Free MMORPG & Free MMOs

Archive for November 2009

Personally, I’m a bit tired of the endlessly recycled MMORPG ideas which have been floating around for years now. Fantasy MMORPGs like Atlantica Online, Perfect World and Ether Saga Online are all good games, but we need some ‘fresh’ ideas to keep things interesting. One idea which I feel should be considered is a platforming MMO.  It could be ‘room’ based like all the shooting MMOs out there and would feature many different maps where the ultimate goal would be to get to the end of the stage while avoiding obstacles and enemies. It could have multiple game modes – one being a Mario style level based game with cooperative gameplay or even a ‘racing’ game where the first one to finish the map first wins. This obviously isn’t a completely unique idea – but it would be original in the realm of MMOs.

A ‘massive’ space themed MMORPG like Eve Online, except free to play would also be a fairly original idea in the free to play scene. There are currently no games like Eve Online that are free to play. There are a few decent Scifi MMORPGs, but nothing nearly as immersive as Eve. I do believe there is one game currently in development, called Jumpgate Evolution, but it’s expected to be pay to play. It’s crazy how many fantasy themed free to play MMORPGs there are out there but not a single game like Eve Online. The only game even remotely like Eve Online that’s free to play is a browser game called Dark Orbit, but it’s fairly boring IMHO.

A ‘swimming’ themed sport MMO would be another interesting idea. I mean, there’s an MMO for nearly every single sport from golfing (Pangya) to basketball (FreeStyle: Street Basketball) to hockey (Slapshot) so it makes sense to make a swimming MMO or even a boxing MMO. Heck, there’s even a soccer, baseball and a tennis MMO out there – so it’s kind of lame that no game developer stepped up to make a swimming themed game or even a volleyball MMO. If there’s a market for a basketball or golfing MMO there has to be a market for other sports MMOs as well.

Lastly, I’d like to see a modern themed MMORPG rather than Scifi or fantasy. It seems like the only ‘modern themed’ games are MMOs these days (Like Crimcraft and Alliance of Valiant Arms), but I could see an MMORPG do well with a modern theme. I can’t see any Asian game developers trying to make a modern themed MMO though – as it seems like all Korean and Japanese game developers these days are only churning out ‘anime’ inspired games. So for a modern themed MMORPG to really work a prominent Western developer would have to take a crack at it.

I guess the point of this post is to try and urge game developers to try new ideas. Fantasy MMORPGs are fun and all but they do get a tad repetitive.

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Even though new free MMORPG games are released practically every week – the most popular free to play games are still the same games that were popular 2-3 years ago. The reason for this is clear – MMORPG gamers seem to prefer classic games like Silkroad Online and MapleStory over ‘newer’ MMOs like Cloud Nine, Bright Shadow and Battle of Destiny. This is likely due to a combination of two things. Firstly, these older games are more established – as in they already have a large community and since they’ve been around for a long while they also tend to have more content. Secondly, older titles tend to be more compatible with older PCs. Newer more ‘visually appealing’ games like Atlantica Online and Gates of Andaron demand more powerful graphics cards. Now – that doesn’t make these game’s bad, but simply inaccessible to folks with weaker PCs.

Another reason why Gamers prefer classic MMORPGs is that a lot of newer free to play games just feel… cheap. Games like Luna Online and GhostX for example are ‘alright’ games, but have terribly poor English translations which really take away from the overall gaming experience. Not all ‘newer’ free to play games suffer from this though – Dungeons and Dragons Online, which used to be pay to play at one time, has excellent graphics, gameplay, music and pretty much everything else. The only issue with it is that it is a fairly demanding game. Believe it or not though, system requirements do hold a lot of people back – as many gamers out there still run really old computers. The most common monitor resolution TODAY is 1024×768! That’s insane! My resolution is 1920×1080! I couldn’t imagine going back to something like 1024×768.

Still though, system requirements set aside, it seems like gamers still prefer to play the classics over new games. Silkroad Online for example, still has like 30+ servers and it’s nearly impossible to log in to the game on the first try due to too many players. MapleStory has over 120 million registered users worldwide as well. So I guess the folks behind these classical MMORPGs are doing something right or the guys launching these newer games are doing something wrong. It’s one or the other.

Even though there are a boatload of free MMORPG games out there – they do get boring. Personally – I like to take a break from MMORPGs every once in a while and kick back and play some MMOs. I say ‘kick back’ because MMOs tend to require a lot less time commitment to enjoy. Most MMORPGs require an enormous investment of time before they really get good while MMOs can be enjoyed right away. There are an countless different Free MMO games out there from high octane tactical shooting MMOs like Alliance of Valiant Arms and WolfTeam to crazy racing MMOs like Tales Runner and Project Powder. These games tend to have a lot of depth as well – so they’re quite addictive. The fact that you can ‘level up’ and get new clothes / equipment makes these games all the more addictive.

