First Impressions: Elsword Online

Last time we checked in on Elsword Online, we found a fun, little, over-the-top, side-scrolling, action-based MMO. (That's a mouthful.) It provided a good amount of challenge but was never too hard, and the freeze-frame finishing moves were... well, neat. I've just used a series of words that do not really describe to you how fun the game is, but like most fluffy arcade romps, it really just needs to be experienced.

It was nice to go back and check in on the game after its official release, but I didn't find much difference. Sure, the cash shop is now open (will explain that later), and yes, there are actual players around now, but it's still basically a cute little tear-'em-up that will probably make millions. If you like this kind of game, you'll love Elsword Online.

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Anime fans must have some sort of issue with power, or at least with cuteness. The extreme anime -- styles like chibi with characters that look like fat little children -- are very popular in the MMO world. I'm not sure I get it, but I think I have an idea about why players like the style. Picture a puppy, round and fat, so cute that it melts your brain. Anyone can understand that feeling. Well, anime takes that feeling and turns it into actual laser beams coming out of the puppy's eyes. Chibi-style, if I am using the right term, makes everything in the world round and pudgy. Everything is at an extreme. My main character in Elsword Online was a swordsman, and his weapon was so huge and blocky that it was literally just a block adorned with the standard anime buttons and lines. If you've ever seen a movie or game that features a main character who carries around a massive, massive sword, then you know what I'm trying to describe here. Those giant swords must be some kind of fetish to anime fans. (In fact, anime seems like one giant fetish to me.)

"Odd monsters -- what appear to be aardvarks with backpacks on, giant moss-covered guardian types, strange stick-figure minions that sound like two broomsticks hitting concrete when they walk -- who thinks of these things?"

Elsword's devs employ all of the standards in their game. Odd monsters -- what appear to be aardvarks with backpacks on, giant moss-covered guardian types, strange stick-figure minions that sound like two broomsticks hitting concrete when they walk -- who thinks of these things? It's not as though almost anyone couldn't do it, though. Just make a wheel with random animals, items, colors, and super-powers, and you have yourself a "random anime monster creator." Spin and create.

The 2-D side-scrolling action games seem to be all the rage with the kids these days, as well. The makers of Elsword are some of the same people who brought you Grand Chase, a hugely successful 2-D scroller. Perhaps it's because of the game's ability to be played on almost any PC, or perhaps it's due to the adorable art style, but the side-scrollers are having a very good year so far.

Of course, it could be the fact that even I, someone who mostly despises anime because of its ability to continue to rip itself off to the point that it has become a self-parody, found myself zoning out, open-mouthed and dry-eyed for quite a long time while playing the game.

The lights.

The sounds.

The massive swords.

The adorable monsters.

All of these added up to my grinding away most of my time in the game. Granted, you sort of have to grind away your time in the game, since most quest lines happen within the same dungeon. You'll find yourself repeating the same dungeons over and over and over, perhaps raising the difficulty levels a bit just to keep it a tad more fresh. Still, it's not as bad as it seems. The monsters are always fun to fight, and the combat system is intuitive and clever enough that the fighting is rarely a challenge, at least at my level of play.

Some of the boss monsters are downright massive, and I'm sure that they will only get bigger. If you are mindful and watch for it, each boss gives some sort of sign or two before firing off its main salvo of pain. Simply keep an eye out, dodge the attack, and continue pummeling. It's more fun than I describe. Also, be sure to hang out in groups if you can. I rarely did during my time with the game, but when I did it was much more fun. I have said this in the past as though it is some kind of revelation, but grouping truly does make things better. Even the most solo-friendly game is more fun in a group, so try to bring a friend or two with you into the world of Elsword.

I didn't spend much time with the cash shop, but it seemed to sell mostly harmless fluff items, experience potions and the like. I am bound and determined to go back and outfit my character with more of the appearance armor, though, simply because when making a character you can only choose from one of three standard, gender-locked classes. You'll find plenty of carbon-copies of yourself, so appearance armor is the only way to look different. The game is a relatively easy download (if I remember correctly, though, it used the horrific Pando Media Booster) and runs on anything. It would make a perfect game for an iPad or similar portable device, so here's hoping for the future. Until then, Elsword Online is standard anime, semi-standard side-scroller, and a lot of fun. It's easy to pick up and go, so just keep an eye on the clock... it will suck away your time.
This article was originally published on Massively.