The worst thing about touring through a virtual world is not knowing exactly what to bring with you. Over the last several months I have slowly but surely tweaked my habits to make writing easier. Even then I am sometimes perplexed as to how to do it better and what tools would work best for me. Luckily, the greatest tool of all time does exist and is dirt cheap. It fits within my pocket and works with any operating system or peripheral.

Yes, I'm talking about a stack of Post-Its.

As I ran through the different areas of Faxion Online with one of the developers, I scribbled my notes down on the tiny notepad. Then I stuck the notes to my computer monitor for later reference. I also took screenshots (not the ones you see in this article -- these were supplied by UTV True Games, the developer behind Faxion) and later used them to try to remember how I felt during the walkthrough. While writing, I looked down at my Post-Its and saw three key words: optimization, stylized graphics, and gross fat guy.

Click past the cut to see what else I might have jotted down.

Once in game, I decided to roll a character on the Hell side. I wouldn't want anyone to see me walking around with angels like Della Reese -- imagine the embarrassment! Also, the promise of fire and brimstone is always attractive, even if just for the killer music. I decided to roll a Reaver, the fighter class of the dark side. Lately, I have been favoring melee classes over my usual ranged classes. Even though I wasn't sure what melee might mean for me in Faxion, I stuck with it.

Remember, this is a friends-and-family alpha we are talking about, so customization was very basic. My guy still looked cool, though, like something that came from The Chronicles of Spellborn. This is a good thing, at least to me, especially considering that Spellborn was probably my favorite game in terms of graphics. My Reaver had long arms, a ridiculous smile on his face, and a cocky shock of blond hair. It was hard to remember that he was evil!

All players start off in Purgatory, the infamous neutral city where lost souls wait. While there were not many players around, it seems as though the city would act not only as a jumping-off point for newbies but also as a tense build-up to future PvP battles. After all, there is your enemy -- right beside you! The developers were smart enough to include an underground free-for-all PvP zone for new players to jump into, thus answering the question, "Where do I PvP at low level?" My guide took me down into the area, and we spent some time chasing each other. A truly free-for-all zone means that players can attack anybody regardless of faction. Don't worry -- UTV isn't trying to make Darkfall here, so when you die, it is simply a pause in gameplay. The team wants you to get up, dust yourself off, and get back into battle as quickly as possible.

And battles there will be! Maps are laid out with strategic hiding places, choke points, and nesting spots for later-level gliding, which means that many battles will never play out the same. One particularly disgusting area that was themed after hunger and greed was filled with beautiful orchards and ripening fruit at the front of the zone. In the middle section sat large wooden buildings that hosted massive, slimey creatures who ate everything in sight. In the rear of the zone was the true playground -- a massive trash pile filled with (I'm guessing) stinking, rotting mounds of food and refuse. Peppered within the mounds and valleys were wide-mouthed pipes that were perfect for ducking into, popping out of, and confusing enemies. Some pipes even hosted teleporters that would zap players into different areas of the play field, Mario Brothers-style.


"You can roll a warrior-type who can heal, a ranged dude who can tank -- it really goes pretty deep."

At first glance, combat consists of the standard "click the target, click abilities" type. There is a pretty cool twist, however. First of all, multi-classing essentially allows players to make almost any type of character they want. You can roll a warrior-type who can heal, a ranged dude who can tank -- it really goes pretty deep. This is achieved by allowing players to visit the different class trainers to adopt new spells or abilities. While it's as easy as that, it does become more expensive to learn abilities that are not native to the player's original class. Also, the developers have included offline skill training similar to EVE Online's. The key difference here is that if you set a skill to level up, it will take the same amount of time at level 1 as it would at higher levels. It's always the same. If a player wanted to, he could plan out a character far in advance, knowing exactly how long it would take.

The skills are dependent on player stats, something that is adjustable by players as well, so as a player levels, the skills adjust. You can also "charge" abilities for different effects. Easing off your mouse-button might launch off a standard fireball; let it charge up a second time, and it might do something different. This design encourages players to choose between faster, weaker shots or longer-loading, powerful ones.

The cash shop will feature mostly harmless items like potions, but it will also sell time-savers. If you want to speed up skill training or buy an extra slot for your skill training queue, you can purchase the ability in the cash shop. While technically this means a player with a good deal of money can level her abilities faster than others can, she must still gain higher stat points through in-game leveling. Time and knowledge, it seems, will always be the great equalizer.


"There were plenty of bugs with quests and combat that made the game almost unplayable at times -- common stuff for any alpha, as far as I've experienced."

Of course, nothing runs perfectly in a game at such an early stage. As I noted earlier, one of the words on my Post-It was optimization. Generally, my game ran like molasses. I was down to eight frames-per-second in some areas, up to 35 in others. As this isn't perfect by any means, the developers have promised that optimizing the game is a top priority. There were plenty of bugs with quests and combat that made the game almost unplayable at times -- common stuff for any alpha, as far as I've experienced. The forums are already filled with suggestions, complaints, and ideas. Some players are already hitting high levels and suggesting major ideas to the developers, who seem to be listening. One particular set of issues with level-based gear has pricked the developers' ears -- they are working on that, too.

What do I predict this game will be like upon release? You will find a free-to-play, stylized, semi-open, territory-control-based, PvP-heavy, multi-class game that allows players to raise skills while offline. A real hybrid. If the devs get the performance under control and add everything they have promised before said release, it will be a lot of fun to play, not to mention disgusting -- some of the artists on the team are out of their minds.

In a good way, of course.

This article was originally published on Massively.
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