This will be a pretty quick little entry. File it under a gamers advisory, if you will.
Most of you are already aware that many developers involved in the Free to Play market will do almost anything for a fast buck; all the way and up to offering a substandard product for premium cash shop prices. All five of you who read this blog already know that it's somewhat of a hot button for me, and my already caustic attitude becomes more pronounced when I stumble upon the more egregious examples of that practice.
By all indications, Pandora Saga marketed via Atlus Online will become yet another prime example of this fail if the opening hours of its US closed beta are any indication. First, let's put that particular talking point to rest right now-- It's already been an active MMO in Japan since at least 2008.
Remember kids: Imported MMOs from other markets mean their betas in your country are nothing more than stress testing, localization and marketing runs regardless of what flavor of beta you're participating in. Very rarely will anything of substance- and by extension your well meaning suggestions -be changed or taken seriously. It's simply not cost effective for them to reinvent the wheel just for you.
My first indication that something was amiss was the launcher options and the graphical features therein. The sinking pit in my stomach began when I noticed you can set a maximum of three resolutions, up to 1280 x 720. Seriously? Did I suddenly set the wayback machine for 2005? This was sadly confirmed by the distinct lack of other special effect options, allowing the player only the most rudimentary manipulation of their settings. I tried to reassure myself that this was only the launcher. Things would get better once the full client was up and running, right?
Things actually got more limited once the game was up and running. Not only are their a few less options with which to manipulate your graphical experience (screen resolution now being completely gone, for instance), Pandora Saga's engine is showing every year of it's three year run in japan, and then some. While it's not quite as bad as Fantasy Earth Zero, the GUI is one of the more clunky you can possibly navigate, which is saying something when you actually have older F2P games that sport a cleaner experience... By light years.
Zones are likewise small and confining; almost claustaphobic. Basically they're the epitome of the early MMO staged pre-loaded zones. Sure, nearly every free to play does this to one extent or another, but the effect is exaggerated within Pandora due to a gaming engine that more than likely would have felt strained in '08, let alone here on the precipice of 2011. Mobs are uninspired and graphical special effects are lackluster to the point that I just couldn't be bothered to waste more of my time on what was becoming so obviously another attempt to take an elderly MMO from a foreign market with the hopes of milking every last dollar in a new country under the Free to Play banner.
As for myself, this will be Atlus Online's second strike against me as a gamer. Neo Steam was released as a largely incomplete product, but was more than happy to accept their gamer's cash at the store. Now they're introducing a game that would have felt old when it was first released in it's native market in order to squeeze blood from the proverbial stone and bone the more naive gamers amongst us.
When it comes right down to it, Pandora Saga is only one step above the likes of Phantasy Earth Zero, and Atlus as a company deserves to take the loss for even thinking to pass the cost of its acquisition onto this country's gaming community. This goes for any other company looking to make an easy buck by trying to scam its user base into playing something they're looking to put an absolute minimal amount of effort in just to port it over and make easy money. Hell, Pandora's not even worth a full review in the state it's being ported in.
Long story short, skip this game like the MMO plague it is.