Remember back when studios went out of their way to come up with names for their games that could be shortened into clever acronyms? Trust me, Warhammer: Age of Reckoning didn’t just accidently work out so it shortened into WAR. And some other great examples are LoL and naturally WoW. And then we have Continent of the Ninth… If I wanted to be less than nice, I could shorten it to CoN, which would be the natural acronym most people would default to, but instead Webzen has gone with C9… admittedly C9 is less “bad taste in the mouth” inducing, so we’ll go with that. Not that I’m saying or implying there’s anything con-y about C9, that’s just the first acronym I thought of.
C9 is a 3D, fantasy based “action MMORPG” from Webzen. The overarching story is fairly generic: missing king, invasion of monsters, big bad guy threatening to open the gates to some great evil alternate world, etc. All the normal fantasy trappings are here, including dungeons, lots of dungeons.
In fact, it seems as if the game was built by a bunch of folks who gathered around a table and had a conversation kinda like this:
Dev A: So what are our favorite things about MMOs?
Dev B: Dungeons!
Dev C: Character Creation!
Dev D: Griefing!
Dev E-Z: Dungeons!
Dev A: All righty then, let’s make an MMO about Dungeons!
So basically, with C9, everything you do will pretty much take place in an instanced dungeon, whether you’re grouped or solo. It isn’t horrible, but it will definitely be a turn-off to the anti-instancing mob out there. I’m not anti-instancing really, I get the point of it and understand its uses, but the amount of it in C9 felt over the top even to me. Especially since you run to the same entrance point for each one, and then ‘choose’ which dungeon you want to enter. It just made the whole situation feel very repetitive… run around town, get quests, run back to same cave entrance I’ve run to a hundred times already. Anyway, I’ll get into that more later, let’s get on with the meat and taters of this review.
At first glance, I would have given C9 a much higher score for aesthetics. If you give the game just a passing glance, you’d initially think the graphics are really nice. And don’t get me wrong, they aren’t horrible by any means, but as you look closer, you start to notice things that just aren’t right. It almost feels like the game is top of the line graphics, just on an older generation engine. It does a lot of stuff right in the graphics department, but it also has some blemishes. The most annoying, to me anyway, was when the game zoomed in on the characters for a cut scene, when they’re talking, their mouths don’t move. I know, it’s a small detail that doesn’t affect gameplay at all, but it just threw me for a loop when one of the very first cut-scenes I’m presented with is some dude who vaguely looks somewhat like a bulldog standing there staring at me all closeup… and I can hear words coming from him, but his face isn’t moving at all.
Other things like that really become noticeable as you really start paying close attention… Some of the mobs look amazing from a distance, but if you get too close to them, the illusion fades and they just look silly. One of the worst examples of this was the Imp Bruiser I think it was called. Big Imp dude, all fearsome and menacing from a distance, but if you get too close, he’s actually really bug-eyed and goofy looking. Same goes for NPCs around town and even player character models. Everything looks great from a distance, but if you get too close, it just looks off… wrong… blocky and out-dated.
The world in general looks ok for the most part. You’ll notice a lot of tiles re-used here and there. You’ll also notice that you’re going to the same dungeon over and over. Sure, you might enter through a different door, and your end-goal might be in a different location, but that same dungeon is getting reused, a lot. Particle effects on the other hand are pretty splendidly done and fun to watch. And character animations, particularly combat ones are impressive. Like I said, at a glance the game looks really nice, and as long as you don’t spend too much time zoomed in looking for the bad parts, you should enjoy the looks and feel of the world around you.
The sounds are even worse. The background music is very bland and uninteresting and doesn’t even do a good job of building the mood and atmosphere. It’s all just so very generic and stereotypical… you get into a fight, some vaguely rock-like fast-paced song kicks in… wandering around town you get some peaceful instrumental, etc. Voice overs and dialogue are presented without emotion or much effort at all. You can just picture some poor voice actor, or likely studio interns and lackeys, sitting in a room reading from a list of lines.
Ok, so Continent of the Ninth is being advertised as an “Action MMORPG.” What exactly does that mean? I mean, all MMOs have some level of action right? Well, ok, there’s the odd handful out there with no combat or action, but 99% of MMOs have action, so what sets C9 apart? Well, as I touched on above, C9 is a very dungeon centric MMO. It basically feels like a very long series of dungeon raids. The “action” also comes from the combat style, which is very combo-based. The official site refers to it as “console-style precise controls, a variety of skill combos…” Seeing as ‘real time, action combat’ is the flavor of the month in MMOs of late, it’s no surprise really to see C9 has gone this route as well. Basically, this is how it goes: wander around town, which is a central non-instanced area and grab some quests, do your shopping, you know general town type stuff. Then you head towards the dungeon entrance, pick the dungeon you want and then teleport into an instanced version of that dungeon. You’ll start off in the ‘Normal’ version of the dungeon. You’ll get quests which send you back to the same dungeon over and over, and each time you complete it you’ll unlock a harder difficulty. Some quests will require you enter the ‘Normal’ version, others will require ‘Expert’ and some just say ‘any difficulty.’ And yes, it does feel as repetitive as it sounds.
