World War IV took its toll, now it is steampunk versus fantasy in a post-apocalyptic world. ARGO Online is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game brought to life by Korean developer and publisher, MGame. The free-to-play title launched on April 21, 2011, and is about to get its biggest content update since launch. Will an increase to the level cap and a host of new high-level content be enough to keep the boat afloat? Probably not.
Two very different factions are at war. The “Noblian” live in a steampunk world that revolves around technology. The “Floresslah” are at one with nature. Torn apart by their differences, the two factions developed a deep hatred of each other over time. Both groups have different style of homes, mounts, pets and gear, but they do have one thing in common – their need to control an element called “Earthdium”; for he who controls the Earthdium has power, healing and wealth.
Character select is a big deal in ARGO Online. Once you pick a side you are bound to it, and the only way to play the other faction is to install another instance of the game client and create a new account. Each faction has eight playable classes. Although Noblian (steampunk) classes have unconventional names, they are, at heart, traditional MMO classes.
On the Noblian side players can choose to become the following: Priest, Paladin, Chaser (comparable to a traditional Monk class), Explorer (Ranger), Scholar (Wizard), Protector (defensive Warrior, tank type), Warrior (specializing in offensive skills), and Bomber (Warlock). The flower-power Floresslah have the same basic skill sets, but with slightly more recognizable class names: Taurus, Rogue, Elementarist, Druid, Warlock, Sagittarius, Defender and Shaman.
Character statistics are a bit more confusing than they need to be. In addition to basic stats such as Strength, Agility, Intelligence and Stamina, ARGO has Physical Battle Stats, Natural Battle Stats, and Attribute Information to deal with. These additional statistics include two different accuracy ratings, two critical attack ratings, three evasion ratings, elemental attack, defense attributes and more.
Attributes are not the only things in ARGO that have been done in duplicate and triplicate. Skills in the game have been broken down by Class, Adventure, Nation and Production. The production category is for crafting, and the other three sets of skills are combat abilities and buffs.
In addition to regular experience levels, ARGO has adventure levels, which are gained alongside of experience but at a slower rate. Adventure points are earned by discovering new locations, completing quests and killing a certain number of mobs. Later in the game, killing players of the opposite faction can earn points.
There are several types of “stores” in ARGO. The Core Mall is the game’s real-world money store. This shop has been closed for some time, but it has been said that it will return after an upcoming content update. ARGO also has an Auction House, but it is empty at the time of writing. Players can open a Private Store, but ARGO suffers from a serious population issue, which greatly decreases your chance of actually selling anything. NPC merchants and adventure merchants are readily available.
A crafting system is in place, enabling players to create gear and potions. When you bring up the Production UI, you will find a list of acquired blueprints, materials needed and the result of your combines. Crafting professions open up at level 10, at which time players can purchase gathering tools. The gathering and crafting systems boast nothing unique to MMOs.
The map system in ARGO is quite nice. The map can be used to locate and lead players to specific mobs and quest NPCs, and there is a map overlay option to make traveling even more efficient.
ARGO Online has some sweet sounding PvP modes. I say “sweet sounding” because you rather need other players in the game in order to try them. In another time or another game, ARGO’s PvP features would likely be seen as quite innovative and a whole lot of fun.
In RTS Mode, players must destroy enemy headquarters as quickly as possible. Success is rewarded with badges that can be exchanged for items and adventure points. RTS matches are restricted to level 30+ players and team matchmaking is automated by a NPC.
Field War is also a PvP game type, in which players must destroy the enemy’s mining facility. The winning team gets to farm Earthdium at will. If the playing field is uneven, the losing team will get NPC guards to play on their team for subsequent rounds.
Although ARGO was just released a year ago, the game’s graphics are outdated when compared to the popular MMOs of today. Designed for a Korean market, ARGO has an anime flair, which can especially be seen in the game character’s exaggerated features, weapons and armor sets.
The environments in ARGO are all equally washed-out, looking like a poorly painted picture as the distance grows between player and landscape. Realism is weak. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world, yet the grass grows green and the cities look good enough to eat off. The steampunk side of the world is neither steamy nor punky, outside of the odd mechanical-looking structure and flying vehicles.
Special effects are also not very special, and the user interface in ARGO leaves much to be desired.
ARGO Online is set up to provide a good social experience. There is a full-featured Messenger included with the game client, as well as a standard in-game open chat system. A schedule creator is also featured, allowing players to update and share their calendars with friends and guild members. Once again, it must be stated that the game’s population is too low to fully utilize these features.
Although ARGO Online can be a fun time-waster for those that enjoy solo game play, the low game population makes gameplay options limited. If you take away the ability to group, raid and play PvP then all that is left is grinding. The game’s developers recently announced a massive content update for those that have reached the maximum level of 50. The update will raise the level cap to 55, provide more than 400 new quests, and feature a new zone, new dungeons and more. If the update rolls out as planned then it should arrive this month. Perhaps some of the 1,000+ guilds registered in the game will return to test their skill in the new zone; but more likely it is too little too late for ARGO Online.
ARGO Online launched with several moderate to severe issues, and these problems have yet to be resolved. The translation from Korean to English was poorly executed, and this can be seen in all of the game’s text. Here is an example of a skill description gone wrong:
Concussive Shells: “Attack The Target by rifle to Give 19~20 Damages and make them to be stun for 1.5 Seconds.”
That is just the English version of the game; it is also available in German, Italian, Spanish and French.
One of the biggest issues in ARGO is invisible walls. Players are guaranteed to run into them on a regular basis, causing traveling inconveniences. The game’s developers have long been aware of the walls and even asked the community to send in locations of said barriers. However, it does not appear that much work has gone into removing them.
Finally, there are a few game features that do not work or are missing when called upon. Two examples are the music player and the wonky threat meter.
Although ARGO Online features microtransactions, one cannot claim that the shop sells game-breakers since the shop is not actually open. Although the mall closure may just be a temporary thing, the playing field is equal for the time being. Although ARGO Online is truly free to play at the time of writing, the value is still only mediocre. Most new players coming into the game at this time will likely feel they have not gotten their download’s worth. Despite the game’s low population, solo oriented gamers might enjoy this little ditty, which, runs well on low-end systems and laptops.
Summary: ARGO Online only launched on April 21, 2011, but appears to be singing its swan song already. ARGO does have some interesting classes and more than enough PvE content to keep players leveling; but all of the PvP features that the game boasts are not playable due to diminishing player numbers. If something were to change in the population department, then ARGO Online would be worth a second look.