Everything you love and hate about JRPGs … Online
Let me start off by saying, I was that guy in school without a Dreamcast so I wasn’t able to play the original Phantasy Star Online. But nonetheless, I saw my classmates addicted to the game in the way I was addicted to coffee. Because the game was played over the internet (in the age of dial up modems and house phones), I agreed not to call them within the pre-determined Phantasy Star period. That was the level of dedication that PSO players had; mind you, we were still in Primary School. And I was missing out on all of it!
With that out of the way, I was actually happy when I was told Phantasy Star Online 2 would be getting a localized English release, 2 years after its release in Japan. I can finally see what all the hype was about!
For those who are not familiar with the PSO series, Phantasy Star Online is an MMO spinoff of the popular Sci-Fi JRPG Phantasy Star. Phantasy Star Online 2 was developed by prolific development studio Sega with Asiasoft porting, publishing and hosting the game in Southeast Asia.
The character creator totally blew me away! Firstly, there are 3 different races to choose from, each with its own affinity for certain stats; there’s your typical anime boy/girl (complete with big anime eyes and normal human ears), your typical anime elves (complete with anime eyes and long ears) and finally you can be a typical anime cyborg (with mechanical armor and you guessed it… anime eyes). Jokes aside, the character creator is extremely detailed and extensive. The sheer number of options is unseen in the world of MMOs, everything from chest size to limb length can be customized to your heart’s desire.
With your character creation out of the way, it’s time for the 2nd hardest decision in any MMO, your character’s class. Instead of offering players a mind boggling myriad of classes from the get-go, PSO 2 did the exact opposite by offering players 3 basic classes with specialization being offered at later levels – it’s worth noting that a 4th class was released in the Japanese version of the game.
First off, there’s the Wizard class which plays exactly like the archetypal mage that almost every single MMO features. A low durability, high damage caster with myriad of crowd control and elemental abilities that’ll wreak havoc upon your enemies. However its low durability usually means players would need to play a little more cautiously and avoid getting into direct combat.
Next, there is the Ranger class which is your typical ranged class with 3 different class of weapon that plays differently from each other. The grenade launcher fires a single grenade that deals AOE damage however it has the slowest rate of fire in the Ranger’s arsenal. The assault rifle is able to deliver accurate bursts of lead down range without sacrificing mobility, however you might find yourself in a pickle when facing off against several enemies due to its lack of crowd control. Finally we have the Gunslash, which is a pistol and a sword in one convenient package. The Gunslash in my opinion, is your typical jack-of-all-trades master of none kind of weapon, it’s not a particularly good ranged weapon as compared to the rifles and grenade launcher however its strength lies in its ability to switch between its blade and gun mode on the fly. Enemies managed to mob you up close? Switch to blade mode and start slicing!
Finally, there is the Hunter which is really your standard Melee DPS or Tank. A Hunter’s main job is to charge first and ask questions never; despite the tried and true arsenal of weapons available (JRPG-esque oversized swords included) however one particular weapon stood out, the wired lance. It’s literally wires with blades attached on the front being swung around like some murderous puppet show, just think of it as a less aggressive version of Krato’s Blades Of Chaos.
Quests, Exploration and Combat is the bread and butter of any MMORPG. Let’s start off by talking about PSO 2’s quest system, like any MMO, you’ll spend a huge portion of your time running from NPC to NPC doing nominal tasks like talking to a certain NPC to completing a certain mission under a timeframe. In my brief run through of it, most of the quest I’ve complete are the typical “Tutorial” quests which taught me about the various mechanics of the game e.g the storage bank, quest taking etc. Unlike typical MMOs where players would need to walk into an open field and start wailing on monsters, each quest in PSO 2 teleports you and/or your party into an enclosed level with a singular objective. With a multitude of side quests and major story quests you can partake in, one might think it’s all PSO2 had to offer right ? Wrong, because inexplicitly hidden throughout the world are optional quests call “Paradigm Matrix” which are events you’ll need to find and trigger on particular missions. With the exception of a little extra experience points, I really could not see the point of it. It’s really just a side quest inside quests and side quests – quest-ception.
Combat in MMO have always been somewhat boring i.e right clicking till your enemy is dead however combat in PSO2 is comes fast and furious. The system is more akin to action games similar to God Of War and DmC whereas a single press of the attack button would result in a single attack and consecutive button presses results in a combo. Special attacks known as Photon Arts here can be mixed in with your regular combos to maximize damage output. You’re able to use a the secondary view which is a third person “over the shoulder” view, this view might not be the best for melee heroes such as Hunters however as a ranger it gave me direct control over my aim ala an actual 3rd person shooter view. The combat is fun nonetheless it gets boring after your 200th mob kill.
Phantasy Star Online 2 is as fun as your typical JRPG, it’s everything you know and love about JRPGs but it also contains all the trappings of your typical JPRG e.g badly explained game mechanics, absolute grind-fest etc. With that said, Phantasy Star Online 2 brought a much needed breath of fresh air into the MMO market.
Photos courtesy of Asiasoft
Written by Chen Kangyi
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