Since Neverwinter was such a disappointing non-starter, I also tried out this new MMO called Skyforge, which is evidently one of the newer kids on the block, having gone into open Beta as of July 2015. It’s developed by the Russian Allods team and published by Obsidian Entertainment… and the game’s aesthetics certainly betray its Russian origins.
When I say that, I mean it in a good way. Without tangenting off to a full rant (which I might at a later date – stay tuned!), I’ll just say this: despite growing up in the orient and therefore fully exposed to Japanese/Korean media influences, I have never been a fan of the whole anime aesthetic. I don’t like it when all the heroes have K-Pop boy mop-hair, I don’t like it when all the heroes are between 14 and 17 in age (because God forbid, 21 is OLD and WAY OVER THE HILL), and I definitely don’t like it when all the heroines look like big-boobed 12 year-olds running around in lingerie (seriously, that’s just creepy). Characters in Skyforge lean more towards modern 3D designs, and most of the preset faces look somewhat Slavic.
That said, Skyforge is still an MMO and so you’ll get some old-fashioned fanservice; questionable battle outfit for the girls? Jiggly boobs? Sorry guys, boobs don’t jiggle like that, but I guess that’s why this game is part-fantasy. -_- Customization is somewhat limited, at least in the beginning; the number of outfits options at first is particularly small, and I find that the facial customization options don’t allow you to create a wide range of faces. Limited variety aside, you can still make impressive avatars, and animations are smooth and slick.
Meet my Skyforge toon, Illyana Bonilova. Deal with it, comrade!
The world of Skyforge (Aelion) is both original and vaguely derivative. It’s a weird mix of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the player characters are immortals and “gods”, if not in the strictest sense of the word. It feels a little strange to fight with a sword/shield or a bow/arrow, when the guy behind you is wearing powered-armor and carries a giant gatling gun taller than himself; likewise it’s hard to fathom how the mortals of the world relate to us “gods” — i.e. you show up at a factory where the robots have gone haywire, and the engineer greeting you exclaims “Man, am I glad you’re here to fix this!” You’d think he would be more awed when a goddess shows up to sort out his assembly line production delays.
Sometimes you just have to not think too hard when it comes to games. 😉
Skyforge doesn’t use traditional leveling; instead it uses “Prestige”, which is just an alternate way to measure a character’s power level. Characters are not locked into a single class, but can switch between classes (but the prestige levels for each class are probably different… not sure on that). Which is great because players won’t need to keep making alts to try out the different classes.
Gameplay is more action-y than, say, STO or Rift. You move with your WASD keys, you fight with your mouse, and pretty much spacebar for everything else. No over-complicated calculations on how to minimize cooldowns, no “premium builds” to maximize DPS, none of that stuff that makes playing MMOs feel like going to work. That said combat at this early stage is repetitive… and potentially tedious. I am guessing when you advance in levels and gain additional powers, things will get more interesting.
I haven’t progressed very far in Skyforge so I can’t really comment on how the story missions go, but so far the starting missions are fairly typical of fantasy MMOs — you receive a mission to go to location X, kill Y number of Z monsters for rewards. At the end of it, you get a boss fight. Unlike Swordsman, at least going to location X generally doesn’t require massive commutes — you go to the transporter and get to your destination hassle-free. One thing I like about the instanced areas (such as the aforesaid factory and the port city) is that even if you get killed, the enemies you already defeated don’t respawn so you won’t have to re-fight all of them again.
This all sounds pretty good so far, right? Well, yes, but here’s the rest of it.
I can’t put a finger on it yet, but as expansive as Aelion is, I don’t get the sense of a vast world on Skyforge as I did with STO and Rift. If STO and Rift are big epic movies, then Skyforge feels like a TV show… albeit a very well-made, polished, expensive TV show. I suspect this might have to do with the hokey setting of the game, where thousands of PC “gods” intermingle freely with the rest of the planet’s population and fight… uh, sorry, who exactly are we fighting again? In the meantime, we gods are also here to fix machines and perform other assorted chores that mortals can’t be bothered to do. The world seems to be overrun with random critters who exist only to be killed, but I never get a sense of urgency or menace that would spur me into action.
There are also little goofy things that undermine the setting, such as my mortal worshippers collectively show their faith by sending me a gift to honor my divine immortality: a polo shirt. Better yet, I (like all the other players) will happily and continuously kill things for the mortals so they can keep sending us new clothes. It’s unintentionally funny, but that sort of thing further confuses the story for me, as I wonder exactly how my goddess character fits in the world of Aelion.
For some players, there is another major consideration that might take Skyforge off their list — including myself — is this thing requires a LOT of system resource to run. The first day I ran the game I was baffled by the fuzzy resolution of the graphics, but then I found the handy built-in gauge that tells you how the game is automatically adjusted to let it run on your computer — what it’s telling me is that my poor laptop can only run this game at medium graphic resolution, and it looks absolutely horrible. To play Skyforge you will need top-tiered graphic cards, and for casual/budget players like myself, we are SOL.
I will likely be deleting Skyforge tonight because of hardware limitations, but for players who own topped-out gaming platforms, Skyforge is worth taking a closer look.