Skyforge released for PC on March 11, 2015, adding another hub with instanced dungeons style of MMO into the mix. Developed by Allods Team (with collaboration from Obsidian Entertainment) and published by My.com, Skyforge has a sci-fi setting with a heavy dose of fantasy mixed in. I remember being excited for Skyforge because of the lack of sci-fi-themed MMOs.
Like every month, my first step in this Reroll was to head over to the official website and have a look while Skyforge was downloading. As you might expect from a company with a full stable of free-to-play titles, the My.com launch page is heavy on cash shop offers. Still, there are also plenty of other news items listed, along with a link to the community page.
After a brief look at Skyforge's main page, I clicked on over to the community tab. After going through this process for several months now, I can't say I was surprised to see players had abandoned the community page. Upon reaching this dead-end, I quickly hunted down the Skyforge Discord community. I was happy to see some recent activity, giving me a little bit of hope that when I finally put boots to the ground, I wouldn't be the only person playing.
Becoming a god step 1 - download the game
Once the install was finished, I fired up Skyforge and logged into my old account, ready to start up a new character and get to work. Well, I don't know if it's always been this way, but you can only have one character per account. You can't even purchase additional character slots. I don't mind being limited to a single avatar, so this wasn't a big deal. In fact, I was reasonably optimistic this was a sign that the cash shop wasn't going to nickel and dime me at every turn.
Since I was already logged in, I figured I might as well check in on my old character before setting up a new account. As I quickly found out, if you're a returning player that hasn’t played for a while, you’re in for quite a few changes. My return to Aelion was met by a flurry of notices informing me that the developers had reworked many game mechanics. It was as if all of the gear and crafting supplies I currently had were obsolete. Along with all of those messages came some new gear of credits to set me up in the new system.
I don’t remember how long I played Skyforge at launch or why I quit playing it, but whatever caused me to leave the first time around had probably been changed. So I waved goodbye to my old character and account and started fresh with a new identity.
Becoming A God
The premise behind the Skyforge story is relatively simple. The world of Aelion is under siege. Multiple alien races have attacked the world, and the greater god Aeli has vanished. Without his protection, it is up to the lesser gods to defend Aelion.
Becoming a god step 2 - make sure your character has an eye patch.
You start Skyforge as a regular soldier. At the end of the tutorial mission, your character dies and is reborn. In your new immortal form, you will fight back against the invading armies, freeing province after province as you grow in power and unlock new classes. The alien attack isn’t the only danger you must overcome. The lesser gods all have their own agendas and desires. Without a true leader to keep them in check, you will become an unwilling participant in their power struggles.
Immortality doesn’t automatically grant you godhood, though. You must have followers to increase your power. As a new immortal, turning mortals to your banner becomes your primary objective. As you complete missions and liberate provinces, your name will become more familiar to the citizens of Aelion. In turn, your cathedral will begin attracting new followers daily. You are also able to use credits to perform rituals to gain additional followers and accelerate your ascension.
Becoming a god step 3 - become immortal.
This whole immortality and followers gimmick is a neat way to boost your character’s power. Your primary stat, Might, is raised by an amount proportional to the size of your flock. In the end, it’s nothing more than how you increase your physical stats in other games, but at least it ties your progression into the lore of Skyforge.
Your cathedral and followers aren’t your only sources of character progression, either. As you battle monsters, you will acquire Knowledge of Enemies; a currency used to upgrade the Tower of Knowledge. No matter how unoriginal the name may be, this avenue of progression will also add additional Might to your character, so who cares what they call it?
Your path through the main storyline is very linear, with each quest unlocking a portion of the nine provinces of Aelion. These quests literally move you along a yellow path that winds through all of the regions, similar to how you would move through the map of a single-player strategy game. Some sections are unlocked by completing a single dungeon-type quest, while others have a small, open-world map with a series of quests that must be completed to progress.
Becoming a god step 4 - be on the winning side when other gods fight
For someone like myself that doesn’t have a large amount of time to spend playing games each day, the fairly short instanced quests required to unlock provinces gave me a visual record of my progress that a larger open-world map filled with hundreds of quests doesn’t provide. For those who like a sandbox MMO’s freedom, this hub and instanced quests structure is sure to be given a negative mark.
Skyforge uses the one character, all classes style of progression. There are three classes available to start, with the rest unlockable at various points throughout the main storyline. For anyone who doesn’t want to wait, players can also unlock classes with Argents, the real money currency available in Skyforge’s cash shop.
You can swap immediately between any class you have unlocked simply by switching your primary weapon. Skipping the need for multiple characters, I've always been a fan of this type of character progression, especially for MMOs that I plan to play casually. Skyforge takes this simple approach and takes it a step further by making the rest of your character’s gear shared among all classes. This helps keep your inventory clear of multiple armor sets for each class, though you may still have gear sets focused on specific stats like crit chance or shield strength.
Fighting The Average Fight
When it comes to gameplay quality, Skyforge could be the poster child for free-to-play games. I never once felt like Skyforge was a low-quality cash grab affair, but everything about it pointed to a limited budget and the need to compromise to stay within it.
Becoming a god step 5 - make a name for yourself by killing things.
The action combat is front and center and can be a lot of fun. It can also be somewhat repetitive, with each mission looking much like the ones you’ve completed before it. There are a lot of character classes to unlock, either by a considerable grind or a pile of real-world cash. All of the classes look like they would do fine in battle. All of them also feel uninspired, and you can find a better implementation of their style and abilities in other games. I found this pattern of serviceable but uninspired across the whole Skyforge experience.
