We’re past the dawn of the MMORPG clones. After World of Warcraft‘s continued success many a moon ago, we saw years of MMORPGs with the same exact UI setup, the same quest setup, the same question marks above NPC heads, the same endgame setup, the same silly currencies to grind for, the same cute fluffy pets, and well– you get the idea. The same everything practically, but with a new graphical skin and sometimes– just sometimes– a different story.
Heck, we still see games mimic WoW almost entirely. The trend isn’t completely dead. Well, when game developers aren’t creating the latest and greatest MOBA that hopes to replicate the success of League of Legends, anyways. The current dawn is pretty MOBA-flavored.
But back to MMORPGs. The problem, you see, is that both gamers and developers are starting to wise up to the tactic of “copy all the things but with shiny colors!” Gamers are starting to specifically look for games in development that aren’t like other games they’ve played. Developers are starting to– slowly but surely– create games that take small, creative risks that set them apart from what’s been made before.
One of the best current examples is WildStar. Sure, there’s no arguing that Carbine followed a ton of the same footsteps Blizzard and other developers have planted firmly in the sand years ago. WildStar is full of familiar in a shiny setting: Loaded quest hubs, old school raids, dailies, currencies, reputations, endgame dungeons, a group finder tool, nodes to harvest, trinity roles, addons, optional damage meters, an obsession with the word “cupcake”… No, wait. That one’s new. Still. Many of the reviews about WildStar come back with the line, “It’s WoW in space!” Yeah, it definitely can appear as though it is. But it’s also more.
It’s the Small Steps, Cupcake
The main story framework of WildStar takes a break from the norm. Instead of having a huge, overwhelming story unraveled within the first 20 levels, we start out in WildStar with the feeling of “oh, cool new planet!” then eventually find out about the big, deep story stuff as we near endgame. This gives us time to learn more about the planet and its people. We start off as heroes, sure, but we don’t start off as heroes who know exactly how their story is going to unfold. It’s not quite as obviously epic as SWTOR, for example, and in my book– that’s a risk. And a plus.
Raids in WildStar also aren’t a huge source of lore and endgame story. In WoW‘s current model, it’s hard to even get a sense of what’s going on in Mists of Pandaria without stepping foot in LFR. That’s partially why LFR was created, of course, but there’s always going to be a significant fraction of an MMORPG’s community that isn’t interested in raiding. Carbine remembered that and added in the solo story-based instances which is where the main story of the game takes place. This makes a whole lot of sense– even for a raid-centered game. RIFT‘s chronicle feature also does this excellently.
The odd quirky factor that makes up much of WildStar‘s general atmosphere is also a sort of risk. It’s fairly standard to have fantasy and sci-fi MMORPGs be a little “srs business”, especially during a game’s infancy. There’s a fine line between quirky and just plain ridiculous. Blizzard often rides this line precariously with many of their poop quests and pop culture references, but WildStar finds a better balance here.
WildStar is uniquely quirky. Chua are uniquely adorable and psychotic. The random insults from the graveyard-shift-working dude are odd, but uniquely WildStar odd. The game’s best (and most controversial) quirks aren’t found in other games. Even the goofy enemy art style and the character animations are uniquely WildStar. This isn’t a game that people won’t recognize in 10 years. There’s a reason many fans associate WildStar with Firefly. It’s odd, but it’s also unique. And what does that equate to? Yep. Risk. Not everyone loves WildStar‘s style, and that’s totally okay.
The game’s taken a few smaller risks, too. The attempt to make dungeons and adventures a little more competition/RNG-based was definitely a risk. It hasn’t paid off as well as the developers had hoped, I’m sure, but in theory it was a solid risk to embark upon. Changing the RNG factors as rapidly as they have post-launch was probably not the best idea on Carbine’s part, but the game’s young. The team’s decision-making process will ideally improve with time (along with their bug-nuking methods one would hope).
WildStar‘s lengthy attunement process was definitely a risk, but one well worth taking. It’s essentially proof that yes, there are still gamers who enjoy such chains. There isn’t always a need to make everything super accessible. Niche is okay. Niche can still encourage profit. If there’s any message this should send to developers it should be the idea that not every game has to aim to be the biggest MMORPG on the block. A game can still attract a good-sized fanbase and make a decent profit without being The Best MMORPG Ever™. Gaming’s pretty popular now. Give up the Blizzard dream, guys. We’ll still love you.
