I never played the original Cabal, but hearing people talk about it makes me wish I had. It might have been a cult hit at best, but there is no denying that there was something about the original that inspired people to talk about it with a measure of passion. But I think it is safe to say, from my experience, that Cabal 2 misses the beat on everything that made the original so beloved. This isn't the darling sequel, here to build upon the foundation built by the first Cabal. Instead, Cabal 2 is, at best, a soulless journey through every trope trampled to death by the genre in the last decade.
Let me say this: if you've picked up any MMORPG in the past 10 years, you have played Cabal 2. In the long evening stretches I spent with with it, I felt like a gold panner during the 19th century gold rush, scooping up chunks of gameplay and sifting them, desperate for some glimmering morsel of originality. I found very little. Instead, Cabal 2 seems fully content to merely sit on the shoulders of every other game that has come before it, not reaching to innovate or explore, but rather just be what it is—another run-of-the-mill MMORPG. If there is one golden nugget that might redeem this game, however, it is certainly that Cabal 2 is free to play. That said, it is also worth noting that Cabal 2 is currently in its open beta period, and issues like performance and polish will hopefully improve. But even if they do, Cabal 2 just isn't worth your time.
The opening moments of Cabal 2 won't likely surprise you. Each of the several classes you can choose from are unique and flashy, but ultimately settle into the formula of tank, healer, and damage dealer that has become standard in the genre for quite some time. The character creator is quite robust, giving you a great amount of control over the shape and size of your body and face. If you're a fan of making truly horrific looking characters, you'll be please to know that Cabal 2 is willing to oblige, offering a slew of options to really push the limits on character appearance.
MMORPGs are notorious for making bad first impressions, but Cabal 2 has to have made one of the worst I have seen in some time. My first hours were spent jogging through linear zones, killing beetles and scorpions to complete a series of mundane quests. It's worth mentioning that Cabal 2 makes a fairly concerted effort at telling a story that ties all of its myriad of quests together. But after hours of struggling through the terrible localizations and sudden jumps from one plot point to the other, I would be entirely unable to recollect any meaningful element of the story. Cutscenes are rare, and I was surprised that they were actually voice acted, but despite the attempt at upping the ante in Cabal 2's narrative, each scene was jarring, unskippable, and quite often lacking a level of polish that, at times, made them unbearable to watch.
Perhaps the fumbling story wouldn't feel so obtuse if the world of Ektensia weren't so perfectly generic itself. On a purely technical level, Cabal 2 has some measure of beauty to its graphics and world. Weapons often shimmer with a pleasing glow, and the day/night cycle is capable of providing moments of beauty, but beyond finesse, the core of Cabal's artwork is lacking. The different regions of Ektensia are dull and uninventive, pulling from inspirations that have existed in role-playing games for ages and without any meaningful twists or additions to speak of. Simply put, Cabal 2 has no personality. I ran down stone streets, through blossoming forests, and over blistering sand dunes; nothing that I saw ever instilled any sense of wonder. The characters you meet are often bombastic in their own way, but the poor english localization and, frankly, amateur approach to the writing will ruin any sense of attachment you might have felt. Furthermore, Cabal 2 abandons these characters carelessly. As soon as your quest is up it's time to move on.
If you tire of the story or combat, you can always put your hands to use by crafting. By joining one of four guilds, along with a necessary production guild, you can break down equipment and use the materials to build better and stronger gear. Some of those materials are time limited, requiring you to make an order at a production guild and waiting the requisite amount of time (the materials I was using took 2 hours of real time). Though the system was interesting, the fact that crafting was almost entirely regulated to an isolated island made using the system a painful chore. Furthermore, crafting really highlights how desperately Cabal 2 needs various quality of life enhancements, particularly with the user interface. Running back and forth between the bank to collect materials, pick up my order from the production guild, and then run back to the crafting station became so mind numbing that, after several dozen runs, I gave up on the system altogether.
