Sword 2 First Impressions
Sword 2 is a misleading title. Let’s get that right out of the way from the start. Think of Sword of the New World 2 as a sort of a re-launch and you’re more or less on the right track. Published by K2 Network (also known as GamersFirst, a sort of launching platform for all of K2 Network’s games), the original Sword of the New World hit the hungry MMO crowd with a lot of hype surrounding its multi-character control system and action-RPG style of play. But with rampant botting and a struggling P2P model, the Korean import quickly flagged and became just another among the long line of F2P titles that drifted off into irrelevance amid its western AAA competitors. Sword 2 is the publisher’s attempt to revitalize the game’s following, by adding some new features and focusing on the game’s competitive nature. I’ve spent a few hours tooling around with the recently rereleased game, and so far I’m having a bit of trouble figuring out just why they needed to add the “2” at all.
I’ll gladly admit I didn’t play that much of Sword of the New World before this relaunch. I tooled around with the title back in 2007, but as apparently many others did I didn’t find the action quite worth my monthly subscription. Now with the Baroque-styled game getting a sort of second-coming, I figured it was about time I gave the title another look. From the beginning stages though, if you’ve played SotNW before, you might not notice that much of anything has changed.
The game still features a fairly intuitive multi-character control (MCC) system which allows players to control parties of three at once. You can mix and match the game’s five classes to make your ideal party, and after an initial tutorial which limited me to just one character, I made a team of a Musketeer, a Fighter, and a Wizard. All three play pretty much exactly as they sound. One thing that’s worth noting is that while it might be beneficial in PvP to have a healer on your team (the Scout) in PvE there are often plenty of drops from defeated enemies which will replenish your team’s hit points.
Aside from your own created characters, K2 Network has seen fit to throw in a sort of collection game out of unique NPCs which can be acquired through playing and exploring the game’s content. These can be traded between players, sort of like Pokémon, and some of these can only be bought through the game’s item shop. While the customization of your characters at creation might be limited, there’s a surprising amount of weapons and armor to help distinguish your family of characters from everyone else. And while I’m not often a fan of anime styled artwork, the “new world” look of Sword 2’s equipment and architecture is a pleasant change from the usual pointy armor and massive weaponry (though that’s there too).
The main gameplay is just as you might remember it from the original title. Your party of three can be controlled with different stances, and even put on a sort of auto-pilot where you’re more or less playing the role of “manager”. In this way, I suppose Sword 2 plays a little bit more like an RTS than an action-RPG. You click to move and depending on your stance, your characters can be put on defensive mode (only attacking those who attack them) or assault (attacking everything nearby as they move to their selected location) and so on. Once you get use to this mode of control, and start to think of the game as more of an RTS of sorts, things sort of start to fall into place a bit more and you can begin to see why the game’s loyal fans are so enamored with the title.
Still, Sword 2 comes with its fair share of problems that are all too often associated with other Korean imports. The UI is sort of a mess and in a time where MMO gamers are becoming quite used their interfaces all at least having some semblance of similarity, the UI of Sword 2 leaves quite a bit to be desired. It’s like when you play a racing game or a shooter: you expect certain facets of the game’s controls and UI to be in place. Similarly when you play an MMORPG, there are bound to be expectations from games past whose UIs and controls have worked so well. Sword 2’s learning curve is almost entirely because of its awkward way of handling these two aspects.
Also worth noting is that like many other imported F2P titles, the localization is still largely a work in progress. During the tutorial, while all the text was in English, the example screens the game uses were still in the native Korean, and this kind of little detail spells nothing but lack of effort to me. The music used is also quite cheesy, sounding like something out of a stock 1990s JRPG. I suppose it has its own small bit of nostalgic charm, but when the game automatically has its sound effects defaulted to mute, and you hear nothing but the corny synthesized tunes, you’ll quickly want to turn off the music and put on something from your iTunes catalog.
So I guess this has been the long-winded way of me saying that Sword 2 is very much like Sword 1 at least as far as first impressions go. There is a promising new take on Political PvP and faction wars that I’ve yet to dive into, and it’s these features that K2 Network is really hinging its hopes for Sword 2’s success upon. Once I’ve been able to spend some time in the game’s more in-depth PvP system, I’ll report back a final verdict. But for now, find some solace in the fact that if you liked Sword of the New World before, you’ll like it now. And if you didn’t, there’s a good chance you still won’t.