Knight Age is an adorable new Anime MMO brought to us by Joymax. I want to emphasize the word adorable because the game is perfectly designed to illicit a reaction that is something along the lines of "Awww, look how cute that is! My head is explo.." and it really does have that effect. In fact I love the graphics of Knight Age so much that I would give anything to see an MMO developed that looks like Knight Age yet has the hardcore ruleset of, say, a Wurm Online or Darkfall. Yes, I am entirely serious. Strange how many players tend to think that "serious" or "hardcore" titles need serious or machine-taxing graphics. That's simply not true; just ask a World of Warcraft raider.
The point is that the graphics of Knight Age are one of my favorite things in the entire universe. The characters are chunky and solid, the animations are smooth, and the game runs like butter. Does this mean I do not like more realistic graphics? No, it means that I like all sorts of graphics and all sorts of gameplay. It's possible for a writer to enjoy different things. I know, crazy huh?
But what does Knight Age offer other than amazingly awww-rific graphics? Some interesting gameplay, that's what, and a soft grind. Allow me to explain.
A "soft grind" is a term I use to describe some of the more modern free-to-play, Anime-styled import MMOs that feature a definite grind but one that doesn't take long to play through. These often come from China, Japan, and Korea, and there are thousands of them out there. We unlucky gamers in the US cannot get to the really juicy stuff that the Easterners have. If we do get it, it comes sometimes years after the foreign players have spent a long time enjoying it. The advantage of getting lagged MMOs is that, by the time the games reach us, the kinks can be worked out. A lot of the time these titles come to us from a company that has been established for a while or that has brought other titles here. To these experienced developers and publishers, a game that is being imported to the US is easy enough. Horrible localization is mostly a thing of the past, and these Eastern titles often feature amazing state-of-the-art graphics without demanding state-of-the-art machinery to run them. I would give anything to explore the Korean market for just a month.
"If you are someone who cannot grasp what is attractive about a game that doesn't look at all realistic, then you might consider other forms of art."
If you are someone who cannot grasp what is attractive about a game that doesn't look at all realistic, then you might consider other forms of art. Cartoon strips like Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, or Hagar the Horrible all utilize the same effect: They create an impression of something (notice the feet that look like bread buns), and your brain fills in the rest. This might be why most of my favorite MMOs feature less-than-realistic graphics. I find uber bells and whistles to be a bit distracting. Uncanny valley aside, I want to see creations that look like the designer was drunk when she came up with them. I don't always prefer this, mind you, but a lot of the time I do.
Knight Age is a charmer right from the beginning. Yes, an experienced player who has tried more than a handful of titles recognizes the soft-grind almost immediately, but this soft grind is a vehicle mainly to move the player forward. Levels are gained at the speed of sound, and players can fall into a hypnotic haze, chopping down hundreds or thousands of mobs in the lifetime of a character. It's not much different from many Western MMOs, really. The difference is that many Western players mistakenly believe some Western titles to be deeper than they really are.
Knight Age gets right to it. The game doesn't mess around with overly complicated systems or nasty, forced PvP. I enjoy the fact that games like Knight Age are built for few basic tasks, and they do those tasks well. Unlike many of the latest AAA titles, many of these free-to-play imports do not promise to change the market or to introduce us to gameplay we have never seen before. That might sound like I prefer games that do nothing new, but that's not it at all. The typical gaming found in a title like Knight Age is reassuring. I don't expect more out of it than I get. The game is simple to install, easy to run, and a snap to understand. At first I was scared that the gender-locked classes would prevent me from playing the character I wanted, but within a few hours of play, I was able to put points into any of the available classes I wanted, and with the switch of a set of weapons, was able to jump between jobs. My melee character started out as what I thought was a gender-locked male character, but soon I was picking off enemies with my bow.
"I am most proud of my ability to take non-serious things seriously. I see the workmanship and art that is truly a part of a game like Knight Age. Is the game as complex or in-depth as many other MMOs? No, but it's not trying to be."
Auto-move and simple quests keep everything flowing. Within a short time span, I gained a few levels and eventually gained access to a mount. Mounted combat and pet interaction are really what the game is all about. Sure, we've seen mounted combat and pet systems many times before, but I'm not sure they've ever been this cute. If you download and log into a game like Knight Age expecting to be immersed in a realistic world of epic quests, you will be disappointed. If you have a prejudice against anything but the most processor-taxing graphics, then you will find yourself hating Knight Age. If you think that the design and appearance of Knight Age is nothing close to what you consider "serious gaming," then what are you reading this for? Shouldn't you be discussing real-life battle strategies on a forum somewhere?
I am most proud of my ability to take non-serious things seriously. I see the workmanship and art that is truly a part of a game like Knight Age. Is the game as complex or in-depth as many other MMOs? No, but it's not trying to be. In that way, it has more confidence and feels better to play than many MMOs that try too hard to be a serious experience. Check it out; you might have fun.
I'm so excited to say that next week I will be looking at an old social MMO called There. I practically cut my MMO teeth on the game, spending way too many hours having political discussions over voice or dancing the night away, literally. I'll stream the game live on Monday, the 10th of September, at 5:00 p.m. EDT on our Twitch.tv channel. Join me in the chat room!
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!