While Phantasy Star Online 2 is a PC game, I played it on a 360 controller. Having played Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II on consoles, I felt right at home.
This demo provided locked my experience point gain so I couldn’t level up and didn’t allow me a MAG, essentially stripping the RPG elements from the game. That said, it did allow me to focus solely on combat, letting me play a female Newman (think space-elf) Force (think space-wizard).
First of all, the most basic attacks feel like a more accessible version of the original PSO. After each tap of the X button your character attacks and a ring closes in on them. When that ring turns red, you can press the button again to make your next attack more powerful. While this rhythm feels very similar to the way combos were strung together in PSO, the rhythmic inputs can be ignored if you simply mash or hold the attack button.
I was given three loadouts, which I could swap between by pressing up and down on the D-pad and select with B. The first (and the one I used the most) was a wand. X was a standard attack and B was a fireball. While spells couldn’t be comboed into anything, holding B would make the spell more powerful. Holding RB would shift my available abilities from physical attacks and fire to enemy-penetrating ice and a heal spell that would spread out to my teammates the longer I held it. Perhaps because I was playing a Newman, I never had to worry about running out of Photon Points (think space-MP), since it constantly regenerated.
The second was a strange, throwable card that I didn’t do a whole lot of damage. It gave me access to a fire spell that circled around my body, but frankly I didn’t find it that useful. More interesting to me were the attack and defense buffs that I had access to by holding RB, but even with a fully charged spell, my teammates rarely stood still close to me long enough to be buffed.
The third and final weapon loadout I had access to was a “Gunslash.” Once again, X was a regular attack that used the weapon as if it was a sword, but Y was a special attack that varied depending on what hit in a chain you were on. For instance, Y after one X attack would be a launcher, but after two it might be a two slashes in a cross shape. RB didn’t even work in the same way, instead a tap turned the blade into a gun mode.
On top of the sheer amount of options open to you at any time, the game is fast.
Your characters already moves at a much faster clip than anyone in Phantasy Star Online, but added to the mix is a new dodge move. My character had a very sparkly dash, and while it didn’t have too many (if any) invincibility frames on it, it was very effective for fighting against the giant, ape-like “rockbears” that I had to fight partway through the demo. These creatures started out by attacking my party with slow strikes that were pretty easy to avoid, but then they got angry. They would pursue one member of the party with a series of belly flops in a desperate attempt to crush them.
When my fragile Force was being pursued, I quickly learned the value of the dash, watching for when the enemy would leap into the air, waiting a split-second, then dashing out of the way and dishing out an attack or two before the process repeated.
After taking out two rockbears and a few circling wolf-like enemies, we headed off towards the demo’s boss: the “Vol Dragon.”
This fight was particularly reminiscent of the boss of the forest area of Phantasy Star Online Episode 1, a fight I’d gone through multiple times. Because I had a vague memory that ice was useful against the original dragon, I started bombarding the Vol Dragon’s feet with ice as it wandered around and smacked my teammates out of its way. Aside from doing solid damage as hit both of the dragon’s feet, at one point I’d actually frozen the dragon to the ground. I took this as my chance to switch to the Gunslash and start air-comboing the particularly fragile looking orb-like part of the creature’s tail. As it turned out, the same rhythm/ring-based combat reward system was in place in the air, too!
While my team and I were never able to remove the Vol Dragon’s tail, we eventually killed the beast, and our demo ended.
Food for Thought:
1. While the healing spell I had made it a nonissue, I liked that you could scroll through your items with left and right on the D-pad and use them simply by tapping LT. I never had to fuss with menus, which was nice given the pace of the game.
2. Every player sees their own loot drops. Unfortunately, the demo I played only had the enemies dropping Meseta (the Phantasy Star series’ currency), it was nice that none of my teammates could pick up what was rightfully mine (and vice versa).