ASTA is one of a couple games making their way to the West this year from Webzen. Set in a world of Asian Myth and Fantasy combined, ASTA is hoping to find fans here with its setting and unique take on combat. Read on for the full interview.
MMORPG: First things first, can you tell us all a bit about what kind of MMORPG ASTA is? From trailers we get sort of a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon vibe, not altogether unlike recent releases Swordsman and Blade & Soul. Fantasy meets Asian Mythology. Is that about right?
Associate Producer Dierk: In a very condensed form, yes, though ASTA definitely has its own thing going. While the world and overall setting of ASTA draw a lot of inspiration from Buddhist mythology, it is first and foremost a pure fantasy universe. It does not claim to be realistic or historically accurate, making for a much wider range of environments, opponents and situations.
That being said, the developers were definitely not shying away from things that are a bit more out there … minigun-wielding warthog guy with gas mask, anyone? J
MMORPG: How about gameplay wise, what features make ASTA stand out from the crowd of MMOs these days?
Dierk: Weirdly enough, by bringing back features that are no longer in today’s “crowd”. While many games today go the way of homogenization and reducing race / class differences (not to mention faction differences), ASTA is going the other way. Different races start with different attributes, and in the case of mages for example, characters from different factions have an entirely different array of skills.
The game allows players to delve into customizing their characters to perfection. You can individually adjust your character’s attributes, run with up to 3 different talent specializations, and use the divine spirit system to further accentuate your biggest strengths.
That is not to say that ASTA is primarily or even exclusively for players who are looking for that sort of thing. While the game does offer plenty of elements appealing to veteran MMO players, beginning or casual players are by no means excluded. The gameplay and controls are very intuitive and players of all stripes should feel right at home.
MMORPG: How has the game fared in the East, and what changes do you anticipate needing to make in order to make it a success here in the West?
Dierk: As you may know, the Korean version of the game was shut down earlier this year, and we are doing our utmost to learn from and avoid the mistakes that lead to that outcome.
One of the most important things to mention in this regard is that we are not bound by the development stages of the Korean version. Meaning we have the freedom to “mix-and-match” and will start right out of the gate with improvements that were introduced over a long time in the Korean version of the game. Examples would be the mentoring system, multiple talent specializations, but also smaller improvements like UI updates that can make all the difference in terms of gameplay experience.
Luckily, the developers are completely on board with this undertaking and they are very supportive of us requesting other changes to adjust the game for the Western market as well, and so we were for example able to make pretty sweeping changes to the in-game shop. We are also guaranteed to receive new content, and we hope to be able to make continuous improvements to existing features as well, to ensure they are as good as they can be.
As always, we are also eager to hear the community’s feedback, so if our players have suggestions and criticism to give, we’re happy to have them!
MMORPG: How will the game be monetized? What sorts of things can we expect to see in the cash shop?
Dierk: The shop in ASTA uses a dual currency system: On the one hand there are Wcoin, Webzen’s portal-wide currency used in all games, and on the other hand there is an in-game currency called Soul Stones.
Wcoin will be used mostly for purchases of cosmetic items, your classic costumes, mounts and pets. For the European / North American version of the game, we have removed any and all stat boosts from these items, so they are purely cosmetic / functional (mounts do increase movement speed of course, and pets are collecting loot for the player).
Wcoin can also be converted into Soul Stones, but these can also be acquired from playing the game. They are used to purchase things like item unbinders, items that help you reinforce your equipment, and so on, but also for time-limited versions of the aforementioned cosmetic items.
MMORPG: How is combat handled? Is it traditional tab target, or something closer to what you might find in Action MMOs like TERA?
Dierk: As with the character customization mentioned above, ASTA is returning to a more traditional approach, and the combat system is based on tab-targeting with targetable AoE spells and non-target skill shots mixed in.
MMORPG: What sorts of content are there to keep players invested for the long term?
Dierk: That very much depends on the type of player. PvE enthusiasts will enjoy the quest and story content, and if they are looking for cooperative play, a multitude of dungeons, raids and public quests awaits them – all accessible via automated matchmaking, both solo and as a group.
PvP junkies will want to head into battlegrounds, class arenas, and team arenas at first, and at higher levels, they can battle to their heart’s content in faction-vs-faction domination battles and guild wars.
If you are more of a lone wolf who likes to do crafting or go out exploring new areas, you will have your fill in ASTA. All of the areas in the game offer breath-taking vistas and challenges such as public quests and bounty hunter contracts where players can earn extra rewards.
Finally, the game also has a lot to offer for all those completionists out there. There are hundreds of quests and achievements (server-first achievements as well, if you are looking for a race) to complete, and plenty of rankings to climb.