Review by deoalmighty

"Not exactly a revolution"

CABAL Online: Not exactly a revolution.

MMORPG's have had a sort of a boon as of late, and many games developers have jumped into the bandwagon to cash in on trend. Given the vast (though no exactly diverse) competition, CABAL online promises players a different gaming experience, claiming to be a ‘revolution of action' in the rather archetypal genre. Quite a tall order.
Onto Review.

GRAPHICS 7/10

The visuals get the job done, and then some. As the game starts off, the graphics will look rather dated. Only through the leveling central in all MMORPG's will you witness the full extent of CABAL's visuals. Forfeiting the graphics for the character itself, the game focuses intensely on the quality of equipment and skill animations. As your character progresses, the previously bland equipment and surroundings will improve significantly. Character armor is sufficiently colored, glowmapped and, designed, and will only get better as the player clocks in more game levels.
Mobs are well done, varied, and interesting, showcasing some rather creative design and texturing, though this is only noticeable through close up inspection. One may say that earlier on, monsters actually look better than the character.

But skills are what really crank up the points, for the sheer flamboyancy of their presentation will leave most of the other factors unnoticed. CABAL employs distortion graphics (similar to bullet time weapon trails in V for Vendetta) quite expertly, and the vibrancy of hitsparks and other such combat effects make for a rather satisfying viewing experience. As with equipment, skill graphics improve dramatically with character experience.

But as good as the presentation is, the overall aesthetic of the game is in a bit of conflict; something you will notice from the get go. The start-up/login screens feature a futuristic, angular look, so a new player will likely expect a sci-fi themed game. But when you do login, you will be treated to worlds more reminiscent of Diablo 2. Furthermore, the characters design is heavily mecha-inspired, as if your avatar had travelled back a few millennia to this current setting. Simply put, the players don't fit in too well in the world.

SOUND 6/10

If you do play this, you'll probably be doing it muted. The musical tracks are very nice, varying greatly from the mandatory heavy battle music, to the more soothing area tunes. But they are also very short, so there will be lots and lots of looping. The ‘jukebox' feature of the game does not function as it should (at least with my copy) so if you do like the music, repeated playbacks will probably grate it out of your preference.

The sounds, while being suspiciously familiar, get the job done. They are really nothing to remember, and will get a bit annoying the longer you play.

STORY 2/10

Oh, god. I can sense a small glimmer of potential from the quest lines, but it simply fades from all the hilarious chaff supposedly called editing. The English is good, but it reads very, very badly.

GAMEPLAY 7/10

And so how does it play? Rather well, actually. CABAL online introduces a system that is not quite an innovation, but more of a fusion. It borrows from rhythm based online games, and incorporates the synchronized button-tapping of the genre into its combat. Basically, the imaginatively named ‘combo system' will activate at your command, a gauge will pop up, and a bar of color starts to fill up the gauge. Now, as with most MMORPG's your skills are assigned to hotkeys (in this case, number buttons or numpad, no customization, unfortunately). You are to hit the skill hotkeys as the bar of color rushes up to a certain level of the gauge (something like Final Fantasy 8's limit breaks). Properly doing this earns you extra experience and damage. Chaining hits and killing enemies while still in a combo will increase these bonuses further. The incorporation of this system makes hunting (grinding) much less of a chore, and much more enjoyable, for when you are trying to best yourself pulling off combos, enemies will fall in the droves.

But the novel action of the combo system will soon have a very apparent reason, as any enterprising player will realize. The level at which you strengthen your skills in this game is dependent completely on your own patience, for it employs a ‘use skill to level it up' system separate, though still influencing, the character's main statistics. Fans of the Elder Scrolls series will be familiar with this. Essentially, using your skills in magic and swordplay over and over again will earn you skill experience, and the higher your skill ‘level', the more powerful your main stats will become. And as it is ideal to level your skills higher than your stats, you will be using them a lot.

What does this mean? The game boasts a questing system similar to World of Warcraft and the majority of western MMO's. And with these quests rewarding quick stat experience, you will soon find your skills lagging significantly behind. So in effect, you grind more often. Once enlightenment of the mechanics is achieved, the game degrades to the grind-fest Asian MMO's are known for. So basically, the combo system is there to make grinding a bit easier.
But not to worry, the absolute tedium of PvE is by no means a prequel to the PvP. If the game hooks you in, it's probably because of this. The usage of the combo system remains the same, but you will find seemingly worthless skills like dashing and backdashing soon assigned to hotkeys. PvP in CABAL is a frantic mixture of rhythm game and fighter, requiring the player to be both nimble of hand and in mind. Dodging, attacking, anticipation and timing, all make for an experience with the same tension of actual combat. As you participate, character classes will soon come into a brand new light, as you see how different fighting each can get. And with the class specific super-buffs (deemed ‘battle modes'), fights will get much more interesting. This game may be a kill-and-loot-bump-and-grind affair, but it is to a spectacular end.

ECONOMY 5/10

Lack of an auction house or something to a similar effect deals a huge blow to the economy score. I've always thought that personal shops/vending should be replaced completely, as maintaining them is boring and impractical. And seeing as how each and every character class can effectively craft their own equipment to considerable strength without the need of others, trade is a limited to the now relatively barbaric buy-and-sell. But, as with most of the game's aspects, it'll get the job done.

SOCIETY 4/10

Not much to see here. Most of the time, the game's lone wolf approach makes other players nothing but experience grabbers. Very little conversation is had, since combos will take up both your hands. And the relatively hostile game atmosphere will make for a poor conversational catalyst. Additionally, there are no group dungeons, partying is supposed to make you level up faster (which is bad for your skills, remember?), and PvP servers actually block names and chat with garbled mixtures of numbers and symbols. But the game is relatively new, so there is still a lot of room for development.

OVERALL 7/10

Definitely not for everyone. You should not play this game if you are:

- looking for a deep, immersive, gaming experience
- extremely impatient
- not into the general online gaming trend. This game won't change your opinion

But you should give this game a shot if you are:

- seaking the ever-popular INSTANT GRATIFICATION
- of a lesser attention span/easily amused
- playing online games solely for the thrill of confrontation

CABAL Online may not revolutionized the genre per se, but it has improved upon some of the aspects. Hopefully, this won't be one of the many online games that fall prey to the power of inept capitalism.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 06/18/08

Game Release: CABAL Online PH (AS, 04/01/08)


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