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Artifact Entertainment | Official Site
MMORPG | Genre:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 12/08/03)  | Pub:Virtrium
Distribution:Download | Retail Price:Free | Pay Type:Subscription
System Req: PC | ESRB:TOut of date info? Let us know!

Istaria: Chronicles of the Gifted Review: Istaria: Horizons Re-Review - Edit

Crafting

Okay. Here's the deal. As I said before, I'm predisposed to not liking crafting. I was also told that I should give it a try for completeness sake. All of this you already know. What you do not know is that I actually enjoyed my crafting experience. This is a very well thought out crafting and gathering system that does not make me feel like I am doing the same thing repeatedly with no real gain. In other games, I have felt like I was outside of the crafting system just watching as my character went through the monotonous steps to make something that I did not feel personally attached to in the end. Horizons keeps you involved in the steps needed to create an item so that instead of just pointing and clicking, you really feel as though you've made something in the end. I'm not really the one to offer any more information on the subject, but if you're a crafter, I say at least try the (now 14 day) trial and see what you think.

Bottom Line on Crafting: Muy Bueno.

Combat

I really wanted to be impressed with the combat in Horizons. Combat systems make or break games, after all. In a good game, I want to see a highly interactive combat system that not only feels good, but should also look good. I also want the combat to be fairly intuitive, meaning that I do not want to have to be in combat trying to figure out what I have and what I can use. Honestly, I did not feel like Horizons really gave me that feeling. I found it difficult to decide what abilities I should use and when. I also found the bulk of the combat to be extremely repetitive both in feeling and in the look. I just flat out did not feel like I was a part of the combat. I found this disappointing because of the detail and interactivity that went into the crafting system.

Now, I do want to point out here that the combat was not ALL bad. Most of what was said above refers to playing the game in the form of a bipedal creature. The game (and combat is no exception) picks up dramatically when you choose to play as a dragon. First of all, you are basically able to rid yourself of the sometimes standard, sometimes silly looking (giant curved double bladed axes?) weapons of the biped and take on the claws, bite and fire of the dragon. I found this experience both satisfying and fun (they even rear up on their hind legs when they are breathing fire, which makes me do a little awesome dance). Sure, when I breathe fire on something, I'd like to see it burn for a bit... but you cannot have everything.

Bottom Line on Combat: Bipedal combat is quite bland, while Dragon combat is quite fun.

Gameplay Experience

All right, really this is the meat of the situation. No matter how great all of the other stuff is, if the game does not play well then it is just a pretty-looking program dressed up like an MMO.

Already annoyed by my tutorial experience (blue help windows...), I did not start my time on Istaria in the best of moods. Still, I consoled myself with a couple of thoughts. First, I had managed to complete a number of well-put together quests that showed me how to do many things. Second, I had a character that I was pretty happy with. The character creation process is quite good. I was a little bit pleased to find that I was able to create a bipedal creature that I felt looked unique (okay, so I made a Saris version of my cat, "Paladin", so I guess unique is not the word, but it was still cool), but I was totally and utterly blown away by the fact that they managed to give you so much control and variation in the creation of a dragon character. They give you choices in everything from the shape of your character's head (from pointy and lizard like to rounder and more humanish), to the pattern and color of your scales. Very cool. I will also say that I thought the tutorial quests were well put together and were quite enjoyable. Unfortunately, I can not say that too much else stood out as great in my mind. There was quite a bit of passable stuff (this is an entirely playable game), but I did not see too much else that floated my particular boat.

I did, however, run into a number of issues that I feel need addressing at this time. First, the hotkeys. After I signed out of my first Horizons experience (during which I had a pretty good handle on how everything worked), I was detained and could not play for a few days. When I returned, I found that I could not remember which hotkeys brought up which windows. I decided to check my menus. Surely there is a list somewhere for easy reference. Not so. I was at a loss, and so I spent the next 10 minutes trying out different combinations until I got myself organized. Second on my list of criticisms is the fact that I often had trouble figuring out exactly where I was at any given time. I found the in-game maps next to useless. While they did tell me where I was in relation to a land mass, I was not given the amount of detail that I needed to really feel as though I knew where I was going. In all fairness, however, it was at this point that one of the shining features of this game made itself present again. All it took was a brief call for help to my fellow players before someone pointed me in the right direction. I'll say that this game has a very strong community and this is what almost makes up for a game that I would generally call unfriendly to new players.

Bottom Line on Horizons: In my opinion, Horizons is a fairly decent, middle of the road game. While it does have its faults, there are a number of circumstances under which I would wholeheartedly recommend this game:

  • If you are a fan of dragons or simply enjoy a unique-feeling gameplay experience, Horizons may be for you. The dragon experience was something that I truly enjoyed and almost made me forget that I was writing a review.
  • If you come into MMOs to meet the pre-existing community, Horizons is a good bet. Every player that I came across during my time on Istaria was helpful and friendly. Not once did they make me feel stupid or like a newbie, no matter how stupid a question I asked.
  • Crafters. If you enjoy a well rounded and thought out crafting system that is engaging even to players not usually inclined to craft, then I would recommend this game to you.

On the other side of that coin, however, there are a number of circumstances under which I would certainly not recommend this game:

  • If you are a player who is new to the MMO genre, I would not recommend this particular game. Even after the tutorial, I found that Horizons assumes certain knowledge of the genre in order to facilitate smooth gameplay.
  • If you are looking for state-of-the-art mind-blowing graphics, then this is not the game for you. When you compare this game to some of the more visually stunning MMOs on the market, it simply cannot compete.
  • If you are looking for dynamic feeling combat. While there is a vast array of combat options and skills, they just do not translate well visually into the game. Watching the combat, you feel as though you are doing the same thing repeatedly until whatever you are fighting falls over or kills you.

If you want to find out more, Horizons is currently running a 14 day free trial. I would suggest you try it out. However, it does require a credit card, which may ward some off.

Final Score

7.1

Graphics
6
Role-Playing
8
Fun
8
Performance
5
Sound
6
Value
7
Community
10
Service
7
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