Rise and Shiny recap: Faxion Online

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Rise and Shiny recap: Faxion Online
I've been following Faxion Online for quite a while. Aww, I remember when it was just a cute little game in development, back when I visited the UTV True Games studio for a tour during GDC Online last year. The team was very passionate about its product, and there was obviously a lot of talent at work behind the scenes. One of the comments I made then (and that I will always remember) is that the devs all seemed like a bunch of gamers -- they appeared to have a love for what they were doing and truly seemed to believe in the game.

They also talked about how a lot of MMO development took several years and the budget of a small country. I agreed with them on that. So they wanted to create their game in a much shorter time period yet have it still feature free-to-play accessibility along with old-school PvP. It was a tall order, especially considering the time frame they were looking at. Again, though, the team seemed capable of pulling it off.

But did it? I spent half a week (I will explain later) in the game, and my impressions are right past the cut.

It should be noted that I have played Faxion Online off and on during the beta. I also participated in a developer tour, and I can say that the game hasn't really changed much in that time. Sure, the team added in a lot of features and tweaks, but those were things it talked about and that I was already familiar with. I've watched the game grow and tighten up, and I'm still very fond of it. Over this last week, however, I found some flaws that simply must be fixed, and soon, or (in my opinion) the game could go the way of The Chronicles of Spellborn. In fact, there are a lot of similarities between the two games, and that worries me a bit.

"The customization options are good enough, but the real joy comes later in the game as players are allowed to expand their characters."

First of all, new players are asked to choose either the Hell of Heaven side -- the factions -- and to pick from three basic classes. The customization options are good enough, but the real joy comes later in the game as players are allowed to expand their characters. After a short tutorial zone, you wind up in Purgatory, the relatively safe zone that both sides can visit. From there you branch off into the surrounding PvP-enabled zones to gain PvP or PvE experience.

The real joy for me comes from the art style of the game. I will always choose a stylized game over a more realistic one, mainly because "realism" is not yet easily achievable and usually comes out looking pretty cheesy. Stylized, when done right, can be timeless. If you look at World of Warcraft, you will find a game that could keep the same look forever and probably get away with it because of its stylized nature. The stylized feel is the first thing that reminded me of Spellborn. The two games don't look so similar as feel similar, but that's only a good thing. I absolutely adored Spellborn's look and feel and was happy to see that the developers didn't make a humorless game.

Of course, the graphics engine is the first and most worrisome area of the game. The game just does not run smoothly. Granted, I am playing on a slightly dated machine, but this machine can play Lord of the Rings Online, Vanguard and other pretty games with almost no issues. There is simply something wrong with the code or engine that runs Faxion. I asked about it in chat a dozen times, and performance appears to be an issue for lots of the players. Folks with gaming rigs, players on laptops -- heck, even Twitter agrees -- that the game runs OK but only at low settings. It only really looks good at higher settings, the level that causes it to crawl at single-digit FPS.

I hope -- no, I have faith -- that the team can pull it together. It has to. In Spellborn, performance was the silent killer. Sure, it was workable, but it bothered players just enough, especially in combination with the non-stop walking. In fact, that brings me to my next point...

Please, no more walking. Yes, quests are numerous and easy enough to finish, but your character spends more time hoofing it around that any sane man can stand. Again, Spellborn comes to mind. I remember players fantasizing about mounts, dreaming of the day when they could get from one spot to another with more ease and speed. I'm all for the scenic route, I truly am, but when the route is the same over and over, then I want a scooter, a winged unicorn... anything to get it over faster.

I wish I could say that I experienced more of the PvP gameplay than I did, but due to some account issues, I did not get into game until mid-week. Most of my time was spent futzing with graphics settings and running, at a very slow pace, across miles of the same paving stones. The saddest part is that the rest of the game really does look awesome. Each zone is themed after a different sin, and they all feel slightly different. The PvP is supposed to be glorious, as well, and there are a lot of players enjoying it, but the first few steps in the world for a new player will probably be more Hell than the developers intended.

Despite all of the game's issues, the character skill system is awesome and pretty simple to understand. You choose your starter class and keep to that, or you can learn any other skill from the other classes. So you can make a healer who uses a sword, a magic user who carries a shield... there are tons of possibilities. I was happy to make a damage-dealing magic user who carried a single sword in his hand -- it just looked cool. You can also queue up abilities to level while you are offline, essentially like you do in EVE Online or Alganon. You can purchase more than the standard two queue slots, and you can also buy items that will help speed up the process. Basically, you can go on your way, leveling and killing monsters, and all the while one of your abilities is gaining a level. It's an interesting take on an already-unique way to level, but it gives each player the chance to make a pretty darn custom character. Of course, players will come up with perfected templates and character skillmaps, but it's nice that the choices are there.

So in the end, two critical things need to happen to improve my enjoyment of the game.

First, performance, performance, performance. The game looks good, but it does not look so good that it should run like molasses. I had to literally turn everything to low or off to get it to break 20-something FPS. If the developers can fix the performance issues, and fast, they will be more than halfway there.

Second, give us a break on the running. Yes, today's playerbase seems to be just fine with any amount of punishment as long as you dangle some sort of prize (in this case, PvP glory), but for the love of my poor, blistered feet, give new players some sort of mount, trolley, or wheelbarrow to help them get around. Having to run around in the same areas so much, and for such basic quests, was boring.

If the developers fix these two main issues, they will have won me over completely. Of course, I did not experience the PvP that makes up most of the game, so I have no idea what type of issues might or might not be going on there. Still, performance affects everyone. Good luck to UTV.

Next week I will be pounding the pavement in LA during E3, so there will be no Rise and Shiny. Hopefully, though, I will find many new games to show you! See you then!

Each week, Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email! You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Raptr!
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