Choirs of angels are singing and bands of demons are marching in Faxion Online, UTV True Games’s first internally-developed MMORPG for the PC—and they’re both carrying very stout weapons as they go. The game presents a vision of the afterlife styled after Western contemporary mythology of Heaven and Hell with all the trappings: the heavenly realms are replete with nacreous clouds and ivory architecture, whereas the hellish lands set themselves with volcanic skies and jagged black masonry.
The character design screen ends up being extremely simple. Choose your faction: Heaven or Hell—displayed as a sweeping city of white and clouds verses a volcanic wasteland of crimson and smoke. Then you’re presented with a screen that shows you your character from which both factions take three classes: a fighter (Crusader/Reaver), a mage ( Diviner/Occultist), or a cleric (Guardian/Zealot). There are only two face types currently, at least eight different hair styles, and skin color, hair color/highlight can be chosen. While the character design screen shows you with wings (feathery or leathery) your character doesn’t actually start with wings.
I started the game out by choosing a hellion and when she was thrust into the game world I found her in a location known as Limbo. The fist thing I noticed was the whistling of the wind and the ambient soft harp playing—broken only occasionally by the staccato peal of thunder. In fact, the sky appears to have a sort of downy, white cloud cover the rolls past like one would expect in the aftermath of a stormy day.
I rezzed in next to a body of water, with low resolution animation and what looks like a brig merchant ship docked against the wharf. From the names of the sailors standing about I suspect this is the Styx one of the mythical rivers of the Greek underworld across which the newly dead must cross. A fitting fact, as apparently my character is recently dead and has arrived here for her orientation into life working for Hell.
According to others, while the land is known as Limbo, the city I’ve arrived in is named Purgatory. The inhabitants on this side have a strange penchant for using a lot of vexatious language, possibly something to do with their demonic status. The other side of the river Styx leads to the Heaven Dock whereas I started at the Hell Dock due to my choosing to side with the hellions.
The capital city of Purgatory doesn’t give the graphic engine a lot of credit. Although I have some trouble with it because the rendering makes things look a lot like the video game Doom—flat surfaces with point light sources, pooling shadows, limited particle and aura effects—the city itself is actually an extremely boring environment. However, once I passed out of Purgatory I found a forest, and while the detail is still extremely low, the Faxion team managed to make excellent looking trees.
I just hope they do something about how long it takes to zone from region to region when they release the final version. Right now it’s extremely slow.
The skill-up system is a little bit interesting in that it seems to rely on the passage of time to upgrade abilities. There is a setup called the “Training Queue” which upgrades abilities—new players start with two slots, so they can train two abilities at once. Putting my basic abilities into the slots, it appears that times of 9-10 hours seem to be the starting point. Training time can be accelerated via trading True Coins, which appear to be the in-game credits; extra training slots can also be bought with True Coins, increasing the number of skills a character can train at once.
Combat seems fairly much in tune with every other Fantasy MMORPG on the market. Players select from a series of abilities—some hot keyed—and sling them at the enemy. As a mage I have health and mana and spells to sling, no real divergence here. The first few quests also seem to come from the usual stable of kill 5 of mob X and collect 5 widgets from mob X. Items seem to be limited by stats and not by class or faction, as a mage my primary stat is INT and I’ve run across items that require WIS 20 or STR 20 and thus I cannot equip them; of course, they look like they should go on a cleric or a warrior so no loss for me. The items also change character appearance like the standard MMO. Eventually culminating in more intricate and interesting armor sets, as usual, newbies get boring outfits.
There’s here-tell that the combat system gets a bit more complex as the game progresses, but that’s a bit beyond the scope of my limited first impressions from a beginning player. As for one of the much-touted change-ups to MMORPGs that Faxion has boasted happens to be full screen status indication effects, such as splashes of red on critical hits, vines appearing across the screen when rooted, a more creepy “death effect,” and so on.
The “death effect” differs somewhat from other games, desaturates the screen, with a tunnel-vision that renders a find-edges, watercolor blur effect around everything else. It’s also not the sort of MMO where you have to make a corpse run. You can get resurrected on the spot or instead resurrect at the nearest Crypt—a location specifically designed as a spawn point for dead players.
PvP is always on! At least on the server that’s currently available to players in the Faxion beta. So, if you leave the city you can get ganked pretty quickly by an agent of the opposite faction, even in territories controlled by your faction. Fortunately, Pergatory and certain other places happen to be marked as Sanctuary, otherwise known as no-PvP zones. The afterlife is a dangerous place and don’t you forget it!
The game is rife with jokes from popular culture. For example, my Occultist’s starting weapon—a thing that looks like someone broke a branch off a tree—happened to be a “Newbstick.” Also, one of the mage powers happens to be “Iokane Powder” an obvious reference to The Princess Bride. No doubt there’s many more in the starting city that I’ve missed.
Overall, the game seems to be shaping up nicely for the free-to-play market. It has a solid back story and a lot of narrative played out in quests. It doesn’t diverge a lot from the meat and potatoes of the MMORPG product line that everyone is used to, provides a faction-based environment for PvP types, as well as a strong mythology to build on.