MMORPGs on the other hand have their advantages as well. It’s hard to really ‘get into’ any MMO as it’s difficult for players to really connect with their character – as character development isn’t exactly a core focus of MMOs. When I’m playing an MMORPG I’m always more ‘focused’ because I tend to connect with my avatar and grow with him. There are also many more social elements in an MMORPG – as players need to cooperate quite a lot more in MMORPGs like Runes of Magic and  Shaiya than in any MMO – because the only way to really ‘advance’ in these games is to work together with other people – whether those people are random people or guild mates. Don’t get me wrong – players need to work together in many MMOs as well – but nowhere as much as an MMORPG. Back when I used to play World of Warcraft – my guildies were like family to me. We would talk about all sorts of things completely unrelated to the game at times.

Obviously both MMOs and MMORPGs are enjoyable, just in a different kind of way. MMOs are sort of instant gratification – as they require little time commitment and are pretty straight forward. MMORPGs on the other hand require a bit more attention but are much deeper and more fun in the long run. I guess you can say MMOs are Instant Coffee while MMORPGs are Coffee beans that you have to grow yourself then roast. Whichever you fancy – there are plenty of both. So dig through the free mmorpg list on MMOHut and find something you like!

One thing I noticed about most free to play MMORPGs is that they tend to have at least one big breasted female character – whether it’s an NPC or simply game art. Perhaps the game most ‘notorious’ for over utilizing big breasted women to attract gamers is Evony – a rather new strategy browser game. Nearly every single of the game’s banners feature some sort of inappropriately dressed chick in a provocative position. You really can’t blame the folks behind Evony though – as their marketing campaign has been an enormous success. Perhaps enormous success is an understatement – as games like Empire Craft and even Rappelz jumped on the scantily clad women advertising bandwagon.

[This is a Legit Evony Ad!]

Scantily clad women aren’t exclusive to advertising only. Most free to play MMORPGs have gorgeous women both in game and on their official websites. I’m particularly fond of the MMO babes on Atlantica Online and Runes of Magic. If you’re wondering which babes I’m talking about – just check out the ‘wallpapers’ section of both of those game’s and you’ll quickly see what I’m talking about. Atlantica Online is actually a really new MMORPG – so the graphics are top notch. Top notch graphics + MMORPG babes equals win. Fiesta Online also has some impressive chicks – though only in their fan art / wallpapers. Unlike Runes of Magic and Atlantica Online though, the babes in Fiesta are much more ‘anime inspired’ – making them more ‘traditional’.  Shaiya and Gates of Andaron also have some attractive game babes. Shaiya actually shows off their game’s main ‘goddess’ babe (The purple chick) – as she’s on every single Shaiya advertisement. The Gates of Andaron chick is pretty hot as well – but she’s only on some of the game’s wallpapers. Most of these gaming babes are from fantasy MMORPGs. I don’t recall seeing any real good looking gaming babes in any scifi MMORPGs.

It’s funny though how effective it can be to slap a good looking anime chick on an advertisement or game art. A lot of people say it’s a bit ‘over the top’ or ‘silly’ to plaster a game with attractive game babes – but I’m all for it. After all – if I’m playing an MMORPG for hours on end – day after day, I might as well have some eye candy to enjoy. A few games do go a bit overboard though – but only a few. Luna Online is a fine example of a game that sort of crosses the line with their use of scantily clad women. If you ever see the ad – you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Uforia is a relatively new free to play MMORPG publisher on the block – one of the newest actually. I really have no clue what they’re thinking though. You’d imagine that a NEW game publisher would try to ‘start off’ on a good foot by launching with some epic new games – but nope. Uforia launched their MMORPG service with a fairly old game called NosTale. NosTale isn’t bad – but the game was already being published in North America by another game company – so it didn’t exactly make sense for Uforia to publish it as well. The second game Uforia launched was Red War : Edem’s Curse – which is an incredibly ugly game that has worse graphics than the original Diablo, which launched somewhere in 1997 I think. Why on Earth would a brand new company start off their MMORPG publishing business with two…. bad games? Maybe Uforia was just pulling our leg though – their next game has to be better.

Three Kingdoms is their newest game that’s open to public – it’s a 3D fantasy MMORPG set in ancient China. Unfortunately, like the game’s setting – Three Kingdoms is yet ANOTHER incredibly ‘old’ game with terrible graphics. The graphics actually resemble the graphics from Legend of Ares – an incredibly old game which was shut down due to a lack of players.  Honestly – how on Earth does Uforia expect to compete with bigger and better game publishers like ijji, Aeria Games and OG Planet? Games like Dungeons and Dragons Online, Shaiya, Last Chaos and Runes of Magic completely blow anything Uforia has out of the water.

