Let me just say this, right off the bat: I cannot stand the Family Guy television series. I know, I know, it's full of shocking, edgy humor and wacky character like the elderly child molester and the sex-crazed neighbor, so why shouldn't I love it? But I've seen the style of humor many times, and it's always, well, non-funny. I've said this before and I still mean it: Seth MacFarlane is this generation's Adam Sandler. They both do one voice and have made millions of dollars from it.
So when I decided to see whether Family Guy Online is a real MMO or just a vehicle for the new movie The Watch, (it's plastered throughout much of the game), I was ready for plenty of potty humor, jokes that tried to offend me, and essentially a horrible time. Oh, I found the horrible time easily enough (and forgave much of it because of the game's beta state), but I also found some pretty cool gameplay.
Some, I said.
Let's go through the list of busted parts first. That way, I can get to the good bits and we can end this on a happy note. The game is created in Unity, from what I understand, but what I don't understand is why in the world performance is absolutely so dismal much of the time. Worse, the potentially nice graphics that make the game appear as if the Family Guy Online world has been literally recreated in three dimensions are marred by ugly jagged lines that could be fixed with some simple smoothing. It was so distracting at times that it made me feel as though I was doing something wrong.
Sure, quests are easy enough to follow at first, but pretty quickly you have to go through a series of collection quests that force you to run all over the city -- literally -- looking for little bits to click on or parts to pick up. Am I supposed to know the layout of the city well enough to know where the "racist sunflower" is? Is it a character from the show? If I judge it by its name, a classic Family Guy combination of attempted shock-humor and randomness, surely the Racist Sunflower has to be a known icon in the city. Unfortunately, I had no idea. I was still looking for it right before I started writing this.
Clicking on objects sometimes works but often does not. The lag in the game is also frequently unbelievable and even drags down the performance of my browser as a whole. Not only that, but if I pick up an object for a collection, it often reappears right back where it was before, leading me to wonder, "Did I pick that one up already?" Normally, I would just try to pick it up again... or just walk away from the computer and smash my head into the wall. Anyway, that's enough of my telling you about some of the broken areas of the game. It's important to remember that much of that -- if not all -- could still be fixed before launch. This is still a beta, after all.
Surprisingly, I enjoyed the fart emote my character used. I'll give Family Guy Online some credit: Fart jokes are always funny. My character was from the Stewie class, a clever system that allows players to "play" their favorite characters without creating a million little Stewies running around. You can choose from a few character classes, and although your avatar will look quite a lot like the characters from the show, you are able to roll a character that's relatively unique within just a few short minutes. For example, my character ended up looking like a baby tough guy, complete with a mob fedora. The character creation and "class" system is quite fun. You also get a series of abilities, like a raygun blast, to use during combat. The combat was marred by lag, but when it worked, it was fun to watch your character kick someone in the shin and follow it up with a blast from a pistol.
"If you make a game that features a fully customizable avatar system, one that encourages players to be very creative with their outfits, don't charge so much. People will buy more to make up the difference."
Customization seems pretty important in the game, and from what I can tell, the look of your character has nothing to do with how powerful he or she is. My character could run around with a plunger on his head and I'd still be the same character. All characters are equal, no matter what they look like, as long as they were the same level. I liked the simplicity of it all: Dress up your character however you want and know that combat will be basically the same for everyone of your same class. I doubt that Family Guy Online is going for some sort of immersive realism here, so the system fits. I'm sure many of my readers would have an issue with the fact that there is a fully functional cash shop during this sluggish beta, but I have to say that it does not bother me normally. It does bother me that the prices seem to be a bit off on the expensive side. If you make a game that features a fully customizable avatar system, one that encourages players to be very creative with their outfits, don't charge so much. People will buy more to make up the difference.
It's funny, but I actually enjoyed Family Guy Online much more than I thought I would, especially considering how much I detest the show. Ironically, the one character from the show I do like, Brian the dog, was an "unlockable" class. It appeared that at a certain level, the dog would be available for my use, and I can only imagine customizing him to look like one of my own, real-life companions. But the honest truth is that if performance doesn't improve and if the game doesn't become more than just a click-fest, I'll never stick around long enough to unlock that dog.
Next week I will be returning to Face of Mankind because, well, the developers have suggested that many things have changed since my last visit. I had enough fun with it the last time I played, but most of my week was spent just figuring out how to play. It will be nice to have some knowledge of the game ahead of time this go around. Now if I can only pick a faction without getting myself killed, I'll be happy. I'll be streaming the game live on our Twitch.tv channel at 5:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, July 30th!
Each week on Rise and Shiny, Beau chooses a different free-to-play, indie, or browser-based game and jumps in head-first. It might be amazing or it might be a dud, but either way, he'll deliver his new-player impressions to you. Drop him an email, comment, or tweet!