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NetGame | Official Site
MMORPG | Genre:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 07/31/06)  | Pub:MGame USA, Inc.
PVP:Yes | Distribution:Download | Retail Price:n/a | Pay Type:Free | Monthly Fee:Free
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Hero Online Previews: Hands-On Preview

By Carolyn Koh on July 31, 2006

The game goes live and we find out if its worth spending money on

Hero Online is a Korean Free to Play game that has been ported over for the US market. Typical of many of its lineage, the client is free and there are no monthly fees to play. Although what you pay for differs between games, each developer’s business model is essentially the same – you pay for what you get. Additional inventory space, special weapons and suits of armor perhaps, additional classes or characters, additional mounts, skills… the list is endless… but we don’t know yet, what will be available.

A game like Hero Online can hardly be compared to paid models such as EverQuestII or World of WarCraft but must be compared to others of the same genre, or judged on its own merit. Gamers entering this game seeking a world, content and game play similar to EverQuestII or World of WarCraft will only have themselves to blame if they are disappointed.

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Brief Description
In my First Look at the game, I described Hero Online as a cross between Street Fighter and Diablo, set in medieval China. Several more weeks of play has not lessened that impression. Despite the lack of a good users manual, the game is not difficult to learn to play and the community generally helpful to newcomers.

You have four characters to choose from – and like Diablo, no customization is possible in the free version; although MGame does say that options are available through their nCash system. Movement is point and click as is combat. With Diabloesque health and mana (or chi) potions, you will find yourself taking on monsters five levels higher than your character and as you advance, even that level increases to as high as 12 levels. That results in spamming a lot of potions, but it is doable and a challenge if you enjoy that. Also available are “Scrolls of Return” which instantly return you to the tavern - a safe spot in the zone – from where you can access teleports to other zones – for a fee of course.

Character Development
Character development is simplistic. You choose between four characters whose starting stats are slanted toward being a Warrior, Hunter, Physician and Assassin, then improve them by gaining xp to level, obtain skill books and skill points, and type of pet – some which can be mounted. Progression is linear. You begin with 4 stat points to distribute between Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence, and gain 5 more at every level.

At level 10, you select a profession (Warrior, Hunter, Physician and Assassin) and begin training by buying skill books for the profession and placing skill points earned in the skill you want to develop, including the passive skill for the profession. Remember that you need 15 INT to equip that book.

At level 25 and various other levels to 100, you will be able to purchase or quest for more skill books. Although there is some variation in which you can develop your character’s skills by distributing your points between your weapon skills, a passive defense skills and your profession skills. Character skill development is nothing like that in Diablo (and similarly… World of Warcraft).

Armor sets change by level and look the same on each character type. We are told that customization will be possible when the game goes live but no further details are available at this time as to whether they are free or purchased options.

Itemization
Everything that is dropped has a use which is quite a change from looting rat tails, scorpion stings, bloody bear paws or other vendor “fodder”. It can be as trivial as Oats for your horse or a bottle of healing tea, to 4 - 8 different versions of a sword / hair pin – stun / poison / paralysis / etc. effects and combinations there of. All drops are graphically shown on the ground and have a fast decay. As one has only limited space and strength to carry items, some players on an xp run may leave items or destroy the heavier ones regularly.

Combat
Combat is fast and intense with fast spawning mobs, wanderers and the occasional trains. The animation looks fantastic. The graphics that distinguish the different skill moves give combat animation more than just the “over hand hit” of too many other MMORPGs out there. The “Kiyaaah!” and various other sounds that your character makes were amusing at first, but I’ll admit can get old pretty quick.

Death penalty… the death penalty is loss of xp, which is only really apparent after you reach level 25. When you run out of health, your character goes down on one knee into a prayerful stance and you are given the options of returning to the zone’s safe spot with full health and chi, returning to the same spot with low health and chi or a “soul return script” which isn’t available yet.

Try returning to the same spot. *grins* It takes 30 seconds for your character to activate. In the mean time, you can pick up the loot you left before you died, drink potions to get your health and chi back to full… and watch as all the mobs that killed you come back and surround you, ready to beat you back into the ground.

Pets
Some call them fluff factor but they are truly badges of achievement. Like epic mounts in WoW or Epic Weapons in EQ; for example, you may own a Black Wolf at level 10, purchase a Horse at level 20 and a Great Bear at level 30. At level 23, you can ride around on Profession mounts are Flying Lion (Warriors), Reindeer (Hunters), Snow Tigers (Physicians) and Great Wolves (Assassin). They do bring some function. With mounted pets (horses are also classed pets), they absorb damage which would normally be done to you, and some will assist you in combat, bringing a little extra damage. Pets are tamed in the wild by the Hunter profession with the exception of the Horse which is purchased at the stables.

The World
Zones are known as Maps and can be reached either by teleport “spires” designated by a bright illuminated spot on the ground (you can also see the light beams) or a teleport purchased from various NPCs such as tavern clerks and even the banker. Guards will send you where you want to go for free.

There aren’t many maps at this time and the “land area” is small. You will find yourself leveling your characters in the same places, fighting the same mobs as everyone else and kill stealing is rife in crowded zones, but we are promised “many more maps” when the game is released.

Quests
In Hero Online there are three different types of quests: the normal Quests, which revolve around the tasks and missions given by the residents/citizens of Hero Online; the Legend quests, which revolve around the story-line of the game; and the Side Story quests, which are epic quests which Netgame tells us, are written by some of the greatest martial arts novelists of our time. Many of these Quests are not available until release. In beta, young characters have access only to one quest per level and they are simplistic – go destroy our enemies and bring me proof of your deeds type. Luckily, drops are not scarce.

A simple quest menu shows the quests that you’ve completed, available to you or you are undertaking at the time. It does not always provide the exact steps you have to take, as exemplified by an early quest that warns you… “Listen carefully to what she has to say.” I approve. In a more complex game, I’d wish for a quest tracker which shows all the quests I’ve undertaken, the different mobs I have to kill in different zones etc. In this simple and straightforward game with simplistic quests, it doesn’t hurt to make a manual note that Tavern Clerk Jun wants you to take a secret delivery to her boyfriend Guard Hamomo and the Scholar Wang whom she’s two-timing.

PvP (Player vs. Player Combat)
The PvP system features duels, arenas, open PvP maps and territorial /faction warfare. A Karma system is applied where your title changes depending on the number and level of opponents you defeat. If you are a regular newbie killer, you may be labeled a thug.

A bounty system is also in place where you may place a bounty on someone’s head. The Karma system still applies with bounties. Take too many low level ones, you hurt your own reputation.

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