I have to say that first, I had no initial expectations of this game. I knew that it was yet another Korean import, which is enough to make eyes roll and the words "grind-fest" pop into the heads of most MMO players. But I always try to keep an open mind, so I signed on to be a tester for the closed beta phase.
I mentioned that I had no expectations. I did, however, have some preconceptions. And those were blown away my first hour into the game.
First off, this is a nice looking game. Yeah, yeah "graphics don't make a game, you pixel whore!", you might say. And you'd be right. However, graphics do make for a more enjoyable experience, and moreso when they are pretty. And these are. Even though there aren't a bevvy of character models to choose from, each is rendered in beautiful detail. The landscapes, mobs, structures, and textures are all sights to behold. And even though there are games out there that could blow this one out of the water graphically, this game isn't bad for a freebie.
Secondly, and brace yourself, Korean MMO vets--grinding isn't the primary way to level your character, quests are. You read that right, quests. You can grind, yes, but to hit those levels quickly and efficiently, you're going to want to do those quests the NPCs beg you to do. And you get nice buffed up versions of starter gear for completing some of them, which makes questing easy on the pocketbook as well. The quest are standard fare: find this NPC, kill X amount of these mobs, and return for your reward. But questing in my book is much more preferable to grinding. I play games to have fun, and I hate when a game begins to feel like a job. You hear that, World of Warcraft?
PvP nuts will like this game. You choose between two factions, Light and Dark, with two races for each side. These factions are diametrically opposed to one another, and in PvP arenas and areas, you're fair game to anyone of the other faction. PvP is also, more importantly, fun and profitable. Each factions has a goddess, and racking up PvP kills will earn your side favor with your deity, which translates into buffs, abilities and experience bonuses that helps your faction out globally.
The downsides, you ask? Of course there are some. The maps are incredibly small for an MMO, and even though you can teleport to newer and higher level maps, you'll be competing for mobs with other players. The localization is horrid, but can easily be fixed over time. There's also no differentiating players, since limited character models mean you'll be running into your clone quite frequently. This isn't a big problem until you get into the PvP areas and there's a huge fight ensuing.
Overall, I'm impressed with Shaiya so far, even in the closed beta stage of the game. It's a simple game that has a lot of quick, pick up and play fun to it. And the whole time I've been playing, I've never felt like it was a chore to hunt mobs or track down that elusive NPC for a quest. I highly recommend this game to anyone, once it reaches open beta or final versions.