolution can help, but at this point on-screen text that is not in a window (character names, etc.) become unreadable. In short, it looks great when nobody is around but quickly becomes unplayable as players begin to congregate in an area. This is on a high-end optimized PC, a 2ghz with the latest NVidia graphics card that runs other games just fine, and far exceeding the minimum or recommended system specifications for this game. Hopefully this game will be playable on a PS2, because it sure is not on a high-end PC.
The out-game sequences, on the other hand, for instance making a character are really nice. But these are just ''realtime 3D animated movies'' that have little to do with the animated gameplay.
I chose this game over other MMORPG because the character designs were cuter and you can play catgirls. Though even the human and elvann character designs are very cute. It's sad seeing this game totally botched from a gameplay perspective because so many of the things that make Final fantasy what it is today are still there (you even get your own Mog + Moghouse). Whereas in .hack, all you get is your own grunty to raise.
In conclusion I would say this game is not worth the $50.00 for the first month and $13.00 per additional month (plus an additional $1.00 per saved character), while it is cute others like .hack are just as cute and also have the gameplay down as well as excellent voices and presentation not to mention no recurring (monthly) costs.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 11/06/03
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