Thursday, April 3, 2014

April 3 2014 - XAOC Online review levels 15-20

Hello everyone and welcome to the next installment of the X.A.O.C. evolving review. Those not familiar with this kind of review: I take a game, try to get as far as end game as possible (or burn out) and change the score each tier level. Last time I did a review of levels 1 - 15 experience and gave X.A.O.C. online a 3/5. The new player experience was very standard fare. So standard I did not understand a single word of Japanese but was able to navigate through the entire game without problem by guessing what all the standard buttons, gifts, and menu's do. 
I have matured a bit. Level 20 now and some more map explored. So that leaves the question, will this game get a better score? become worse? or stay the same? Read on to find out!

Here are my notes in chronological order:

Voice acting cut out in my dungeon run. - Last I left off in the game was at level 15 and I had just discovered my first "dungeon" experience. This operate very interestingly. The are more of an instanced story based mission as opposed to a cave in the side of a mountain with a boss in it. The dungeon was brought to me by talking to an NPC next to a mystical statue who teleports me to "another conscious" a sort of instanced in place gathering place for "dungeon groups". I say "in place" because we are in the SAME place, before accepting his teleport and watching the loading screen. However, once loaded two things are different, the color of the sky is a little darker, and there is now a creepy little girl demon/god NPC.
This instanced area is not "private" as I will see a few other players zone in and out. Once you talk to the child thing, she offers a list of "episode dungeons". You can enter or create a LFG in the LFG tool she offers. Or you can go it alone solo. Again, I learned all this without understanding a single word of Japanese and just logically taking in the presentation and pressing buttons. Once I selected the first "dungeon" from the graphical list, I was taken to an introduction story then placed in the map. So as you can see, this game sticks to it's very story powered progression. Sadly, as I mention in my first review, this leaves me sad since I do not speak the language. On the other hand, as I mentioned again, just by watching, I think I know what is going on and that leaves me wondering: "Ok, if just looking at this and getting a general idea, I can almost bet you the story, once translated, is probably NOT all that interesting but typical bad guy vs good guy". But I regress, because some times the story takes odd turns and strange bosses end up being your friends etc...

From what I gather: You are beings in a sort of middle world. Neither dead nor alive and you help those that die not be trapped in the middle land...I think. I say this because random ghost children and crying ghosts seem to be wondering. Demons appear and take away some people. And I pray for good spirits to part their way. There is allot of spiritual and religious themes in this game. I do not know how much actually reflect traditional Chinese religious, but made up or real, this game offers a very unique angle to mmorpgs. Temples to worship. Praying over dead enemies to get points as their souls leave, and other things like this tie in with the story of the game, and mob and NPC design. So...that is what I would hope to learn more of by fully understanding this game.

That said, I can see why this game could be delayed coming to US. To many sensitive people will cry "It is to mature". There are NPC's that have skewers in the mouth (a religious practice), strange sacrifices including dead hogs, and human corpses attached to odd demon animals...yeahhhh...
Back to the dungeons! So I said the story driven themes are great! But once inside, it is the smae lay out as that dungeon that is a cave in the side of a mountain...very linear and so far very predictable. One thing I did not like as I started doing more and more... the voice scripting cut out! This game was rewarded with "Japanese top singer does voice song for this game" and other top quality notes to get people in. And yeah, that was cool for the first few dungeons but later on it just STOPS! Sad.

Allot of cheap pantie shots - Oh gosh...I feel odd saying this: There is an elegent way to do pantie shots in games/ anime / manga...and then there is just a "do it because we can" way. This game sort of balances the fine line and often allot of cut scenes shamelessly just zip the camera right between the legs of our NPC friends. Very in your face: "they just doing that because they can" moments. In fact, sometimes I was dragged into the story and what was happening then suddenly, oh god, getting close, what? PANTIES!!! Woooo! LOL.

