Friday at PAX East I had the opportunity to play Echo of Soul, an MMORPG that was released over in South Korea back in 2013. Following a very successful year, it was then released in China and Thailand, where it also performed well, and now Aeria Games is bringing it over here to the U.S. Tom Nichols, of Aeria, and June Sung Kim, of Nvious Corporation, were kind enough to give us a little hands-on preview of what’s coming up.
The game uses the Unreal engine, and the development team has done a great job pushing that engine, creating some really incredible visuals. Environments are gorgeous and varied, ranging from your typical landscapes to some extremely creative ones, like a dreamscape where the trees take on a really unworldly appearance, or a seabed that has been raised to the surface, and the players wander among the shipwrecks and detritus of the oceans floor. The game is very finely optimized, playing smoothly on a variety of systems, including running two clients on one laptop with very little discernable lag or stutter.
Character design is really well done, with five classes available (Warrior, Guardian, Archer, Rogue and Sorceress), and each one has its own set of signature abilities and fighting styles. While each character has a fairly extensive list of customizability, in terms of faces, hairstyles, expressions and accoutrements, they are gender and class locked, so if you wanted to play an Archer, for example, you would be playing a female, and if you wanted to play a male, you would be limited to Warrior and Rogue. Oh, one thing to keep in mind is this, there are NO dedicated healers in Echo of Soul; this makes every encounter a serious test of risk vs. reward, and overextending oneself is a real possibility. Each character has access to various potions and other items that provide limited healing when necessary.
Each class also has two specializations available to them, allowing the player to tailor the game even more to their own style. Warrior, for example, can specialize in either Berserker, a melee damage dealer extraordinaire, or Protector, a defensive specialist with a ton of hit points.
Combat is action-based, and has a very smooth flow and feel. Being a melee guy, I found that my Rogue moved very quickly from target to target and there was a very palpable feeling of danger when I pushed things just a little far.
The game has boatloads of content, including all styles of PvE (solo, group and dungeon content), as well as a ton of PvP. In fact, if you are a dedicated PvPer, you can choose to level your character entirely through PvP. We were also treated to a quick tour of places in the world, and the one city we dropped by was MASSIVE. And our character was traversing the land via his personal mount, a draconic beast to rival those found in any other game.
Now to address some of the things I have reservations about: like many other MMOs out of Asia, the characters are rather stereotypical, with the males being your standard Shonen, and the females being very kawaii (cute and bubbly), which is probably not an issue with lots of MMO players, but it really grates on me personally. While we didn’t play long enough to judge how grind-y it might be, being designed by several of the devs from games like Lineage I and Lineage II, I suspect it might play similarly.
While our demo time didn’t include a tour of the cash shop, I did notice on one of the loading screens, a call-out for the cash shop and all the things available within. Now I like a cash shop as much as the next guy, for cosmetics or even convenience items, but I abhor intrusive cash shops and any game content that is hidden behind a paywall. It’s too early to tell, but I hope the folks behind Echo of Soul have learned from the experience of other Asian MMOs released in the U.S., and tone it down a fair bit. All told I can see a lot of potential in Echo of Soul, particularly for those MMO fans that enjoy Aion, Tera and similar games; I just hope that the game has enough unique elements to separate itself from the rest of the MMO pack.