It's been a while since I looked at Pandora Saga. It's been almost three years, actually. I decided to check it out again because, well, that's what this column is all about. OK, it's about revisiting games and introducing you to new titles through the eyes of a brand-newbie, but you get the point. After all this time, it was possible that the game had changed so much that it would be as if I were a brand-new player again. And in many ways, this revisit was experienced through the eyes of a newbie, but even still, I felt as if the game had not changed as much as I expected.
It's a game that's great for PvP fans but might not be so great for fans of, you know, not PvP. I have no problems with fighting other players. But a game that isn't fun until after levels and levels and levels of grinding?
That I have a problem with.
You'll start off by making a character by picking from one of six races: Humans (boring), Elves (pretty and tall), Dwarves (dudes only), Myrine (tall ladies only), Endiku (massive dudes), and Lapin (cute and only ladies). I have heard a lot of different opinions about the game's graphics this week, but I really like how the game looks. Does it look older than it really is? Yes, but that doesn't mean it looks poorly made. In my livestream interview with GMs Cornflakes, Excellen, and Grapefruit, I learned that the game looks similar to Final Fantasy XI because members of the Final Fantasy XI team worked on Pandora Saga. Cool!
To sum up, there is a large race, some cute and not-so-cute smaller races, a pretty larger race or two, and bland old humans. You'll pick from one of three nations, each of which is battling it out for control of the game in massive PvP fights (more on that later).
You'll also pick a starter class from the likes of the Warrior, Scout, Mage and Acolyte. You won't have much to choose from as far as skills, but as someone who was loaned a higher-level press character, I can say that you will have quite a few skills -- some very interesting ones -- to pick from when you become a senior level character. The variety of skills in my higher-level summoner-type loaner actually reminded me of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes and its almost all-in-one character skills and traits. My Vanguard Ranger character has a small healing spell, for example. I like odd little character abilities in class-based games. They give gameplay much-needed variety.
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You'll be begging for that variety during your first several levels in the game. The real fun doesn't really kick in until level 20. Even though many gamers might giggle at my lack of appreciation for such a tiny goal like reaching level 20, I don't like the fact that every player I met seemed to be OK with the required grind. I've seen the same acceptance in many, many titles that force players to grind out level after level until the "real" game opens up at a certain level. I just don't get it, and I certainly don't like playing a game that requires me to grind as though I am working on TPS reports before leaving for the weekend.
Reaching level 20 is possible through a few main quest lines. It's a lot of running back and forth and killing a lot of monsters. In a game that is so PvP-centric, I would love to see high-level characters for sale right from the beginning. It's a controversial viewpoint, but a misunderstood one. I'm not talking about a title that is attempting to release players into a realistic, massive world. Pandora Saga is all about the high-level PvP experience, and there's nothing wrong with that, so why not allow players to get right to it? What is served by forcing players to grind through PvE content first?
I think most players see this grinding period as a sort of rite-of-passage. Again, it's fine with me that they appreciate it, but I do not. It's not very fun. There are moments during battle that are really a blast, but those good times are mostly due to the dynamic nature of grouping with members of the generally helpful and friendly community, not really a result of the dynamics of combat. Grouping makes all sorts of MMOs fun; this one is no exception.
So how about that PvP? It is a lot of fun after all. Sure, during the livestream, it was probably obvious that I was piloting a new-to-me press character, but after I figured out how my class played and how I needed to buy myself time in order to maximize my damage, I had a lot more fun. My class created mobs out of thin air! These mobs act as sort of turrets that will attack whatever mob comes near them. I started off by finding a nice spot for fighting, creating a plant monster that shot lightning from its hands, and then I'd pull mobs into its range with my own abilities. It's a handy set of abilities that made soloing fun.
In PvP, my abilities were not so handy. The developers suggested that my teammates needed to take the heat off of me so I could have time to cast my longer spells, but I usually wound up being the first to be targeted. Luckily, there were sometimes enough players around to make sure that we all took a hit.
You can upgrade equipment in town by using special gems. I didn't bother with it, even on my lower-level character. I died in PvP a lot, sure, but that was not because of the few extra points of damage I might have gotten out of upgrading. Crafting is similarly bland. You combine two items from your inventory to make a new one. Once again I saw little need for crafting, but it might come in handy as you learn higher-level recipes.
Pandora Saga is mostly fun when you reach higher levels. The entire game is set up to get you ready for playing in one of the many different types of PvP matches. You can make a preconfigured match by visiting an arena NPC, or you can participate in one of the daily, massive fights that pit nations against each other. I wish the game would offer more than one of those per day.
If you like PvP, you will enjoy Pandora Saga. Just prepare to grind first. If you don't like grinding until you reach the real fun, skip it. It's a good-looking game that can run on a toaster, and the cash shop is not very intrusive at all. The game is more like an older, hardcore, group-oriented MMO that requires a lot of friends. Luckily, the community in Pandora Saga is open and friendly to newbies!
Next week I will be exploring just how MMO Minecraft can be by playing on an open server that currently supports around 60 people. Watch me stream the game live on Monday, the 18th of November, at 4:00 p.m. EST, right here on our livestream channel!
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!