Combat remained the only aspect of Cabal 2 that I found any sense of satisfaction in, despite how unruly it could be at times. My force blader (DPS) character was truly adept at tearing through swathes of foes with effortless ease, something that I quite enjoyed. Enemies only ever take a few hits to die, and I found rounding them up into groups to unleash a flurry of skills a challenging and exciting way of dispatching them—at times evoking the mass murder of action RPGs like Diablo 3. However, a few of my skills were also quite buggy and unreliable. One in particular, which teleported me to a foe for a devastating backstab, would often catch me on objects in the environment, placing me yards away from my prey and leaving me disoriented.
Combos are an integral part of the combat system, which helps distinguish Cabal 2 and add a meaningful element of mastery to the game. By timing certain attacks appropriately, you chain a combo together which will begin to increase the amount of damage you are capable of dealing. It's a great idea, and I thoroughly appreciated Cabal 2's emphasis on more active participation in battle. The combo system also shows off Cabal 2's wonderful animations as characters flourish and strike with a gorgeous fluidity that is often sorely lacking in other MMORPGs. That said, the system is imperfect and in dire need of adjustments. For starters, understanding the timings of attacks and when to chain them together needs a much more intuitive system. A small hotkey will appear during the window for which you can chain your next attack, but without a more precise indication, I found it nearly impossible to reliably build a multiplier. Some attempts would see me reach well up into the dozens, while others would fall flat as I struggled to chain a single attack.
But the biggest crime of Cabal 2 is how underutilized the combat actually is—especially for the first half of your journey to maximum level. Few monsters existed that had the health pool to allow my combo meter to rise higher than 7. Dungeons, which should ideally be an opportunity to put those skills to the test, were effortless sprints through narrow corridors devoid of any meaningful challenge or strategy.
Cabal 2's second biggest crime is just how poorly optimized and unpolished the whole experience is. Being in open beta, I would caution everyone to take what i have to say with a grain of salt as there is a chance many of these issues might be worked out. That said, looking at other MMORPGs that made use of the CryEngine 3, I am highly skeptical of whether or not Cabal 2's developers, ESTsoft, will ever make any meaningful progress. Achieving even a remotely passable framerate was nearly impossible in Cabal 2's more populated zones. Hitches and crashes were common, as was getting stuck on parts of the environment or a whole host of other annoying issues. What it boils down to is that, even in open beta, Cabal 2 is painfully rough around the edges. Shadows pop in and out depending on movements of the camera, voiced cutscenes often play their lines of dialogue seconds too late, and issues like players gathering on top of an NPC making interacting with that NPC a frustrating exercise in randomly clicking or using the semi-functional "use" key to talk with them.
For some, there may be elements of Cabal 2 worth enjoying—particularly if you're interested in a nostalgic trip to a more humble time in MMORPG history. I cannot deny that, as rough and uninspired as Cabal 2 is, there were times that I spied a glimmer of potential hiding under the wet blanket of unimaginative gameplay. For the rest of us, Cabal 2 is almost a guaranteed pass. Any unique element that ESTsoft brings to the genre is simply implemented better elsewhere. Cabal 2 is a boring retread, devoid of personality and lacking in any quality that could ever achieve the kind of devotion inspired by its betters.
- GAMEPLAY: 6 – Competent but lacking in any originality. Quests are boring and unimaginative, dungeons aren't challenging or exciting, and the story is confusing and obtuse.
- VISUALS: 6 – Though possessing a technical level of beauty, the art and design of Ektensia is woefully generic and lacking in any personality whatsoever. Graphical imperfections persist constantly, further ruining any remaining sense of artistry.
- POLISH: 3 – The user interface is dated and archaic, sorely lacking in quality of life enhancements. Glitches and performance issues constantly rear their ugly heads, and players should expect to suffer crashes and lag at fairly regular intervals.
- LONGEVITY: 5 – Leveling moves along at a brisk pace, something you'll likely be grateful for. Nothing I have seen this far into my journey has inspired any confidence that Cabal 2 is the type of game that anyone would want to invest significant chunks of time into.
- VALUE: 4 – Even as a free to play game, Cabal 2 is simply too rough to recommend. Without more to distinguish it from other free to play titles, Cabal 2 sinks to the bottom as another forgettable eastern MMORPG. The cash shop and prices are fair, but it’s just not worth investing in.