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SummaryA study of contrasts... The unpleasant colors win.
The GoodThe first good thing that can be said about this game is that it’s free. Yes, cash shop items can have a significant impact and unless you purchase plenty of them you won’t have much of a chance to win in PvP, not to mention to top any rankings or, if the rumors will prove correct, to become a God of Eyrda, but if you want to simply play the game, you can do that well enough even without spending a single cent, particularly on the PvE servers.
At a first glance it seems to look and play extremely well for a free to play game, what the developers managed to squeeze out of such an old engine being quite amazing. The world looks nice, and later on you’ll see that it’s quite diverse as well, the character models are well made and the equipment design ranges from nice to truly outstanding, with particular care paid to female gear.
If you get past all the potential technical problems (see "The Bad" below) and start playing, you’ll find plenty to do and enjoy, at least up to a point. The starting areas are pretty well done, teaching you the basics about the game without quite feeling like a tutorial, and as soon as you reach Freedom Harbor you’ll be overwhelmed with how much you can do. Side quests, daily quests, the main quest, jobs, exploration, your first instance once you hit level 15 and so on. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be going in circles, from one new and interesting thing to another, and reach level 20 before you even know it, possibly without even starting the Kalaires Plain portion of the main quest. Then you’ll take a breath and try to figure out what you actually mean to do with your character, in part because you’ll finally be able to assign talent points.
While there is little reason to dawdle in Kalaires Plain more than you need to, that will appear to change once you are able to go to the Sea of Oblivion. You’ll suddenly have another new area to explore, a new array of quests to do, plants and minerals to gather, elite monsters to kill for gem shards and crafting materials, instances and, if you’re so inclined, even world bosses to beat and so on. For a little while you’ll feel as if there couldn’t be enough hours in a day to tackle all that you can do even if you’d do nothing else but play this game. Which may, and in fact should, make you start thinking more about the path you want to take for your character, not just in terms of talents but in terms of how you actually want to play, what your role should be in Eyrda.
Will you look for a guild and do guild quests in order to try to make it one of the best? Will you instead do as many instances as possible in order to obtain good gear and other rare drops? Will you be a gatherer? A crafter? A shrewd merchant who’ll somehow manage to earn large amounts of money without actually producing anything? Will you simply try to level up as fast as possible and worry about what you actually need to do after you reach the level cap? Will you play with or against others? Or will you try the path of the lone wolf instead? For a moment it will seem as if this is a game for everyone and you couldn’t wish for more.
The BadGoing past the design choices that didn't meet my expectations, such as too few character customization options from a developer with the insanely complex Perfect World International character creation system under their belt and the fact that the amount of skin revealed by many pieces of female gear bothers even me, and I’m a heterosexual male, I need to say some important things about the engine used:
Its age will quickly become obvious, even more so if you have a 64-bit operating system or any version of Windows 7, which seem to significantly increase the risk of encountering glitches that can go all the way to making the user completely unable to play or even start the game. Fixes exist and they’re occasionally compiled into more or less official forum posts or even a couple of knowledge base articles, but they’re mainly discovered by players through trial and error, therefore sometimes being quite unusual and far from guaranteed to work.
Even if you do manage to get the game to work on such a system, whether because you were lucky enough not to experience these issues or because one of the fixes worked, you are quite unlikely to be able to properly enjoy it simply because, certain laptops aside, having such an operating system usually implies that you have at least a reasonably powerful computer and this old engine won’t know what to do with it. Or the computer won’t know what to do with the engine.
This is certainly the kind of game that will generally perform worse the better and newer the hardware it runs on is, as you will likely experience massive performance degradation, to the point of being unable to play on any but the lowest settings in some extreme cases, if your CPU has more than two cores, while a particularly new and powerful video card is more likely to just increase the number of potential glitches and crashes than improve the performance, as most video processing is done by the CPU as well.
(I must note that the entire above section is written as a result of reading enough forum posts, including some official ones, to know that these issues are real and very frequent in the listed scenarios. My computer has a Core 2 Duo E8400 CPU (3 GHz, dual core), 2 Gb of RAM, an 1 Gb GeForce GTS 250 video card and runs 32-bit Windows Vista (Service Pack 2). As such, being below the “problem” threshold in every aspect, I have not experienced any major issues and the game ran well on maximum settings, with the exception of Freedom Harbor, where I experienced the expected frequent frame rate drop.)