You would think that after publishing three terribly old and ugly games – Uforia would get their act together and launch at least ONE ‘modern’ decent looking game – but NOPE. The only game Uforia currently has ‘scheduled’ to release in the next few months is an MMOFPS game called Mercenary Wars – which aims to compete with other shooting games like Wolfteam, Alliance of Valiant Arms and Sudden Attack. The thing is though – unlike the three games I just mentioned – Mercenary Wars both LOOKS terrible and has extremely buggy gameplay. Honestly – I would rather play ANY browser MMORPG than even touching one of Uforia’s games. Why on Earth is Uforia launching these terrible games? I really have no idea.

Having once been a student of Chinese culture and history, I’m all for a good Asian themed or martial arts MMORPG. Like many of its kind, however, Celestial Destroyer proved to be a generic grind fest. The game is actually an older version of the popular Jade Dynasty game released in North America. Produced by Cubizone, who runs such games as Soul of the Ultimate Nation and Battle of Destiny in Malaysia, Celestial Destroyer quickly proved it wasn’t worth its time.

A Confusing Start

Character creation in Celestial Destroyer is incredibly simple: choose to be male or female, and then choose one of seven hair styles and one of seven faces. Yes, that means at most, there are less than 50 unique looks for male or female characters. You’re not even responsible for choosing a class – that comes later in the game, via the use of clans. Believe it or not though – seven possible hair and face options isn’t too bad as many games have less.

You enter the game world with little tutorial besides basic game controls. It’s up to you to figure out how to accept or even find quests, although overhead markers at least make that task a little less daunting. The translations in the game are modest enough to make sense to English players, but that doesn’t mean the game itself will. Starting in the middle of a town with no clear objectives or back story makes the next few steps a blundering game of guessing.

Kill 10 What?

Eventually you’ll find your first quest, which is a chain quest series that consists of running to half the NPCs in town to say hello, and sometimes learn what their purpose is. This also gets you a little gear and experience, although you still don’t have a choice in what you’re going to specialize in yet – so I hope you like swords. Perfect World actually has a similar quest – except much better executed as players could actually pick what type of gear they wanted from the NPCs they met.

Gathering up a few beginning quests after this chain is easy. Quest Officer Fu Yinlong in town offers a job board of sorts to kill a certain amount of beasts outside town, including butterflies – which have the same death sound effect as the scorpids from World of Warcraft. Hmm. Yes, one of your first quests will be to kill 10 butterflies, because they’re disturbing the bees. You’ll also be killing a lot of other local fauna: Wild Boars, Wolves, and Frogs. Unfortunately, the killing spree became a lot less fun when I realized that quests didn’t stack – so if I had a quest for 20 frogs, and a quest for 10, I had to kill 30. The game picks which quest you’ll work on first too, which was pretty frustrating when killing wolves for a low drop rate item prioritized over my two other quests to kill a set amount.

It’s a Bad Sign When…

A lack of quest stacking, while annoying, is tolerable. After all, you do get experience for everything you kill, and lots of extra loot too. It’s grinding, of course, but it’s at least grinding for a quest objective, which gives it a little more purpose. Then you’re introduced to the Kozo system.

The Kozo, or talisman, is one of two pets you’ll gain in Celestial Destroyer. It is, for lack of a better description, a floating magical rock that hovers around your body. The Kozo gains experience when it attacks beasts, and does get its own skills depending on the Kozo. The real specialty of the Kozo is “amalgamation,” which is a big word for “bot.” That’s right – the Kozo can be programmed to use a combination of its skills and yours to kill enemies (any nearby or quest mobs only, within a set radius), automatically loot any goodies, and automatically rest for a set period of time. This time is determined by vigor, which is set to zero when logging in and when using the amalgamation process, but earned through manual monster killing. The Kozo can even answer anti-bot questions for you. Now, while I’m all for convenience, you know it’s a bad sign when the game itself makes it easy to grind enemies mindlessly. It isn’t the most perfect system, either – my Kozo would often have me running off after new enemies before I’d killed the last, and conveniently forgot to rest me, so I died after having a few frogs and wolves chasing after my character. Though the Kozo doesn’t make grinding as easy as the fully automated ‘botting’ system in Magic World Online – it still makes progression in Celestial Destroyer a bit too easy – provided you don’t get PK’d while hunting though.

