Skyforge – First and Last Impressions

Skyforge_Gods_Concept

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.

"Maps/Z2/MapResource.xdb" 6213.64 6243.29 567.986 0 0 -0.152123 0.988362 6214.27 6239.35 569.311 0.0180419 -0.0154174 0.760022 0.649464 1 -1.41424 0.134735 0

 

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.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Skyforge – First and Last Impressions

  1. “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).”

    A woman after my own heart. *swoon*

    Seriously, tho, when I read your words here I was thinking, “Who is this amazing, wonderful person and how did she get into my head and read my mind?” 🙂 Because this has always been one of my main pet peeves about anime and manga. I’ve been reading manga and watching anime for literally decades, and it’s truly rare when they DON’T do that sort of thing.

    This is why I don’t like most modern manga or anime. Even in one of my all-time favorite anime, Ghost in the Shell, Major Kusanagi (the über-bad-ass leader of this elite cyber police unit) wears these impractical, skimpy outfits that don’t leave much to the imagination and don’t seem believable at all.

    I mean… as a single, heterosexual male and an ardent admirer of the female form… I get it. But as a writer, and a fan of good storytelling, I’ve always felt that it detracts from the story when it’s that blatant and obvious, and totally unrealistic. A strong female lead character becomes little more than an objectified piece of eye-candy, and that just rubs me the wrong way. I see that and I’m like, “Seriously? Did you guys really have to go there?” Why can’t she just be a bad-ass without being hyper-sexualized? But then I guess that wouldn’t sell. (sigh)

    Once upon a time, when I was in high school (way back in another lifetime), I used to draw my own manga, with the intent of making it sort of an “anti-manga” (and eventually an “anti-anime,” had I been able to turn it into an animated TV series or OVA) in the sense that it deliberately went against all those silly and laughably impractical manga/anime style conventions. Maybe one of these days if I have time, I’ll bring that old story back from the dead and start writing and drawing it again.

    It always cracks me up when I see, in anime, manga, or games, the female characters who are impossibly young and wielding a sword (or some other weapon) almost as big as they are, charging forth into battle wearing what I like to call a “battle bikini” and little more. You’d see male characters in full-on plate armor getting killed left and right, but the hot chick in the steel battle bikini? She annihilates the opposition and gets out of there without a scratch. Just ridiculous. lol Well, I guess I’m just not in that target audience.

    You know how you can tell who the target audience is for a certain manga or anime? Look at the gender and age(s) of the main character(s). The ones with the main heroes being impossibly young kids in their teens are probably targeted toward kids in that age group.

    And I agree, it is pretty creepy when you’ve got the aforementioned teen (or even pre-teen!) girls running around wearing just lingerie or whatever. When I was in Japan I saw some of that stuff at manga/anime shops, and I was like, “What is wrong with these guys who wrote this stuff?” I remember riding the train to Sapporo and seeing grown men (!) reading some of the more, um, *questionable* manga and thinking, “Gosh, they look so normal!” lol

    Like

    1. Hahaha, you went there with the anime rant! I’m going to have a post about it some day, but you beat me to it.

      Clearly you and I share views on how anime tends to sexualize female characters to ridiculous and silly extents. Even the ones that try to have more depth, like Ghost in the Shell, you have to remember its source: Masamune Shirow is after all best known to be an erotic manga artist. Kusanagi’s silly outfit is really just staying true to its roots!

      Anime also seems to promote that teenagers are always the heroes (which is mirrored in many modern “young adult” novels). That’s fine as a teenage fantasy, but from story standpoints anime tend to lose all credibility when the military would always let a bunch of teenagers pilot their most advanced equipment (always mecha), or the greatest warrior knight in the kingdom is a 15 yo boy, or a 19 yo is the Grand Admiral of the Imperial Fleet.

      Then again, if the adults in anime universes are so retarded as to trust their collective fates in a bunch of inexperienced, mentally immature kids, maybe the teenagers SHOULD BE in charge.

      But I also dislike anime on an artistic level: female characters are most often drawn to appear as young as possible, with gigantic eyes and small noses/mouths to evoke child-like images. And then they get hyper-sexualized. Do you know what Anime Hugging Pillows are? If not, Google it… at your own risk. I seriously don’t know what creepy pervert culture would promote these things, but they essentially allow people to hug/hump pillows with prepubescent anime girls in erotic poses printed on them… I need to scrub my eyes and hands after just typing out that sentence. Maybe it’s just me, but anime seems perpetually poised on the uncomfortable edge of child pornography.

      Not that I’m promoting this, but seriously these guys need to go out and meet real women. Or at least watch some regular porn. With adult women in them.

      Like

      1. Yes, I’m, uh… aware of Masamune Shirow’s, shall we say, “questionable” stuff he made back in the day. I just ignored that and only looked at Appleseed (going way back!), Dominion, and the Ghost in the Shell series.

        And yes… I’ve seen those pillows in an anime shop before, along with some other “questionable” items, and I’ve just got one word: “eew.” That was the last time I ever went to that place. lol

        The whole “teenagers piloting giant mechs” thing is certainly nothing new, going all the way back to 1979 with Amuro Rey in the original UC Gundam series, but it got even more ridiculous with later iterations of Gundam (and other series), to the point where I just lost interest entirely. After the whole “boy band” thing with Gundam Wing, it got even sillier.

        At least Macross had a character who actually believable as a ship captain: Captain Bruno Global of the Macross itself (in his 50s). And Isamu Dyson from Macross Plus as a variable fighter pilot (about 26).

        I think Cowboy Bebop is my all-time favorite anime. I love it, the story, the characters, the story development, the ship designs, the music… It just worked for me. Not just a great anime series, but simply great sci-fi in general. Faye Valentine was dressed a bit provocatively, but good old “Faye Faye” gets a pass because when you get to know her as a character and what makes her tick (trusting no one and using her beauty as a weapon and a means to con men out of their money), it’s very much in character for her.

        As weird as it may sound, my favorite mech-related manga & anime series was Patlabor. It was perhaps the most realistic portrayal of what mechs would be like if they were actually built for real. Shirow’s powered armor suits and Tachikomas et al. from Appleseed and Ghost In The Shell were pretty believable and realistic as machines too.

        And I’ve always liked Akira too. It’s quite a deep and thought-provoking story and Katsuhiro Otomo lavishes so much amazing attention to detail upon all his drawings, it’s just amazing. And I love Kaneda’s bike (some guy actually built a real one in Fukuoka, Japan. You can see it on http://www.neo-fukuoka.com).

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s