Review by kanikm

"It's No Brownie But It's Better Than Bacon, But Not Nearly As Good As Cheesecake"

What a metaphor! For those who don't like to read whole reviews let me say this off the bat, it's not a MMORPG, and it's great but not perfect. It's, in my opinion, the Halo 2 of online role playing games. Like eating pancakes, it's addictive and can be more fun when friends join in!

Plain and simple, this game shouldn't be compared to WoW but instead compared to Lord of The Rings: Return of The King. It's a game with a campaign that can be played with buddies, you can interact online, but unlike LotR, this game has PVP, sweet glorious PVP. So, this game is a hybrid between WoW and LotR.

-Sound- 5.0

It stinks, plain and simple. There are no memorable songs like Phantasy Star Online, Shenmue or Ninja Turtles and most of the time there's no music playing. In addition, the noises characters make when attacking and getting attacked sounds like some kind of foreign porn movie. With all the "ugh"'s being thrown around.

Frankly, I turn off the volume and have iTunes running in the background. I give the game 5 points only because it has sound...and some voice acting.

-Graphics- 10.0

It looks like angels have descended from heaven and blessed my crappy computer. I first played this game on a very bad machine, a crappy desktop. It has 512 ram and an intergrated card, needless to say my laptop won't be playing most MMORPGs on lowest graphics any time soon.

Yet, when I installed the game it was already set to the highest graphics and the game looked fantastic. It's shiny and pretty, and uplifting, resembling Fable for the Xbox. This was on a crappy machine mind you, it plays even better on my desktop.

As for video lag, well, I haven't received any. Even in a 8vs8 match with spells being thrown around, this game runs smoothly at highest settings on low-end and middle-end machines. A huge relief since The Matrix Online and Everquest 2, which both in my opinion look much crappier than this game, have much higher requirements. (but that's because of the instancing in this game)

-Combat- 9.0

The combat in this game plays very similar to World of Warcraft. There's an auto attack and you can throw in spells/skills to counter. There's an energy pool, health pool, and warriors can gain Adrenaline. What makes the combat in this game so unique, as opposed to a game like warcraft, if that the combat is very well balanced.

There is a counter for every ability, a combo to counter that counter, and a combo to counter that combo. There are just sooooo many skills that it's insane, really puts the user's imagination to the test. There are no cookie cutter builds available since one build bent on one thing can easily be countered by a single spell.

The combat is said to have been inspired by Magic The Gathering, which for those who aren't aware is the only well balanced card game out there.

Another cool thing that makes the game feel twitch-based is that you can dodge projectiles. So if you are lacking defenses and an archer has you targeted, you can strafe left and right to dodge the arrows. Adds a nice combat feel that is found in Phantom Dust for the xbox. (another great deathmatch rpg)

-Crafting/Items- 7.0

This game is not meant for people who like to spend countless hours trying to get an item. The thing is, by lvl 20, almost everyone has the same items. Although there are rare items, they aren't .0000000002% chance to drop like in some other games. So it's pretty easy to look "pimped out" with items.

As for crafting, well there are no tradeskills. Instead, players need to find items, salvage them into crafting materials and bring them to a crafter NPC who will craft the item for a price. It's annoying to some but for people who like PVE, it gives them the chance to hunt down items.

-Classes- 10.0

There are only 6 classes to choose from but wow...they are amazing. Each class doesn't specialize in one thing like in other games, but instead are very flexible. Mesmer, Necromancer, Elementalist, Warrior, Ranger and Monk are what make up this game. Each come with a very unique look and specialize in a number of fields.

Players have the ability to hunt down/purchase skills, then there are attributes, gained every level, that help boost the effectiveness of a skill linked to that attribute. For example, points into healing prayers effect healing spells.

Don't be fooled, there's much more flexibility in this. Characters have the chance have dual professions. Yes, it's possible to be a Mesmer/Warrior, sharing attributes and skills. The only thing the primary class has over a secondary is that your armor is restricted to your primary class and each primary class has a special attribute. (Necromancers, for example, can suck energy out of corpses.)

-How Gameplay Works- 10.0

In order to reduce lag greatly, the game sets place on one server. The catch? You can see other characters in towns, but when you leave the area everything is instanced, you'll only be able to see your party members or anyone else you're fighting. This is great for people to just play with their friends or fight against random folk.

Who's it bad for? People who are detatched from reality and like to see a virtual world that similates the real world. (Seeing people walk around) Also, people who like to group up with people while walking in the desert will be disappointed, since you can only group with people in town.