Why Games Need that Risk Factor
The core issue with games that mimic World of Warcraft and similar titles is the fact that copying, pasting, and re-skinning is safe. “Folks like WoW, right? If we repeat that formula we’ll have something awesome.” That’s the hope anyways. The problem with repetition is there’s no risk factor. There’s no “what if?”. What if things could be better? What if we could actually enjoy a well-populated game that didn’t feel as though we’d been there 12 times already? Of course it’s a risk. A completely new game with new mechanics, a new leveling system, and a new endgame is a huge risk. Players could leave in droves. But players could also fall in love.
As gamers get more and more complacent with things as they are, we hunger for risk. We desire change. This is part of the reason why indie games are starting to do rather well and why Kickstarter projects like Star Citizen are seriously taking off. Want something completely risky? Yeah, gotta go to the little guys for that. But here’s the kicker– if what the little guys are doing succeeds, then they’re suddenly able to compete with the big guys. That’s the power of risk.
We’re at a dawn where developers have access to communication tools like never before. They can reach out to fans, receive feedback, and even have talented fans help out with designing new content (Trove, I’m looking at you). It seriously shouldn’t just be the smaller studios and indie games pulling risks. Risks cost money. But if handled well– with receptive fan feedback– they just might be worthwhile.
And that’s why WildStar‘s efforts should be applauded. That’s why ESO‘s focus on a truly open-ended class system (although it does have its obvious balance issues) needs to be applauded. That’s why even World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor‘s focus on garrisons ought to be applauded. No, garrisons aren’t housing, but they are something new entirely– something more akin to an RTS feature. I’d love to see housing in WoW as much as the next person, but something new, unique, kind of risky? I’ll take it.
Risk doesn’t always need to come in huge hurdles. Sometimes small, risky movements can prompt larger changes. Sometimes the combining of features can spur new ideas. This is the benefit of risk, after all. While I’d love to see more game developers taking large risks with MMORPGs that make them a little more niche and thoroughly more innovative, I’m also okay with this notion of teeny risks that can add up to new features over time. We’re finally nearing a dawn of creativity of sorts. It’s about time.
Thanks to Steam, you can currently save 66% off founders packs and upgrades for Landmark, SOE’s upcoming sandbox game. As someone who’s played the alpha for… maybe weeks more than any other alpha I’ve played in the past few years, the game is certainly not finished by a long shot, but the current building is awesome, especially for anyone who loved the idea of Minecraft but not the graphics. I don’t usually recommend alphas, but for me, this has been a building game I’ve had fun with, and I’ve done more gathering/exploring than any building! Sale ends July 29, 10am PDT, so if you haven’t bought it yet, you need to make a decision quickly!
This dynamic voxel MMO has evolved through the roof since I first jumped into Alpha way back at Christmas time. I was a little reserved then, not having been drawn to any voxel game beforehand. I thought maybe I was taking my love for Trion games a little too far. I have been blown away more times than I can count ever since then– not only thanks to the Trion team but especially because of the friendly Trove community.
Quickly following the beginning months of testing, open world cornerstones (previewed below) were implemented, then dungeon making took effect along with homeworlds and now clubs.
Building is only a fraction of your adventure in Trove, setting it apart from any other similar games. The game offers three class choices so far with more to come including Knight (feature image), Gunslinger, and Faetrickster (previewed above).
Adventuring out in the world, killing bosses in dungeons, and trading among other players is how you gather weapons. Man, there so many to choose from, but if you want to build or decorate to your imagination’s content you’ll also be killing mobs, mining ore, and breaking down the earth and all its structures for parts. After that you’ll be hunting recipe lairs and smashing pinatas to get recipes in order to use all of your materials.
Crafting in Trove is so engaging. Additional ways to get items to soothe your creative genius multiply every hotfix along with weapon choices. We’ll go into more detail in separate articles including community creations, biomes, block textures, fun parts, mounts, crafting tools, and shadow arena. Plus most importantly– Corgis (Yes, this character has on a corgi mask)! Trove not only has a Corgi mount but also Corgi guns. I’m totally going to go hunt for those in the next few days!
