A man can’t live of coding alone, sometimes I go out of my way to sign up for MMO betas that I never play too.
But this is a special occasion because Phantasy Star was one of my favourite RPGs, and then Phantasy star online was my very first approach to MMOs, so when I heard that PSO2 was coming, I could not stop myself from finding a spot in the japanese open beta.
After a few downloads and tutorials, I finally got it running (Yeah, my non-existent japanese skills are rusty) and I thought I’d share my from my first few hours with the game. First of, it seems that Phantasy Star Online has remained vital in Japan, since most of the presentation is almost directly translated from the dreamcast games. Songs, armors, enemies all strongly tie back to the original. The game/mission structure is also similar: You receive a mission in the HUB world/Spaceship, ensemble a party and depart to an instance of the game. So the only “real” Massive multiplayer online section of the game is in the HUB.
This system works well given the small and modular nature of the level maps (normally just a string of small connected rooms). But considering its over 10 years since the original game, at least for the beginning section the game world feels linear and confined. Where PSO was way ahead of its time as an action MMORPG, PSO2 feels nostalgic and almost stuck in last decade.
However There are a few notable evolutions:
- The game will be free to play and implement microtransactions (microtransactions are from the future).
- The character editor has huge flexibility (although only limited to a few particular anatomical aesthetical decisions), but if breast size just wasnt enough for you and all you ever wanted was to adjust exactly the positioning of your character’s nipples, you’re covered.
- There’s jumping and dashing and all the acrobatics we’ve come to expect from action games. All the character also have “stances” depending on the equipped weapons, so they can have (and learn) main attacks and separate sub weapon attacks, and combine them. Increasing the gameplay variety quite a bit.
One unexpected aspect is that if you are doing a group quest alone, you might automatically get teamed with someone doing the same quest, and they will appear on your map, minding their own business, and may (but more often not) help you complete your assignments.
For purists Robot Races can now be casters too (mages) which they couldn’t in previous titles. so the race decision seems to be purely aesthetic. And a lot of the visual customisation comes down to cosmetic microtransaction items.
Happily, the awesome tamagotchi/pet /armor/weapons MAGs, are back. These are floating / evolving orbs that every player has, and must feed items to help evolve so that they can give you various benefits. If it’s anything like the last game, further on, they become your most vital piece of equipment.
You also have your very own room that you can decorate and invite friends, which also comes back from the first game.
Technically the game looks like a great step ahead, It’s sharp and colourful, and most graphics and systems seem in par to modern mmo standards (although environments look less polished and the game refuses to run in any resolution higher than 1080p). The art style falls heavily in anime conventions, so if you are not a big fan of that, you should probably avoid it. All in all it’s not a dazzler, but has some defined personality, and it manages to add a lot of player communication options manages to mix in a decent dose of nostalgia to the new elements to the game.
There is a surprising amount of voice acting and exposition for an MMO, and although I couldn’t understand most of it, the story seems to be somewhat connected to the story of PSO, but set in a different Planetary system (so, no Ragol). However, the basic premise is basicall the same: a colony ship investigating a foreign star system, sending expeditions to explore the dangers of the surface.
I have high hopes for the game as FUN, even if my actual expectations are only modest (this is not a wow killer, nor is it trying to be). Apparently it will be coming to the western world early 2013, on pc and supposedly PS vita, but we will keep you posted on the further developments.