-The World As A Whole- 8.0

Once you've exited the tuturial town you will be greeted by a huge map. The map spans for a vast area, made up of instances. The game feels a lot like fable, with small instances making up a huge world. There's also a nice change of climate across the map, from snow to desert to even grass....I love grass! :D

-Quests- 8.0

Quests in this game are like most MMORPGs. Pick up a job to do from one guy and go do it. But, it's kinda entertaining here. Rarely will there be run around and deliver this quests. Instead, the quests feel like a console game. (Protect this guy, kill this thing, escort him here, etc.) Quests that you actually have to do something, as opposed to hit auto run and make a sandwhich.

-THE CAMPAIGN!!!! 10.0

They could have left the game without this, heck, most people don't even know it exists, but it's there! This game boasts a campaign where you play in 20 levels, fighting, watching cutscenes, accomplishing mission goals and even having bonus missions. This part of the game feels almost exactly like Baldurs Gate for the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube. Baldurs Gate was sold for $50 and had around 20 or so stages.

This game, has 20 stages, a huge world, pvp, and an online community. The campaign just makes it all so much sweeter, a very nice way to progress around the world and something I wish more online rpgs had. If you have the need to hack and slash with creative missions, then the campaign/missions is here. It's not the best thing in the world but it's good, real good, and very unexpected in a game like this.

Community 2.0

It's an online game without a monthly fee, like Diablo 2. Ya, we're a bunch of horrible human beings.

-Game Stability- 10.0

Yowzer, one server and no lag. I've yet to experience any lag in this game, which is amazing considering how sexy looking it is. It has yet to crash on me so far. And the fact that if a friend plays in the future they won't need to worry about which server they're gonna join is great.

-PVE- 8.0

Truth is, I spend more time doing the campaign over and over with my buddies than I do out in the wild, doing quests. I like the PVE, I really do, but I like the missions soooo much more. And since the missions count as PVE, bonus points there!

But, this game is not for grinding/people who hate their lives. The max lvl is 20 and when you reach it, the game opens up even more. You can get to 20 really fast, and leveling up is actually enjoyable. There's always a plethora of quests available so you're not forced to grind monsters, and if the quests in the area run out...campaign time! Then off to the next town with new quests. :D

-PVP- 10.0

Sweet glorious Peter, it's great. The arenas give a very "Gladiator/ Russel Crowe" feel, with the timer going down before the gates open and both teams charge at eachother. The arenas randomly assort teams together, parties can't go in together. You just play there for fun, going on until your team loses and disbands. (My current record is about 3 hours, 93 matches won in a row, at the ascalon (lvl 1-10) arena.) Each arena also can vary in it's game type. There's CTF and Deathmatch along with others.

For those who don't like random teams, then the tombs are for you. Take a group of 8 people into an arena where you compete in different game modes. The tombs counts towards your guilds ranking, which is similar to ranking on Xbox live. So there's the competition aspect.

Comparing this game to WoW's pvp, cause so many want to. It's a matter of opinion. In WoW, you just can't go into PVP whenever you want to. You need to go into contested territory, look around the huge map for someone to fight, hoping they're not higher lvl or that someone will ambush you or you're outnumbered, and then you go into battle. It's pretty good for people who have a lot of time on their hands, especially for raids, but constant just gets pointless.

I like this game because no matter how much time you have available, you can just pop into the arena and fight quick matches with people around your lvl. And respawning in the arena (depending on the match-type) is handled very well. Even getting ressurected by a monk temproarily brings your max health and energy down, making you weaker after several times being brought back to life. Once again, another way PVP is balanced. And with all the counters/twitch-base doo-dads in the game, you can't help but giggle after playing it.

Things that Turn Me Off!

People who own cats! Also, there are other things in this game that make it lose points from reaching perfection, things that just tick me off.

1) There is no contrast/brightness scale, I need to play on window mode for it to look nice.
2) Sound is cruddy
3) The target next target system in this game is horrible. You are forced to click most of the time. I wish the range you could cycle through was shorter, like WoW. In this game, you can kill a guy, hit next target and end up targetting a guy half across the map as opposed to the one next to you.

Er, and that's about it. >_> And the game is simply not perfect. It's not meant to be played constantly, instead casually, I personally play it alternating between it and some xbox games.

Finally: How does this compare to a MMORPG? Well, if you dont want to play monthly get this game, it's really close to being called a MMORPG. If you don't mind paying, then it depends. In my opinion, if you love World of Warcraft, then buy this game and play it when the WoW servers are done. (50% of the time) If you are willing to give up WoW for a no monthly fee game like this, then you simply don't like WoW enough.

Bottom Line: This game is great, it's Baldurs Gate + Neverwinter Nights + Diablo 2 + a hint of Halo 2 + a pint of World of Warcraft. (Only a hint and pint! >:O )

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 05/05/05

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