Dungeon experience typical. Again, allot of story intor and outtro. Nothing to exceptional. Very linear like the world map so far. The boss fights are not spectacular. Dodging does nothing and one my third dungeon, I learned I can just stand there and tank and dodge by glitching the damage by spamming a special move. -

Back to the dungeon (after that little panties raid break). Yeah, levels 15+ got me hanging out in the dungeons probably longer than most people would. I wanted to test each one and see what it was all about. One thing I noticed on these lower tier dungeons is that they are very linear with not allot of dynamic things to do. Sometimes a broken bridge to jump boss here n there. Kill all mobs to unlock next door. Things like that. Otherwise just hall way to hallway to next big room. This is a reflection of the world map so far...more on that later.

The boss fights are a bore. This is an open action combat game and it suffers like all open action games do: Bad hit boxes. I have never played a full open action combat game that get their hit boxes down. TERA was the closest to perfect, but had a few issues (thankfully mostly in the players favor)... For example, boss is about to swing! I dodge slide to the right out of range, and I still take damage! It works both ways, sometimes I swing my swords a mile away and the boss takes damage... The boss attacks are typical, "I am winding up for a big hit! Better DODGE!"... In this game the hot box + scale design is kind of off in boss fights. The monster is so big that 1 full slide can not really clear the way. And if I run it just drags out the fight...So I just stood there spamming potions and tanking. Some fights I actually took more damage dodging and running, then just standing there and avoiding the hit box by spamming a special move at the right time...To sum it up. Broken excuse for open action boss fight. Kind of a let down. The good part is, the bosses are cool looking. And again, they are apart of a bigger story told before and after the dungeon. This is where you are divided, the actual fight and interaction sucks, but the story is good so do I feel bad or good about this??? Also, all is soloable right now and I enjoyed that because NO PLAYERS are doing low level content on JP version.

Later on, I will have reahed the final episode boss fight for this noob part of the map, and after I beat the two bosses, the game bugs and the bosses just stand there...Alive but dead... and the game does not go anywhere.... I can whack at them for infinity and the quest will not progress. There is nothing int the room to do and I had to quit the client and relog to get back in. Was a huge let down.

Speaking of glitches, mobs that get pushed or run into walls is common and feels buggy. - I noticed this early in the PVE parts of the game. Allot of NPCS with their legs half buried. Mobs that walk in and out of edge of walls etc... but it really is noticeable in the dungeons. One dungeon for my levels was really annoying as there are these troll like mobs and one jumps and hops away in hopes you agro the next mob. As he does so, he can easily just hop right into the walls disappearing off map and target. Thakfully I personally have not been stuck any where but it is very frustrating to have your mobs go into the walls.

New kinds of dungeon? - I was questing when I came across an NPC beside the "cave in the side of mountain" looking swirly portal. Obviously she had quests to go in and I took it. Once inside, I noticed the mobs actually a little harder than the "episode dungeon" mobs yet this instance was very small, literally only one room size. Again, I could not read anything, but by the nature of what I was doing, I had to gather plants, kill X number of mobs and do other little things. It even had a rest area like the PVE stuff so I am assuming this is more like an instanved PvE dungeon thing, and again, all on the back of the story of this certain NPC. SO there you have it, 2 kinds of instanced challenging scenarios that are like Dungeons, this one did not have a boss though, so that is different, but the reward loot was good and farming these mobs can give you some nice EXP, although you do not need to farm so far. Levels 1 - 20 all exp comes from questing in large amounts, although, since combat consists of grouping up enemies and chopping em down... Sometimes I grind out a level or two in mob farming if I find a good spot.

SP or magic points are created by dividing health by another factor I believe. One of the most bizzare and often gimped
magic systems. - This is where know what the text says comes into play. Sadly, I can not read all the technical text. I use an OCR program to recognize words and that helps me in general, but it can take time and sometimes I am still lost. Basically, I started off with obvious HP bar, an SP bar that is "energy" for things like charged moves, running, and sliding. Normal. I killed so effectively that is all I cared about levels 1-15, but now as I push on into the 20's, I have allot more spells as I purchase spells and move along the skill tree. They are now eating my "mana". How this mana is regenerated is a mystery to me. To make matters worse, there is no recharge rate really, so you basically have to rely on potions, and meals, and other consumable goods. Regeneration works odd. Sometimes it just will not kic in durring a fight. SOmetimes it does... Sometimes it takes a few minutes. Some times it does not... There is no "sit" function so I am not sure what is the best way to regen. Just yesterday I accidently held down "E" button and I seemed to have been doing this weird charge thing and I swore I saw my mana go up. So, next review, I will verify all these systems a little more. But all in all... I am not a fan of the amount of consumables there are (making you HAVE to get into a profession to make more or cash shop the OP ones). It is not a problem now, but I can see the abuse mechanics in place. 

