When it comes to MMOs, I sometimes feel like North America- and by extension Europe -is the Gamestop bargain bin-- you know, the dumping ground for discounted games that didn’t quite make the cut. While that describes quite a bit of the F2P market, it especially describes ASTA – The War of Wind and Tears. The first thing you should know about this game is that it is no longer being supported by its original developer, which makes future content beyond the core game a somewhat iffy proposition. Just keep that in mind if you’re feeling spendy.
The next piece of criticism you’ll hear about ASTA is that it is the Warcraft of the East, and again, there’s no denying that this game is almost a wholesale clone of Blizzard’s flagship title. Be that as it may, I feel the stereotype sells the game short, especially since most of the MMOs made within the last decade are unapologetic Warcraft clones. While that could be a bad thing, there are two things to consider before writing ASTA off completely:
First, it plays like vanilla Warcraft, and that’s not a bad thing folks. World of Warcraft was already pretty user friendly when it first launched, but the current iteration is so dumbed down it’s not even funny. It tries to be all things to everybody and in the process has turned into a very mediocre product. ATSA plays very much like Warcraft before it was weighed down with kludge.
The second thing to consider is that when people are describing this as the Warcraft of the East, they quite literally mean it. From the storyline to the world you play in, everything is imbedded in Eastern mythology to the point that while there is a theme park structure, it’s barely recognizable. Adding to that ambience are the voice overs. None of it has been transitioned to English aside from subtitles, giving it a more immersive feel.
Beyond those two elements, you’re getting pretty much what’s on the tin; a product that Blizzard pioneered a decade ago with a few minor nuisances. ASTA features five classes and five races spread out across two factions. Movement, cooldowns and combat are handled like its Warcraft forefather, though with the wrinkle of adding your own stat points that accumulate with each level. There’s even a talent tree to invest in for each level after nine. Sound familiar?
Graphically, ASTA isn’t going to win any awards. Where the vanilla Warcraft comparison certainly helps in the gameplay department, it unfortunately holds true in the visuals as well. While Blizzard’s title has undergone a number of graphical updates, ATSA obviously has not, so don’t be expecting cutting edge visuals regardless of the fact that it is using cryengine. What is to like is another similarity to that of Warcraft’s environments, and that is creativity. The game definitely has its own unique style and goes all-in on the mythological Asian theme without becoming too cartoony.
Character models are well done—Better than Warcraft, even. Much of your character is customizable and there’s enough races to keep everybody happy. Humans inhabit both factions, but those of the Ora more or less represent the undead. Though cross faction humans are usually the same regardless of what they’re called by a game, ASTA does a good enough job making you feel like they’re different. As an Ora, you kinda feel damned through a combination of the game visuals and starting environment.
Speaking of starting environments, so many games fail at this it’s not even funny. Even TERA, which I personally like, sucks hard at this, and by this I mean dumping every race and every faction in the same goddamn starting zone over and over to ensure you want to stab your eyeballs out when leveling alts. Fortunately, every race has their own starting area like Warcraft in order to help stave off that eye-gouging boredom. You can even go back into the other allied race’s starting content to cleanup those quests for an extra boost, something I always particularly liked about Warcraft.
And hey, there’s even PvP battlegrounds to round out the package.
So what does all of this mean for you? Well, you get a near Warcraft experience that has so far demonstrating itself to be somewhat fair at the cash shop while allowing you to enjoy something familiar; especially if you’re of the mind that it all went downhill after Lich King. It’s likewise familiar but not quite, as if World of Warcraft got an eastern expansion pack tacked on to it. That’s not to say it’s anywhere close to competing with the source material and even then, Warcraft’s dominance is in its twilight anyway. With all the competition in place, we’re certainly not blazing any new trails here.
All of that said, I’ve seen games do worse. A lot worse, so try the beta. See if you like it. Usually titles that try the Warcraft thing screw it up because they fuck up a proven formula. ASTA mostly doesn’t and ultimately comes away better for it.