Yesterday I decided to roll the dice and bought the $30 standard buy-to-play edition of Astellia Online. I’ve heard that it’s “okay.” But I like the idea of paying a modest fee and having essentially lifetime access to the game. (Its lifetime, not mine, probably.)
I paid $30 for Black Desert Online back when it came out, and I haven’t regretted that choice. I only played for a month or so, and haven’t really touched it since, but I appreciate that I can still log in whenever I want to look at it. So I’m applying the same logic here.
Another part of me was thinking that this is essentially the only new “traditional” MMORPG that we’re going to get in 2019, so it seems like I should make at least a modest effort to “vote with my dollars” and say, “Yeah, maybe keep making these.”
So how is it? Well, in a nutshell, my first impressions after a couple of hours are the same as most everyone else’s: It’s “okay.”
I’ll give you the two biggest complaints I have which I haven’t seen anyone mention before. The first is that the loading screens are really long. Maybe it’s just my computer. I don’t run games on an SSD so it’s probably more pronounced.
My second complaint which could either be seen as a negative or an asset (for the comedic value) is that the English localization is not very good. The text translations look like they came through Google translate, and the voice acting is … well, it’s very anime. It often doesn’t match the text, either. It’s a mixed bag, but it’s definitely a weakness. I personally found the tutorial voiceover extremely hilarious, because it sounded exactly like a telephone voicemail voice. But I’m pretty sure comedy isn’t what they were going for.
Other than that, I’m having a hard time thinking of things to say about it. The game looks like an exact copy of Black Desert Online in most respects. However, the game mechanics work more like a traditional tab-targetting MMORPG than BDO. That’s a good summary of the game: It’s Black Desert Online, except it’s a tab-targeting model instead of an action combat model. (And thus far, there isn’t anything like the deeply complex trade system in BDO. I haven’t yet encountered any crafting or economy whatsoever, actually.)
Combat is focused around utilizing “astels,” which are basically pets, to augment your own abilities. You can probably guess that’s where they expect to make most of their revenue: Selling astels in the cash shop. It’s hard to tell how valuable these things will be in combat, because at the start of the game, you can easily auto-attack every enemy to death. As with most new games, there is no chance whatsoever that you’re going to die in the first hour or two or six or twenty. You would have to get up from your chair and walk away from the computer in the middle of a fight to have even a tiny chance of getting close to death.
If you’re an adult man raised in Western society, you can also expect to get that vaguely uncomfortable feeling over how young all the women look in the game. You can only choose a human character, and there are only five classes. It’s very difficult to make a female character that looks like they’ve graduated from high school. And yes, three of the five classes are gender-locked female. You can only play a male character as a warrior or an assassin. Mages, scholars (clerics), and archers are female-only. Almost every enemy boss encounter at the start is a very scantily clad femme fatale with extremely uncomfortable-looking clothes. The only nod to Western sensibilities that I detected was a noticeable lack of nipples (and, you know, gravity) in the otherwise almost-entirely-full-frontal-nudity costumes. (Remember when we thought TERA was racy? How quaint that game seems now.)
Anyway, as a game, it’s okay. I played the Scholar class, which seems to be a serviceable healing and ranged spell-casting class. I think you can specialize in later levels to become more healing-focused or more damage-focused later in the game. That’s about all I can say about it. There’s really nothing innovative that I can see in the first couple of hours. The story is basic and also completely muddled by the sub-standard translations, so it’s hard to follow any of the lore. It’s pretty standard “the gods have chosen you, now go save the world” Asian fare, as far as I can tell.
I feel like MMO news sites are going very easy on this game. It’s as if they all know this is the best we’re going to get in an MMORPG in 2019, so they’re trying really hard to find good things to say about it, to try to perpetuate this illusion that the entire MMO genre hasn’t been collapsing into a black hole lately. I find myself doing the same thing. I don’t really want to trash the game. But it’s hard to find anything exciting. Someone set out to make a game that looks like every other Asian game that we’ve seen before, and they succeeded admirably. It’s sort of the Asian import equivalent of a WoW-clone. It’s an Asian-import-clone.
But it works, and it looks nice. So, I don’t know, it’s better than nothing?