I sat down on Monday with NetMarble Producer Jon-Enee Merriex to discuss Arcane Saga Online, a remake/re-release/re-launch of the defunct Prius Online. I was actually very excited for Prius Online at one point, but the game fell flat once I got my hands on it. With this re-launch, would the publisher NetMarble be able to capture an audience -- and keep it -- this time?
I jumped into the first hour of the game with a bit of an unfair advantage, having Jon-Enee with me to explain many of the ideas and thought processes behind the re-launch. It all makes sense when you hear it from a developer's mouth, but how does the game translate when you just log in and start playing? It turns out that it has many issues but is quite fun a lot of the time.
Before we recorded the livestream, I mentioned the old news bit about a couple from Korea who played Prius Online so much that they abandoned their child. Merriex told me he already had a prepared statement for a response. I'll bet he gets asked about it all the time, but it's just a scary story that could be connected to any game.
But I have to say, there is something in Arcane Saga Online that needs to be brought up in relation to that old news bit: the anima. The anima is a sprite-like creature that comes to you in the form of a little girl. It's a wonderfully animated NPC that acts pretty much like any standard MMO pet; over time, it can learn new skills and even helps during combat. Players need to help the little creature learn where it came from, and along the way they customize the creature with clothes, skills, and even a new name.
I've heard tales of players who grew very attached to their anima. It's an adorable creature, for sure, but I didn't get the feeling that it required more feeding or coddling than other MMO pets. Still, the fact that it comes in the form of a little girl might explain how some players grow a bit too attached to the thing. Heck, I found myself donating most of the skill points that I gained while leveling to the tiny humanoid, even though I could have used them to make my character better. There are similar pets in Aika Online, but no tales of players sharking real-life responsibilities to take care of them.
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The cash shop provides a lot of ways to spend money, but most of it is also available within the game. That's good news for free players. It's standard stuff like mounts and potions, but once again I think anima will drive much of the sales. You can buy clothing items for her, and those items come with actual stats that help make the anima a better companion. I asked if there was a chance that we'd see male anima one day, and Merriex let me know that the development team was looking into a possible cash-shop item that might change it into the appearance of a young boy. (I actually prefer the little girl. There's something slightly unsettling about the tiny spirit, and a little boy would come across as more silly than scary. But that's just my opinion.)
As we mention on the livestream, players will be forced through a linear set of quests for the first 25 levels of play. After that, the game and world open up more as new skills are learned and the wider world is introduced. I was also told that those first 25 levels can pass by within under a few hours, acting more as a longer tutorial period than important, lower-level content. Sure enough, I was through those levels in no time and spent a lot of time exploring skills and practicing cooking and crafting. Those extra "life" skills were easy to learn and use, and I was able to create quite a few useful bits of goodies like food items.
Every quest I came across came from the kill-ten-rats or "go click on that" school of design. That's not always a bad thing, as long as the soft grind is paced well. It seems that over the last few years, foreign grinders are not nearly as grindy as they used to be. I'm not sure whether this is a result of the Western audience's slightly lower tolerance for grinding, but I can see how an "easy" game like Arcane Saga Online can be especially fun if you play with a group of players.
There are some cool-looking free mounts for players to use right from the start of the game. I love the fact that more MMOs (yet still not the majority by far) are giving players mounts at the beginning of play. I understand that saving up bits of gold for a mount can be seen as some sort of achievement system, but if the game is a slog through miles of virtual background, a mount comes in very handy.
Arcane Saga Online is, well, fun. Ish. Sort of fun. I liked how "easy" it was to burn through the first levels, and I enjoyed the anima more than anything. The occasional cutscenes are a nice touch but too uncommon; the graphics are capable but keep system requirements low. Overall, I had a much better impression this time around, so the re-launch must have worked. Check this one out if you enjoy some quick gameplay and an adorable side-kick that comes in the form of a little girl.
Next week I will be checking out Farm Fortress. It's a... well, I don't know what it is, honestly. I'll be taking a look at it on Monday, the 24th of June, at 5:00 p.m. EDT, right here on our livestream channel. Come join me as I look at the game for the first time!
Each week on Rise and Shiny, Beau chooses a different free-to-play, indie, or browser-based game and jumps in head-first. It might be amazing or it might be a dud, but either way, he'll deliver his new-player impressions to you. Drop him an email, comment, or tweet!