Professing to be a hybrid across a multitude of dimensions ARGO Online brings not only a mixture of swords-and-sorcery RPG but adds shooter elements; the whipped cream on that is the addition of RTS to its genetic code. That may cover the varied mechanics that the game play can offer, but it goes a step further by blending genres between steampunk and fantasy (of course, it pits them against one another.) The burning conflict that drives the central world PvP component of the game revolves around an ecological philosophy disagreement between the two primary races and a war waged over limited resources.
I am a consummate fan of the magic-and-mayhem of fantasy worlds and the machines-and-man of steampunk worlds, so upon first encountering ARGO Online I had a very hard time choosing which faction I wanted to run with. I ended up going with the Noblian—the austere, mechanical steampunky race—but I will not allow that to bais this review against the Floresslah—the beautiful, faerie-like elf race.
Published by Alaplaya alongside a stable of other powerful titles, ARGO Online does a very good job of standing up to its brethren as a younger sibling. Character creation is swift and no-frills, but there’s a deep capability for customization. The environments are vast, beautiful, and deadly as you wander a world devastated by a terrible war. The remnants of the old civilization are constant reminders as you discover the crumbling ruins of old highways and fight amid the shattered teeth of ancient, forgotten concrete buildings.
“A world shattered by Seperstis, the World War 4 in the 23rd century. Not only complete cities and landscapes have been destroyed, even whole continents have been reformed. But two races rise in these ashes and rebuild their civilization in this post-apocalyptical world according to their different philosophies of life, the steampunk Noblian or the mystical tribe Floresslah.
“Which one would you chose? Do you see the future of mankind in the evolution of technologies or in the symbiosis with nature? It is one of the most important decisions a human has to make. In what do you believe? Enter the next generation online RPG ARGO Online and fight for your belief.”
Gameplay: Full of surprises, Thirt-Person-Shooter (TPS) mode, combat vehicles, and more
We at GameOgre got a chance to interview Hendrik Loga, Product Manager for ARGO Online, about the various elements present in this MMO and why his team chose to go the direction that they did with various elements. The most stand-out parts of the game happen to be the hybrid elements—especially how it tries to tie together these disparate elements and creates a unique gameplay experience.
“ARGO has many interesting and additional features that are not observed in today’s typical MMORPG,” Hendrik said when asked about the Third-Person-Shooter mode that puts a reticule on the screen and allows players to target enemies with the mouse. “The TPS mode allows the players to have a more in-depth and unique experience of PvP and PvE battles.
“In this mode, the players have to manually aim for the enemies to deliver critical damage. Additionally, some of the character skills are only available for this mode. Moreover, to enable this feature, players can simply turn on the mode during the game.”
In fact, playing a Bomber Alchemist (Noblian) I found myself switching into TPS mode often to wield the huge gun that my character carried. It’s an experience missing from other games that sport characters with guns—the concept of aiming and firing the weapon—so it felt pretty new to me.
Being able to line up and enemy and hit the button to take shots added a particularly frenetic feel to what has become a button-press-cycling robotic macro system for many MMOs.
Another thing I discovered about the game is that the vehicles can also engage in combat. Characters can fire from mounts (although may not be able to melee attack) without having to dismount like in other games. And, point-in-fact, some mounts have their own guns that the character can use when mounted. Intrigued by this, I pointed it out.
“Well, don’t you find it strange that you can ride your mount to explore the most dangerous regions of the world but when a tiny Murlocbaby attacks you, you are forced to dismount?” Hendrick points out about this innovation. “In comparison to other MMORPGs today, ARGO allows you to fight from your mount. Each mount has its own unique weapons, skills, and experience level. In other words, you can level up your vehicle to acquire new skills and weapons that can be used in battle.
“Additionally, depending on which faction you are on, your mount can either be a cool steampunk styled bike (Noblian) or a mutated creature (Floresslah).”
