Welcome once again to another thrilling installment of first impressions. Today we venture into the sugary-sweet (and somewhat bizarre) world of Luvinia Online, a new F2P MMO from Outspark. The game launched late last month, and I decided to jump in (with the help of a lovely developer walkthrough, no less) and see what the new title had to offer.
As readers of my other reviews will know, I'm very selective when it comes to free-to-play titles -- harsh, even. So does this quirky little MMO rise to the occasion, or does it flounder about at the bottom of the barrel? Follow me past the cut and I'll let you know.
Character creation in Luvinia Online has you choose from one of six nations, divided into two factions of three nations each. On the Empire faction, a borderline fascist collection of nations, you have the nations representing Moon, Wind, and Sea, while the much more free-thinking Federation includes the nations of Cloud, Sky, and Star. For the purposes of this review, I chose to side with the goody-goody Federation. That aside, character creation is woefully limited. Each gender receives a few faces, four hairstyles, and three hair colors. There's not much room to be unique, but I presume that's in place to coerce players into shelling out for cosmetic upgrades in the item shop. Players also choose a zodiac sign for their character. I was told that at the moment, this is entirely for flavor purposes and has no bearing on gameplay, but the assignment of in-game days to different zodiac signs (for instance, Libra Day and Sagittarius Day) hints at the possibility of gameplay-altering effects in the future.
After you've made your character, you're dropped into a short tutorial zone. The UI and keybindings will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played any major MMO in the past six years, and the graphics -- while not exactly breathtaking -- are quaint and should allow the game to run well on any rig. In the tutorial zone, you choose your base class from the selection of Warrior, Rogue (curiously sometimes referred to in-game as Walker), and Magician. From there, it's your standard kill-ten-rats questing as you learn the basics of the game. There's really nothing special to see here, though the game does include an auto-route feature, making finding your quest objective a cinch.
The game's universe is weird and quirky, with some quests pitting you up against phantom maids and butlers. Bizarre, right? Luvinia distances itself a bit from the more traditional fantasy worlds, as there's nary an Elf or Dwarf to be seen. Oh, and my Rogue's dagger? A lollipop. I kid you not. I was stabbing people with a rainbow-swirl lollipop. Talk about surreal.
Character progression takes place through the accumulation of skill points, or SP, which are gained by completing quests and so forth. Players spend skill points in order to upgrade skills or purchase new ones. It's a very straightforward process, and in my time playing I never had a lack of SP to upgrade my existing skills, though this may change later in the game, requiring players to pick skills to specialize in. Ability gains in the early levels come painstakingly slowly, resulting in rather tedious gameplay while you're waiting for new abilities to unlock.
Alongside skill progression, players can also progress by branching into advanced classes as they level up. Each class branches twice, giving players a choice between two separate classes with each branch. For instance, at the first instance, a Rogue can choose to progress into a Scout (a ranged DPS specialist) or an Artist (a support-based buff class). The second set of advanced classes has yet to be implemented, and the developers were quite hush-hush about what they may be. An interesting point, however, is that even once a player progresses into an advanced class, he still retains his abilities from his former class. As such, if a Magician wants to progress into the healing Priest class, he won't lose the DPS abilities that were available to him as a Magician. This should hopefully keep players from being pigeonholed as a healer/tank/DPS class, instead allowing them to remain flexible in their roles.
Players can also upgrade their equipment through the use of trading cards found on the cold corpses of mobs across the world. These cards can be slotted into various pieces of gear, and they grant stat bonuses according to the kind of mob they represent. For instance, a particularly dexterous mob's trading card may provide a bonus to agility, whereas a creature that's more magically inclined might give a bonus to spellpower. It's nothing groundbreaking -- slotting systems have been around for ages, after all -- but the use of trading cards rather than, say, gems (or what have you) is inspired and a nice touch that fits well with Luvinia's eccentric setting. The flavor text on the cards can be rather amusing as well.
Now we come to the touchiest part of the review: the cash shop. On the whole, Luvinia's cash shop isn't particularly egregious. The majority of the items available are convenience items, such as expanded inventory space, teleports to various places, and cosmetic items. It's worth noting, however, that all cosmetic items, such as mounts and clothing, are temporary, and players must purchase another item, called Planar Essence, in order to make these cosmetic items permanent. Fancier cosmetic items require more Planar Essence to cement ownership, which seems a bit heavy-handed to me. Why is it not enough to just let players buy what they want and be done with it? The closest the game gets to pay-to-win territory, however, is the sale of Enhancing Gems and Blessed Luminous Stones. The former allows players to upgrade their items, with each upgrade level increasing an item's stats by 10%. The latter makes the enhancement more likely to succeed (compared to its usual 60% success rate), thereby ensuring that players who desire the most-enhanced items will need to shell out at least a few times. Also, the potions available in the item shop took my low-level character from taking three or four seconds (I know, terrible, right?) to kill a creature to one-shotting everything in sight. I don't know if the advantages of said potions will be as noticeable at higher levels, but in my experience they made all the difference in the world.
On the whole, I can't say my time in Luvinia Online was exactly phenomenal. When it comes down to it, there's really nothing that sets it apart from other similar F2P titles, spectral French maids aside. That being said, there's also nothing that sets it below the status quo. It's not an outstanding game, but it's not abysmal either. I, personally, am not going to be keeping it on my hard drive. But if you're into anime-style MMOs with a bit of weirdness to the setting, Luvinia may be right up your alley. Just be prepared to shell out a bit of cold cash if you want to stay competitive.
Low system requirements ensure good performance on any machine
Quirky universe is a welcome departure from Orcs-Elves-and-Dwarves fantasy
Cash shop doesn't feel like a requirement, at least for casual play
Quests and combat are more of the same; nothing new here
Item enhancement system skirts pay-to-win territory
Character customization is incredibly limited unless you shell out for cosmetic items
Character progression seems gruelingly slow at times