Bounty Hounds Online screenshot
The developers of Bounty Hounds Online recently invited Massively to join them in exploring their closed beta world. I am not the type to turn down an invitation like that, so I downloaded the client and logged in. While it did take a while to figure out which client to use and exactly how to log in to the test server so the developers could show me things that were not yet in the beta, the wait was worth it.

If you've been curious about how the game looks, plays, and feels, click past the cut and join me for a preview! Bear in mind that I was given a very decked-out character, so combat was a breeze. Other than that, everything else was a normal tour through a very cool-looking world!

Bounty Hounds Screenshot
Graphically, the game looks a bit like Tabula Rasa meets an Anime movie with a dash of Anarchy Online mixed in. The first thing I noticed was how incredibly smooth the game ran, even with maxed-out graphics and in a large window. Bounty Hounds joins a long list of beautiful games that seem to come from nowhere. There simply must be something in the water over there, something that helps developers and coders produce fantastic-looking games that run smoothly. Rain came down and created realistic puddles. Trees dropped the occasional leaf. Insects buzzed around our heads as we ran around. The sky was absolutely filled with action and movement, from giant ships armed with massive turrets to smaller craft and weapons fire. This is a living, breathing world. It is rare to see games with such detail.

The character models are from the land of beautiful people. Everyone moves fluidly, and a nice blur effect gives movement a feeling of speed and agility. Combat, as brief as it was for my overpowered goddess, was bright and loud. I cleared entire groups of enemies with a swipe or two of my massive sword. Unfortunately this meant that I was not able to get a good feel for the subtleties of combat, but I was assured that some of the battles I won would take normal players up to an hour or more. The instanced dungeons I visited were very linear, set up as a series of walkways within more animated backgrounds. I have to be honest and say that it was all a blur, literally and figuratively, but it was still a lot of fun to see how smooth combat was. Mobs were detailed and animated, but I wish I could have had more time to see their abilities.

The different instances and areas I visited were variable and beautiful, but they did all share a similar style. I never felt as though I was in another game or in a hastily designed area. I visited murky caverns, glowing with phosphorescent creatures and plants. I also ran through the jungle fighting off hordes of insects, including a giant moth-boss. It's a shame that players will most likely burn through this content and all of the wonderful details will go largely unnoticed. If there is a game that needs to be appreciated for its art design, this is it.

Bounty Hounds screenshot
I asked about the giant robots or mech creatures that played such an obvious role in the game and was told that they will not be controllable suits of armor at the beginning but that they will have some part in the adventure. The devs will be looking at implementing the mechs in everyday combat later on. In the meanwhile, players are given a pet (the hound in Bounty Hounds, I'm guessing), and much of the game is centered around raising or leveling this pet. In fact, according to the developers, your pet is half of your character. Pets are not just some cool-looking buddy that might pull a little aggro now and then. No, pets are full-fledged characters that grow, morph, and mature. The details and animations of the pets were fantastic. Their skin was glistening and detailed, and over time, they change and develop.

Players are also given the choice to jump straight into boss fight instances. All they need to do is form a group and join the instance by talking to an NPC in one of the major hub cities. I jumped into a max-level boss fight that would normally take over an hour, but of course the poor guy died with one swipe of my weapon. The developers seem to be going for a challenging yet convenient game. I would have liked to see more "normal" gameplay, but this was a developer tour, and sometimes things move very, very fast during a tour, so pretty much everything I saw was dead within a moment or two. Still, it showed me how the developers are going for a halfway point between an action game and a game with standard MMO combat. Players will have their targets and abilities but can move around while fighting. You will not quite control every swing of your weapon as in games like Vindictus, but you will definitely be doing more than just standing there. It was an interesting take on combat, and it results in visceral, lively encounters.

There is no housing in the game as yet, and it seemed as though standard questing and instanced grinding would be the norm. Again, though, the game looks and feels sharp enough to make those standards fun. I didn't get any details about additional systems, and it was obvious that I had been invited to a party intended to show off the look and feel of the game more than anything. Is that enough to recommend the game? Well, it will be free... so of course it is worth the download. Until the betas open up more and more systems are fleshed out, I cannot say much more. Right now, Bounty Hounds Online is very impressive-looking and feels epic, and I can't to see it on the day of release!

This article was originally published on Massively.
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