Character creation and progression doesn’t really add much to the equation either. You have four classes to choose from: Fighter, Hunter, Shaman, Witchblade. At level 10 you’re ‘promoted’ which basically means you change from a ‘Fighter’ to an ‘Elite Fighter’ and unlock your Fury Formation and a couple Elite skills. At level 20 you get to choose an advanced/specialized class to change into. For example, Fighters can choose between Warrior, Blademaster, Guardian or Berserker. Each level you gain gives you some skill points to spend with your trainer to unlock or level up your assorted skills and powers. It almost felt odd playing a game where the classes we’re so restrictive and defined after spending so much time in other games which have come out lately that are more skill based, allowing you to build exactly the type of character you want to play. In C9 if you’re a fighter, you’re a fighter, end of story. The only real differentiation between one fighter and the next will be what equipment they’re using and what they look like. Well, OK, character creation is pretty limited as well, so there won’t be a huge difference in appearance either.
You’ll quickly find yourself just following the little dotted line around the map to each goal. I’m sure there’s likely a way to turn off the quest helper, or at least make it so it doesn’t hold your hand and drag you around like an unruly toddler quite so much, but it defaults to being on. It isn’t anything vague like an arrow pointing off in a general direction that you need to head in. No, this is a dotted line on the ground connecting you directly to the person you need to talk to or the dungeon entrance.
C9 is also very PvP heavy, which is a good thing as it will extend gameplay beyond the repetitive nature of the PvE and story side of the game. PvP in C9 is actually kinda set up more like an FPS style game than a typical MMO. There are different modes and you’ll set up matches in instanced battlefields. Your character has a PvP rank which will progress as he competes in ranked matches. One interesting form of PvP included in C9 is the Intrusion mode. And my interesting, I mean interesting primarily to the trolls and griefers of the world. Basically once you reach level 25 you have the option of allowing ‘intrusions’ when you’re running PvE dungeons. If you allow them other players can intrude upon your dungeon as a bad guy. They can kill the mobs in there at will, preventing you from completing quests. And naturally, they can attack you as well. Basically their goal is to prevent you from finishing your goal in the dungeon. They have five minutes to accomplish their mission, or until the dungeon’s boss is slain, whichever comes first. It’s an interesting concept, but it just feels like something that is going to be abused.
There really isn’t much new being brought to the table here. The PvP system has some nice new(ish) ideas. Like I said, I like the idea of the Intrusion system, but I think it’s just ripe for abuse. The matchmaking system being set up more like a FPS type of game than an MMO is a nice touch and really shows how focus has been put on that side of the game. The story is about as generic fantasy as you can get. Character creation is uninspired and on the lite side. Character progression feels like a step backwards given some of the other recent MMO releases which focused more on skill based development and allowing you to build whatever type of character you wanted to play.
Most of the problems I had with C9 as far as polish goes were touched upon in the graphics section. There were some translation inconsistencies… Both in that what was said didn’t match what the subtitles said on the screen and also in some cases things just weren’t said right. The tutorial didn’t do enough to explain much of the game. Sure, it teaches you to use the WASD keys to move, and the left mouse button to attack, but really, how many MMO players out there don’t already know that? How about teaching me about the things that are “unique” to your title like the progression system, the soul gem thingys, the skill stones, etc? Sure, I can wade through a fairly convoluted help system to find all of that, but it seems like it should be a little more in your face.
There really isn’t much to dock points for in this department. The amount of longevity you get from C9 will vary from person to person, but there are enough different PvP modes and options to keep most people interested for a while. If PvP isn’t your thing though, the PvE side of the fence will quickly start to feel repetitive and monotonous and I don’t see you sticking around for long.
My main complaint in the social aspects of C9 would be the gold selling spammers. Apparently you aren’t able to use the global ‘Main’ channel until level 10 to help combat this, but either this rule doesn’t apply to the global ‘Trade’ channel or it’s VERY easy to get to level 10 and it doesn’t matter. My chat window was more often than not rendered completely useless by people on obviously throw-away characters/accounts spamming the global chat lines to go visit their website to buy in-game gold. I literally spent the entirety of a seven hour session playing watching the same guy spam the same canned message over the channel every couple seconds. No moderators or GMs ever made an appearance to stop him. You’ll also get the spam thrown in your face in the form of chat/text bubbles over characters heads while you’re running around town. Granted, this is just an annoyance, and you can always turn off the global channel, etc.
Other than that annoyance, the chat system seems fairly well built and functional. The guild system seems to have a good amount of depth to it, including guild buffs and such. Given the dungeon centric nature of the game, there are plenty of match-making tools on the PvE side of things as well as the PvP side to help find groups. If they could get the spammers under control, all the tools are present here for a much higher score in this section.
Continent of the Ninth is a free to play title with a cash shop. While there are some stat boosting items in the shop, for the most part they’re cosmetic in nature and aren’t viewed to be overpowering or unbalanced. There are some useful things in there like inventory expansions and warehouse (storage) expansion. Most items can be bought for a limited amount of time or permanently depending on how much you want to spend on it. I was honestly surprised to see there wasn’t much of a selection of the typical ‘potions/scrolls’ you tend to see in shops like this. You know the ones, XP boost for X hours, damage boost, health boost, etc. Basically throw away one-use items that most shops like this sell.
Continent of the Ninth isn’t a horrible game, whatever the score here may indicate. The action is fun and intense early on. It just gets a little repetitive rather quickly. Once you slog through the first 20-25 levels and reach your advanced class selection and get more into the PvP side of things, the game opens up quite a bit. Unfortunately to get to that point you’ll spend a lot of time running the same dungeons over and over.