Wooosh. “What was that?” I hear you ask. Oh, it’s just the sound of me flying past on my glittery paper airplane. Where can you get one? Well look no further. Published by R2games entertainment, well known for their free-to-play games, Eternal saga is a F2P fantasy browser MMORPG in which your character helps to save the world from a demon invasion. Unlike their previous title, Wartune, R2 Games are moving away from strategy and more so into the world of fantasy roleplaying by bringing us an isometric top-down view complete with micro-transactions and an anime art-style environment. Oh, and more importantly, a sparkly paper airplane mount.
Aesthetically speaking I found the game confusing, it definitely does take some getting used to and I don’t know if I like it or hate it. The world is very saturated and over the top with detail, while the characters don’t feel like they’re part of the world. It’s almost as if two separate people who had no prior communication created the character and world art. Don’t get me wrong, both are very well done - the character splash art is especially beautiful and anime lovers won’t be disappointed - but it feels like each were made for separate games.
The UI, on the other hand, is what put me off this game the most. If you’re using a lower resolution screen, just don’t bother – you won’t be able to see a single thing. As the sparkling buttons and poorly laid out design crowd the screen it all becomes very confusing as to where you’re supposed to click next. I feel like the UI designer purposely wanted to cheapen the feel of the game as scrolling text advertisements periodically appear at the top, giving me a nightmarish chill as I can only recall a resemblance to late night TV advertisements channels. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the shocking early 2000’s chat-room-meets-msn-messenger chat window.
Laid on top of this is music that feels like a mix between what I’d expect to hear in an elevator and a 90s educational video game. However, it is very catchy and I eventually found, to my disdain, that I was whistling along.
You’ll notice almost immediately that Eternal saga is a very hands off experience. As soon as I jumped into the bright and sparkly world, I was met with an unfamiliar system the game had implemented: “auto-path”. To someone who has not ventured much into the realms of this style of MMO I found it rather confusing for my character to automatically start moving itself to the next quest giver with little to no explanation. Around the third quest I realized what is going on and that it is possible for me to move the character of my own accord, but after being spoilt by this mechanic I found myself resorting back to it and watching as my character ran off to kill, collect and then return to the quest giver all without any input.
As you speed your way through levels (picking up a pet along the way) – which the game rarely acknowledges you doing - you’re intrusively introduced to various progression systems, each as confusing as the last as it fails to truly explain what they are for, or why you should even bother. The majority of these systems, including the character progression, gives you the option for the game to decide what to do and in most cases, it seems like the best choice as you mindlessly spam-click buttons.
I watched my character bounce back and forth for 30 levels between overly paranoid and self-absorbed NPCs, who ordered me to monotonously grind mobs, all of whom seemed to be conveniently placed right next to the quest giver in large, immediately respawning groups. Eventually I was given a break and sent off on my first dungeon, thinking that I’d finally see some real action!
This is where I encountered the “AFK” system. Upon entering said dungeon I was prompted with a small window which allows you to configure some rather strange things, such as auto-fight monsters, abilities to cast and if I would like to automatically buy health potions. “How strange” I thought, and clicked “Start Battle” as I thought made the most sense to do. My character then proceeded to clear the entire dungeon, taking potions when their health dropped below a certain percentage. It took little over a minute and a half for my character to complete and I reaped the full rewards. To be fair to the game, you don’t have to choose to use the “AFK” system, however, when it is the first thing you are met with when joining the dungeon it feels almost rude not to.
From here on out it’s just a case of trying to work out what to do next as you feel like you’re dumped into a similar system to what you’d expect to find in the popular Facebook games, with time management and micro transactions available to remove the progress hindering timers. Each day the “Events” reset, allowing you to re-complete what you did the day before, eventually turning the game into a daily grind in which you log in watch your character complete these quests. In all honesty I just feel I’m being given front row seats to a behind the scenes viewing of a time management game.
While Eternal Saga may use a lot of the classical elements seen in other MMOs, it does incorporate some interesting twists, in-fact perhaps too many. The game very early on becomes swamped with different progression windows and doesn’t do a very good job at explaining what each one does. However, I do commend the game's approach to encouraging players to log in and stayed logged in with multiple generous mechanics such as the “Login Gifts” that reward you each day, increasing in value and desirability for the more days you consecutively log in – even a part of me considered carrying on to get the lightning wolf mount to receive at 14 days. “Online Rewards” also gift you with useful items in 5 minute increments during gameplay, as long you remember to click the flashing button. Another mechanic that fits nicely in with this is “Meditation”, this system is automatically activated upon leaving your character standing still, not interacting with anything in an area (or by pressing “D”). The longer you leave your character the more EXP you gain and there is even bonus EXP for meditating with a friend. This allows player to sit and talk to each other instead of fighting monsters to level up.
Another unusual twist to a mechanic we’ve seen in other MMOs is a live countdown to different events on the server. This includes a server time and an event time clock to avoid any confusion as well as a physical representation as a loading bar.