Now over a week in, and about 30-plus hours into life as an immortal, we’re delving further into the nuts and bolts of My.Com’s Skyforge. A brand new F2P MMORPG from Allods Team and Obsidian, there’s no denying Skyforge is a beautiful game with a unique take on the MMO forumula. But does it have the draw to keep players going? Read on for week two of our Review in Progress series.
I really want to love Skyforge. It’s got a visual appeal, the combat on each class is varied and unique though far from perfect, and there’s actually a lot of fun to be had in fleshing out your character across the game’s Ascension Atlas progression system. But there is a myriad of other little issues that frustrate me the more I play the new MMO. In fact, quite a few times this past week, I’ve just logged off in frustration for a number of reasons.
Frustration Number One – The unlocking of new classes is needlessly long and grindy. I like the idea of the Ascension Atlas. It’s a great way to upgrade each individual class and unlock new skills while still giving you control over what kind of Paladin, Gunner, Cryomancer, etc you want to build. But I feel that the unlocking of classes being tied towards progressing through the Atlas is a misstep. It took me close to twenty hours of playing to unlock the Archer. And while I tested him in the Research Center (a sort of class demo area), when I unlocked him after all that work I wound up less than impressed. I don’t even play the class now, and yet I essentially just wasted hours of work on unlocking a class I ended up not liking in the least.
My solution? – Let people play any class, at any time, and keep the atlas focused on unlocking skills and stats for the overall character and prestige level. Hell, the fact that they let founders unlock two additional classes and collector’s editions unlock two more means they’re not shy about just selling them to players. So do that, sell them. Then at least players will have no one to blame but themselves if they buy a class they don’t like. I’d rather part with 10 bucks a class than 20 hours of my time.
Frustration Number Two – Content availability is annoying. The overworld map of available content and its rewards is constantly cycling on 40 minute timers. Meaning you can’t just do the content you want to do, you can only do what the game wants you to do at any given time. In addition, if you need a certain color of sparks (think XP), but the kind of content you want to play doesn’t reward those sparks, you’ll either have to do something you don’t want to do, or log out. Yep, I’ve logged out. Again, I don’t like wasting my time and I’d rather play what I want to play, than be forced to play modes or instances I don’t like.
On top of that, the open zones, though filled with repetitive kill quests, are some of the game's only try "MMO-like" areas. And yet you only seem to get sparks for completing these zones once. Any time you return after that you get other materials or currencies that don't really help you progress your character. Am I wrong here, or is that kind of silly? So basically, you can farm these areas to earn new costumes and "Transformation Sparks" to re-spec and eventually unlock new classes, but you can't play the most MMO-esque zones and expect to progress beyond the initial playthrough. If I was playing an alt (something Skyforge flat out doesn't allow because of the one character can do it all modus operandi), I'd be able to play these zones to level that new character. I could be wrong, but it seems like if I want to power up a different class, I'm going to be stuck doing endless runs of instanced content.
In this way, Skyforge is very much like Destiny. The open zones are beautiful and fun to play through (even if they're repetitive), but they're largely useless beyond the initial exploration except for farming materials. The bulk of the game will take place in endlessly replayed instances, and that's just not what I'm looking for. This wouldn't be a problem if I could replay zones with other classes and progress them. But I can't... and that sucks.
My solution? – Open the goddamned map, guys and don’t cycle the rewards. I get that you want to focus people on certain dungeons, but the huge bonuses you give to areas are enough to do that. There’ literally zero reason I shouldn’t be able to go to any part of the game I’ve unlocked when I want to. If I want to travel back to Isola Digs and putz around on my lower level Cryomancer… let me! It’ll keep me in your game, and I won’t log off pissed.
MikeB Tip: You can actually click on the little magnifying glass on the bottom right of the world map and go through every single piece of content in the game that’s available to you and play whatever you want. I just learned this recently myself. Pretty handy if you feel like doing something specific that isn't showing up in the hourly rotation there.
Frustration Number Three – The social systems are just plain bad. I wanted to join up with a Pantheon in Skyforge and get in on some more organized grouping and PVP… but the “Find a Pantheon” feature never seems to work. In addition, while the LFG tool for finding groups for content works well and pairs you up quickly with strangers, I like to play with people I know or “sort of know” from whatever guild I join. And while open world content, a la GW2, allows you to just fight together and share the rewards, it’s not the same as grouping up and tackling challenges. Some of the best moments in SF so far have been when my groups take down the game’s tough bosses in instances. It would be nice if the game’s social UI and group/guild systems were more intuitive to let this happen more often.
My Solution – I don’t have one. Region chat is all anyone uses because it’s easy to access, Pantheons seem pointless at this juncture. But at least the group finder works.
Next week I’ll tender my final review for Skyforge, and I don’t want you to think my time has been all bad. The game’s a really nice F2P MMO. Better than anything else we’ve received this year, that’s for sure. But some puzzling design decisions have left me shaking my head in between the fun moments. Client optimization still needs work, the social systems are a mess, and the content bottleneck and class unlocking are my big four complaints. They’re major, don’t get me wrong, but the overall package of SKyforge is still quite fun. As much frustration as I experience, I still log back in by choice, not because of my duty as a reviewer. I want to play Skyforge, despite its issues. It’s an MMO that actually has some challenging content for a change. A bad game is a bad game, and it can be hard to course correct. But a good game can be made better because the baseline is there. That’s Skyforge.