Oh, one parting note. I should mention lava. There will be lava and dragons… so many dragons!
It seems as though there is always fervor on the internet, and most recently this has been surrounding Marvel’s recent announcement of the changes in their Avenger’s lineup. Comic book fanboys (and those who appreciate the Marvel cinematic universe) were surprised to hear that the company had made significant changes in two of their titles—Thor and Captain America.
You may have heard the complaints that Marvel’s made Thor into a girl and Captain America is now African-American—but these complaints aren’t entirely accurate, so let’s clear that up before we move on. Marvel hasn’t decided to re-write these characters (as, say, DC did when they decided to give Amanda Waller more sex appeal). It’s just that Thor and Steve Rogers are being replaced by other characters, who will carry on their mantels. Thor has become unworthy to wield Mjolnir, so he is being replaced by a yet-unnamed female character. She is now worthy to wield the power of Thor and, thanks to some tweaks of the Thor myth, now carries his name. As for Cap, Steve Rogers is experiencing some dramatic effects from his super-serum, and is aging rapidly as well as losing his powers. His friend (and the Falcon) Sam Wilson is stepping in to fill his shoes.
Those who support these changes—mostly in the name of diversity in comics—point out that Thor and Cap have been replaced before. Bucky Barnes, another friend, took Cap’s mantle when Rogers was thought to be dead. Thor has been replaced by a horse-like alien named Beta Ray Bill. It can’t be any stranger to replace him with a woman, can it? The comic book universes are lacking fully representative character, and all steps toward remedying that are good steps.
While debate on the internet seems to be dramatically split between those who love the changes and those who hate them, I want to point out another potentially valid criticism. As a woman who reads comics, I feel like I should have been thrilled that a woman was going to replace Thor. I wasn’t, though. If anything, I rolled my eyes—and I became even more cynical when the announcement on The View was followed by the Cap announcement on The Colbert Show.
I’m definitely a supporter of diversity in comics. I sometimes get overly vocal about it. Two things, though, struck me when these changes were announced. The first was that these were going to be very temporary changes. They revolve around two of the most famous Marvel characters—both of whom have been replaced before. I expect somewhere around five issues each for both our new Thor and our new Cap. They may stretch the changes into a year, but I doubt it will go much longer than that. Are temporary changes like this really supporting diversity, or is it just throwing a bone to those who want it. I feel like Marvel is getting ready to say “Remember Cap and Thor? Now you can’t say anything bad about our diversity for a long time.’
The second thing that struck me was that Marvel seemed to treat these like gimmicks. They made these announcements on two popular and strategically chosen TV shows. Due to the fact that they’re likely to be short-lived, it seems like a publicity stunt. If Marvel really wanted to support diversity, why not increase the roles of many secondary and tertiary characters (who are more diverse than our main hero line-up)? Why choose temporary changes, unless you don’t truly support them?
I can’t help but think that when they make changes like this—especially with Thor—they’re not looking for diversity. They’re looking for publicity and sales. Especially when they announce these changes in a media spectacular. So I say to the fanboys—don’t worry. It’s not going to last. And to those who support an increase in diversity in comics, well, we still have a long, long way to go.
I like swords. I suppose I can’t help it. I was raised with Final Fantasy and other JRPGs like Suidoden where swords weren’t only awesome– but they were a key to victory of sorts. Required. Just like cool victory poses! Which, of course, also included swords.
Swordsman Online is Perfect World’s latest free-to-play addition to the martial arts/wuxia MMORPG scene. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Perfect World comes out with a lot of martial arts MMORPGs, and well, most of them kind of suck and have cash shops that swerve farther towards pay-to-win than I’m comfortable being anywhere near.
But there was something about this one that drew me in. Swords maybe. And a colorful art style that immediately seemed to grab my attention. So, what about Swordsman Online? Does it join the legion of “crappy Perfect World games (but with lots of swords!)” or does it rise above the F2P rabble? Let’s break it down.
Note: Reviewing an MMORPG is still a daunting task, but my earlier format from my FFXIV:ARR review seemed fairly decent. Scores are based off 10 points. The categories for this review are slightly different due to the fact that Swordsman Online is still in beta. That also means, of course, that some of my scores may change once the full game’s released.
