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Vicarious Existence

To blog about what is going on in the MMO genre from a casual MMO player's viewpoint.

Author: UnSub

The Twelve Trials of UnSub: The Matrix Online

Posted by UnSub Wednesday April 30 2008 at 8:21AM
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For some reason this Twelve Trials thing has started with me trying out the greatest hits out of the MMO genre's recent flops. It wasn't intentional; it just happened.

Anyway, The Matrix Online (MxO). Go back a couple of years and you'd think a MMO based on a hugely popular property set in a virtual world and full of gun wielding kung fu superheroes would have been a sure thing, right? It seemed obvious and a lot of money was poured into MxO to make it something different - heck, it even had (has) an ongoing storyline and regular in-game events, something allegedly wanted by MMO players everywhere. But it flopped, Warner Bros. palmed it off to SOE where 1) third party MMOs go to die, and 2) it was rumoured that it meant SOE got the DC Online license in trade.

But why did MxO flop? In my 14 day trial of it (which you can get by downloading the Station Launcher and signing up) it became abundantly clear: combat was boring.

MxO has probably the best auto-attack sequences I've seen with the interlock system (where you and an opponent go hand-to-hand and exchange martial arts combos). It is a great system and looks good ... the first 50 times or so. After that point, you pretty much have seen everything that your character can do at the basic level and just wait for your powers to recharge to get the fight over and done with quicker, so you can go and fight the next guy. It might be better up the skill tree, but if the fun doesn't start early on, you don't bother persisting.

My character took the Operative path, which is the physical martial-arts-and-guns 'class' within MxO. Unfortunately this led to combat after combat after combat where you watch your guy dance around fighting opponents you know you're going to defeat but still have to wade through. This combat made me appreciate CoH/V's combat system all the more - at least you can switch between melee and range and can drop an even con enemy in 2 or 3 attacks in CoH/V. Within MxO, you rarely get that opportunity and it's a matter of waiting through another interlock sequence.

Yeah, perhaps if I'd gone the Hacker or Coder route I'd have had more fun. But arguably the Operative is what we see in the films - at no time do I remember someone summoning a daemon (read: pet) or healing someone within the Matrix in those movies. The Operative path should have been fun, but it ended up slow and tedious.

Which is a real pity, because MxO has some of the best 'other' systems I've seen in a MMO. The skill system was excellent - you buy skills and classes from particular merchants and, if you have the prerequisite skills and enough 'memory' space to slot them in the skill trees, you can use them. Upgrading skills just requires enough Information (in-game currency) which is pretty easy to earn. Switching skills and abilities is just a matter of a few clicks and drops - arguably even a max level Operative could (assuming they'd bought all the skills) fully re-skill themselves as Hacker or Coder in just a minute or two. While not a 'classless' MMO, it was a MMO with no penalty to respec your character as little or as much as you like. More MMOs should take note of this system.

Another good system was in place for exploration - the MxO world rewarded you with experience for finding new Hardlines (telephone booths where you can access your skills, teleport to other Hardlines and a host of other systems) and was full of other little features to find, like contacts who gave you missions or dance clubs where ... well, nothing much happened, but it was still fun to find them. The world was big and pretty seamless, with instancing for missions, but you definitely had the feeling of being in a mega-city (or at least that is what Richland, the newb area, felt like).

The story line of MxO has evolved the lore of the Matrix past the films, which I really liked. Had I ever been able to find an archivist, I would have played the critical mission for each story 'episode'. But then I probably would have been bored by the combat again, so perhaps it was just more fun watching the MxO cinematics on YouTube (even if at times they made no sense out of context and when they moved to storyboards they just looked awful compared to the in-game scenes from back when the MxO was having resources pumped into it).

There weren't a lot of other low-level characters around (on Vector) - most other characters I saw were lvl 50s PvPing each other, which looked pretty enough but ultimately left the game feeling empty.

I could go on, but I'll sum up by saying that MxO almost caught me. It was almost fun enough to sign up for, to see what the critical missions were. But then I thought of the next hundred battles of interlock and that was enough to put me off. If interlock battles were sped up by a factor of 4 times so that the low end minions fell like nine pins, that might have been enough to keep me engaged, but that isn't the case. If combat is all your action MMO has to offer the trial player, the last thing you want is for that combat to be dull.

mbygons writes:

i totally agree, i even subed for a month. It very nearly got me.

Wed Apr 30 2008 9:06AM Report
Shoal writes:

Well, for the supposed premier game about  the Class 1 Virtual Reality Environment (the Matrix), to not have a 1st person mode of play???

Five minutes and then cancel sub, delete game, destroy key, toss box.

Wed Apr 30 2008 1:06PM Report
Teran1987 writes:

Hahahaha, I can sadly make the claim to playing it when it got released from beta, and...lets just go with the word "ouch" that can definitely describe it.

I would put this game up there next to Runescape sans the scammers every 5 feet.

Wed Apr 30 2008 1:59PM Report
astrob0y writes:

Your text really caught me. Im give the game a try :)

Wed Apr 30 2008 6:47PM Report
grimfall writes:

I thinlk that any game review by someone who calls himself 'Unsub' is inherently flawed.

If you go in expecting a bad experience, it's no suprise you get the same thing.  With many MMO's (and I haven't played this one, or really had any interst in it... I mean Canoenew Reeeves, come on!), it takes player interaction to make or break the game.  When Unsub goes into a game, knowing he is only going to play it for 14 days, well it's no suprise he doesn't enjoy it.

Wed Apr 30 2008 7:06PM Report
rsreston writes:

I also tried MxO - the atmosphere is great but the dull and easy combat combined with repetitive and boring missions had me stopping the trial by its 8th day - after I had achieved lvl 10 and the missions didn't vary. I didn't even try the skill system: seemed too complex and I winning every battle without even trying.

Thu May 01 2008 12:40AM Report
Sift writes:

Anyone who knows anything about this game, knows it was about the community.  Yes all those who play it realize the actual game blows, but when you log on to spend time with your friends who really cares any game can be fun, including monopoly :P

Thu May 01 2008 6:43AM Report
UnSub writes:

grimfall - UnSub is actually short for Unknown Subject. The unsub link is an ironic coincidence.

And I'm going back to look at MMOs to see if they are fun, not to see them fail. As I said, MxO was almost good enough to sub to - if Martial Arts Expertise had meant my basic attacks looked different at lvl 10, I probably could have overlooked the boring missions because I would have been looking at something different for a while.

astrob0y - Try the Hacker route - I think that lets you use viruses, which are more powerful than hand-to-hand (imo).


Thu May 01 2008 9:53AM Report
Kurai3 writes:

Actually Unsub I played for a month or two (I got bored when I ran out of story missions and had to spam random ones...) You do get to pick different fighting styles as you progress that affect your attack animations (I had Kung Fu, there was also Karate, Akido and a few others, each with a strength at a different attack type)

Oh, Also, Hello from CoHGuru.

Mon May 05 2008 7:01PM Report writes:
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