Skyforge fails to capitalize on your cathedral and followers to pull you into the world. As it is now, your cathedral and other buildings are just Click-A-Stat™ terminals. Alloids Team should have built a robust progression system representing your temple and followers by more than a mere number.
I want a cathedral that I can walk around, one filled with walls adorned by my spoils of battle. All the pieces for this are already in place; they just aren’t utilized in this manner. The player hub already has multiple areas to visit, so why couldn’t an instanced player cathedral be added? Then, artifacts and other skill progression mechanics could be given more interaction and visual flair with an actual cathedral to visit.
A good start, but I want more out of my Cathedral
Instead of the ho-hum gear collection that slowly adds one or two points to a stat, have those skills and abilities represented as trophies and relics in your cathedral, something that followers could gather around in awe. Then let me use those followers to build additional sections to my cathedral as I grow in power. This would make my cathedral the place that shows off my strength instead of some stat page buried in the UI. That is a system that would tie me to Skyforge and keep thoughts of it filling my mind when I can't play.
Finding Friends Among The Gods
To be honest, Skyforge has never stood as one of the top MMOs, always in the limelight or pushing the boundaries of what an MMO has to offer. With that in mind, along with the absence of crossplay fragmenting the player base, I wasn’t expecting to find many players. I was wrong.
Skyforge - bustling with activity
Skyforge may not be as big as WoW or Final Fantasy XIV, but it still has a healthy population. No matter what time I entered the world, the player hub was bustling with immortals. I was also able to join a Pantheon, Skyforge’s guild system. I switched between a couple of different Pantheons to get an idea of what the community had to offer, and my experience was generally positive. There was plenty of chatter between players with a healthy amount of looking for group messages, though most of that was for much higher-ranked content that I wasn’t able to participate in. Still, this early introduction to the guild system at least lets me know the community is large enough to ensure I would have a decent group of people to play with once I worked my way through the main story and gained my divine form.
Switching Things Up
Skyforge was recently released on the Nintendo Switch, so I downloaded the Switch version (along with the Xbox One) to give it a try after spending time with the PC version. The Switch is the third console to receive a Skyforge port; the PS4 and Xbox One launched in April and July of 2017, respectively. Unfortunately, there isn’t any crossplay or cross-save between platforms, effectively chaining you to a single platform.
Skyforge on Switch - Same gameplay with lower quality graphics.
On the plus side, all of the platforms provide a serviceable version of Skyforge. The Switch’s visuals are a bit rougher than those found on other consoles or PC, something we have all come to expect given the Switch’s limitations (check out Scott Jeslis’ first impressions). There is also a known issue with the Switch version’s sound, but a patch to fix it is already going through certification. Again because of hardware limitations, the Switch’s version has some larger group content cut out. Beyond that, though, the gameplay is consistent across all platforms. This allows you to play on your platform of choice without feeling cheated because other versions have more options or content.
Final Thoughts - The Fall From Grace
Unfortunately, I can’t say that Skyforge has earned a permanent spot on my hard drive. With everything it has going for it, Skyforge just doesn’t click for me. Even though I enjoyed the combat while I was playing, as soon as I went offline, there wasn’t anything special about Skyforge to keep me yearning for more. I wasn't wasting time at work thinking about how to gather more followers. I wasn't laying in bed late at night, running stats through my head trying to figure out how to min-max my character. I wasn't even trying to figure out which class to unlock next. I just didn't care about my character or followers.
Be that as it may, anyone that likes the hub and instanced dungeon style of MMOs should give Skyforge a try. I honestly don’t have a long list of negatives to stop me from giving you a thumbs up and, since it’s free-to-play, what do you have to lose? There’s plenty of content to play through, and there’s a small but friendly community to help you along the way. Who knows, maybe Skyforge can be the MMO that keeps your mind buzzing as you’re trying to fall asleep at night?
MMO Reroll Rankings
I’m six months into the Reroll journey now, and I’ve had my ups and downs.
- Final Fantasy XIV - Square Enix still holds the crown out of this group of MMOs. FFXIV is still the only game that gave me a good time as I leveled through the early areas and a strong community to keep me playing.
- Blade & Soul - The action combat of Blade & Soul gets even higher marks after the time spent in DAoC. I expected B&S to stay at the bottom of this list for a while, but it only took a month to find a game that fared worse.
- Champions Online - I will admit that my time with Champions Online was better than I expected. The comic book art style helped ease the pain of the dated graphics, and the community I found in CO was only second to the giant player base of FFXIV. The potential for a friendly end-game experience still isn’t enough for me to get past the investment in the cash shop I would have to make.
- Skyforge - Gameplay-wise, Skyforge felt wholly uninspired, but it still holds its own and lands right in the middle of the pack. An average experience, Skyforge fails to capitalize on the whole ascension to godhood theme to differentiate itself in the MMO space. Anyone who gives it a try may not find this an issue and would probably push Skyforge up higher on their list.
- Tera - The easy mode leveling has stripped Tera of its big-ass monster identity. The fantastic action combat gets lost in the shuffle; hopefully, it’s still around if you make it to the end game content. I never thought I would say this, but if I had to choose between the two, I would strongly recommend the larger player base of the console version to the extra dungeons the PC version offers.
- Dark Age of Camelot - Full of potential for anyone wanting the holy trinity of MMO classes, DAoC hasn’t aged well. Horribly slow and boring combat, an unrefined UI, and tedious questing could use an update. Dark Age of Camelot is better served being remembered through rose-colored glasses than being seen in motion on your computer screen. Maybe Camelot Unchained will be able to take what players back in 2001 liked about DAoC and give it the spit and polish it needs to be relevant in 2021 or whenever it finally releases.