Moving on to the gameplay, the first issue you may notice, if you look carefully enough, is that the talent trees are made in such a way that it’s not only impossible to reach the most powerful talents unless you put every single point in the same tree, but also that even if you do that you’ll hardly be able to get even half of the talents in said one tree. Also, seeing that it’s quite hard (though thankfully possible) to obtain a talent compass and reset your talents without purchasing one from the cash shop, changing your mind can be a costly affair. As a result, you'll end up with an extremely specialized character, which I really don't like, and won't even have the luxury of changing specialization whenever you feel the need to, as it is in certain other games.
And then... Then comes the wall, after which it all goes downhill. One moment you’ll feel as if you’re cheerfully and tirelessly running through a beautiful meadow on a perfect day, the next you’ll hit level 25 or so and that nice pond in front of you will suddenly turn into an increasingly deep swamp that you’ll find yourself needing to wade through. And then you’ll hit 30 and it’ll feel like coming to a halt against a wall. (Others put this at around level 35, but it was 30 for me.) If you want to keep going, thinking it will get better once you’re on the other side, you’ll probably pull out a spade and start digging a tunnel through the mud. Then, slowly but surely, that spade will bend and eventually break, so you’ll be pushing on with just the handle, then a rusty bucket you found nearby, then a bent spoon, then your boots and your bare hands, yet you still won’t find anything better…
Now I’m hardly a person who rushes and in fact very much prefer the slow and patient approach, where being in each place and at each level has a point… But that’s just the problem here: There is no point to be at any level or in any area other than because you’re on the increasingly tedious way to the next. Now I stopped playing when my characters, a human mage and a kindred vampire, were only level 48, but I have experienced quite enough to know what I’m talking about and have read others’ experiences at the higher levels as well, so I have specifics if you want them:
- Want to just gain levels? You’ll be doing God’s Trial every day, because early on it gives so much experience there’s little point in looking for it anywhere else, but hit 30 and it will become less and less relevant. Hit 45 and you’ll be wondering why do you even bother, so you’ll be grinding the same daily quests every single day on top of it in order to actually get anywhere, even though you know very well that this will also be a case of diminishing returns.
- Want to do instances? You’ll be doing the same ones every day for the same completely random drops that are unlikely to be what you want anyway. That’s made even worse by the fact that instances are only available through the instance queue system while you’re in a given level range, so once you exceed the maximum level you will no longer be able to look for random groups, though you’ll still be able to enter the instance if you find your own group. What’s more, though a player that is far above an instance’s recommended level range could take it as a challenge to complete it alone, that’s impossible because you are not allowed to enter instances unless you’re in a group of at least three and if your other party members leave and you are left alone inside an instance you will automatically be thrown out of it after 30 seconds.
And then there’s the regeneration and mana use issue, but more on that later.
- Want to simply quest? Well, quite frankly, you won’t be able to. I read that the main quest quite abruptly ends well before the level cap, while I know that you’ll be finishing side quests far faster than you’ll be able to level up enough to unlock new ones if questing is your focus. With few exceptions, these quests are nothing to write home about anyway, but the fact that, at least after level 40 or 45, you will simply run out of them all too soon and need to go right back to grinding the same dailies more and more makes it a lie when someone says that this game is “quest-centered”. No it’s not, it’s daily-centered!
- Want to be a crafter? Good luck either gathering insane amounts of common materials and the required very rare ones or doing some other tedious chores to earn the money required to buy said materials from gatherers who are willing to put up with that for a decent profit. Then good luck with the actual crafting, as the item attributes are completely random, so the result is not only highly unlikely to be what you wanted but also quite likely to be a piece of trash that you’ll get less for than you spent on the materials required to craft it, if you chose to buy them. And you may often need to buy them, seeing as you can only have six of the 12 optional jobs active.
But perhaps the worst problem when it comes to crafting is that high level recipes and materials can only be bought from guild bases, and currently only by the players who belong to the respective guild, so if you are not in a guild that’s strong enough to obtain and maintain a base, you simply won’t be able to craft for too long. And the highest level recipes and materials are only available for the best guilds, so not even simply having a base is enough.
