Pandora Saga is a free-to-play MMORPG in which three nations battle for control of land, resources and for an artifact called "Pandora". If the legend is true, those who find Pandora will also find riches, power and honor beyond compare. You are an adventurer with amnesia, tasked with regaining your memory and joining the battle in this player-versus-player oriented game. Pandora Saga was brought to life by Rosso Index and is available on the free-to-play MMO portal belonging to Atlus Online. Pandora Saga is best known for its massive PvP battles of up to 600 players across three nations.
Pandora Saga is low maintenance. The client download is relatively small, updating is quick, and the game will run on low-end laptops and systems. At character select players may choose from six races: Human, Elf, Dwarf (male only), Myrine (female only), Endiku (male only) and Lapin (female only). The Lapin is a very tiny race with a humanoid body and rabbit-like tail; she bears a striking resemblance to Alma, troubled star of the F.E.A.R. franchise. The Endiku is an extremely large, beefy sort, reminiscent of an overweight Duke Nukem; and the Myrine is the obligatory tall, tarted-up, sex pot race.
Classes in Pandora Saga include Warrior, Scout, Acolyte and Mage. Each level gained provides players with points in which to train abilities and raise attributes; points can be spent straight from the UI without the use of a trainer. Players in Pandora Saga take much pride in their character builds, since all stats are decided by the players themselves. Each character receives one free racial skill and a couple of facial features to fiddle with, and that's all that one should expect from the initial character customization experience.
The City of Astir is the main hub in Pandora Saga, and the streets around the city house both NPC and player merchants. Players can sell the contents of their inventory to other players while their character remains stationary in the city. Most vendors are low level mules that are parked in the Central Plaza area, making this spot a social hub, and a bit laggy to boot. Outside the city lay the Soplar Highway, a zone which is split into three sections for PvE and quest fulfillment. Until level 20, players spend their time running back and forth between Astir and the Soplar Highway, stopping only to kill the odd maggot, snake, and skeleton.
Your Pandora Saga adventure begins with a single line of quests that will take your character into the early twenties. Upon completion of each quest, almost an entire level of experience is earned, along with some gold and the odd bobble. Until the final few quests in the line, players must repeatedly run back and forth across two zones to perform menial tasks. The required traveling is boring and feels entirely unnecessary. While players can bind to an Innkeeper within the city, the only way to recall to the bind point is by using expensive "bat wings", or by dying. Players may also choose to level up by killing mobs, but experience starts to slow down significantly around level 10, making the quests the logical choice.
Mounts can be purchased from stables just outside of each city. Horses come in many flavors, allowing the player to select gender, color and starting stats. Mount stats can be enhanced using gear and accessories, as well as by increasing the player's own horsemanship ability. Purchasing a horse from the city stables will cost you 100,000 coins; and that kind of cash is not easy to come by. The best ways to earn coin in Pandora Saga is by doing the quests, farming for high-value items (gold crystals, bat wings, weapons and armor), and by setting up a shop either in your nation's city or the main city of Astir.
Weapon and armor stats can be increased by imbuing the items with spirit gems. The problem with imbuing is not only figuring out why certain gems don't work, but finding gear to imbue in the first place. Not much in the way of equipment drops from mob kills, and quest rewards up to level 20 do not include much gear. Items can be purchased from NPC merchants and player vendors, but prices tend to exceed the budget of a lowbie unless the character has alts or Pandora Points (purchased with real-world money). If you happen to have gear, players may also enhance pieces at city blacksmiths using rune gems, which can be purchased or received as mob drops. When upgrading equipment success rates will vary, and failure is a possibility. Those that wish to increase their chances of imbue success are able to purchase special items with increased chances of success using Pandora Points.
Solo players might be disappointed upon reaching level 20, which is when the main quest line suddenly requires a group in order to proceed. Twenty is the magic number in Pandora Saga, as it is the level in which several new doors open; such as creating a guild, doing side-quests, changing professions, and it is also the time in which players join one three warring nations. Once a player decides which nation they wish to join, they must travel to their new home, which is not always an easy task.
Player-versus-player game play is Pandora Saga's bread and butter. Those that do not enjoy playing with a group and engaging in PvP combat are best to seek out a game better suited to their play style.
In addition to PvP warring between nations, Pandora Sega features a PvP arena in which players use to farm PvP points. In Astir's Central Plaza, there is a battle NPC and PvP Trainers. Players receive individual battle tickets, two teams then enter the PvP arena, and players earn PvP points, which are later traded for high-value items. The game also features day war-zone events and open PvP areas where honor points are earned for killing other players.
The crafting system in Pandora Saga is not exactly a step forward in innovation. Crafting is done as a simple combine of inventory items with a chance of failure and varying degrees of success. Crafting skill improves with the completion of successful combines. Crafting recipes and materials can be looted from mobs or received as quest rewards. An example of a low-level crafted item is taking small health pots and combining them to form a large health pot.
The goal of Pandora Saga is to achieve a high enough level to participate in PvP warfare. While PvP is just an after-thought in many MMOs, it is the primary reason that people play Pandora Saga. It is with good reason that PvP players gravitate to this game, because those that stay with it find a whole new world of game play waiting for them at the end; with the highlight being the opportunity to engage in either 300 or 600 player Nation vs. Nation vs. Nation combat.
Pandora Saga also boasts a relatively unique class system. Trainers can be found in the major cities; their purpose is to offer players a quest to take on a secondary profession. For example, a Mage can choose to go either the Wizard or Sorcerer route. Later in the game players can change professions again. An Acolyte is the game's basic healing class, but at level 20, the Acolyte can become a Priest or Ascetic. An Ascetic can later become a Monk or an Exorcist; and a Priest can become either a Cleric or an Enchanter.
Pandora Saga has a hint of anime in the design of its characters, which is not an art style that is to everyone's liking. The game's graphics in general are very bland, suffering from an overuse of beige and brown. Although Pandora Saga is still a relatively young game, it looks old and tired. The UI, in particular, could pass for circa 1980.
Pandora Saga is aimed at gamers that want to play in a group setting. Between guilds, open PvP, quest grouping, PvP arena and nation vs. nation warfare, Pandora Saga is a very social game. Players in the game are very helpful, stopping often to heal and buff strangers and readily dish out advice as needed. Group invites also come in quite frequently. Players in Pandora Saga will even go as far as to recruit for their nations as they see lowbies approaching the level 20 mark. Overall, Pandora Saga does not have any special social features, but its dedicated players have made the social aspects of the game something special.
Pandora Saga first launched in Japan and was later localized for a North American audience. The game launched in early 2011, but was just recently added to Steam's growing list of free-to-play titles. There is no doubt that Steam's massive online community can help delay the end of Pandora Saga; but unless you're all about PvP then the game will likely find itself in the bin sooner rather than later.
Clearly, a lot of work went into the design of the PvP system in Pandora Saga; however, many other parts of the game were seemingly ignored during development. Some areas of development in which Pandora Saga would benefit from include an upgraded graphics engine, a modernized UI, larger bestiary, solo content, more quests, and a total revamp of the game's main quest line.
The economy in Pandora Saga doesn't appear to be too bad off when compared to many other free-to-play MMOs. Although Pandora Saga has a premium item "Charge Shop", there are still ways to earn in-game currency and purchase items without opening your real-world wallet.
Pandora Saga has formidable features, but it's not enough to give the game wide range appeal. Players who enjoy a strong player-versus-player environment might thrive in Pandora Saga; assuming they can make it past the painfully boring first twenty levels of the game.