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First Impressions: Perfect World


Time for another episode of 'First Impressions'! The show that asks the question "Where has Akela been playing lately?" Today's installment: Cubizone's Perfect World. Remember, kids, this is not a guide, this is not an in-depth look. It's a post about how the first hour or so of a game strikes me, with no preconceptions or foreknowledge. Caveat emptor!

What you're looking at above is my avatar, Akelatal the Beastman. He's a cheery sort, isn't he? Don't you just wanna cuddle him and feed him treats? Throw a riven skull for him to chase and chew on? He's adorable, like much of this MMO, though there are a couple of issues, to be sure. Rest assured, at least a couple of them are adorable too.

Gallery: Perfect World | 37 Photos

When you're creating your character, you're treated to a little bit of Malaysian pop music, which wouldn't be so bad, except that you can't turn it off. By the end of customization, you too will be singing the Perfect World theme, a catchy little ditty that you will never un-hear. I'm hoping that farther along in-world I'm going to get the chance to whack some Level 12 Earworms.

Note: You can click on each of these screenshots for a higher-res version. Here's the first of the three selectable races, the Common Human. Arrogant, haughty, squishy, and edible. Usually the middle-of-the-road, the typical Human is the well-balanced class, able to do most things passably well, but with no particular focus. This guy is no exception. Plus, just look at him. Thinks he's top of the food chain, with his carefully coiffed 'do, his color-coordinated ensemble, and his More-Balanced-Than-Thou expression. Let me tell you something, Renaissance Dan, drop the two of us in a cage, stripped down to nothing more than our nature-given attributes, and you're nothing more than a doggie treat for me. Iiiiiiiiiit's BACON!

The next selectable race, the Wing Elf, conspicuously sans wings. 'Elegant, holy ... make them pretty handsome, their feather brightness.' Yes, I couldn't have said it better myself, lower right corner summary box! Incidentally, the lovely broken English is one of the aforementioned 'lovable issues' I was nattering on about before. There are a few really shining examples to be had before you get too far in the game, and one of the best ones will come up shortly.

Now we're cooking with a fire elemental! If I may again quote from our friend the Summary Box: " ... while understand the bitterness of life rotation, after hundred years of cultivation, there're prosess to human shape transform into werebeast.' Just so you know, those aren't my typos -- that's in the game. Is it really that hard to find someone to translate Malaysian into readable English? At any rate, I will always choose to play a beastman, or lycanthrope, or therian, whichever term you prefer. It's just who I am, and Perfect World understands that, in all its poorly-translated glory. What are the advantages to playing a member of the Beastkind? Who the hell cares? Let's do this thing!

I was excited to see the many options available for facial customization, until I realized that only a scant few were available to me as a werebeast. Maybe that's a strength. Certainly, Akelatal there looks pretty smug with himself. And, really, what's left to customize? You've already got the head of an animal! Does it matter if you can only stretch the height of the head, or the broadness of the muzzle? In a word: Absolutely. If you're going to go this far, commit to it! Everquest II allows customization of their non-human races, so why not me?

Okay, enough of that. It's time to enter the world, perfect or otherwise. Shown above is the initial area for those of the Beastkind class. The ground texture makes it look as though you're walking on an endless plain of steak fries, but I've decided I'm not going to be bothered by that. Or by the stretched textures seen on many standing stones. Or by the nearly-visible texture seams. Oh, hey, maybe I am bothered by it after all!

This little dialogue window is telling us that new players can use the built-in help notices to assist themselves in navigating this strange new world. Or, alternately, you can have these notices turned off. More precisely, it says 'Restrain me from using all assistances'. It was when I read this singular piece of text that I knew true love. However, in keeping with the spirit of the untamed beast within my soul, I opted to roam Unrestrained, which meant that every now and then, a little '?' box would pop up over my fuzzy noggin, meaning that additional information was only a mouse click away. Additional information, and more delicious bad translation.

