We're sure you're noticing a trend in the free to play genre these days and it's not a particularly exciting one... A phenomenon wherein company 'X' produces a ridiculous number of MMO franchises in the hopes that you will eventually take note of one and hopefully invest. On one hand, I applaud this foray into the wild world of MMO capitalism since it exposes the massive multi player genre to the public at large and likewise creates competition for the more dedicated gamers. Competition theoretically means that said company will work harder for your dollar and will hopefully produce a better product in the processes. On the other hand, this projectile vomiting of titles also tends to endear the 'if it works, why fix it?' mentality, which has in turn has given rise to the MMO clone wars. These companies will invariably attempt to produce a cutesy MMO with an Asian-anime feel, a serious MMO probably featuring an ancient Chinese theme, some flavor of sports MMO and a fluffy socialization MMO if that wasn't already included in the cutesy-anime one. One need look any further than Konami as one of the more egregious offenders, and gpotato is rapidly joining the ranks with their newest effort: Luna Online.
Attack of the Clones
That said, clones aren't always such a bad thing and my philosophy tends toward "clone away, just get it right" and that's sadly where most companies tend to fall down. So where dose Luna Online fall in that twilight between Win and Fail? The first thing you should know is that Luna tends toward the cutesy anime genre of free to play, looking remarkably like ROSE Online in terms of graphical implementation with a just a touch more depth concerning character customization. Humans and Elves are the species of choice and that customization is limited to hair and eyes, meaning you'll only stumble across your evil twin every ten minutes instead of the standard one to five. Like most MMOs of the type, this is where you'll choose your initial class and Luna is no exception, nor is it rocket science. The typical Mage, Rogue and Fighter archetypes can be selected and Luna follows the tried and true Asian job model, where you select your class initially and then specialize at level twenty. Overall, it's nothing you haven't seen before so lets pop the hood and look at what's underneath.
Usually I don't start out with audio, but it is perhaps Luna's most notable facet. In fact, it goes a long way toward turning what would be a thoroughly average environment into something more immersive. Stepping into the game's newb zone for the first time I was greeted by... Dance. 150 beats per second of happy go lucky midi dance that fits the Luna's feel surprisingly well. The Techno Twins Slad and Veter aside, combat is also acoustically superior, a fact confirmed the first time you loose a spell or technique. Chanting out a spell has to be one of the most unique, disconcerting experiences I've happened across in an MMO and the closest parallel I can draw upon is from the audio chanting in the Baldur's Gate series. Acquiring valuable loot drops are accompanied by energetic exclamations, sighs and other nuances that push your toon into something closer to a living, interactive entity.
Graphically, Luna Online runs the gamut of mediocrity, though that's not to say the game is ugly. Far from it, in fact, as the sand boxed environments are stylized; full of nice touches and bright colors. Still, we would be remiss if we didn't note that there probably isn't a whole lot to wow you since you've more than likely been there and done that before. The characters and their techniques are well animated and also flashy in execution, though it's maybe a step above the competition, if that. Still, the cutesy theme will definitely appeal to a number of players and for what it is, Luna does it well.
So is there anything that stands out as above average? Surely. While each region is effectively a self contained sandbox, most are sprinkled with a number of elites that are all but impossible to miss. Even the newb zone has a few and I can't help but to express my delight in joining in on a combined attack against at a mere level four. On that note, the mobs animate reasonably well and are creative enough in design as not to written off as stale straight out of the gate; even spouting off dialogue as they roam about the countryside awaiting their demise by your hand.
An Enemy Called Average
Uninspired visuals are acceptable as long as the game mechanics hold up and Luna's game play is... Well, average. Combat and navigation consists of the 'park and spank' variety, leaving ASDW gamers out in the cold and killing off some of the game's interactivity in the process. Even so, point and click movement is nothing new and hardly a deal breaker in and of itself, though the hum-drum is beginning to stack up.
Also, investing in average is how Luna handles character attributes, which is the tried and true method of leveling, earning skill points and distributing them across various spells and techniques. Physical attributes are handled in the same manner, allowing for a single point per level to be stacked across your character's defining traits. In practice, there is nothing wrong with this system. It works just as well as it does in every other MMO you've ever played all the way back to AD&D, making for a minimal learning curve as long as you set the total lack of inspiration aside. One thing this particular reviewer does approve of is the ability to queue short term actions as the current technique is executing.
About the only stand out in the game's structuring I noticed is that leveling doesn't seem to be overtly crippled, proceeding at a nice, imminently bearable pace. This in particular is a sharp contrast to most of its contemporaries, giving it a leg up on its f2p competition. If quests are your cup of tea, you'll find Luna lacking since they consist almost exclusively of the 'Run from A to B' or 'Kill X number of Y' variety. Bag space for drops gets somewhat cramped, and bank space can be purchased; both items being standard fare for a f2p title and thus tolerable in this reviewer's eyes.
For those with an eye toward crafting, items can be created outright or simply reinforced for added stats, relying on the "parts equal better parts equal even better parts" system ad nauseum. Chances of failure are also built into the process so you don't get too comfortable and are likewise encouraged to visit the as yet to be implemented cash shop for a purchase that will no doubt remedy this and other leveling dilemmas of all sorts. That said, your chances of skill failure can be negated if you're willing to expend more materials in the product creation. In either case, it's a simple system to navigate and one limited only by your access to material or funds.
Like many F2P games of a similar type, Luna players can set up their own personal shop to aid in their commercial endeavours and while I applaud capitalism at its best, it's sad to watch Luna once again impale itself on the very same sword as its contemporaries. One of these days I hope developers will learn that there are few things less attractive than loading into a zone packed wall to wall full of player shop banners like a shanty town. I'll impart this free piece of advice for them and future developers of this game type: Institute ten meter zone of exclusion around all vital NPCs. At least. Nothing says "fail" like a point and click scavenger hunt through a sea of shops just to find your quest NPC, and I'm frankly surprised that devs have yet to get a clue. A horizon plastered full of sales banners is just tacky, but I will give Luna Online a point for common sense: At least the newb zone is free of this activity.
If it sounds like we've been subjecting Luna to a good spanking, that would only be partially correct. In all actuality, Luna Online really doesn't do anything wrong that we've found in our beta testing so far, and everything mentioned above is subject to change at a moment's notice. It plays well, the graphics are nice and the audio is more than acceptable. The combat engine is quite proven and Luna takes a creative stab at social engineering through dating, families, and of course guilds. Finally, leveling progress is refreshing, blunting the stab of average, even if the GUI bears a remarkable resemblance to its contemporaries in the field...
...And therein lies Luna's singular problem.
Nearly every single aspect of the game has been done across a number of other titles, and while Luna does it all reasonably well, it's the furthest thing from new you'll find in this year's MMO lineup. Part of the issue no doubt stems from the fact that Luna has been up and running for some time now in other countries; more than likely fresh back in the day but fairly stale in the here and now. I would love to entertain hopes that maybe something fresh will worm its way into this port, but experience has taught me to be pessimistic in that regard. Most developers won't reinvent the wheel for a new market, especially when the client is already on its first expansion everywhere else.
So where does that leave us? Assuming the cash shop pans out and you're not terribly committed to another f2p, I'll actually go out on a limb and recommend you try this title. Go in knowing you won't see anything you haven't seen before, but also realize that at least it's being done competently and with a modicum of skill. Luna Online is a solid play. As long as you don't ask anything more of it, you'll enjoy yourself immensely.