That said, I also got into upgrading a little bit. It reminds me of Dragons Nest a bit. You can modify some things on the fly by opening the tool kit, placing item, adding the items and watching the stats go up. It can fail and give you that same Dragon Nest sound of "clunk" metal failing. Thankfully, I did not lose my item (like in DN). There are NPC vendors that have other options as well. All and all I was lost! This is where I HAVE to know what is being said because just looking and pressing buttons might not work here. This is mostly due to the tools. They are not workbenches or other things to identify easily, they are these weird looking metallic alien object things you put your armor in and good luck! I learned one gives + stats to items...but there are at least 4 other machines to tweak your armor in...I tell you what. I will collect trash loot and spend my cash in the system to see what they do and update in an article on how all these things work! 

That said, I did scratch the surface of jobs. The crafting etc. exists, and I cam across it by accident by an NPC. By the way, you probably will not even notice this in the first few major towns. It was not until later in the town that gives level 15 and 19 quests (sorry, no idea the name of the town, but it is the 4th town you will discover on the map to the north...Assuming we all start in the same place...which we probably do not, but I am sure this is probably the same for all races....later town will have crafting available if not right away). It seemed straight forward but typically gets pricy.

Economy is starting to take it's sting on me. Buying skills is getting expensive. I fluctuate between 4 and 7 gold every 2 levels of questing and dungeon run. Then I drop down to near nothing after skill purchase and upgrades! I could not afford to buy all crafting skills (1 gold each) as I only had 4 gold when I met this NPC. Pay attention to gold levels. You do not need to know Japanese to speak money. The prices are very clear. All of this, the crafting, slotting, modifying, etc. Seems very acceptable and rich enough for the F2Per. However, it is very obvious the little menu to "add guaranteed success" item to the process. Every aspect, no matter what you are doing seems to have this. Leaving this game a very nickle and dime to success. I would love to see the success rates. I can guarantee they are more than likely abused. The big question is, is this only effecting end game pvp? pve? Dungeons? Or nothing all but just fluff damage to make things "easier"?

Cash shops gifts as I level are great! I have so much inventory space! - They are generous! Every level and log in day gives rewards. Either potions, foods, and most importantly, STORAGE SPACE! I have so much space so far it is great! On the other hand, you do get items at a fast rate so it gets packed QUICKLY! But never fear, space and bank sotrage space so far is never a problem! 

Mounts are a nice touch! I had a cool pig mount that expired recently, but then got a nice wold mount. I hope it is permanent mount!

The game has huge fluff factor. The illusion od speed using the camera angles etc..IS not at all that impressive on the mini map. Leaving mounts and tpical mmorpg boosts the best option to go for. I am divided on how I feel about that. This game really is betting on you staying and enjoying it through looks, not necessarily gameplay. But then again, the game play is just engaging enough to keep interest. IT has allot of elements of other games. The linear hallways and run back and forth techniques are nothing new. However the environment and the story are very interesting. Again, since I understand nothing, it could be a very UNINSTERESTING story.- This sort of wraps up my level 20 experience. I like what I am doing and seeing, but there is this very theme park shallow water ride. Where everything above the boat is an illusion to make you think the boat is in a giant ocean. When the fact is, the boat is in 2 feet of water on a rail... The speed of combat fast and you can cut through mobs like butter. But it is not really speeding up the leveling or combat any faster than any other mmorpg I am playing. That said I just now equipped 3 different weapons, and can switch on the go and build in new skills, so will this combat evolve to epic levels later on? These are the little hooks that keep me going.

