Lucent Heart has really gotten under my skin. While my recent schedule has not allowed me as much time in the game as I would liked, I have been poking around the official site and Facebook page and sneaking in a few quests here and there. I really enjoyed chatting with the devs from Gamania during E3, and they asked whether I'd a personal tour of the game afterwards.
We were finally able to hang out for a while, and I captured a lot of it on video for your viewing pleasure. We decided to look at the Cupid system and a bit of a dungeon, but we could have gone on for a lot longer. The fact is that the game, like many of its foreign counterparts, simply packs more gameplay and new systems into every square inch of its design than many Western MMOs. With the Japanese version of Lucent Heart two years ahead of the U.S. version, more content is guaranteed.
Click past the cut to check out my hot date with Mark, Product Manager of Lucent Heart, and to hear a bit more about the game!
First of all, I need to compliment the team on the game's art style. While it might look like any other Anime-inspired MMO to the untrained eye (I recently graduated to a "trained eye"), the character models are some of my favorites. They feel chunky and tough, but they remain flexible. As you can see in the video, the animations can be wonderful. I'm a sucker for neat animations, the type lovingly crafted by a very dedicated animator, and Lucent Heart is filled with them.
After a while, it starts to look like you are playing within an animated movie. I think our gamer eyes have really started to take for granted the amazing graphics that come bundled with these free bits of entertainment, so I try to stop and notice when I can. I've said it before, but my character in Lucent Heart would make an amazing hobbit in Lord of the Rings Online.
Mark wanted to show me the Cupid system, a cool social tool that allows players to meet each other by filling out a small yet thorough set of questions. Yes, some of the players do use it as a virtual dating service, but in my experience, gamers who want that sort of connection will find it any way they can. The Cupid system makes meeting other players fun but also gives real combat (and other) benefits to the participants. For example, a couple that has reached a certain level together can earn particular animations that, once used, give a combat buff to both players. This means that Billy can snuggle with his virtual significant other and be more combat-ready afterwards. The relationship animations are kept pretty much PG and are quite beautiful to watch. The slow dance animation in particular is lovely. It's good to note that the team is handcrafting same-sex animations for players who want them.
I've seen match-making systems in games before, but they were generally centered around grouping for combat. Lucent Heart is the first one that seems to combine all of the possible uses of a social system into one. There are benefits for all parties involved, and the system would be perfect for roleplay. No, not that kind.
"As I played along with my character and watched the other players bound around, chat, and generally have a good time in the middle of the city I was in, I was taken back to when I first started playing MMOs."
As I played along with my character and watched the other players bound around, chat, and generally have a good time in the middle of the city I was in, I was taken back to when I first started playing MMOs, around '99. We were fascinated with the fact that you could chat with people from all over the world, and so we did, often for hours at a time while hanging out under the Atlas statue in City of Heroes or in front of the bank in Ultima Online. Seeing those players in Lucent Heart made me envious of someone who is growing up or first discovering MMO gaming in these amazing times. Yes, one day we will surely laugh at the current technology, just like we laugh at computers that were once the size of entire rooms. Until then, though, games like Lucent Heart are embracing the social aspect of MMOs more than most, and I can truly appreciate that.
Combat is not something that is just tossed into the game, however. A player gains levels and abilities in fairly standard ways, but dungeon-crawling is a sort of customizable experience. A player can obtain differently colored gems that fit into one of three different slots at what looks like a dungeon-o-matic inside the town. Once those gems are placed, an imposing door rises from the ground, beckoning players inside. Depending on which gems were used, the monsters inside can be from dozens of varieties. Of course, once Mark and I went inside, even all of his god-like GM powers could not save me from my very own my Leroy Jenkins moment. I think I died four times before we decided to call it a day.
Even after meeting with an official representative from Gamania and having the game explained to me some more, I am aware that I am still missing a lot. Luckily the game is free, so it resides on my hard drive for me to explore. I have found that combat is, as Mark explains in the video, pretty tough if you just run into it. Do not trust the auto-walking feature; it is handy, but if you go AFK while running to a destination, you just might find a dead body when you come back.
Keep an eye out for tons of new content. As I mentioned above, the Western version of the game is around two years behind the Japanese version. This means that our new content is the older, refined content of the Japanese playerbase. When it makes its way here, it will have already been adjusted and tweaked. I can't wait.
Now, if you don't mind, I have not yet found a partner in-game, and that bothers me. I refuse to adjust my parameters and will still include my description as a "37-year-old happily married man" in the form. I can only imagine the horror as some random player is unlucky enough to pull my card. Perhaps I am doomed to be alone?
In the meantime, you can check out the official site for Lucent Heart and like the game on Facebook right here. Thanks again to Mark and the Gamania team for taking the time out to explain Lucent Heart to me!
Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org!