The Asian MMORPG scene is one many developers and publishers in the West are increasingly looking to for inspiration. Free-to-play, transaction-based payment schemes were popular in countries like Korea, where online PC-gaming has been the dominant form gaming, far before they were adopted on a larger scale in the West.
Since most in the West aren’t readily exposed to Japanese and Korean MMORPGs, here’s a small glimpse of four newer games. The first two are currently being beta-tested, whereas Aika Online and Le Ciel Bleu have been released for a while. All of these games are currently being watched by 4Gamer, which is where we sourced our information for this (hopefully periodical) column. Since all MMOs have a fairly similar base — such as quests and dungeons — this article will focus on the uniqueness of each of these games.
Valkyrie Sky is an MMORPG created by the Korean company Yolim Communications. This week, it will be released for closed beta-testing in Japan by publisher JC Global. The game is based on Norse myths and is a unique blend of genres: an MMORPG in the form of a shooting game. The game works how one would expect the common online RPG to; with quests, abundant items, and job classes, as well as many stages to clear and bosses to defeat. The difference, though, comes from the battle interface. Valkyrie Sky is categorized as a Shooting RPG, and the battles are reminiscent of several popular shoot-em-ups.
The job differences show in the battles — the warrior has a short range of attack but can deflect attacks as well; the summoner has a wide variety of attacks created by summoning monsters; the archer possesses long-range attacks, and is probably the defining class that makes the game feel like a shmup; and the magician has powerful spells, some capable of decimating all enemies on screen at once. If you’re interested in seeing how battles work click on the movie (sorta NSFW).
One MMO about ready for release in Japan is Souten, a game released by Arario Corp., based in the pre-Three Kingdoms era. As you can see from the screenshots, the entire world is dedicated to this motif, even to the extent that some of the bosses are famous historical figures, such as Zhang Jiao, Yuan Shu, and Lü Bu, all of whom appear in Romance of Three Kingdoms. The game focuses on the growth of a character from a soldier to a general in charge of an army.
Souten contains several types of campaigns and quests. There are the usual dungeons — called Region Battles — which you go through, grab items, and level up by defeating NPCs. Subjugation Battles take place in “instance dungeons,” which are created when you talk to NPCs in town. There, all players in the MMORPG share the same match and work towards the same goal, and it is here that the famous bosses appear. In Pillaging Battles, two teams face off, and the battle may range from 8 vs. 8 to 50 vs. 50. The map is created with the teams’ levels in mind, so people of all levels are encouraged to participate.
The last type of quest is Crafts, although a more appropriate term may be “Infiltration.” The player’s goal is to sneak into an enemy country’s city and to collect information on the town as well as take advantage of the items sold at the stores and the quests available at the enemy base. This also allows the player to see detailed information enemy generals, so it’s a mode most will want to use.
Aika Online is more of what westerners would envision MMORPGs are. Developed by HanbitSoft, it takes place in a world that seems to be a mixture of fantasy and technology. In the game, there are the classes, the different countries, the quests and dungeons, and rare items to find. There’s PvP and leveling up. The game was designed so that newcomers to the online gaming world would be comfortable playing as well.
However, what makes this game different is that it allows the player to raise what are called Prans -– humanoid companions that start out as a fairy and grow to look like human girls, albeit with very long ears. The game places an emphasis on your interaction with these Prans, who, as they grow and evolve, change in-game events as well as augment your abilities in battle. It is also possible to customize the Pran with accessories and clothes commonly given away during quests and online events.
Le Ciel Bleu
The last game to be covered here is Le Ciel Bleu, a game operated in Japan by Userboy Japan. This game, with beautiful anime art, is based in an original fantasy world that loosely draws its origins from Greek mythology. The game takes pride in its ability to run on almost all computers, no matter how low its specs are, and in the fact that you can raise a pet and have it grow alongside you. This pet can then interact with others in different ways and can help in battle. However, the greatest aspect of this game is its classes.
There are six main classes: Ranger, Sword Man, Archer, Magician, Healer, and Nighter (assassin), and four multi-job classes: Magic Knight, Gunner, Maid & Butler, and Might. As usual, each class has its strengths and weaknesses, but to allow flexibility, the game actually allows you to change class. You aren’t bound to be a Magician the whole way through; instead, you can switch to a Sword Man (the game’s version of a Knight) at a moment’s notice. This allows for a versatile experience and for you to experiment and raise your character the way you want.
We hope you enjoyed this brief look at some of the latest in online gaming in Asia. Each of these four games is unique in its own way, and some of these worlds and concepts are genuinely intriguing. Hopefully, the West will be able to experience Eastern MMORPGs such as these in the future as various MMO publishers expand.