Continent of the Ninth Seal (or C9) has been around for some time via Webzen in the Asian territories. However, its public beta here in the states is just about to ramp up, and we’ve had the good fortune of trying it out this past weekend during their “VIP” beta tester phase. The basics? C9 is akin to Nexon’s Vindictus. I don’t mean to too dismissive, but it’s true. Only C9’s combat seems much more layered and complex than Vindictus at first glance (though gone are all the wrestling moves, at least with my Hunter in the early stages). And that’s what this game is really all about: the combat, the dungeon running, and the party-based play. It’s not a wide-open world MMO, but rather heavily instanced. There are plenty of dungeons to romp through as you level and progress the story, but this is not an explorer’s MMO. Instead, if you’re really keen on your combat being action-oriented and fancy the crawling of dungeon maps, you’ll be in heaven.
THE ACTION COMBAT
There are a bevy of skills you can learn at each new level, and some of them really diversify the combat. By level five, my Hunter had a triple-shot on his bow, a massive charged shot, a roundhouse kick that lifts enemies in the air, a bleeding stab, and even a way to attack while evading that comes in really handy. You see, combat in C9 is not your typical tab-target affair: instead the characters control as they would in a shooter with a mouse reticule serving as your aim. Though don’t worry, you don’t need to be too much of a twitch gamer to excel. The hit box is pretty lenient. Plus if your sword, knife, etc. swing in front of you, chances are you’ll hit multiple targets (a la Age of Conan). Even aiming with a bow is easy though, at least early on, thanks to the enemy AI’s somewhat dullard representation. I’m sure they get harder to fight later on, but rest easy knowing the learning curve isn’t too steep.
There are three classes to start (Fighter, Hunter, and Shaman). Each eventually branch off into three other specialties, making the total number of classes (including starters) twelve. There is a Witchblade still to come as well, but not in this stage of the beta. The Hunter is what I chose, hoping it would have a varied style of combat, which it does. I can hang back and let loose with my longbow or dig in and go all crazy with my knife and the kicky-kick. It’s actually a lot of fun. Unlike Vindictus (which I believe came after C9 in the East), you can jump as well. The world doesn’t feel so flat because of this, and it also makes maneuvering and dodging attacks much more viable. The combat is easily C9’s biggest strength.
VISUALS AND EARLY PRATFALLS
Its visuals perform really well too, for the most part. As you can see in the screens, it’s a pretty game with a pretty heavily eastern influence. The character models are immensely detailed and the character creation is fairly deep at least in terms of facial features and the like. Body proportions can be tweaked as well, but you won’t see anything quite as freaky as you see in Aion here. But the monsters you’ll be fighting, at least early on don’t move as gracefully as the players, and they don’t look nearly as polished and detailed either. It’s a little odd, because what ends up happening is that you have this gloriously detailed and magnanimously armored warrior… fighting a clearly goofy and less-vibrant goblin. They almost look as though they’re from two different games. On top of this disconnect, the game’s textures are constantly popping in and out and doing strange things as they load. If it weren’t for the beast that my system is, I’d think it was my PC’s fault.
It’s early still, and C9 does still need some localization. For instance in the UI, “Yes” never shows where it’s supposed to; just an empty button resides in its place. Additionally, the voice-overs in the tutorial seem like they were read from poor translations as well, and I wound up losing track of just what the hell the guy was saying to give me the background on the game’s story. The rest of the translation seems decent so far, and I’ve not noticed anything yet that would make me suspicious of the game’s F2P model. It looks to be mostly about fluff and convenience (bag space, outfits, etc.).
But why would you play Continent of the Ninth Seal instead of something like Vindictus, since the two games are obviously so much alike? Well, for me I’d play C9 because the combat feels uniquely different from Vindictus. There’s not much more to it, really. They’re both still dungeon-romping games with little to do outside of run through caverns, forests, and the like over and over. But the combat is a lot of fun, and works well on both the keyboard and gamepad. It’s not going to replace your normal more “worldy” MMOs, but it sure is fun. I just wonder how far the novelty of the combat can carry C9.