Closed Beta Preview
I try not to judge games in their Closed Beta phase too harshly, I really do. But Eligium: The Chosen One just isn't really my bag. That's not to say it's "bad", so much as it is to say it's not for me. From Shanda Games and Goldcool and published by Frogster, I was expecting something as polished and refined (though derivitive) as Runes of Magic. What I got instead as an Action-MMO that's still badly in need of some translation work to make its grindy nature worth enduring. It's on par with many other F2P imports, and in some cases it surpasses others, but I guess I've come to expect more from Frogster of late.
The character creation is about as varied as you've come to expect from these kinds of games. You pick a class, which seems tied to a race and a sex, and you enter a name... that's it, at least this early on in the Beta. Whether more options and diversity will be added is up in the air, but I wouldn't count on it. It seems like the races and classes are gender-locked, and while my Panda is awesome as a Monk, why can't I be an archer too? It's this kind of restriction that smacks of "we didn't want to do more animations" than anything else. Regardless, it's not the character creation or the fact that each and every character of one race and class looks exactly like the other that bugs me the most when playing Eligium.
It's the fact that somewhere along the line, import MMOs decided we wanted to be able to click a link in our quest log and automatically be taken to the mob, objective, NPC, etc. Why do they do this? Why is it necessary? My guess is because the world is so bland and unmemorable that we'd never find the people they task us to find without such a cheap and cheating option. That, or folks who enjoy these sort of grind-heavy games really don't care about exploration. Maybe it's a little of both.
Oh look, I don't feel like reading, especially broken English like that.
But maybe it's not such a bad thing, because one of Eligium's sorest spots is easily its still in-progress Westernization. I mean, that's what the Closed Beta is for, right? To tighten up the English? I am not kidding when I say that some of the mobs will speak in little text bubbles above their heads as they rove about the countryside. When they do, it's something along the lines of: "Humble guys, come out!" I can't decide if they're taunting me to get me to attack or if they genuinely want to meet me because I am oh so humble and oh so desirable.
It's not all bad though. There are several different camera angles to choose from, ranging from the 2.5D Diablo-esque to the fully 3D MMO look. I'll tell you right now that for this kind of mob-heavy grinder, the 2.5D option comes in really handy. Forget WASD and just let the mouse be your guide. The game plays much better this way, and once you've leveled up a bit and have more skills, combat can actually be quite fun, especially when roving with a group. Eligium also eventually becomes a PK-Game, meaning open PVP with apparent ranking systems in place and all of that. So if you're looking for a Wild West game that's reminiscent at times of Lineage, you could do worse. Just don't go in expecting top-notch presentation or the best questing and PVE and you might be surprised.
Whacking things with a stick can be surprisingly fun... as a Panda.
I haven't dug deep enough to judge the crafting or other confusing systems at play in Eligium yet. If you look at the screens you'll see a wealth of different UI buttons, and quite frankly it's not really clear what many do. Your standard "lottery" button is at play which rewards you with fluff items the longer you play. There seems to be some sort of enchantment system for items, and also a "Sage" character who will evaluate your character's current equipment and stats and tell you what you should try to improve. I don't know quite how this works, but the premise is intriguing. I will say that many might be too turned off by the game's grindy nature, lack of character choices, and piss-poor translation to really get past the first few levels. But it's beta, and Frogster worked wonders with Runes of Magic, so I'm eager to see what they can do here before the game's officially open to everyone.
The visuals are passable, animations are solid, and the combat moves well once you get some decent gear and a few skills. But the beginning of the game is off-putting as you're immediately placed in a brown and dreary desert with little in the way of exposition. Just a "Hi, you're a warrior, go kill some stuff" quest and you're off. One thing I do wish would change is the fact that in a game with so many mobs everywhere, it's still essentially a one-on-one combat experience. A game with the 2.5D view would be more interesting if you were taking on a herd of baddies at once, instead of just pummeling one little wolf while a thousand of his buddies stand off to the side pretending not to see the crime.
Hey, at least I look cool... I mean, really.
I'll be continuing to try Eligium as the CBT progresses, but my initial impression will be hard to shake off. It just feels like every other game of its ilk. And while that's neither bad nor good, it can still be damning. It does little to jump out at me, cry above the throng, "Play me instead!" and I honestly can't tell someone who's already enjoying one F2P title why they should play Eligium instead. Hopefully as I dig deeper, something unique aside from the badass Pandas will stand out.