Preview - Not Bad, But Nothing New Either
Echo of Soul is a free-to-play fantasy-themed MMORPG that was originally released in Korea in 2013 and now is making its way to North America and Europe with Aeria Games. The game’s story tells of a goddess who sacrificed her life to save the world, causing her body to disperse into souls scattered across all of its inhabitants which later has a play in the game’s key feature: Soul Skill system.
Upon entering Echo of Soul, you’ll be given a choice of five playable characters - Warrior, Rogue, Guardian, Sorceress or Archer - each with 2 specializations coming at level 10. The classes are gender-locked, clearly one of the down-sides of the game.
Character creation in Echo of Soul is not as splendid as that of Black Desert, however, it still allows you to make your character fit your vision - length of legs and size of body included.
After your newly created hero is plunged into the world and you are finished with the small cinematic telling you of the goddess’s fate, you will be greeted with the thing that will surround your character for hours to come: quests. Most are very fast paced, some so much that upon seeing the Quest Helper telling you to return you cannot help but wonder “That’s it? That was all I was supposed to do here?” and the majority of them can be split into following categories:
- Kill X of Y (there will be a lot of Y’s!);
- Interact with or collect enough objects (pick up plants, free prisoners, dig through monsters’ droppings);
- Speak with an NPC (sometimes followed by returning to previous NPC);
- Use an item on NPC or object (curing a charmed fellow or roping a foe, works both ways);
- Kill an elite monster;
There are quests different from the scheme above, of course, like going to a dungeon, getting assist points at 15 vs 15 PvP arena, even buying an item from a cash shop or purifying a soul.
Speaking of purifying souls, that brings us right to the game’s key feature. As you remember, every inhabitant of the world has a piece of the goddess’ soul and so, upon killing the monsters, you will be acquiring Chaos Souls that can become one of the four types of purified souls: Hope, Peace, Innocence and Courage. Purification requires a Soul Sanctum that you can find in most towns and bases and 2 Chaos Souls while with a help of another character you can use “Co-op Purification”, spending only 1 Chaos Soul and not requiring the Sanctum.
The consumption of the purified souls, or the Soul Skill, can provide a powerful buff with 2 minutes cool down, which differs with the type of soul you are using. For example, using 2 souls of Hope provides Light of Hope for 30 seconds: Critical and Piercing + 10%, Attack and Casting Speed + 15%, Experience gain +20%. While consuming Souls of Innocence you are granted a buff Shield of Innocence: Def and PvP Def +30%, Experience gain +20%.
Soul Skills came in handy when I was sent into a solo dungeon by a quest. I have to admit, being slapped in the face by the first group of mobs I pulled was a refreshing and quite a sobering experience after pretty much skating through normal mobs. However, by the time I got to the end-boss, I had fallen into a routine that was taking more time and potions/bandages, depending, than usual mobs, but overall stayed the same. The fight with the boss was not very exciting: the boss had three abilities, AoE circle around the boss, a cone attack and auto-attack. Utilizing the ability to jump away from the circle and cone and healing through the time it took boss to cast the special abilities was all that took to defeat him.
The gear that finishing the dungeon has granted me was slightly better than the gear I was getting via questing but had the sockets for gems some of which I have gotten from monsters in and out of the dungeon. That and Runes that came from chests dropping from trash mobs in the dungeon allowed me to enhance my gear and improve stats quite nicely.
Summing It All Up
Graphically, EoS is an overall pretty game and the world can be outright beautiful at times. Early skills are admittedly underwhelming, but more advanced ones seem to gain more effects and get better looking.
As with all free to play games, there is a cash shop in Echo of Soul. As someone who doesn't often use in-game markets, it seems a bit overpriced. For instance, a pair of sunglasses can set players back about $2, a seemingly inexpensive price, though that is the lowest price I saw. One troublesome aspect, is that several quests in my first 15 levels were tied to purchasing items from the shop. That said, nothing in the shop seems overtly tied to anything other than cosmetic enhancements or convenience so, as with all things EoS, it is "more of the same".
Aeria has offered an alternative way to earn Aeria Points (AP) used in the cash shop:
- Watch a video
- Taking a survey or a quiz
- Testing out a product
The pets from the cash shop have only timed duration and you need to purchase and use something called the Hourglass from cash shop to prolong the time if you want to keep using them. At the moment, the only permanent mount in the OBT is the llama you get as your first mount, however, more will be added later on.
The biggest concern I have seen expressed on forums or in discussions of the game have been to do with how generic EoS is. And it is. Very. However, I do not think that in this case it is a very bad thing. A lot of games tried to bring in something really unique, and more than once in doing so have driven away the potential players. The Soul Skill feature, while neat, is for sure not enough to hold people who want something else, but...
Echo of Soul is using old and familiar system, one you would feel comfortable with upon logging in. And if you’re looking for something to keep you entertained while you wait for another game, EoS might be just the thing. Experience gaining pace is great, you don’t crawl through levels, but at the same time don’t get buried under the new skills dropping on your head. Usually I would get bored of such a big amount of quests quite quickly and easily, but maybe because they were going so fast or kept you going through different locations, I really didn’t. If quests are not to your liking, though, you can always turn to dungeons or PvP: upon getting to level 10 and picking a specialization, you become able to join 15 vs 15 battleground.