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First Impressions: Fortune Online


You know, there is no shortage of "Diablo clones" out there. We've all played them, and we've probably enjoyed many. It's safe to say that "Diablo-esque" is a real word with real meaning -- something you can say to your gaming buddy and he'll know exactly what you mean. However, as with any other genre, it's very easy for it to become repetitive and boring. The initial thrill of the game or style that inspired the movement tends to pass away if developers continue to regurgitate it in the hopes of profiting from gamer nostalgia.

In some cases, it works pretty well. Torchlight, for example, is a lot of fun and easy enough to play -- as evidenced by the success of the game. The fact that it was really nothing new didn't stop us from having a lot of fun with it. The tales of an online version tantalize us, but wouldn't it be nice if we could play a Diablo-esque game that truly offers MMO benefits?

It's possible that we can with Fortune Online. I was asked to spend some time with the beta to see how it's going. Is it really a good choice for fans of top-down dungeon grinding? Click past the cut to see what I thought.

Gallery: Fortune Online | 14 Photos

For starters, the game is graphically pretty dull. Granted, I did not reach max level and did not see the biggest monsters and most fantastic dungeons the game has to offer (I'm guessing) but there is something about the game that just feels a little blah. The fact that it runs in a browser is no excuse, as I have seen browser games do amazing things within the confines of Chrome and Firefox. Yes, the world is supposed to be dark, I am guessing, but that doesn't mean it needs to feel like it was all painted with a single brush.

The enemies you come across look nice enough; some of them look downright cool. In fact, many of them remind me of detailed, animated tabletop models -- a good thing. The animations are rough and sometimes blocky, but I imagine that some of that is a design decision. The developers were obviously going for a certain "retro" feel that reminds us of those years of hauling PCs to a local lan party. Unfortunately, we've seen those games before, and it takes a pretty amazing game to not only remind us of the better parts of some of those older experiences but make us feel as though we are playing something better or more fun. The rough animations are charming, but only for the first half hour of gameplay.

"I spent a lot of time running through mobs of enemies, hoping to find my way. Usually, I succeeded, but sometimes I just took what I call a "death taxi" -- dying in the hopes of saving a long trip back home."

I spent some time grinding away at skeletons (so many skeletons) and running through areas, lost. The item I had that was meant to teleport me back to town would never work (I clicked it, double-clicked it, and tried to eat the damn thing), and so I spent a lot of time running through mobs of enemies, hoping to find my way. Usually, I succeeded, but sometimes I just took what I call a "death taxi"-- dying in the hopes of saving a long trip back home. Of course, the game is in "beta" right now, but we all know that has about as much meaning as "testing." An MMO is always testing and always in a beta state. If not, there is a severe lack of development going on. I do think that the minor issues the game has can be fixed pretty easily, but again I'll have to wait and see. Perhaps playing through "beta" after "beta" has hardened me a bit, but let's just say that "I'll believe it when I see it" is my new favorite quote.

Once you do get into some of the action, though, it is fun. I can only imagine how much fun it would be with a group of individuals, but the game was so empty that I literally had to ask whether or not the game was meant for more than one player. I was told that the players were around but were probably just off in a dungeon somewhere. You know, grouping. To be fair I did see quite a few more players later in my playtime, but they ran off so fast that I hardly had time to holler "do you want to go kill some stuff." Fortunately dungeons and certain zones have a difficulty slider to make soloing easier. I found it to be pretty accurate, and I ran around while in easy mode most of the time. If I was going to be grinding, I did not want it to take that long.

And grind I did.

Killing monsters and nabbing loot is the name of the game. As you grab more, you sell more and upgrade more. It's a continuous, mindless cycle that was actually quite a bit of fun years ago. In Fortune Online, I found it be sort of a drag, but again I blame most of this on the lack of a group. I came this close to having a conversation with myself, or perhaps it was an argument over who gets what. Tweaking your character and collecting items is something best shared with friends. I will definitely have to go back and revisit this game after the general public gets its mitts on it.

There are some different systems in the game, like the one that forces players to build up "energy" to pay for dungeon access. I'm not sure whether this is a ploy to eventually sell access (the cash shop was broken when I tried to enter it), but it was sort of clever. While unlimited access is always ideal, I can see how requiring players to pay for basic access would be a great money-maker. Still, it didn't work out so well for what was one of my favorite games, Vindictus, so I wonder how it will work out for Fortune. As Vindictus did, the game does give players an in-game method of building up this access payment. Of course, try telling that to some 17-year-old who wants nothing more than to grind out his week off school. It will never be enough.

I enjoyed the controls for the most part. You simply click to move where you want to go or hold down your mouse button to stay moving, then click on enemies to start attacking. I would love to have arrow or other keyboard controls for movement (there was none that I could find), but in the meanwhile, the mouse works fine.

Enemy AI is a bit of a joke much of the time. I might run into a room with my sword drawn only to find enemies standing there a few feet away. I would have loved it if I popped in and they were crocheting -- that would have been worth it. Other times I leaped into battle to find that four of them pulled at once. Again, the developers have time to tweak this stuff, but it still felt sort of goofy and inconsistent. Once you did get wrapped up in a battle, it was fun to save up combo points, eventually pummeling the mob with a swirling attack, but in this style of game, you tend to kill and move on at the speed of light. And as you level, you can put points into the standard ability tree to help your character become more effective.

Overall, Fortune Online is a fun game. Is it revolutionary at all? No. Could it be a nice laptop distraction while sitting in the airport? Oh yeah. Once the developers work out the many kinks in the game and make the newbie level much more fun, I could see pulling an all-nighter in this. Here's hoping that it happens soon -- I'm tired of soloing.

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