Luvinia Online is one of the latest Asian free to play MMOs to hit our shores. Developed by Shanda Interactive in Shanghai and published here in North America by Outspark, Luvinia has that classic top-down, three-quarter camera view that many associate with the Asian F2P MMOs. The graphics are quite lovely and pleasing albeit not high-def as the game runs on rather low specs. Already popular in China, the game is currently in open beta or rather, soft launch as there won’t be any character wipes when they roll out the cash store and consider the game commercially launched.
The world is a high-fantasy world, one where the various races of humans, orcs, dwarves and elves co-existed with little conflict. As time went by, however, conflict arose and the world floundered in the chaos of race wars. At the time we enter the world, those wars are over as the races work tentatively together to save their lands from invaders from other worlds. Only the humans are available to play at launch.
Like many F2P games that sell cosmetics to earn revenue, there is little customization when characters are created. Everyone starts as a novice, a recruit in Geneway College. There’s a choice of faction for later PvP, starting area, small selection of faces and hair, but also two other interesting selections, an astrological sign – which will only come into use sometime in the future (when the feature is available here) and voice. Your character does utter short phrases and here’s where you select how he or she will sound.
Characters start out as a novice and at level ten, Magician, Warrior or Rogue. At level 40, each archetype specializes further. The Magician chooses between Priest and Warlock, the Warrior between the more defensive Knight or the offensive Fighter, the Rogue chooses between the range melee Scout and the more party oriented Artist, and at level 80, they will specialize further. Character level at launch will be capped at 70, but the cap will increase with the first update to the game.
Character customization comes in the enhancements that can be done to equipment and weapons. Like other games, equipment come in color “types” and for Luvinia, those are indicated by name and the border color of the icon, ranking from Grey to Blue, Green and Purple. However, players can also enhance equipment and weapons which have slots by going to an NPC when they have looted, traded for or bought the requisite items and paying the enhancement fee. Enhanced items also gain a small effect: A glow, perhaps a little colored particle effect.
The interesting about enhancement is that it can imbue the item with better stats than the next color level. There is a chance to that your enhancement will fail but you can purchase items from NPCs that will enhance your chances of success. When you find cards or gems with better stats, you can remove the previously slotted enhancements from a weapon or amour by paying another NPC the requisite fee and slot the new ones in.
There are also costume slots on the avatar paper-doll that will show the costume the player chooses to wear, over the armor graphics.
Luvinia is one of those games that have a low barrier of entry. Mousing over the various components of the UI show exactly what they do and they are trying to keep things as simple as possible. Movement is click to move and the familiar key maps – M for Map, space bar for jump, C for character sheets. Players start off with a gift box that contains potions and a weapon and within the first hour of play, would have collected more gift boxes and the gift box levels as you use it. At level 5, you collect your level 10 gifts and so forth. Players also receive costumes for their gender, and a few enhancement gems that increase the chance of success.
There are a lot of convenience features in Luvinia, one of which I really enjoyed is the quest and map assists. Clicking an NPC will start the character running towards that NPC. A little boot icon appears near the HUD on your top right, and you can actually interrupt your journey and click on it again to continue your journey. While on a quest, you can also have it lead you to the mobs you need to kill.
Players get a quest for a mount as soon as they graduate from Geneway College and move to a town. Teleporters send you to other towns and areas of the map – for a fee of course, or you can hoof it. Mounts have a system of leveling and they can grow with the player, your first mount is a horse, but you can attain more fearsome horses, and other animals like the rabbit given to closed beta players that attained level 40. The tiger mount begins as an ordinary orange & black tiger, to getting a saddle to one with fancy armor and particle effects. There are quite a number of different mounts that will be in game.
Quest System & Combat
The quest system basically begins your tutorial and introduction into the world of Luvinia. They are tracked by area and type – Storyline, town, side-quest, daily quests, etc. If you follow the system, you’d have leveled through to 20 and learned how to choose your path, fight, learn various aspects of the UI – auto movement, etc. while earning XP and silver. You’d also have learned how to harvest and craft, and not done any grinding at all while using all those lovely gifts of potions that gave you newbie stat buffs.
Most quests are in the usual delivery and kill ten rats variety with gathering and crafting quests mixed in as well as some quests that require the use of a quest item like trapping owls for an NPC to study. Combat is your tab-targeting and auto-attack, found in most MMOs. Even the Magician had an auto-attack, but higher level skills were hotkey use and employed cool-downs as well.
Heal, mana and buff potions are bought in game but I had yet to explore crafting, and there is an Alchemy skill apart from the usual blacksmithing and tailoring. At the low levels, there was little down time in between the gift box potions and the random drops of health and mana bubbles.
Group experience wasn’t something I tried as Luvinia is very solo-friendly in the lower levels, and I would characterize “lower levels” as up to 40. Although throughout my short weekend experience, I saw requests for various classes for level 50 & 60 dungeons in world chat.
Cashstore & Economy
There are several currencies in game: Gold, Silver and Planar Essences. Both Gold and Silver drop in game from mobs or as quest rewards and Silver is the currency that most NPCs accept. There are money changers in town that will exchange gold for silver, and bags of silver are sold by some merchants. Planar Essences are the third currency and will be used in the cash store. This is a deliberate feature to stick by the “free” in this game. Players can earn Planar Essences to buy that kick-ass costume that would otherwise cost real cash to purchase in the store. However, how this works and the cash store itself is still under development, but we are told that you won’t be able to buy-to-win.
Unfortunately, there won’t be an auction house interface as seen in most western MMOs. Players at this time are still calling out WTB and WTS over world channels although some did set up shop in town with NPC shopkeepers.
I’ve played any number of these types of MMOs most were done for reviews and I would continue playing them for a casual solo experience, enjoying the different worlds, and I must say that I did enjoy the diverse environments I had the chance of experiencing. There are underwater areas (lakes and such) where you have to swim but did not need to equip underwater breathing apparatus or spells, dungeons which reminded me of dungeon crawls of old and spooky other-worldy zones. All experienced before I reached level 20. Which makes me wonder how planned that was.
Luvinia makes for a fun, casual MMO experience and I’m curious enough about it to continue playing it. It has caught my attention as I want to explore the crafting further, and the click to run to the next quest guy / area is just too darned convenient at this level, before I start questing in dangerous zones where there are aggressive mobs. If you're looking for a decent free game, you should definitely give Luvinia look.