Getting Closers - First Impressions of the Alpha Test
With Soulworkers western migration already under way, it seems that more anime inspired mayhem is on the way to our shores. This time it comes courtesy of En Masse entertainment, publishers of ZMR and Tera, and is called Closers. Hailing from South Korea and developed by Naddic, this massive multiplayer adventure is full of big guns, bigger swords and even bigger anime tropes.
Like many games of this caliber, Closer’s primary protagonists are a group of teenagers endowed with unusual powers and burdened with the responsibility of protecting the world from unnatural forces. Beside the scenario, Closer’s aesthetics are probably one of its least surprising features and possibly one of its more divisive. A bright and boisterous amalgamation of anime tropes and unrealistic expectations, Seha, Sylvi, Yuri, J, and Misteltein are typical attempts to appeal to this typical game’s demographic. They are also the nearest players will get to a character creation screen. While I felt Soulwroker was maligned by its limited customization features, Closers simply dispenses with any pretense and presents these five classes for players consideration.
Choosing between the Striker, Caster, Ranger, Fighter, and Lancer characters thankfully gives players some degree of variety between play styles. Ranged damage dealers, melee, and flexible mid range options are available in among these. Costumes and a skinning system are present in Closers which should allow for further appearance customization. These come from a variety of drops and vendor loot boxes, but without specific information on how this might be monetized we cannot comment on the level of freedom players will have to change their look. Despite the lack of customization and the obvious tropes, Closers script is surprisingly sharper than you might imagine. Dialogue could easily have been lost in translation, but the writers and localization team manage to make characters feel believable in their own world while never quite forgetting how completely frivolous and crass Closers can be.
Frivolity aside, Closers maintains many of the trappings of more serious MMORPGs. Character levels, skill points, extensive equipment stats, gear improvements, a ton of loot, clans, PvP and even pet systems provide progression opportunities and are already in a mature state. Central hubs in Closers are full of traders, skill vendors, shops, and NPCs of all sorts where players can upgrade, trade, and grab a new outfit. Surrounding these hubs are a series of 2.5D side scrolling adventures that are reminiscent of classic arcade beat em ups like Golden Axe or Streets of Rage. Available in Recon, Patrol, and Skirmish modes, these provide an adequate level of challenge and will generally reward players based on an overall performance grade.
Performance in these instanced encounters, I felt, was largely dependent on the control system being used. Whether players get help using the party matching system or running solo, I found the default keyboard controls were a hindrance. Split between cursor keys and a cluster of attacks on the left side of the keyboard, I was left clutching aimlessly at my keyboard, hoping that I could scratch together the correct combination to avoid the next fireball. While this problem can be resolved with a little patience and key mapping, switching to a game pad proved to be a revelation.
Dashing through Seoul’s abandoned shopping districts and back alleys, destroying waves of trash mobs that impede your progress is drastically more enjoyable with this change. Intuitive controls and a modified UI, specifically for game pads, changed these encounters from an uninspiring experience into an entertaining button basher.
Thankfully, localization looks like it has had far more attention than the control systems. It appears that the western version of Closers will feature subtitles rather than English voice dialogue, subs not dubs, and almost everything else feels finalized. Quest text, lore, ambient dialogue, item translations, character stats, menus, tutorials, and help menus have all undergone significant work. In comparison to games like Revelation Online’s early access, this was a pleasure to play and the localization teams deserve credit for it.
Closers is the sort of game that has an instant appeal to a specific audience. Its animation, bright colors, tongue in cheek attitude, and anime sensibilities are all a divisive draw. It still requires some work on the control systems and monetization could easily cripple it if not handled properly. However, if you have a controller, plug it in when it arrives and prepare yourself for something bold, a little knowingly cheeky, with an interesting take on the beat em ups that were big in the arcades.