Okay, look at this dialogue box. Not only is it filled with bad English, it's also got some serious formatting problems. The text is poorly-wrapped, and there's no dashes to speak of, indicating the continuance of a word from the previous sentence. So, I'm forced to assume that ' ... monsters are running rampant in this w orld.' Wow, I'm already at the W Orld, and I didn't even have to go through the A Orld, B Orld, or any of the previous 22 Orlds! Also, I have to ask myself if I'm willing to Eli Minate these Little Maneating Flowers to become a Beastkin D warrior. Listen, I could never live up to Mr. Minate's deeds; that man is truly a legend among the Beastkin, regardless of grade. Still, the box only lets me answer 'I would love to.' So I guess I'm fine with it all. Let's move on.

Since there's no good reason to have a shot of the map here, let's have a look. From this screenshot, it's clear that the cartographer was of the naming school that espouses writing down the first thing you think of when inventing nomenclature, regardless of actual relevance to the location's features. You can actually recreate the mapmaker's experiences just by reading the map. Day 1: Ate some bad mushrooms, got a little acid reflux, named new area 'Land of Heart Burning'. Day 4: Wanted to get through here quickly due to foul odors, came up with 'Hasten Plain'. Day 12: Felt depressed halfway up mountain, sat and watched bugs carry food to nests, invented 'Mount of Ant Gathered'. Day 23: Turns out I can see my house from here, the newly-named 'Home Watching Coast'.

Personally, I'd like to know how he got from the 'Dream Searching Port' to the 'Sea of Reality' -- there's got to be a heartbreaking story there.

Here's the shopping interface, featuring objects organized by (presumably) character level. If you'll take a glance at my Inventory window on the right, you'll notice radio buttons listed 'Normal', 'Fashion', and 'Fitting'. I didn't play with 'Fitting', but 'Fashion' is interesting. You can engage Fashion Mode, where clothing can be worn over your existing armor with no loss to its attributes. You can be as fashion-forward as you like, becoming a nattily-attired warrior-about-town, a la James Bond, or perhaps do a little Sailor Moon cosplay as you dispatch your opponents. In the end, I decided to let my gigantic hammer speak for me, but I'd be lying if the thought of outfitting Akelatal in a red riding hood wasn't damnably attractive.

And here's the changing room, where the eternal debate of boxers or briefs is answered definitively.

In the Skill List, you can get descriptions of the various abilities you're born with and those you've accrued. There's a Diablo-style Town Portal spell, which works as you'd expect it to. And floating above Akelatal's head in the screenshot there, a ghostly question mark, of the 'all assistances' type. I should mention here that there is a nearly bewildering array of UI widgets with which to interact, only a few of which I played with enough to understand. One of the niftier ones is the ability to set a directional locator in your HUD for the bearer of your current quest. This person is also marked on the minimap, of course, but if you're outside of his/her influence, the locator will still show you where that person is relative to your current location and facing.

This is a seated posture representing zazen, or sitting meditation, of the sort that Zen disciples employ. In PW you can use it to regain health. The same principle of resting to regain health is used in many MMOs, but by contextualizing it with the use of a common real world practice, it's made much more organic and sensible here.

SPOILER ALERT: The little beastgirl to Akelatal's left there is the friend of mine who got me to try PW in the first place. Here, she's showing me the location of the goal for a 'jumping test' you're forced to endure right around Level 5. I say 'endure', because there's a bit where you're asked to scale a sheer wall, and it's not easy to manage considering that you can't easily determine the edge of the polygons you're asked to scale. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to follow my friend up this wall, only to fall back down when attempting to jump from what seemed like the middle of nowhere in particular to the top of the wall. Fortunately, the double-jump PW provides eases that burden somewhat.

