ARGO is very much what most expect out of a westernized Korean free-to-play MMO; it's rife with translation issues, grindy quests, and inadequately explained systems. But despite all of that, there are a few interesting features to be found buried in the sand. What are these features? And moreover, do they make the game worth playing? Follow past the cut to find out.
Of course, the first thing presented to you in any MMO is character creation, so I imagine I'll start with that. ARGO Online offers a surprising degree of customization for your characters. Along with the typical face selection, eye color, hair color, and hair style, you can also further customize your character's look with a series of sliders that allow you to adjust the scale of the various parts of your avatar's body.
The game's players are split into two factions: the technologically advanced Noblian and the naturally inclined Floresslah. Each faction has eight classes available, with the Noblian possessing a more distinct steampunk flavor and the Floresslah sticking to more conventional fantasy archetypes. Naturally, I chose the Noblian faction and created a Scholar, who in true scholarly fashion totes around a pair of pistols and uses them to blast things to kingdom come.
Combat is speedy though genre-typical. Target enemy, press hotkey rotation, repeat. The animations are flashy (in typical Korean fashion) and quite well done. I really felt that my pistols packed a huge punch as I watched enemies fly back 10 feet upon death.
The quests themselves are typical: go here, gather this, kill X number of monster Z, etc. It starts out at an easy pace but quickly escalates to grindy as you're asked to kill upwards of 20 mobs per quest, which I personally think is overkill. The questing does flow well, however, taking you from point A to point B to point C and not usually requiring you to run all over creation to find your objectives. Some quests during the tutorial are fully voiced but rather poorly so. A few quests are bugged and not completable, giving the game a rather unpolished feel.
To round out the game's decidedly unpolished vibe, invisible walls seem to exist in places they should not; many times I found myself trying to jump a small fence only to be denied by an unseen barrier above said fence. Item tooltip translations can be mystifying at times, and quite a few of the game's systems (such as the Adventure Log, which I'll discuss a bit further on) are never explicitly detailed, leaving players in the dark unless they stumble across them by accident.
Earlier I mentioned the game's Adventure Log, so here's what that's all about. It's essentially an in-game system that allows you to blog about your adventures in ARGO for other players to read and enjoy. It also gives you the ability to view information such as which titles you've acquired, see where you stand on certain quest- and story-completion landmarks, and so forth. It's a fairly interesting feature for something that is never mentioned in the game's tutorial, especially considering the titles that you can unlock grant stat boosts -- which is sort of an important thing for players to know, I think.
Then there's the game's backpack and core system. Throughout my journeys, I was given a variety of backpacks, which are items used to convert a resource known as Earthdium (found on the bodies of various creatures) into energy. This energy can be harnessed to provide offensive and defensive boosts as well as to provide the ability to run faster and double-jump. The Earthdium is also used to power the various mounts that are available to players.
The last thing I want to discuss is the cash shop. I think ARGO is an example of how cash shops can go wrong. Rather than selling exclusively cosmetic items or items that just provide a small bit of convenience, ARGO's cash shop sells straight-up stat improvements (albeit temporary ones) and experience boosts, which sets off warning sirens in my head. I'm not knowledgeable enough to say whether these boosts could potentially imbalance the game, but the fact remains that players who pay seem to have a distinct advantage over those who choose to keep their money to themselves.
So there you have it. If you're willing to wade through some bugs and lack-of-polish, there are a few gems to be found beneath ARGO Online's rough exterior. So let's summarize, shall we?
- Clean, flashy graphics
- Core and Backpack system provides interesting twist to traditional gameplay
- Mounted combat is awesome because big machine-guns are awesome
- Ability to play as third-person shooter adds variety
- Invisible walls and lack of inventory auto-stacking lends unpolished feel
- Quests can be very, very grindy
- Cash shop items are potentially game-imbalancing
- Not all game systems are adequately explained, leaving players in the dark