- So you’ll want a guild with a base, right? But a base is first expensive to obtain and then tedious to maintain, people estimating a need for some 20 to 30 very active members that will do guild quests, so even more dailies, in a sustained manner only to maintain it. If you want to improve it, you’ll need far more than that, and then it’ll also cost more and more to maintain, which tends to encourage a “slave driver” mentality in guild leaders and generate a lot of conflicts.
- Want to engage in PvP? Seeing as a few players spend quite insane amounts of money on cash shop items, unless you’re one of them I sure hope you enjoy them wiping the floor with you just about every single time, because that’s almost certain to happen. (Then again, I have plenty of things to say about those who want PvP, all of them bad, so… Serves you right.)
- Want to be a lone wolf instead? Oh, believe me, I tried! But first there’s God’s Trial, then there are items that can only be obtained in instances and perhaps from the cash shop, achievements for pretty much every single thing done in an instance and nice things you can obtain once you have a certain number of achievements, this need to rely on others for your jobs and, perhaps worst of all, the need for a solid guild if you even want to be able to continue using your jobs past a certain level!
The game assumes that everyone will always have huge amounts of food and potions on hand, many players claiming to go through at least 30 or even 50 potions in each instance and some, particularly the top priests, saying they don’t go anywhere without a few hundred of them on hand because they know they’ll need them.
Everyone is pressured from the beginning to get the botanist, alchemist and chef jobs, in order to be able to make their own food, drinks and potions, though you may choose not to get them, in order to keep job points for the other nine optional jobs. But whether you have those jobs or not, it still means that doing something properly implies a lot of grinding, either to gather the ingredients or the money required to obtain the huge amount of supplies you’ll need.
Though it’s very slow and makes things even more tedious, it is, admittedly, possible to do most things without using potions or food as long as you play by yourself, and that’s how I usually played, but in instances you’ll have a serious problem if you try that because the other party members most likely will not share your view, instead going through potions like crazy and yelling at you if you don’t do the same and as a result don’t quite keep up.
In fact, though I generally say that I play alone or not at all and there were moments that certainly proved my point, I found that I could occasionally do some instances, at least enough to get by, until I hit this issue simply too many times.
As I said, it’s possible to slowly do most other things without insane potion use if you’re careful and tactical, but instances will not work that way, partly because of how they’re designed but mainly because of the other players, who in the end behave just like the game encourages and even pressures them to, being apparently just its target audience.
If you don’t like this, you’ll be missing out on what can be obtained from instances and need to rely more on other tasks… Which would be all right if said tasks wouldn’t be so unbearably tedious and generally pointless anyway. Yet they are, which means that they sooner or later become utterly impossible to put up with if you refuse to play in this idiotic manner the game tries to force on you.
The Bottom LineForsaken World is meant to be Perfect World‘s new flagship MMORPG, replacing Perfect World International (Perfect World II for Asian markets) even though, oddly enough, that game also had a new expansion released only a week before the launch of Forsaken World. Judging by what I see on the forums, but also by how the number of visits to one particular blog post of mine related to Perfect World International plummeted but has been more than made up for by those to my posts related to Forsaken World, I can say that they were successful in that, at least for the moment. But I somehow don’t think this success will last…
It won't last because, while this game at first appears to cater to everyone and be unbelievably well made, considering that it’s free to play, after a while it’ll show its true colors and you’ll realize that it’s far from being as well made as it first appears and in fact it doesn’t really cater to anyone at all. Except perhaps to gatherers, who know what they’re signing up for, “slave driver” leaders and wealthy players who don’t mind buying large amounts of cash shop items meant to simplify the game, which in this context means bring it back within manageable levels. The rest will simply keep doing the same repetitive tasks for little or, all too often, no gain until they’ll either get bored or actually become unable to keep doing them for the reasons I mentioned above, at which point they’ll give up and move on to greener pastures.
You have little to lose if you play it for free for a while, until it gets boring, but you’d probably need to purchase cash shop items to make it bearable, not to mention truly enjoyable, past a certain point… And if you’re willing to pay, there are far better games out there for you.
But, of course, I play alone or not at all, so MMO games are really not for me. Yet I played it for over three months, so it must have done something well… For a while…