Deeper Issues: The ecological profundity of the division between the Noblian and Floresslah
Much of the game’s worldwide PvP is buttressed by a division of philosophy between the two factions (moreover races) of the game the Noblian and Floresslah. Their tension stems from limited resources and a decision to be made about how to approach their use—either something that’s ecologically sound where humans adapt to their new condition with the elf-like Floresslah or forcefully change the environment to suit humanity under the iron boot of the steampunk Noblian.
Upon seeing the development of this conflict, I was immediately reminded of a quote from Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein where Saruman the White sums up the conflict nicely:
“The old world will burn in the fires of industry. Forests will fall. A new order will rise.”
Many human conflicts are framed by limited resources and exacerbated by ideological standing. The decision to use this to divide the factions in ARGO certainly shows a particular sociological approach that should give the players a powerful reason to fight one another above and beyond tribal cohesion and game-mechanics.
“During development, the developers’ main target was to set ARGO in a dystopian future,” mentions Hendrick on this point. “Additionally, the developers wanted to address an issue that is relevant today and poses a question about our near future. After careful consideration, the developers decided to base the plotline of ARGO around a philosophical debate of whether humanity should live in harmony and symbiosis with nature or if they should control and exploit the resources of the land.
“From this philosophical debate, the developers created two factions that addressed each side of this debate: the Noblians and the Floresslah. After World War Four, the Steampunk faction of the Noblian lived for hundreds of years in the subterranean shelters. Believing that their time has arrived to reestablish the presence of human civilization on Earth, the Noblians were determined to fulfill their goal, even if it meant for them to subdue and control nature. On the other hand, the fantasy faction of the Floresslah believed that returning back to their roots and living in harmony with mother Earth was the only way of living. Seeing that humanity, the cause of World War Four, was threatening their way of living, the Floresslah were determined to defend their home and prevent the Noblians from rising.
“As you can see, this line of events will eventually spark the conflict between the two factions and contribute to the gameplay of ARGO.”
Wings: It’s in the graphics, and it’s just fun to see
There’s just something viscerally connective about wings—perhaps it’s my personal desire to be able to fly like a superhero. In fact, out of all the superhero powers that I would personally like to have it would be flight. Both factions have backpacks that enable movement and defensive effects (powered by the limited resource in the game) and both have a “wing effect.”
For the Noblian, the wing effect appears like amber-rays of light that spread from chrome sheaths, much like a phoenix burning on their backs. When the backpack is active it delivers the ability to move faster and hover. For the Floresslah, the wing effect produces gossamer dragonfly-like fairy wings and also a similar speed boost.
“Yes, backpacks are one of the distinctive features of ARGO,” says Hendrick about this particularly distinct feature. “The backpacks mainly have three functionalities: the first two are an instant and permanent buff, which gives additional attack and defense power, and the third feature is the dash function. With these ‘wings’ that appear, the user can move and jump much higher and faster. The jumping function is especially important because for several quests and dungeons, the jumping ability is required to reach certain areas.”
Conclusion: ARGO Online plays with a lot of innovation, but builds on the a solid MMO foundation
Coming to ARGO Online, I found a game that feels like it’s just starting to understand its niche. It has a lot of things going on that are new and provocative from the Thirt-Person-Shooter mode to the daily worldwide PvP events surrounding not just a political or land battle between opposing factions, but something that underlies an ecological philosophy that hammers a nerve with the modern psyche.
The graphics engine is petty powerful and even supports reflections in the water, the characters have distinct differences between one another that stem directly from the philosophy of their faction, and the design and layout of the world itself reflects the devastation suffered at the hands of the post-apocalyptic world.
The game drives the player ever forward and gives them a reason to put their “life” on the line for their faction; but the addition of the TPS mode makes it feel a lot like you’re more “there-and-then” than the standard MMORPG which can quickly turn into a macro contest or learning the proper cycle of skills.
In short, it’ll be interesting to see where ARGO Online takes both their environmental and narrative aspects as well as the technology of the Third-Person-Shooter mode and the world PvP as they release further expansions.
And to wrap up, everyone give Hendrik Loga of ARGO Online a round of applause as we thank him for spending his time to answer our questions!