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Elsword the 2D MMO with Real Depth

Robin Baird Posted:
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Elsword is an interesting mix of MMO, platformer, dungeon grind, and fighting game which is much more than it seems at first glance. It’s easy to think at first Elsword is just a button mashing pseudo-mmo but there’s a lot of depth to the game once you get past the early experience. They do a great job of laying everything out simply and then layering the complexity on top of it, so you learn everything in a way that makes sense and as a result it doesn’t seem all that complex. However, if you were to skip to the end game most people would quickly be in way over their heads. This is our Elsword review.

One of the first things I noticed with Elsword is there’s a huge variety of choice built into a limited structure. There are twelve characters you can choose between and each of them have their own storyline and personality which makes them distinct from each other. Additionally, each character offers a range of complexity and combat speed which give a lot of playstyle variation. They also each have three different base jobs they start off with and each job has two more jobs which are evolutions of the base jobs and unlock as progress is made through the game. So, while the player doesn’t have the freedom to create their own character from scratch there is a lot to choose from.

Levels come fast on in Elsword and getting to the point where I could unlock my second job didn’t take very long at all. Without any extra effort I just followed the storyline and did quests and the second job as unlocked quickly. The third job however felt like it took much longer to do but this isn’t an unusual system for most games where the higher levels come much slower. It didn’t slow to the point where I felt like I was never going to get there or as if the grind was unbearable though.

Speaking of grind, it is important to understand this is a dungeon grind game. There are a ton of different dungeons to be done throughout leveling but nonetheless you will find yourself running the same ones over and over, especially at max level. But the dungeons are interesting and fun. Also, even the multiplayer dungeons can be completed solo if you’d like which gives a lot of flexibility to playstyle. There are bonuses which are given if you do group up with others and these bonuses increase when you group up with the same people repeatedly. So, it is certainly worth grouping up if you can, but not required.

There’s a lot of interesting complexity to combat and some of the way this is accomplished is by turning “normal” convention on its head. For example, in a lot of games knocking an opponent down will give bonuses and it’s something you do want to do. However, in Elsword if you knockdown an opponent in PvE they’ll get a damage reduction and in PvP it will cause a combo to end. Knockdowns can happen by using certain abilities or when a certain amount of attacks have been reached. Managing the knockdown counter is an important part of mastering combat. Learning the combos and how they work is also a huge part of mastering a character.

Pets are an important aspect of the game because when they are leveled up all the way they have a variety of skills which can be quite useful in dungeons. How do you level up pets? By filling up the Affinity bar of course. While in a dungeon, and with your pet summoned, every time an enemy is killed the Affinity bar will increase. However, if your pet’s hunger is below 60% it will not increase its affinity and if its hunger falls below 40% it will lose affinity. So, making sure your pet is well fed is important. There are a variety of things to feed your pets some of the easiest to acquire are El Tree Seeds, El Tree Fruit, Equipment, and QPL Jellies.  El Tree Fruit is easily obtained through the item mall/cash shop, but they are the only food item bought from there most food items are obtained through playing the game. You can also story items in your pet’s inventory for them to automatically eat when they become hungry.

There are two main currencies in Elsword ED and K-Ching. ED is the currency which is earned in game and K-Ching is bought with cash. At first, I thought the rate of ED gain was a bit high, I was over 10k in pretty much no time at all. However, once I started poking around in the shop some, I realized the cheapest thing in there costs 20 million ED which just makes me wonder why they didn’t lower the amount you get and make everything a bit cheaper. Obviously when you do higher level dungeons you earn ED at a higher rate. ED is also used to identify gear you find and to unseal (i.e. soulbind) it so you can use it.

K-Ching is bought at 100 K-Ching per $1 USD, but this does vary slightly when they have specials going on. There are even things for sale on the K-Ching shop for 100 units as well, so everything isn’t priced wildly like it is for the ED shop. For the most part everything bought on the cash shop was only cosmetic in nature. The one exception is the pet food I mentioned before and some pets themselves. Pets have different skills and depending on what skills you want your pet to have, you may need to buy them on the cash shop. Also, people who buy food from the cash shop might have a bit of an easier time leveling their pets up. None of this is a deal breaker for me though because at the end of the day the pets didn’t seem like a huge deal. They are certainly nice to have and do help but the benefits of one doesn’t seem incredible enough to unbalance the game between people who pay those who do not. Plus there are quite a few pets available through playing the game directly and participating in events.

Oddly enough what bothered me most about this game was quality of life issues more than anything else. For example, it really frustrates me there is no separate slider for the voice overs and the only options are the background music and the SFX. The reason this particularly bothers me is because I generally like SFX to be super low, music somewhere in the middle, and voice to be at full so I can hear everything easily. The other thing which was frustrating was I had to make it all the way through the tutorial before I was able to access the options menu. Since everything starts off at full the tutorial was just a loud mess for me. The last annoyance for me was the launcher has no mechanism to remember my login, which is probably a security feature or something but for me it’s really annoying it wouldn’t at least remember my e-mail.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with Elsword. It’s a fun and quirky game that’s just bursting with content. If a dungeon grinding game with minor elements of platforming sounds cool to you it’s worth a try. Like I mentioned before the only real downsides for me were the QoL stuff but those weren’t enough to kill my enjoyment.

Note: Our copy was reviewed on PC with a code provided by PR

8.0 Great
  • A ton of player choice in how you play including if you want to play with other players or not
  • An absolute abundance of content and story
  • Gameplay which at first seems simple but has a lot of complexity to it
  • Everything is Voiced at the beginning but as you get to the newer content Voice Overs disappear
  • Limited sound and graphics options
  • No way to convert in game currency to cash shop currency


Robin Baird

Robin loves RPGs, MMOs, JRPGs, Action, and Adventure games... also puzzle games... and platformers... and exploration games... there are very few games she isn't interested in. When it comes to MMOs she focuses on WoW and GW2 but will pick-up other games as they catch her fancy. She's a habitual returner to FFXIV because that game is an all-around great MMO.