Sunday, March 16, 2014

March 2014 - XAOC REVIEW

Hello again my friends, random viewers, followers, and all other creatures! Welcome to my latest evolving review! Last time I checked out Japanese version of Phantasy Star Online 2 and it seems I can not escape Japan! This next review is straight out of Japan from the publisher USERJOY JAPAN. I present you X A O C, the mmorpg. I will give you my impressions here in the first 15 levels and rate the game based on this experience. Later, I will update the score as I progress in the game, with hopes to reach end game and offer a final over all score.
Without further wait, here is the review:

Small intro and installation guide: 
This will be the third "make it to end game" mmorpg, or evolving review I do, and this is my limit. I am currently running Phantasy Star and Ever Quest 2, which you can find by clicking on my profile. Adding this to the line up means I alternate weeks on playing each game to get a little farther. I found this game after I thought "I had a successfull install on PSO2 Japan, so what else are the Japanese playing that we are not, and am only blocked by the language barrier?" VoilĂ ! X A O C. Now, for all you in the know people out there, I have no idea if this is a manga, or a graphic novel, or an anime that currently exists and translated into a MMORPG, or if it was a project to launch both an anime and a MMORPG at the same time. So sorry if I make no reference to the anime/manga/etc.. This is a review based solely on one guy, logging in, and playing an mmorpg.

There are two playable versions:
Chinese (Taiwan): (parent publisher, I think they are first to get updates):
"How can we get in Nanbo?" - Here is an install guide, and believe me it is WAY easier than the PSO 2 guide I gave you. First of all, it is not in English, well it sort of is, some text is in English, but over all, unlike PSO2, you are installing and running the raw Jp version and not an English client. So here is the sign up page.
After you do all that, you are taken to a screen that has a CODE: box. If your google translate is turned off, it is basically asking you to go to your email you registered and verify the account by copy and pasting the code here. After that, you are IN! Easy! The hardest part is the CAPTCHA image. It took me over 10 tries to get it down. I suggest going here:
This will allow you to hunt down the images, type them in, then copy and paste them over to the game site. Good Luck!

Character Creation:
Again, have Google translate turned on and check out the class and race / family selection here: 
Now, once in game, you will find the selection of characters divided by family group or "gang" group if you will. There is a little photo to show your place of birth and a brief background story. Since I cannot read the langauge, I just looked at the photos, but you will notice the family names are in English. This is something that will be evident int he entire game/ Mix of English and Japanese. So you are slightly...very slightly, guided a bit. This also looks to be gender locked where you are picking "character's" of a specific story role. This also sort of locks the class by character role. For example, each character has about 4 out of 8 class choices. For example, Female X in Family X can be a healer, mage, druid, pole user. While female X in Family X can be warrior, rogue, hunter, fighter. While in another family, a male plays that role. So they change it up a bit and I was kind of stuck. I wanted to be a gun slinger that uses blades as a woman. But I only saw the first family male that had the gun slinger skills. Knowing that was not the case, I gave up finding the other female gun slinger, because I did not like the look of the other females in the other families, but I settled for a beautiful dual wielding katana swinging chick (Family Galasu, that also seemed to have a more "elf" nature like birthplace). 
Did I say beautiful? Yes! Because this game has beautiful character models! They are exceptionally 3D, and the color palette used for this game is GENIUS! I love the color choice! It makes for a very dark, deep, rich, yet colorful enough world that seems torn right out of a manga/anime! In general, most "anime" mmorpgs have the over bright color pallets, cutsie wootsie models, and just over all simplistic design. No matter what anime title I play, as a 30+ year old gamer, I always feel "pedo bear" in these games, like I broke into some 12 year old's dream land and I just can not take 99% of the anime games seriously. That said, there is always a little "anime touch" in most newer games. Blade and Soul, Phantasy Star, etc.. they have violent adult themes, and give that sort of "round face and eyes" look on a very 3D rendered body. And this is ok by me. I can handle adult looking anime style over child like avatars running around. 
That said, this game SHINES! It is very evident in the character creation that this game put allot of effort to stand out. And I do not know any game that looks like this! Character creation is a bit standard. No slider bars. Just simple buttons you press over and over to cycle through the styles. Check out the image below, the buttons are in English. It is as easy as that, just press the buttons and stop at the choice you like. There were only about 5 face choices, and 12 hair pieces. It is a little limited, but there was just enough to satisfy. And what they offer is very cool looking, so I was pleased with my choices. It is just a little let down there was not more to it. But for an "anime" game, there was more than enough.

