Formerly Anima Online and published in Asia in 2009, Prius Online comes to us with a great deal of foundation already set in place as it has two years of stability patches and content to work from. At first glance, the game has the vibrant look you’d expect from an Asian MMO game and many of the characters have very Asian features—not to mention that there’s a myriad of weapons-taller-than-people being carried hither and thither throughout the game world. The game sports a character-driven storyline where the player resurrects with their memory lost and begins to rebuild their life and understanding of the world around them.
(No, it’s not a game where you drive a Toyota hybrid car around.)
Prius Online is distributed in the United States by gPotato and has a total size of almost 2.6G. There’s a multitude of sound and graphics settings, the topmost of which give even my gaming rig some difficulty. The system is protected by nProtect Gameguard—an anti-cheating rootkit developed by INCA Internet (if you play Phantasy Star Online or Ragnarok Online you’ll be familiar with this program.)
The stand-out portions of this game involve a companion system that gives the player what is essentially a pet—a little girl with magic powers—who provides support spells and other effects and a giant brute-monster that the player can essentially transform into. There’s also a player housing system, crafting, guilds, and a lot of content to explore.
Gameplay Mechanics: The Player, the Anima, and the Gigas
The developers of Prius Online all it the 3C system—three characters in one?—but it’s basically just a new pair of pets and a transform for the player to work with. The Anima is basically a support character who walks alongside your character and casts buffs and sometimes attack spells, she seems to be untargetable but can draw agro from mobs. The Gigas is a giant, tank-like monstrosity summonable by the Anima that can unleash terrible blows.
You “meet” your Anima when you reach level 10 and she follows you around from that time onwards.
As the Anima is independent from the player she can pretty much have a mind of her own. What she does and how she does it seems to be guided by a “personality” system which the player chooses upon character creation and by what skills and disposition the player gives to their Anima during gameplay. Passive Anima tend to only cast support buffs and healing spells; active Anima throw attack spells and offensive buffs. They can also harvest nearby items—but certain personalities of Anima will ask permission, others will not. Some dispositions may even attack nearby monsters (although this is rumored, I never saw it happen.)
Gigas can be a great deal of fun. They’re basically two-story-tall monstrosities with pendulous limbs, wide chests, and surly attitudes. They inflict both AoE and direct damage and do so with tremendous blows, most regular mobs cannot stand up to them, and even tough mobs can be tossed easily aside by their bulk. Some are organic, some look like they’re wearing armor, some are robotic looking; some are bulky and unwieldy, and others look elegant and feathery. The Gigas themselves seem to have artwork as myriad as the players that will pilot them.
You won’t see your first Gigas until level 30. You’ll receive a new one after that every five levels; they seem to be race/gender locked.
Characters: A combination of skills and racial characteristics
Currently, upon starting the game, players are given a choice between six classes. Each class has a particular “look” which is gender and race locked. They run the gamut of the ordinary swords-and-sorcery expectations from artillery, support, tanks, and magic-type classes. A seventh, yet-to-become-available, class also sits in shadow on the opening screen, which seems to be listed as a “Shadow Templar” on the main website.
In order of appearance.
There’s the Occultist—a Hume male with white hair who can throw devastating magics at opponents, incinerating them with a thought. The Berserker—a large tank-warrior who seems to excel at weapons and armor, with a lot of skills that appear to tap into HP to deliver heavier blows. The Huntress—a bow and dagger wielding warrior girl (and their bows can get really elaborate.) The Legionnaire—seems to be a basic sword-wielding fighter who makes up for lesser armor by being able to evade attacks and debuff the enemy. The Minstrel—a bard-like character who plays an instrument called the biwa and can deal damage with song as well as buff friendly targets and debuff enemies. Finally, there’s the Gunslinger—does exactly what it says on the tin, a girl with either rifle or twin pistols who basically shoots enemies full of lead.
There are several races, split between the classes: the Hume, Lon, Ayin, and Beriah. The Hume seem to be pretty basic humans and become Occultists and Gunslingers. The Lon are somewhat cat-like humanoids (they have fluffy ears) and make up the Berserker and Huntress classes. The only Ayin class is the Legionnaire and a male, they’re apparently desert warriors. Finally, the Beriah show up only as Minstrels—and female—and they seem to have a psychic connection to music.
Storytelling: Attack of the cut scene
As this video game is all about the lost past it would be amiss of any first impressions not to include how much of the game runs as a story. A great deal of that story is provided through cut scenes as the player progresses through story quests and explores the world. In fact, at the very beginning you are offered the chance to play through a prologue which consists of a tutorial zone for your new class (and even gives you a chance to experience having an Anima and being a Gigas.)
As your character continues to rediscover his/her forgotten past and what happened to their platoon (they were apparently “killed” and resurrected before the game begins) it will give a lot of play time to learn the world. In fact, after only three hours of gameplay I can remember the names of six different landmarks and what I can find there and why I might go there.
One warning: the voice acting in this game is terrible.
Don’t let this turn you off playing it, however, because this is a free-to-play game after all and any voices at all is something that sets it outside of many of them out there. In fact, the human effect that voices gives to NPCs and cut scenes can help keep your attention through what otherwise might be boring exposition.
The game is still in closed-beta, so there’s still time for them to address features such as these and this is the US release.
As this game originally came out for Asian audiences in 2009 it’s already been tried and tested and beaten against the walls, floor, and ceiling by the best of them. As a result, it’s extremely stable and has a lot of content for new players to grow into. Every quest given and NPC has something to say and even everyday objects have a vast amount of history and lore behind them. In fact, the taxi network (a series of mechanical oxen-vehicles) will happily tell the story of their history if asked. Players can come to this game to get a sense of the story for themselves, to engage the world with their friends, participate in PvP arena battles, and even PK combat in the higher levels.
It has all the outward appearances of a fairly mature free-to-play MMO game that hinges itself more on story than it does getting hands on all the pretty things.
There’s a lot to do in the world of Prius.