On August 10th Silverhelm Studios, as part of the PlayNYC online showcase of games, opened up their game Valiance Online to everyone, so that they could log in and see how far the game has come. Now with the end of the open beta in the rearview mirror, what lasting impressions did Valiance Online leave and will this be a Super Hero title worth waiting for?
Valiance Online has been in development for about 5 years. During that time, Silverhelm Studios has provided a transparent alpha platform that has given backers access to the game in its various stages throughout development. At this stage the trajectory of when this game will release is difficult to determine, and I don’t believe even the developers themselves have a release window etched in stone.
From the moment I logged in, it was clear that the game was in an unfinished state, as several archetypes weren’t available for selection. The archetype list was fairly diverse, and it was easy to see throughout the open beta that Silverhelm Studio’s primary inspiration for Valiance Online was one of the most beloved Super Hero MMO’s of all-time, City of Heroes. The character creator was slightly unwieldly to navigate, but many of the options, if you could manage your way through the menus to find them, looked rather decent. There were some good design options even if they were extremely limited and not particularly user friendly.
After I loaded into the world, I found that, in this open beta, there were no quests to guide you, or objectives to complete. The world as a whole was fairly devoid of life, save for several areas where a few enemies would congregate. There you could defeat, and level up your character, if you had the fortitude and navigational prowess to find your way to the mobs. I opted for an ice-blaster, coupled with a healing secondary power, as my archetypes of choice.
After running around for about fifteen minutes I did find some mobs by a bridge, and started battling. Some of the animations had nice looking frost effects, but half the time, my abilities would cause me to bug out, and I couldn’t use any attack abilities until I used my healing ability. Sometimes, even after using my heal ability, I would shimmy my shoulders a few times, still unable to attack, but luckily, I could heal myself enough so at least I could stay alive, while dancing passionately in front of my adversary.
I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t attack at seemingly random intervals, but removing myself from combat would temporarily fix the issue. After fighting my way through the same mob of enemies, I was ready to level up, which required I find a trainer. The map wouldn’t work properly, at least through the shortcut keys, but I was able to open it from the expanded map control on the minimap. Expanding the map didn’t help as there were no icons depicting a trainer, nor were any locations of note marked on the map. With the aid of the developers I was able to find out where the trainer was, and I met with him, upgraded my skills, and learned the ability to fly.
After learning the controls for flight by looking through the key bindings, I took to the skies. The buildings and world as a whole had a blocky feel to it (we can call it stylized), and it was probably the best part of the game. The city wasn’t just one big homogenous world of blocks, there were landmarks that stood out, such as a building with ice-cream and robot paintings, and soon I was able to traverse the world simply by the buildings I saw.
Sadly, despite a framework that could be built upon, Valiance Online as it stands in the Open Beta, isn’t quite a game yet, but a prelude to what may be a game in the future. I didn’t find any system in the game that wasn’t affected by some kind of bug. There were times I floundered during combat due to not being able to activate my powers. During my flight around the city I saw a strange underground animation repeatedly streak through ground, only to find out after following it to the edge of the world that a seagull had been digging its way to the coast. Performance issues caused me to lag every so often despite no other players on the server, the chat feature wasn’t working during my time playing, and after running from area to area, I could still hear myself running for several seconds after I stopped moving.
As a benchmark for what could be, the open beta for Valiance Online displayed a team that has heart, but the game feels as though it is in a barebones state and they are still a very long way off from getting the game to a user-friendly experience. Perhaps, by the next time Silverhelm Studios provides an open beta, there will be a lot more Super-hero and a little less skeleton.