The Leveling Journey
Like many of Perfect World’s MMORPGs, leveling is very straightforward and simplified– especially during the early levels. The story in Swordsman Online is fairly interesting and I found myself more attracted to it than I initially predicted. This might be because the game’s based off a novel written by one of the most popular Chinese novelists– Louis Cha. The novel in question, The Smiling, Proud Wanderer, is based heavily off Chinese history and mythology. The English translation is a little clunky in parts (especially when it comes to word choice), but it’s somewhat better than a lot of locally-translated Eastern MMOs.
There are quite a few cutscenes (voiced in Mandarin and subtitled) which add to the story. The story’s filled with nuances of classic, overblown martial arts action and slapstick-like comedy, which I rather enjoyed. Between those nuances and the colorful cutscenes I couldn’t help but be reminded of some of my favorite anime shows. No, Swordsman Online isn’t on the same level as Naruto, One Piece, or Rurouni Kenshin, but the flavor of the story definitely feels familiar and I have to give Perfect World a nod here.
I will say, however, that the first 25 levels or so drag considerably in comparison to the leveling experience once you get around level 30. This is largely due to how simple combat is until around level 25. Enemies die ridiculously fast. Quests are extremely simple. Around level 25 combat starts to become a little more interesting due to additional style unlocks and questing areas that offer more than a single on-rails quest.
The good news? The first 25 levels are over quick. There are also some neat perks for leveling including auto-pathing and double EXP rewards. Don’t feel like figuring out where the dang quest NPC is? Click on the NPC’s name on the quest tracker and you’ll run right to him (even mounting when appropriate!). It’s great for lazy leveling and AFK breaks. You’re also able to leave your character farming mobs while offline using a feature called self-cultivation. There are 89 levels total in the game, and similar to most Eastern MMOs, the last chunk of levels does require a fair bit of grinding.
Score – Leveling: 6
Endgame Options/Alternatives to Leveling
One of the game’s most prominent features outside of the leveling process is its PvP features. Between levels 30-40 is when you’ll start to see world PvP (players below level 30 are protected from PvP actions). Yes, every server in Swordsman Online is open for world PvP. Surprisingly, I saw very little ganking during my time in beta, but it will be more readily found in the live version of the game I imagine.
PvP is a large part of Swordsman Online for better or for worse, but the game’s combat mechanics lend itself to PvP quite well. A martial arts MMORPG that’s centered on action-based PvP combat makes a lot of sense. I have to give Perfect World props for being willing to leave that part as-is for the Western audience. Sometimes niche is okay.
There are multiple PvP battlegrounds and arena modes, some of which offer players the option to have their stats normalized. This encourages PvP that’s a little more skill-based. Unfortunately, since this is Perfect World we’re talking about, I wouldn’t recommend leaping into PvP expecting that every world PvP match will be fair as a result. The cash shop gear isn’t as ridiculous as many of their other titles, but players can pick up some gem packs that can make a huge difference in world PvP later in the game.
Besides PvP, Swordsman Online also has a robust guild feature that separates players into two factions offering unique challenges and instanced combat. Instanced combat including dungeons and solo-style instances are available both for endgame players and leveling players. The solo instances are actually a great way to pick up new gear while leveling and they’re quick to complete. Without a strict class/trinity system in place, it’s fairly easy to group up with other players.
It’s difficult to judge endgame while beta’s still ongoing, but for now I would imagine that there will be nothing truly world shattering here. Players will have PvP options, dungeon options, crafting, and well, that’s probably about it. Fairly standard? Yep. Terrible? Not necessarily.
Score – Endgame/Other Options: 4
Swordsman Online is one of the better Perfect World games I’ve seen aesthetically. It’s bright and colorful– very anime-esque. The combat animations are fairly over the top, but again– that’s the anime style coming out to play. If you’re into that sort of style it’s quite lovely.
The music’s somewhat limited, but gorgeous if you’re a fan of classical Eastern/Chinese music (yeah, I admit I totally am). The variety between the environments is somewhat lacking, but some environments still manage to shine above others.
