GDC10: First look at Divine Souls

Justin Olivetti
J. Olivetti|03.15.10

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GDC10: First look at Divine Souls
What, you've never heard of Divine Souls? You Philistine! Actually, it's not the public school system that has failed you here -- Divine Souls is only now crossing the waters of the Pacific (and Atlantic) in its worldwide debut. Created by Korean development studio Game Prix under the title of St. Soul, the renamed Divine Souls is being brought over to North America and Europe through an agreement with publisher Outspark.

Divine Souls's makeup is part steampunk, part brawler, part co-op, and part traditional MMORPG, so don't expect the normal routine in this one -- it actually feels more of a hybrid of several MMOs. Massively sat down with the game at last week's GDC to put this title through its paces.

Channel your inner Karate Kid, and hit the jump for the full scoop!

Steambrawler? Brawlerpunk? We can only torment the English language so far!

Steampunk is a beloved geek genre that doesn't get as much play in MMOs as one might like -- parts of World of Warcraft, Allods Online, NeoSteam and the seemingly-defunct Gatheryn all dabble in worlds of gears-n-gadgets, but so far we haven't had a pure steampunk title that's hit prime time. If zombies have you yawning and thinking of bland fantasy staples, then maybe the mention of fighting bionic zombies will rouse you from your slumber!

The combination of brawler -- with big floating numbers and flashy moves -- mixes well with the lush art of a steampunk world. The team is proud of their enhanced PhysX graphics, which they claim looks better than most free-to-play titles out there right now.

Pick your skills, pick your friends

Guild Wars players may be enthused to see that their favorite game is influencing MMOs across the world. Divine Souls owes a small debt to Guild Wars for its game structure, where players meet in an open instance (such as a town), create a skill build out of a longer list, and then team up for a fast-paced dungeon brawl.

Each class will eventually be able to pull together a skill build of 4 or 5 from around 20 available. Characters' skills are powered by "Divine Matter" (hence, Divine Souls). You may then form a team, which consists of up to four friends (or complete strangers -- we won't judge your social life here!) and get straight to the action in one of their stylized dungeons. There will also be 8-person raid dungeons full of uber loot.

The dungeons are segmented by portals, each of which require you to kill all the mobs in the room before progressing. This is so that your party can't just run right through to the end without doing their fair share of fighting. Not that you'd want to anyway; every mob has the potential to drop tasty loot, including rare items that should tempt you into rerunning a dungeon for specific gear, and the more you fight, the more achievements are unlocked.

Also similar to Guild Wars is the ability for players to hit the level cap fairly quickly, which will open up all of their skills and prepare them for the next phase of the game: PvP and raids. As of right now, there's only basic deathmatch arenas for PvP, featuring 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 and 4v4.%Gallery-88158%

Pain-flavored combos

There's an equal mix of the good and bad in Divine Soul's combat system. If you're more accustomed to brawler-style games, with button-mashing and combos, then this title is right up your alley. By learning different fighting combos -- such as "click, click, E" to do a giant sword swing -- you'll ensure that your dungeon stay won't be a short one. Other fighting moves include hitting "E" to grapple a target, right click to block, or double-clicking your right mouse button to hit them up in the air and "juggle" them to impress all those around and prepare for your career in a disturbing circus of some kind.

Your chosen class obviously affects your fighting style. Fighters, for example, get all up in the faces of their enemies with a heavy-duty glove and relies heavily on combos to be effective. On the other end of the spectrum are mages, who (as mages are wont to do) hang out in the back of the party and toss Hot Death at baddies. Mages use combos less than fighters, and rely more on their skill build, per a traditional MMO. There are around 13-14 combos per class.

Unfortunately, not all is perfect -- nor divine -- with the combat system. We found that the keyboard is not the ideal setup for a brawler, especially as we had to coordinate between the keyboard and mouse to pull of various combos. Happily, support for control pads is promised for the future. (Edit: Controller support will be available at the launch of the title.) The aiming leaves a bit to be desired as well, which is a sticking issue when you're in the midst of a chaotic battle.

Mama said knock you out

As is becoming traditional with free-to-play titles, Divine Souls will be funded through an item shop, which will sell vanity items as well as useful gear comparable to what you'd find in game.

So is Divine Souls for you? Obviously, it depends on your feelings for brawler games in general, and if your tolerance for repeating dungeons over and over is high. All things considered, it is a pretty fun title that could provide an entertaining activity for a group of friends (or, again, complete strangers, but WE DON'T JUDGE) who aren't looking for anything too complicated in a MMO.

Divine Souls should be headed into closed beta in late April.
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