Pet Number Two

As mentioned, the Kozo is your first pet, of sorts, and it takes little maintenance at all – fitting for a little bot in a rock. Celestial Destroyer has another pet system, however, one which will have you finding the essences of creatures amidst the world, taming them for a fee, and then feeding and equipping them so they can fight along side you or gather components – they are even capable of providing a protective shield around you.

A quest in the beginning town, Sly River, does give you your first pet – but the quest is deceiving. You’ll be sent to kill illusionary beasts that look like multicolored Foo Lions. Awesome, right? When you return to tame the essence of the animal you’ve received, however, you’ll find you’re given a boar – a cute little baby boar that blows bubbles out its nose and rolls onto its back. For all its lack of power in looks, it does serve as a more functional pet than the Kozo, and can be traded out for more powerful pets later on.

A Craftsman’s Touch

There are two methods of crafting available in Celestial Destroyer: Refining and Production. Refining allows you to upgrade an item using amulets you find as loot (and which are rather common.) This kind of upgrade is a rather basic upgrade at first – sometimes just boosting damage or defense by a few points – but becomes more potent later in the game.

Production, on the other hand, lets you craft items yourself. You’ll get a quest to learn crafting at level 12, and after bringing back a few red copper, you can now craft any item in the game if you have the plans, the materials, and the required crafting skills. There are no specialties, so the crafting demand is low as any player can theoretically make any crafted item.

The Clan For Life, and Death

Once you reach level 15, you can finally choose a class by joining a Clan through a quest. There are five clans to choose from: Ghost Lord, Joyous, Green Cloud Clan, Sky Tone Temple, and Ghost Trail. The Ghost Lord clan are defensive swordsmen capable of summoning and controlling demons. Joyous Clan uses chakram to kill enemies swiftly. The Green Cloud Clan is a Taoist order using swords and focused on ranged attacks. Sky Tone Temple Clan is a Buddhist group utilizing staves, and the Ghost Trail utilizes fist weapons and deadly attacks.

Level 30 brings a new challenge to the game – PvP, which is open in Celestial Destroyer. Although players can be in a “peace” status after not being active in PvP for a while, they can be forced to battle by another player, or force any other player into battle, thereby flagging themselves. Though death in PvP doesn’t cause experience loss, it does cause item loss, allowing other players to gain the spoils of war from you instead of from monsters – another good reason to not rely on Kozos to level you. It’s up to the player to be wary and cautious about traveling alone at this point.

Final Verdict: Poor

From the borrowed sound effects of World of Warcraft, to the intentionally implemented grinding and bot system, Celestial Destroyer is a poorly designed MMO. It caters more to those who enjoy grinding and open PvP than those who want a fuller MMO experience. Although it runs well, its empty and lifeless servers only reinforce the idea of isolated endless killing on a quest to top the leaderboards. Pass it up; there are better martial arts MMOs out there.

Sometimes I wish that every single free to play MMORPG was easily accessible on ONE website. I’m not talking about an MMORPG Review site like MMOHut – I’m talking about one massive MMORPG game publisher. Instead of Aeria Games publishing 8 or so games and OG Planet 4, Gamers First publishing 5 – imagine ALL of these games being published on ONE site. There are easily 120+ free to play games out there so this would make sense. I mean, just like at this huge list of MMORPGs. Some of you may be asking – who cares or why? Well – the reason is simple.  As a hardcore MMORPG gamer myself – I’m getting a bit tired of having to make new accounts at every single game publisher. Right now, I’m playing Dungeons and Dragons Online quite a bit over at Turbine, but if I wanted to start playing… say Shaiya or Last Chaos I would need to make an account over at AeriaGames. If I wanted to play Cabal Online or Rumble Fighter I would need to make an account over at OG Planet. I don’t know about you – but keeping track of a few dozen username and passwords for all of my various accounts is NOT something I find desirable.

The ‘solution’ to this… whacky system would be some sort of ‘universal’ log in where MMORPG gamers could make ONE account somewhere and use that account on EVERY SINGLE free to play MMORPG Game. It’d be interesting if one game publisher just published every single game, but that likely won’t be happening anytime soon – so the only real way to accomplish this would be some third party service (Hopefully free!). It would sort of like the OpenID of free to play MMORPGs. If you haven’t heard of OpenID – it’s a service that basically lets you create an account with them and lets you use that account at thousands of different websites (Like Yahoo, AOL, Google, BBC, Myspace and many many more!). I’m surprised that no such standard exists for this market yet – as I’m personally fed up with having to micro manage dozens of accounts. What makes the current system even more confusing is that sometimes games like NosTale, Lunia and LaTale have multiple publishers, which can only add to the confusion.

Anyway – Someone make an awesome new system to fix this little headache – please!