I do have one small gripe with the sounds in the game. What’s with the World of Warcraft noises? Seriously. I can’t be the one person who noticed that monkeys in Swordsman Online sound like WoW‘s kobolds. I suppose it’s possible I’ve just been playing WoW for too many years and the sounds are just similar. But… I’m pretty sure I heard the male draenei death noise at some point. I suddenly wondered if my paladin was massacred by monkey-looking enemies. It was odd.
Score – Aesthetics: 7
I’ll briefly talk about the combat in Swordsman Online in this section. There are three control modes that blend mouse/keyboard movements and controls. You can flip between them at any time. I found the action-based setting to be the most enjoyable overall, but questing while using this setting was a little frustrating due to the need to constantly hit CTRL to use the mouse to target NPCs and quest objectives. With a little tweaking I imagine a better combination could easily be found, but without that adjustment period the controls can seen quite clunky.
Combat itself is quite fun and action-based. It’s sort of similar to WildStar where most abilities are aim-based. Some even require skillshots. You’re able to double jump and even triple jump in most areas (which is insanely fun). You can also dash, sprint, and dodge. As part of some areas of the game you’re also allowed to jump between building rooftops and whatnot in much-appreciated wuxia fashion. These instances in the game don’t appear nearly as often as they should (other instances of fun wuxia movement are left to cutscenes sadly), but they’re still appreciated.
Your average battle won’t be nearly as chaotic as a random fight in WildStar, but double jumping to avoid nasty AoE attacks and dodging to avoid launching sword attacks is still very much a part of Swordsman Online‘s combat system. Combat isn’t quite as fluid as I would have hoped given the action-oriented system. It’s extremely easy to get tangled up in the hit boxes of enemies unless you’re careful. Still, the system’s fun– especially for a completely free-to-play game.
There are 10 schools of martial arts in the game that you’re able to choose between once you reach a certain level. This is the game’s class system of sorts. It’s a fairly involved system where each school uses a particular type of weapon, multiple styles, and various strengths/weaknesses in regards to going up against other schools. The system seems fairly rock/paper/scissors at first glance, but given the fact that you can actually blend together various styles within schools, there are definitely some interesting options here for PvP.
Some schools are tankier/more support-y than others, but there’s no real trinity system in place. Also, despite the fact that Swordsman Online is obviously about swords, there are a few ranged schools. You can also get pretty detailed with setting up customized combos and ability setups which is nice to see in a Perfect World game. Similar to WildStar and Guild Wars 2, Swordsman Online gives players a lot of abilities to choose between, but only a limited amount of ability slots. It all boils down to choice, my friends.
The cash shop– as mentioned above– isn’t perfect, but it could be worse in all likelihood. I’d say the same about the crafting system and upgrading systems. They’re not spectacular, but they’re fairly standard for a Perfect World game. Oh, and there’s also a combat-based pet system, of course, since most Eastern MMORPGs seem to also have one. You can run around with little followers (called “Younglings”) who will randomly whack at whatever you whack. And yep, that’s all they do.
Score – World/System Depth: 6
Final Verdict: 5.75/10
It’s a bit early to judge how popular Swordsman Online will be, but it’s pretty safe to say that the game will be extremely niche, not hugely popular (in comparison to AAA titles at least), and mostly populated with fans of martial arts/wuxia MMOs and fans of action-based PvP gameplay. Not there’s anything wrong in a niche, martial arts/wuxia MMORPG, mind you. Quite the contrary. The game’s developers know their audience and that should be applauded.
Despite its flaws, Swordsman Online has potential. For a very niche game, there’s a surprising amount of class/school depth, enjoyable combat, and a story that’s full of over-the-top fun. It’s kind of like one of those fun anime shows that doesn’t make your Top 10 list, but is still worth an afternoon romp. You can find out more about Swordsman Online here. It’s currently in open beta with a launch date of July 29th.
Welcome to Junkies Nation’s cosplay review, Weekly Cos-day! Here, we will highlight some of the best cosplays we saw on the internet this week (including those submitted by you, dear readers!). We end each article with a link to a cosplay tutorial so that you can finally make that perfect cosplay you’ve been dreaming about.
