As I ran up to the disgusting-looking tower, several floating squid monsters attacked me. No worries -- I hit a number key corresponding to one of my special abilities and filled the monsters with hot lead from my twin six-shooters. They were dead in seconds, and I took the opportunity to help out my teammate as he attacked the tower with a pair of swords. I punched my uber-ability into action and riddled the fleshy tower with beans of death until it exploded.

We moved on to the inner areas of the enemy territory, destroying defenders as they appeared. Soon, we were pressing down on the main building -- the headquarters of the opposite side. Our foes attempted to stop us, but we were rolling downhill, straight at 'em -- our inertia was too great. We destroyed the building and the giant that defended it. We had won, but not without facing a challenge.

This is what a game of LOCO feels like to me. It's fast, strategic and fun. It looks amazing and is free-to-play -- that's a winning combination right there.

Essentially, Land of Chaos Online is a game of "destroy the enemy base." It sounds simple enough, and it is if you want it to be -- but there are many strategic elements to it. First, you need to decide which character you would like to use during the match. There are 30 characters total, so take your time and experiment with how each one plays. Hands down, I prefer a ranged class, so I went with Minity Grey -- an evil, cute, and deadly little girl with giant pigtails, and Randy Rozz -- the resident gunslinger who looks a bit like a '70s pimp.

I am sloppy at these action-type games in the first place, so I was very worried about being able to do any good at all. Luckily, you can play in larger groups of eight and can avoid facing the full brunt of combat, if you are careful, until you are more comfortable in the game. It didn't take long, however, until I was brazenly pounding lead into any enemy I could find. Did I die in the process? A lot. Luckily, the developers from AlaPlaya were kind enough to explain things to me a bit.

There are strategic points on every game map, areas such as a gold mine that gives bonuses to in-game coin, which can later be used to buy upgrades and weapons. You must run to the point, take it over by holding it for a certain length of time, and then it becomes manned by a group of mobs that will defend it in your name. Other strategic points allow you to unleash a floating battleship's torrent of doom onto your enemies. Ranged players can find hilltops to attack from, and melee characters can tunnel enemies into corners. The interface is mostly intuitive, but some aspects -- the store, for example -- need some time to become familiar with. Overall, however, if you are used to FPS/action games, then you will feel right at home.

The cash shop (not to be confused with the in-game coin shop) features items that will affect only individual players and promises to never unbalance the games. My hosts were kind enough to loan me some cash to play with, and I proceeded to buy myself a sick-looking new trench coat for my character. As I previewed the other character's items in the shop, I realized that the game was probably one of the best-looking free-to-play titles I have seen. It's based on the Unreal engine, but it has been optimized to run on many different setups. I was able to play it, mostly lag-free, on both my heavier gaming rig and my older PC. If you like insane-looking mobs, huge spell effects, and outrageous characters, then you'll like LOCO.

"Don't worry, readers -- LOCO is not going to do away with the need for immersive worlds, giant dungeons or guild houses."


Simply because I know it will come up in the comments section, I will now address the question on everyone's minds: Is LOCO an MMORPG? Yes, and no. I have tried to define the term already and can only say that LOCO is and is not an MMORPG. First of all, it is an instanced death-match type of game -- the persistent world is there, but only in increments. There is a lobby and a chat -- so the social aspect is definitely there. I see it as a hardcore raiding game, made up of teams of elite individuals that have learned how to communicate and strategize. It might be more apt to describe the game as an MMORPG that has been encapsulated into individual matches. Every player starts the match out at level 1 and earns levels and experience as he plays. New skills can be learned as experience is earned, so it's as though players are playing an MMORPG in hyperdrive.

The brilliant aspect of this is that a player can jump in for a 30-minute match, but he can gain skills, pick up new strategies, or try out new classes, all while keeping his busy schedule full. It's a hybrid game that reflects the changes in a section of today's market. It's a market that wants in-depth play and needs a social experience, but doesn't have the time to spend on an eight-hour raid every night. A game like LOCO provides the MMORPG type of experience, all within a fraction of the time normally required. The developers have mentioned new goals and maps to be released that will reflect even more of an MMORPG mindset. With a few tweaks, a game like LOCO could easily suck away many hardcore players from the "normal" MMORPG world.

Don't worry, readers -- LOCO is not going to do away with the need for immersive worlds, giant dungeons or guild houses. It is what it is -- a wonderfully violent, darkly beautiful, easy-to-play-hard-to-master free-to-play party. You can check it out here.

Now all you have to decide is whether you prefer a little girl with giant pigtails or a massive horned beast. Either way, you'll probably be late to work the next day.

This article was originally published on Massively.
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