Game play:
 This game starts off with cutscenes and animations and is very well presented. And before I continue any further, I have to say, this game is HEAVILY story driven. Which is sad, because to get the most out of it, we have to understand the language. Since I do not, I was just sitting there watching these cool cut scenes, and action scenes and making up my own story. However, the way the things were unfolding visually, I was pretty much filling in the holes with standard mmorpg lore, and it did not seem so "strange" after all. There was a woman in distress, a strong man to save her. A monster threatening the troops. My "support" to a general fighting off enemies. Some crazy tribe doing something. I was starting to think to myself, "if I can understand most of what is going on, and just by images, I can bet that this story probably is not as deep and of generic stock." So, do not feel bad if you cannot read it. It will play out VERY understandable. There are, of course, some details I was totaly lost on and would really like to know. There were momments: "Who is that priest with a dead pig hanging on his wall with followers that have skewers sticking out of their cheeks?" "Who is that little girl that has god like level offering me dungeon runs?" "Wtf is really going on now!" Hahaha! It has some very serious and dark moments, and I really wished I knew what was being said. But over all, I had the general theme down. "Me and my family and army in a town being attacked. Support the family and fight off bad guys in noob quests in the village". After all that was settled the tutorial was over, and the game started (with more cut scenes, opening credits, etc..). I then found myself in the open world starting village.
If this is your first mmorpg and you do not speak the game clients language, do not play this. If you are VERY familiar with mmorp UI, and how games work, play it! I say that because everything that I did not know, I just followed my MMORPG intuition to discover it. For example, I found out that death creates armor break down, and to repair it, I go to the shop (shown by bag icon) and there is a little hammer icon at the top to repair your armor. I navigated the option menus like a boss, and set my video settings, skills, stats, etc like a boss! IF you are not familiar with skill trees and opening and reading numbers on them, you will be lost. It took allot of button pressing and random results to figure things out. In fact, I accidentally missed the end of the starting story by accidentally hearthing out to the main village prematurely. I had noob gift items I could not read, so I looked at the little numbers: "100HP" was obviously an HP scroll. Other items I had NO IDEA, and just clicked them. I will learn some first player items are bag extensions. by level 5 I had unlocked ALL my inventory slots that were locked! Woohoo! I even increased my bank size and had other nice items! Again, sharp eye, mmorpg background and trial and error in the first 5 levels, and then you are off playing like a pro!
Movement, you have 2 choices. Classic mmorpg movement with mouse right click to hold and turn screen, or Camera targeting (TERA like) where you move by moving the mouse around and ALT pops up the mouse cursor. The game is very "ACTION" non target combat based. It would probably feel great with a controller. You hold SHIFT to charge, double jump, glide, run roll slash, and you have all kinds of attacks around the WASD movement. "G" slashes (same as left click) "R" does a power move, and if held, does a charge and big damage slash. "V" changes weapons. IF you played Phantasy Staro Online, you will see these Japanese games love to over load you with weapons. I have 4 weapon loud outs. Daggers, katanas, dual swords, and large sword. You get them all in the start tutorial, but once in the actual game you only start off with your main class set, so I had only dual swords. But V or pressing on the icon, will change out my weapon loads when I need them. There are a few other movement options but one things I found was that the game was super mooth and I enjoyed the movement and combat.
  The UI is VERY simple. Character menu with equipment slots and stats to look at. Skills, there are no skill trees, but a skill list, and you buy skills with gold to learn. And that is about it. Not to deep, so more emphasis on your combat and story then digging through menu's. I am not sure if there is crafting. I saw no menu's and the only gathering item seemed to be tea leaves. The only other activity outside of questing was making tea (from tea leaves that drop from mobs) and hanging out in the bath houses. Both are pretty damn cool and graphically pleasing.
As serious and dark tone this game may have, the "anime" side is not very far off. The eccentric NPC's we meet, the little story animations, etc.. One such point was my temporary mount. A little pig with seat, box, little items and scrolls hanging all over. This game goes all out in details, and there can be found humorist touches! I love the richness in this. 
All is not fireworks and sensation though. Once in the open world starting out in the game, you will experience very stale quest lay out. The world is rich and nice to run around in, but the first 15 quests only test your ability to jump (have to jump on a ledge to get an item), and to fight. I have seen the intro to Blade and Soul, and you are tested to leap off giant ledges, gliding your way down to success. In this game, we have glide, but no level design compliments this. It is very "point A to point B" on flat land, with a few stairs and ledges. Nothing really pushing me to explore and feel out my character. This could change later on. One thing about Japanese games is they like to build you up...and up...and up, then when you are gleaming with weapons, new looks, and abilities, they let you loose in the content filled maps. So, perhaps the map and enemy diversification will be unlocked as soon a s I push out of this starter village. But as for now, I was kind of sad I did not have "glide from this place to that" as I do a story thing. Or use my beam running skills to hop from roof to roof. 

