The enemy was barreling down on my airship, its engines smoking as I continued to arrange my ship to fight back at the enemy. Eventually, however, I couldn’t wait any longer and had to bail. I jumped off my ship and threw open my wings, trying to find a soft landing spot. Below me, an enemy ship was closing in on an ally airship, which was in trouble already. Startling my enemy, I landed on his deck and started to harass the pilot, forcing them to make the choice between the airship in front of them or the new threat on their deck. I didn’t survive the encounter on the ship, but neither did my enemy, giving one of the more exhilarating moments of our play session.
In my experience thus far in Ascent: Infinite Realm, the new mmo coming from Bluehole Studios, is one of hectic choices and confusion ultimately leading into exaltation. The entirety of our Realm versus Realm experience broke down into two phases: attack and defense. Our team was initially tasked with defending the fortress from invaders. Realm versus Realm combat breaks down into phases, each one on a timer. The goal if you’re the defender is to protect your core, which is at the end of the third phase. Obviously, as an attacker, you’re tasked with destroying that core.
Everything in A:IR’s RVR is based on time. Can you destroy the core and win before the 20 minute timer is up? As a defender, it’s a war of attrition: simply keep the enemy at bay. Each phase is set up and actually plays out differently. Early on, it’s a grand Airship battle. Wide open space in front of the keep as the attacker tries to destroy the gate to push through.
Now, at the end of the day, this first phase is always going to go through for the attackers it seems. Nothing we did as a team while defending seemed to protect the doors, and nothing the attackers did seemed to weaken them. You can target the door directly with your airship, but more often than not the attackers were content to let the timer at the top of the screen run down and just focus on the players themselves.
The airship is one of the focal points here, as evidenced in the trailer and announcements since the game was first shown last week. However, piloting this airship does leave some to be desired in the end. You summon your airship by pressing F5, and then piloting requires you to use a mouse for direction and camera, WASD to move your ship horizontally, while the spacebar and shift key cause your ship to ascend and descend.
Combat itself isn’t active, rather it makes you use your number keys to rotate skills in order to attack. And it’s here that I find one of the major faults of the airship combat as it stands now: It is incredibly confusing knowing whether the attacks you are doing are actually hitting your target or not. Since the projectiles and skills are actually sending projectiles into the air in front of you, as opposed to having them follow the enemy no matter where they go, you have to line your shot up perfectly.
The major issue with that, however is that the ship does not handle well enough to make this work half the time. And the other half the time it seemed more successful to just ram my ship into another, get stuck on the navmesh and wear them down that way. In fact, I wasn’t the only one to have this idea, as multiple times my ship was taken out by someone doing the same.
The other major issue is that there is just so much going on around you that it’s hard to tell exactly what you are doing. Since the game requires you to actually aim your skills and attacks instead of relying on a targeting system, you need to know where the skills land, the general range of them, how they work, etc. The unfortunate part here for me was compounded two-fold. First of all, since this an early build, it hasn’t been localized in English yet. So I had no clue what each skill did by reading the skill description, as I don’t read or speak Korean. Secondly, there was no chance to experiment here, meaning the only way of figuring this out was through trial and error. The problem there, though is that there was so much happening on screen, I could not tell what whats going on well enough to know whether the skills I was using were working or not.
The same can actually be said for the combat on the ground once the fortress has been breached. Out of the five classes they had to choose from, I decided to go Assassin. The major issue I kept running into though was a fundamental lack of explanation as to exactly what the skills I was using did. I had a “what...do the skills...mean” moment.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to sit there long, as the game demo I played crashed to the desktop. Thankfully, a Kakao Games rep let me swap PCs with him, but he was playing a completely different class than me, so the learning started all over again.
Each one of the classes has a different stance, which swaps out the style of skills you will use. With the Assassin for instance, there is an “Assassin” stance, which is offensive. You can warp to an opponent and stab them, which seems to get extra damage if you do it from stealth. The other two skills do some massive damage as well, but I’m not entirely sure what they do fully since, again, I don’t read Korean.
“Shadow” is the loose translation of the second stance with the Assassin, which changes how you play completely. Going from a close up melee combat style, Shadow gives you ranged attacks, such as a ground smash that sends a shockwave through the ground in front of you or a spinning kunai that does massive AOE damage.
The Warlord, which is the tank class, I took over once my game crashed has both offensive and a guard stance. In the next phase of the RVR combat, I found myself pitted against attackers barrelling down on us in giant mecha robots. The guard stance of the Warlord proved useful here, as I could stand in front of our Gunslingers, Sorceresses and Mystics to absorb damage and shield them from the machine guns of the robots. The open deck of the fortress funnels into a long, winding hallway once you clear the broken remains of the door smashed in the first phase, giving the defenders a marked advantage here. Essentially, if the team works together, you can create a wall blocking the enemy from getting through the hallway, which is what we ended up doing to win that part of the match.
Once we fought off the defenders we became the attackers and the scene played out again. Ascent: Infinite Realm lets you play both sides and sets it up to where, in theory, one side can’t simply steamroll the other. However, we also failed to make to the third phase as the defense was just too overwhelming again.
A:IR’s realm versus realm combat does show some promise, but there is just too much going on right now during the combat itself that it makes it incredibly hard to follow. And admittedly, some of this could be just down to the fact that we weren’t playing a localized version of the game, so the information on screen was lost in translation, literally. However, it did have its bright moments. Swooping down onto the enemy airship and taking out the pilot, or the moment I rushed an enemy and almost created a gap for my team to break through in the second phase of our attack. A:IR’s airship controls and attacks do need some work as well, and it’s unclear as well whether the stats of the ships will be more important than the person piloting them. However, for an early build, aside from that single crash, which didn’t seem to happen to anyone else during the gameplay session as well, it’s a good start to something that, with some tweaking and balancing, could prove to be great fun indeed.