The massive mainstay of popular MMOs currently focus on throwing players into virtual worlds and telling stories about them but Gamania Digital Entertainment is looking to enter into an entirely different niche in the market. Specifically that of Dating MMORPGs a genre which has a larger foothold in Eastern countries than it does in the West and they?re bringing it here to the United States.

The game itself presents itself in the vein of similar Fantasy themed MMOs with swords-and-sorcery style character archetypes and roles but with an anim‚ aesthetic. This reveals itself early in the game when the characters all have a very familiar fashion. The roles that characters fill?and some of their special items?are determined by the birth date of the player (or at least what they enter as their birth date) which leads to the central focus of the game: Astrological Signs.

Each of the astrological signs open up new abilities and buffs as characters level. The benefits are available through a sub-system called the Astrolabe accessible through the character sheet. At higher levels characters also have access to a special Star Sign armor a buff which makes a character virtually unstoppable for about 50 seconds (a universal panic button.) The armor looks different depending on the star sign of the character and presumably provides different buffs also depending on their astrological sign.

The romance angle comes in with a little guy named Cupid The God of Love who hangs out in city centers. Talking to him opens up a matching interface which allows players to match themselves up with prospective mates. Once a player finds someone to forge a relationship with they make use of a key?bought from the item mall for a very small price tag. Once bonded the pair provide each other buffs when grouped together that increase experience generation (and possibly health and mana regeneration perhaps other benefits.)

The game has a substantial set of emote animations but they don?t really exceed the usual MMO set until it comes to characters in relationships. Having bonded as soul mates a pair of characters gain access to a set of ?intimate emotes.? These emotes include hugging snuggling a short waltz and even playful tumbling. The usefulness of the intimate shared emotes doesn?t end there however as there?s also further in-game benefits to engaging in the emotes. Each act affords both partners temporary buffs to attributes regeneration defense and damage. It?s also extremely adorable and quite romantic.

This courtship as in-game mechanic that splashes over onto the MMO side of the game aptly weds the romance and dating aspect with the epic fantasy and game playing elements. As a soul mate relationship grows it also ?levels up? along with the characters. After a certain level of the relationship characters will even be given the opportunity to get married in game. The relationships themselves also produce currency (in the form of flower petals) that can be used to buy temporary items that endow strong attribute bonuses.

When it comes to scenery in the world of Lucent Heart Gamania did an excellent job with the art direction and imagination. Amid the places that I saw during my tour of the game I saw a volcanic region filled with monsters covered in fire and ash with dark clouds in the sky and rickety wooden bridges spanning ruddy chasms. I also visited a fantastic place called Melody Valley that sported a giant instrument like a huge multi-sided dulcimer with a scintillating nexus at the center. The mob in that region looked like they were made of pianos and covered themselves in musical notes?with names that suggested escaped musical pieces or rogue overtures.

In the same region we found another giant set of strings vanishing into the spray from a towering expanse of a waterfall. My tour guides described it as the in-game version of Niagara Falls. That and Melody Valley apparently receive a great deal of attention from couples in Japan China and Taiwan?as it had become a favored picnic spot and a place for courting pairs to photograph their experience.

As a traditional MMO the game supports grouping provides quests and a direction for players to take their exploration of the world. It currently contains four large zones with numerous subzones and while I only experienced two major cities there are more in the game.

Aside from quests that send players across the world there are also classic-style instances to enter. These instances are accessible through a special portal system and opened by particular combinations of items called ?Star Cores.? Star cores are dropped from mobs and received from quests and they come in different varieties. The mechanics behind how they?re combined to open instances has not been revealed at this time but they might build constellations (which would be in keeping with the astrological theme of the game.) Each combination opens a slightly or distinctly different instance than another allowing characters to essentially ?build their own experience.?

Right now Lucent Heart looks like an innovative collusion between a social dating video game and a Fantasy MMORPG. The artistic styling brings out emotions both serious and whimsical and the game mechanics work to benefit couples who use the soul mate system. There?s something here for both young love and meeting epic stories of high romance and adventure in treks across world and into strange dungeons working together to bring down enemies too mighty to solo.

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