The quests start off one by one. I got stuck on one level 3 quest because I did not understand what to do. Soon, I got it down, and pushed off. Another quest I did not understand, either. There is no auto quest or map ping of where to go. But instead, if you have the quest "followed" and listed on the right hand side, there is a little arrow with the distance. And if you line up your arrow in the mini map with the arrow of the quest, you will head in the general direction of where the quest is supposed to be done. Once I got to a new place I was not sure what to do. I just saw 0/3...the rest in japanese. So, I started farming the mobs. After 1 hour of farming...Still "0/3"...Then I tried using a OCR program, that translates text if I hover the mouse over words. I then got an idea of what to do. I press "Q" over dead enemies and a little prayer meter appears, once prayed over, a little soul balls enters you...And I completed the quest and learned a new game feature...but I have no idea what the spirit ball actually gives me...eheheh! The Japanese translation in English: "A confrontation gambeling gang to success enter in nirvana or after death". So I though I was supposed to die to collect 3 of something. I killed myself (upon death you can respawn at death temple, or return to corpse as a floating lantern). I floated back, found nothing, and just respawned...I was lost...then I saw "Q" yeah...I think the Chinese version might be more easier to translate using OCR programs. But that is just one little hang up. The rest of the quest were very smooth and I am having fun. Again, VERY story driven. 
One thing I like, every armor and weapon piece has it's own graphical look. At level 15 I have a new weapon set, shirt, and arms piece. Very cool looking and I imagine will only get better.

This games combat is pretty solid. Action non targeting combat. It can have a but of a "floaty" feel. Not as bad as Guild Wars 2, but not as good as TERA. Somewhere in between. First mobs so far die easy, and mini bosses I find drop fairly fast. One thing I did not like was that the dodge system is basically useless so far. Dodging was not at all effective, and just standing there attacking saves time. Well...I actually do like this in mob fighitng, but not boss fights. For example, TERA tires me out, when I have to DODGE every single enemy to avoid a stun or negative effect. Sometimes I did not want EVERY fight to be "epic". I mean, come on, dodging "rat" when you need 10 of them gets tiring and burns fingers out fast. But TERA has awesome boss BAM and boss encounters where dodging gives life to combat. XAOC sort of balances this. So far, just attacking is fine...but I know my Japanese games now thanks to PSO2, and I can rpedict later on, things will get hard, boss battles will be epic, and life will depend on the dodge...we will see in the next reviews.
  You have an energy bar that drains when running, or using charged attacks. it refill's generally fast, it is just there to stop abuse of power moves. Your HP refils slower, and only when you run out of battle. One of my first skills is heal. That helped to get things moving faster. Again, all and all, most enemies did not really pose that much danger. And it is fun slapping a group of 5 and just cutting them all down.
Until I start getting more weapons attached to my body, I just have standard attacks so far. My next review I hope to have at least some new skills, and weapons to show off. 
Graphics and Sound: 
This game had screenshot issues. It would save sometimes, not all the time I pressed the button. I also had a hard time saving the screens I Took in game. This game is beautiful and I suggest looking at some videos online. MY screenshots are not justice. But at least you see what this game is offering! A very rich and unique looking world.
The sounds were fine. Allot of voice scripting, battle cries and shouts, and cute little sounds as I stood next to the pet shop vendor, ehehe! My only complaint is the general music would sometimes clash with the completion music. There is this sort of tune that plays after accepting a quest or turning something in or completing something...that would play a little to long and bleed onto the general music plain. It was bad enough for me to stop and ask myself "wtf is that noise? Is the music broke?" 
  The loading files, game files, and several in game files are all in English. This pisses me off because I know this can easily be an English game and greedy contracts negotiations are the only thing keeping the global version being released! Grrrr. 
I had fun! The game is rich in looks, has rewarding combat, smooth UI, easy to pick up and go systems. I feel like I have this game down despite that fact I know not a single word that is written. I enjoy the adult themes, including blood, sacrifices, and other strange cultural references.
 On the other hand, I also have a feeling the story might not be THAT deep. The over all presentation could have been a little better. Starting off in a tutorial that did nothing but show off it's graphics and help noobs move was nice, but once in the real game world, the first 15 levels consisted of talking, killing X, escorting, gathering items, and other very very typical mmorpg elements. I would have prefered somethign JUST a little more dynamic, like I have seen in Blade and Soul. Something to get my glide out, something other than point A and B with mobs all over. But that could all change, and I already hit a very interesting part of the game (first dungeon invitation). So we will see! As of now, I give this game a 3/5. Beautiful standard game play with a few perks. 
  Check me out next review levels 16-30. Will the game raise in score? Fall? Or remain the same? See you there! 

No comments: