Leather and Lace
My initial reaction to Last Chaos was a little mixed. Character creation was fine but limited since your class also determines your gender. Titans, Knights, and Sorcerers are all males while Healers, Mages, and Rogues are all females. The avatar customizing options are also rather sparce. You have three or four faces and three or four hairstyles to choose from.
Since I'm a customization junkie, I was already put off by the prospect of looking like every single other character out there and, sure enough, I wasn't playing for ten minutes before I found myself standing next to a perfect body-double. A little disappointing at first but looking at the other players running around me, chaotically, I guess, I saw enough variation to assure myself that this doppelganger and I would soon part ways.
I chose to play a Mage for a couple of reasons. One being that magic users in MMOs seem to have a little harder time of it initially since they have to rely on mana pools and keeping distance from aggressive mobs. The other reason being that Mages in Last Chaos are pale, gothic, dominatrix-like hotties with an overwhelming fetish for black nylons and leather. My kind of girl. And how often does one see breast-physics in an MMO? Oh, wait, never mind.
Now it gets personal
Once you start the actual game, you are placed into one of Last Chaos' "Personal Dungeons". This is one of their bullet-points on their list of game features. Last Chaos will, from time to time, set you into a single-player dungeon instance where you are left alone to fight off hordes of monsters. Essentially, good portions of the game are a single-player experience. Since I usually play solo anyway, this isn't a problem for me. Some of the more social-types out there might not be to keen on being forced to play alone.
Once in the game, I got to experience the user interface and began to appreciate the games' title. I suspect that "Last Chaos" might be the codename for their UI. As with many eastern MMOs, movement is handled with the left-click. While I used to complain quite heavily about this system, and I still don't particularly like it, the unfortunate truth is that I've played enough of these games to be used to it. The skills are not mapped to number keys but are mapped to function keys. This can make a difference since I find myself taking my eyes off the game to fumble for the right key. In a game where "chaos" is already part of the title, this can be a little frustrating.
While we're on the subject of frustration, let's talk about the mini-map, or more accurately, the lack thereof. There is no mini-map, what we have is a mini-radar since it does not display any of your actual surroundings. There are no tunnels shown, no walls, no rivers, no roads, just little gray dots for monsters and little shield icons for NPCs. I found this mini-radar rather pointless and not very useful. In their defense, however, Aeria Games calls it the "radar" so they make no presumptions there. I wonder if they asked the QA team what they'd prefer: a map or radar? I'd like to meet the guy who suggested the radar. I bet he loves submarine sims.
Kill, kill, kill!
Combat is simply a matter of clicking on a monster or selecting a skill and then clicking on the offending monster. It is quite straightforward but I discovered a rather dramatic flaw with the damage. Not the damage I did to the monster, but the damage that was done to me. When you attack a foul beast, you see the obligatory damage amount flash on the screen letting you know just how powerful you are.
The problem I saw was this: you don't always get that when the monster attacks you. More often than not, I had no idea I was being hit for damage at all. I'd occasionally see the word "Miss" flash over my character but I would rarely see any numbers indicating damage. More than once I would glance at my hit points and suddenly realize that I was a mere 10 hp away from death. I had no idea I was being hit let alone being viciously murdered! Combat quickly became a more serious and stressful endeavor.
Speaking of combat, you'll do a great deal of it. The first handful of quests are the obligatory pelt-collecting or the town gabfest where you have to track down a half-dozen people and tell them that someone across the street needs to talk to them. I feel very useful.
Around level 6, I found myself with no open quests, no NPCs willing to give me a quest and no real direction. So, I did what any newbie would do, I asked for advice in the general chat. The question: "I'm level 6, what do I do now?" The response: "Go kill things with white names." Oh, sure, I guess I never thought that the next quest would be the "endless, mindless, pointless grind into oblivion" quest. You can't escape it. You can't kill it. You can't sugarcoat it. The grind is there. It will always be there ... watching, waiting. So, off I go, into the wilderness to kill foxes, wolves and any other wilderness creature I can get my hands on.
Every level or so, you'll get the opportunity for a new quest. This happens during the lower levels at least. These quests introduce you to some other aspect of the game. You learn how to mine ore, gather herbs, or harvest energy. Simple stuff really and nothing terribly special. Item creation is, of course, rather technical, involved and limited to higher level players.
One thing you'll experience early on is the pet system. I found myself a drake egg while outside killing wolves. Apparently wolves have pockets. After a short "find this guy" quest, it hatched and I was able to summon a hatchling dragon when outside of town. Cute little bugger, too. However, he is, at this point, just baggage. He cannot attack but can be killed and he gains experience painfully slow. My little hatchling needs 654 experience points to get to level 2. Apparently, he gets 1 experience point per kill. I have to kill 654 monsters to get my little, pudgy dragon to level 2! Oh, and killing monsters lower level than you doesn't give him any experience.
Once this overly cute draconic fledgling gets to level 31, I can train it to be a mount. It is pretty interesting to know that I technically have my dragon mount now. However, the road to level 31 looks to be very long and quite painful. I have a totally new appreciation for the grind in other games. I have yet to find one that that relies so heavily on the grind than Last Chaos. That doesn't mean that they aren't out there ... I just haven't found them yet.
One more thing I'd like to point out was the lag when in town. Now, usually I don't mention any kind of network lag issues in the games I play or write about. I feel a need to mention this in Last Chaos not only because it was consistent but because of my particular situation. See, I usually don't experience very much lag at all. This is because I have a 10mb fiber-optic Internet connection that is wired directly to my house. Yeah, I live in the middle of nowhere with ludicrous-speed Internet. God bless America.
Last Chaos has, as far as I know, no way to turn off the floaty names above other players or their special messages. When in town, this clogs the screen with names, messages, spam, etc. and apparently puts a substantial strain on my connection. It only happens in crowded areas but the game's main town was bustling with activity. Maybe this is the chaos they are referring to. If you're playing on a slower connection speed, be careful when rubbing elbows with the unwashed masses.
The Good, the Bad, the not-so Ugly
Graphically speaking, Last Chaos is not all that impressive. You should always suspect something when the screenshots from their website have some kind of strange blur effect going on. Regardless, the characters look interesting enough at higher levels and the occasional sighting of a purple, green, or red horse is pretty neat. Colorful dragons have also been spotted on occasion. The textures and models aren't that bad they just aren't that good. When you have a game like Sword of the New World, which is also free, looking the way it does, Last Chaos has a hard time standing out.
Now, I've gone on long enough about some of the game's shortcomings. Are there any redeeming factors to Last Chaos? Sure, there are a few. Having access to a pet system so early on was pretty cool and for a solo player like me, the personal dungeons in Last Chaos are fun. The gameplay is approachable and the interface, while not terribly useful, isn't overwhelming. You might find yourself standing in the middle of town wondering what to do next but with quests popping up at each level, you can keep yourself going for a while. When the grind sets in, however, be prepared for the mind-numbing click-and-kill that is to come.
Last Chaos isn't pretentious. It doesn't try to make itself out to be more than it really is and that is a decent enough free-to-play MMO. I'd be curious to hear from some long-time Last Chaos players who've experience more of the game. They sure do look cool enough and the idea of riding a big, red dragon around is certainly appealing. I'm just not sure I'm willing to grind myself to near death to do it.
I guess this could truly be the "last" chaos. Only time will tell.