"Never rises above mediocrity"

As a long time RPGer and anime fan, I'd been drooling over this game for months. I even pre-paid for this game a month in advance just to make sure I'd get a copy the day it came out. Come release day, I take off early from work so I can get some solid time in with .hack.

I should have stayed at work.

All I want from from a RPG is the following: 1) semi-interesting characters; 2) a coherent plot; 3) lots of customization for the characters; and 4) a GOOD battle system. I guess this is just too much to ask for with .hack.

Story: N/A. As we all know by know this is the first volume in a series. The plot is pretty much the background for what's to come in the future, so its too hard to rate it as a stand alone. If I had too, though, I'd give it a 6/10. Your friend goes into a coma playing a MMORPG, and you have to figure out why. You get a special bracelet to help you unlock the secrets of the online game, and you begin to make friends with other players who will help you on your quest. Yawn....

Graphics: 5/10 Take Vagrant Story and kick the graphics up a notch and thats what the dungeons look like. Unfortunately Vagrant Story was a PS1 game.

Battle System: 3/10 Ugh, this is where the game really falls flat. This is not a traditional turn-based RPG, yet it turned into one for me. That's because the characters you cannot control are so lacking in AI that you have to control them or you'll spend 1/2 your time (and money) giving them Antidotes, Resurrection and other curative potions.

Further compounding the suckitude of the battle system is the fact that there is only one attack. Hit X - swing swords, hit X swing swords, repeat ad nauseam. Note to developers, a combo system would have gone along way towards making this game fun.

Character Customization: 8/10 This is the one area where the game does shine. Magic is tied into your equipment, so not only can you use ''better'' weapons/armor to upgrade your attack/defense, you can further customize by using, for example, Mountain Boots, which give an earth based spell, instead of Fire Boots, which give a fire based spell.

In short, you can collect full suits of armor for each elemental spell, or you can mix and match to your content.

But, getting the better weapons can be very tedious. Instead of finding most of them through dungeon exploration or battling monsters (some of the rarer items will be found this way), you get them through trading with other players in town. Which seems ok, until you try and remember which of the 20 characters you run across has what items. Of course, like a real MMORPG most of those characters have ''lives'' so they won't always be logged on.

Fun: 4/10 If your idea of fun is running around a dungeon pressing X to hit enemies, buy Diablo. If your idea of fun is micro managing characters and figuring out good strategies for turn based battles, buy FFX, Suikoden III or Wild Arms 3.

Overall (not an average): 4/10 - lots of customization just doesn't make up for a terrible battle system.

Rent or Buy. Rent.

Read the other reviews? Don't bother. How anyone can give this a 10 is beyond me. FFX deserves a 10. FFT deserves a 10. Xenogears arguably deserves 10s. This is a poor game given high ratings by people who need to feel they didn't just get ripped off.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.0 - Poor

Originally Posted: 02/19/03, Updated 02/19/03

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