It’s time for another Asian-styled knights-and-demons style MMO and R2 Online fits the bill nicely. R2 Online is a free-to-play fantasy MMORPG published Webzen, Inc. that recently went into beta. It features a strong 3D engine with a lot of special effects, epic booming music, and an extremely tight grip on the concept of transforming players into other things. The developers and publisher also seem to have spent a lot more time pitting the different guilds against one another moreso than driving the underlying storyline (although the narrative is certainly there.)
During my play through, I encountered a lot of different people—although most of them did kill me after I left the city—but overall the community will be driving this game with PvP and events. In fact, one thing that this game seems to push hard is events. The fact that I stumbled across something called a Monster Racetrack really caught my attention (although I didn’t get to see a race.) The world is vast, contains a lot of interesting things, and would take a while to explore.
Gameplay and mechanics: It’s like the East Asian fantasy all-you-can-eat buffet
This game comes across like a standard East Asian fantasy MMORPG within a 3D framework, but it has some updates to the standard UI that make it differ a bit from the standard play experience.
The game adds limiters to the game that force a player to think about how they’re interacting with the game world such as hunger and weight limits. Hunger works in that meat and food items fall from animals when I killed them and would fill up my “well-fed” percentage—according to the game if the percentage falls too low my attack power would drop. Also, while my backpack space was quite considerable, characters have a set weight limit for how much they can carry. The first effect is that the player cannot carry any more after their weight limit; however, if they come near it and become “burdened” the game punishes characters by ceasing automatic mana and health regeneration.
When critters are killed, the loot drops on the ground and glows. Anyone can pick it up.
I discovered that there’s no underwater in this game. In fact, when mounted I ran atop it and when walking I swam—but there’s no way to dive beneath the surface.
The game pushes transformation heavily. During the beta it looks like it’s cracked wide open—but when it comes out of beta, it will probably be items that allow transformation—but right now most NPCs can help you transform into a monster. I tried out a busty vampire girl, a cute fox-like kobold archer, a tall and burly orc—on the same few days I discovered a few well designed demon-like transforms (with huge wings and claws.)
The game’s PvP setup appears to difficult to pin down, but guilds appear to be a big part of it.
I’ve seen games before where guilds control territories and R2 Online continues that tradition. This takes place in events called castle sieges and spot sieges; both of which are battles over a region and the victors receive benefits and/or skills upon winning. It also adds taxation (I believe that’s daily or periodic money into the guild’s coffers.)
It seems that when a person leaves a town PvP automatically engages. The mechanic behind who can attack you seems mixed (or obfuscated) and I ran into situations where running quests immediately outside of town hostile players would be waiting to kill me. It made questing quite burdensome at the low levels. Fortunately, the guards didn’t take well to some people attacking me and would kill them; but this didn’t stop extremely high level players form just camping out and repeatedly killing me.
This sort of greifing in the game will probably drive certain players away who don’t want to toy with that sort of behavior. Perhaps it’ll be curbed by dividing different shards between PvP and PvE. However, current to the beta, the test shard must be PvP.
Graphics and Audio: Compelling environments and enjoyable, epic music abound
The environments in R2 appear pretty compelling, although they seem to mix a sort of photorealism with lower polygon counts that work better for more cartoony works. One of the things that I liked the best about the game was that I could zoom pretty far back from my toon and lose very little detail. I suspect this is so that the game can run alright on older systems.
Even at medium settings the rendering distance on objects is way too short, it’s a little bit weird in a modern game watching things that would be less than twenty meters away from me suddenly appear as I walk through a town. They spend a lot of time on 3D tricks to increase rendering speed so it’s best not to look directly down at the character (to see the grass is planted at odd angles) or get too close to terrain objects.
However, the art direction does make the towns, landscapes, and even the castles look quite stunning.
The characters aren’t bad either and the special effects that surround them produce an affect that I see a lot in East Asian games. In my play through, I visited a lot of ordinary human characters alongside tiger-avatared creatures. (Furries will probably love this.) One thing that I liked about the portrayal of the tiger-people happened to be the Chinese affect to their bearing and features—especially when the tigers sported human beards that fell into points or other signs of ancient wisdom in East Asian cultures.
The music in this game is extremely epic. It varies between brass-orchestra and strings type da-da-DUM-DA-DA songs outside of the town, and sleepy woodwind melodies. (It reminds me somewhat of what I’d expect a lot of Dragon Warrior songs to sound like if they were done by an orchestra.) Unlike most games, the music isn’t in-the-background, it’s quite foreground and to eliminate its initial distracting effect it must be turned off.
That’s not as much of a problem, though, as eventually it does a good job of setting the mood in the game.
The audio itself in this game when it comes to sound-effects, however, is quite shoddy. Everything does produce the sounds that I expect but compared to the epic swell of the background music, it feels like it was tacked on.
Freemium: Still uncertain, but WEBZEN does use cash shops
Really hard to tell at this point in the beta test. It appears that R2 Online will maintain a cash shop, but it doesn’t seem to be enabled yet. I tried to get it to open and play with it; but I couldn’t get it to operate on my machine.
Conclusion: East Asian fantasy 3D MMORPG clone ahoy!
There’s a vast oceanof East Asianfantasy MMORPGs on the market today and Webzen is throwing their own into the game here. Although, unlike games like Jade Dynasty and Scarlet Legacy, it doesn’t contain a kung-fu engine with jumping and instead runs with character classes that wield magic and swords and a long-winded transformation system.
With the transformation system and the strong-bent towards PvP in play, R2 Online will probably drive a strong community where people quickly join guilds and get to know one another. Loners get picked off quite quickly outside the city by other (stronger) players even while doing opening quests. Also, the constant events will drive people together and that will probably be the best part of this game.
The beautiful and vast environments promote a sense of wonder, especially how the PvP system evokes a sense that people are actually taking over sections of the landscape (we’ve seen this before in other MMOs.) The regions and castle siege event mode really gets interesting because the castles are actually there and can be visited. That part I really enjoyed when I wandered around the world.
It looks like during the beta it’s already got a lot of reasons to play the game, explore, and be part of events. Since I am certain that community will drive this game, it’s already off to an excellent start.