That's right, I said 'double-jump'. What's a platformer element doing in an MMO? I can provide two explanations. The more generous of the two is that it provides a visual reminder that you inhabit a world of special abilities as societal norms, and that the mystical is never far from the quotidian, and is, in fact, part and parcel of the whole gestalt. The other explanation is that it's just kinda cool.

Finally, the combat! A few things to consider: WASD movement is based on relation to the viewing plane. When you hit 'A', your avatar runs to your left; hitting 'D' makes it run to your right. 'S' makes the avatar run toward the 'camera', and 'W', of course, runs it away from the camera. This takes some getting used to. You'll find the best way to manage this is through simultaneous use of the right mouse button, which controls the camera. You'll just ride 'W', and gimbal the camera around to face your destination as needed. Of course, for all I know, this is modifiable in the preferences, but ehnh, who has time to RTFM?

Combat pretty much follows the standard click-once-to-begin-attack-then-wait-to-win-or-die methodology. I keep wondering when some enterprising MMO developer's going to institute a Final Fantasy XII Gambit-like system where the game fights your battles for you, based on pre-set orders you define yourself. Would that be better, would it help ease the pain of grinding?

Here's PW's Ding. Of additional interest in this photo is the yellow, downward-pointing triangle at the bottom of the image -- that's the locator I was talking about a few paragraphs ago. It's telling me that once I'm done with the requirements of the current quest, I can find the quest giver by following the arrow's direction. Cute and helpful! Also, you can't see my beastkin friend to the right because the screen cuts her off, but that's a spine she's wielding. And if you've never seen an adorable foxgirl swinging a spine around as a weapon, then clearly you haven't lived ... or been to Detroit.

This is the City of Vanished, for some reason counterintuitively visible. It's an interesting conglomeration of architectural styles, from huts to statuary. I guess when you've created a world in which a Wing Elf can ride a white tiger that is itself riding a giant eagle, all bets are off.

Here's a look at the emotes interface, or 'Expressions' as PW has it. These are fun and some of them have audio to go with it. The presence attack generated by a giant armored werewolf is nearly negated by hearing said werewolf saying 'Hi' in a gruff-but-cute Cookie Monsterish voice.

But wait! All is forgiven! Despite all the Asian-built, martial arts-themed MMOs extant, this is the first one I've seen that includes the 'holding fist' gesture that you can see in so many kung fu flicks. As a student of various martial arts in real life, I do this quite a bit, and it's strangely heartening to be able to use it in a game as well. Kudos, Cubizone!

Ahh, the lens flare. Crutch of bad Photoshop artists everywhere, it enjoys the occasional nod in unexpected places. Here, it's actually used properly, and is quite beautiful besides. A nice touch.

Okay, we come to it at last: the real reason to play Perfect World. This is Akelatal employing the 'Cuddle Hoist', which means lifting up your target and holding them as pictured above. No wonder he's smiling! I mean, look at that! Is that not adorable? But here's the problem: according to my friend, also pictured above, while either gender may initiate the Cuddle Hoist, the male always carries the female, and there is no same-sex cuddling. I'm not surprised that this is so, but I am somewhat dismayed. Making it impossible for two males or two females to casually show affection in this manner is somewhat behind the times, and I don't know who to blame: Cubizone, or Malaysia.

A couple of things to wrap this up: I found this guy in City of Vanished. Just what the hell is going on here? There's something about him that's just kinda freaking me out. And I've seen all manner of nasty, Cthulhoid, tentacled critters and netherspawned demons in my time. But show me a giant mutant canid with glowing blue eyes, and I go all bugaboo and run in one direction for 10 minutes.

And there it is, previously the stuff of legend: the flying rainbow manta, mount of the stars. I want one of these guys so bad I can taste the rubbery, yet smooth flesh. I will hug him and squeeze him and name him George.

And in case you missed my reference earlier, here's a white tiger riding a flying manta. Truly, this is a Perfect World. Unless you're an English major, of course, or a flying manta ray. Those claws are sharp!

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