The illusion of speed is sneaky. You can run, and it creates this blurry effect, and yeah it looks fast, but if you look at the mini map, you are not really covering to much land to quickly. The mounts are by far the fastest way to travel. After mounts and running, the walk speed is HORRIBLE! Sometimes I park and go AFK just to wait for SP to get back up so I can run the next length of the map instead of walk it. It is just to torcherous now. At first I did not notice, but once spoiled, I NEED a mount...oh god, and if the mounts are temporary...and perms in the cash shop?? nooooo!!! The F2P hook!  But I regress, I need to find out if there is a mount vendor and if my wolf gift is perm. But yeah, I have seen enough hentai errrr F2P to know where this is going...screwed! 

I have also explored bathing, cooking tea, and pets... let me back up. Bathing consists of finding hot tubs located around the map. They are unique and offer a cool little "side game" to the game...until the point it almost becomes necessary. They give a fun social aspect (if I was not forever alone) and of course...Boosts! Resting in one will give SP boosts and other boosts. Buying little items from the hot tob vendor boosts your stats as well. I was given a cash shop item that gave me boosts if I used a certain towel while bating. Again, a menu opens up and slots everywhere to accommodate my hot tub experience...
Cooking tea! On the go anywhere on the map you can stop, and click on a tea pot. There are several kinds of tea pots of all kinds of quality and looks. You start a fire and sit down to enjoy brewing tea. You pick and collect tea leaves around the map. Combine tea leaves with other stuff. Torch the pot, measure the temperature, measure the cool down, time the pour, mix, drink, test, your cups are rated and you get rewards and achievements for making fine tea...and of items to eat that create buffs. What does this mean? More cash items, more in game gold to spend on things and lots more menus to slot things to accommodate my tea cooking experience...

Pets! I got a baby duck thing! I have no idea what all the features do as it is big mish mash of menus and epxlinations! I sort of got the hang of some features. I think it helps loot, possibly attack, it levels up using these point thingys, it can run and do dungeon runs returning with crafting items I THINK (like star trek duty officers)... I think that is what is happening. One thing is for sure! Feeding it! and more slots in menus to accommodate my pet experience...
Again, I have no idea at what lengths these are abused or Pay to win in the cash shop. Mostly because I can not read. But I will tell you for sure when my gaming experience becomes difficult because I do not have "+ 99" on an item. It could or could not arrive. Time will tell!

And now it is time for the conclusion and score of level 15 - 20 experience:
This is actually very hard to determine. I am loving my general experience based on the unique look of the game. The combat is nice and rewarding and wielding sexy weapons on my sexy body is a pleasure to look at and take screen shots of...but the combat itself is not fluid. It is rather rigid, clunky, and sometimes glitchy. 
The map is linear and I am progressing very linear and interior of dungeons are boring lay outs. That said, the game is beautiful to look at and each place is a thrill to explore. Good god it feels good to break the "forest - desert - plains" of all the mmorpgs. XAOC has cool urban areas, rich cultural themes, and plays big on the fantasy scheme as well through it's unique lore of demons and phantoms. The story is rich and there are more than enough cut scenes to keep your eyes peeled on. I can jump and glide, but feels odd when you are crammed down corridors and alley ways. Some times you figh ton roof tops, but when it is obvious. Trying to hop to out of range mountain tops is a no no, and running off getting lost will never happen. 

As I progress in stats and points, I also am feeling the cash squeeze in game gold. I have to play smart. Farming wields great wealth and is generally a fast experience. How this will actually play out later on is key. It can get worse, abused, or better and enriching or just keep us responsible shoppers. I am not a fan of all the mini menus to add little items and manage all the little consumable bottles, icons, foods, clicky items.
Crafting is opening up and there seems to be a little of something for everyone here. As of now, the game holds it's score of 3/5. A very decent standard MMORPG with it's weaknesses and strengths. It's strengths are seducing and appealing. It's weaknesses have me exceptionally worried for future levels. See you next review levels 20-25 (or 30 depending on the speed of leveling) where I will try and get more into PvP as well.

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