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Closed Beta Hands-On

William Murphy Posted:
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We stayed up way past our bedtimes last night playing ESTsoft’s Cabal 2, now in Closed Beta. Though there’s no NDA for the game, so we made sure to livestream about two hours of the beta’s first levels for you. Today, we’re offering our first impressions.

There are not a lot of big new MMOs releasing this year. A lot of what the fans are waiting for is coming in 2016 or even 2017, but that doesn’t mean 2015 is devoid of all releases. Apart from Shroud of the Avatar’s expected launch later this year, Skyforge, Echo of Soul, and Cabal 2 are all vying for your attention this summer. And while none of them may “save the genre” (heck, most people outside of this site probably haven’t heard of any of the four), we’re willing to be there will be fans of each out there.

Cabal 2 is ESTsoft’s sequel to the cult hit Cabal, but where the original was one of the first games to take a stab at action-oriented combat, will Cabal 2 have enough pull to bring in new players and extend the series’ audience?

My early thought is that Cabal 2 is an OK game. Not great, not terrible, just OK. Mind you, I’ve only played about two hours so far, but for all intents and purposes Cabal 2 feels a lot like most other games in the themepark milieu of MMORPGs.  It hits all the notes that fantasy MMO fans have come to expect, and that may wind up being its downfall. Where other games have begun to innovate, expand, and tinker with the formula, Cabal 2 seems hellbent on staying the course.

You have a Warrior (melee DPS), a Force Shielder (tank), a Priest, a Sorcerer, a Force Archer, and a Force Blader (ranged and melee DPS) and that covers the classes of pretty much any Tank/Heals/DPS game you’ll find.  There hasn’t been a need to group yet, as I’ve only played through the starter zone, but I get the sense that dungeons and PVP will be the only real place for group content. The rest of the game seems like a solo story-oriented trip to the level cap.

I’m also a little concerned that the zones will wind up all being like the starter island: a singular path from one quest hub to the next, working your way through the story. But I’ll need to dive a bit more into the beta to find out if that holds true. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Dragon’s Prophet without the dragons, and your mileage will vary on if that’s good or bad.

Graphically, when there aren’t hordes of players around (see the latter part of my stream when I’m in the final starting zone dungeon), the game looks pretty decent and runs very smoothly on high settings. When you’re in a crowded area, the fidelity takes a sharp nosedive, likely due to the Crytek Engine more than anything else. Notorious for its performance issues (as ArcheAge fans will attest), the CE isn’t probably the best engine to use for MMORPGs where you want there to be dozens or hundreds of people in the same space.  Still, even with the Crytek Engine and pushed to the max, I expected the game to be a bit lusher visually. The animations are solid, but the characters and environments seem caught several years in the past.

You’ll also notice that the sound effects completely drop during the video, but come back when I zone into the dungeon. We’ll chalk that one up to a Closed Beta bug, but it did give me an appreciation for the music which I found pretty endearing if not altogether memorable. 

Combat is probably the most fun part of the game so far, which is a mix of tab-targeting and combos that have skills build upon each other in different ways. If you’re sick and tired of action-combat MMOs and their loose targeting, and prefer the tab-targeting ways of old, you’ll dig this part of Cabal 2.  I managed to rack up about 8 skills or more during my climb to level 10, but it sure does seem like there’s no real choice in character advancement as you level, which is a bummer.  Not all F2P games need to treat their players like they can’t make their own choices (see Path of Exile).

Overall, I can’t say I’m super impressed with Cabal 2, nor am I extremely disappointed. I went in with zero expectations as I’d never played the original, and I came out thinking “this could be fun in smaller doses”. It’s not something I see taking over my gaming hours, but I’ll likely give it a good few weeks when the Open Beta / Launch hit. But I would definitely say at this point that if you’re sick of the “same old MMO”, Cabal 2 isn’t going to strike your fancy.  It’s very much a traditional MMO, and it’s up to each player to decide if that’s a good or a bad thing.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.