The Best Cosplay We’ve Seen This Week
Hawkgirl, by Kyra Wulfgar of Cosawesome Studios. Photo by Thomas Spanos.
Vivi, from Final Fantasy, by Ken Hopkins.
Ulqulorra Schiffer, from Bleach, by Luce Cosplay.
Back in our first Weekly Cos-Day article, we shared the cardboard method of making helmets. This week, we’re sharing another method. It’s a little more advanced, and uses craft foam, but it’s still very approachable with this tutorial by YouTube user Evil Ted Smith.
Do you have an awesome cosplay you’d like to share with your fellow Junkies Nation readers? Or maybe you have a tutorial that can help other learn the ways of cosplay. Submit photos, links, and other relevant information to email@example.com and you could be featured in a future Weekly Cos-day!
During last year’s San Diego Comic Con, Quantum Mechanix and Spark Plug announced a new strategy-based online RPG in development that had Browncoats everywhere already planning a space travel hijinks or two. Yep– none other than Firefly Online. In December 2013 we found out more information about the game’s systems and goals. Customization will be a huge component of Firefly Online– everything from your ship’s crew to your starship and the quarters inside can be completely customized.
This year’s SDCC also brought us a bit of news. According to PC Gamer, the development team announced that members of the primary cast of the TV show will be returning and reprising their roles for the MMO. This is a pretty exciting bit for fans, but there’s more!
Firefly Online released its first gameplay trailer today. Various areas of gameplay footage are showcased including space exploration, starship customization options, and even a bit of saloon brawling. Check it out:
If you’ve been playing WildStar for a while as a level 50 player or have recently hit level 50, there’s a good chance you’re already aware that some of the stat and itemization systems in the game could use some adjusting. Assault Power is currently stronger than any other stat by a huge margin for DPS classes. This makes most other stats– and a great percentage of possible alternative gear choices– practically unusable for many classes.
The random nature of runecrafting is also not working out quite as intended. Runes are next to useless while leveling, and during endgame the random nature of the runecrafting system makes runes more of an annoyance than anything.
There is some good news, however. Carbine is well aware of the itemization issues players are facing. The team’s looking to adjust AP/SP as well as completely rework the runecrafting system. Here’s what was said regarding both on the official forums:
While it’s a little frustrating that Carbine is taking a while to fix many of the bugs still prominent in WildStar, it’s good to see that the team is communicating with the community on issues like these that affect a great deal of endgame players. Having a road map of some sort is essential. And on a random note, it’s probably no coincidence that the last line of this dev quote was posted on Batman Day. We believe in you, Batman-dev.
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Being a judge for the recent RIFT Summer Wardrobe Contest wasn’t an easy feat. The reactions to the event itself and winners were mixed which was expected not only because of the nature of community-led projects but also because the sunny theme of summer isn’t simply defined– especially in an MMORPG where design animations don’t include an extensive array of summer-style attire or shoes at this stage of the game. These factors aside it’s always heart warming to see players receive rewards or recognition for their efforts.
There are so many wicked items to please all tastes, but these eyes flew straight to the cloaks with wings (previewed above) setting off feverish scheming and plotting to create an epic 3.0 underwater themed wardrobe. I’m curious to see if we will see some one-hand concepts hit the store along with even more slots to add to the 20 already available for the wardrobe system!
Do you even Trove?
What was perhaps the sweetest way to log in this week was to find my mail icon alight with a new cloak. If you have a character Level 10 or above in Trove Alpha, you’re granted a new cloak in RIFT. Don’t worry– I’ll be talking more about Trove real soon, but for now enjoy Fashion Week in RIFT until Wednesday, July 30th!
The folks over at MineThon are running a pretty cool charity event for AbleGamers starting tomorrow. AbleGamers is a non-profit organization that provides news, reviews, and support for disabled gamers. Participants will take part in a 72-hour Minecraft marathon to raise money for AbleGamers.
The event will be streamed on Twitch and there are a variety of ways to participate through donating, taking part in the Minecraft action, or by simply getting involved in the community. There will also be raffles, auctions, and guest appearances from Minecraft celebrities during the charity event. It’s a good weekend to be a Minecraft fan.
The post AbleGamers Charity Minecraft Marathon Begins Tomorrow appeared first on JunkiesNation.