An odd sense of familiarity overcame me during the time I spent playing Flyff Gold for this review. This game that was among the very first crop of Asian MMORPGs which were localized for English audiences and here it was still going strong after 7 years. The new name, Flyff Gold, is the re-branding for what should actually be version 19 of the game, Flyff (which stands for 'Fly for Fun'). While many would simply dismiss the shiny name as nothing more than a marketing gimmick, I'd be lying that if I said it didn't catch my attention.
I remember trying to get into the game around the time when version 17 was released, but the client was uncooperative and didn't work properly in Windows 7. Thankfully, the Gold experience is not as stressful and runs without any major problems. Well, there are those brief heart-stopping moments where the game stops responding while loading assets but you'll get used to them eventually.
Aesthetics – 5 / 10
Doesn't take a genius to state the obvious, but Flyff Gold is a rather old game. If your primary reason for getting into any MMORPG is because of the killer in-game visuals, you'll be seriously disappointed here. Low polygon assets, blurry textures and barren environments are just some of the things that you'll notice right away. Most of what would have been cutting-edge so many years ago is now out-dated and, in some cases, unsightly. In addition, options for adjusting the graphical quality are limited and you can't change the game's resolution while it's running.
The GUI, according to the patch notes, was revamped specially for the Flyff Gold release. Compared to what the game used to sport in the previous versions, the current one is more 'in line' with what you'd see in many other MMORPGs out there at the moment. The various GUI elements can be repositioned and (in some cases) resized. There's even an option to make them all translucent.
Gameplay – 6 / 10
Like most other MMORPGs out there, the dreaded grind is present in Flyff also. The current level cap is an insanely high 150 which is bound to frighten away a lot of people before they even start playing. Thankfully, the game does its part to minimize the tedium of the grind at the lower levels. Scattered around the early leveling spots and within the towns are Penguin NPCs who will buff you with (what seems like) almost everything under the sun. While these buffs aren't as powerful as the ones that can be cast by a fully maxed-out support-class player (Assist class), they are more than enough for newbies to shoot through the earlier levels.
There are 4 main classes in the game, and despite the odd names they are given in this game, they consist of what we'd better know as the Tank, Offensive Mage, Defensive Healer/Buffer, and Thief/Ranger. Similar to Ragnarok Online (and Lineage 2), the player gets to pick his/her class specialization at specific levels (15, 60, 130) and you're limited to one class per character.
At level 120, players can opt to undertake a 'Master Quest' which will revert them back to level 60. Without getting into specifics, I'll just say that there are a lot of benefits in doing so (e.g. increased stat points per level, new abilities) but I can't help but feel that this is a really cheap move by the developers to recycle existing game content and keep the players grinding away. Despite the tedium, I did notice that an awful lot of players had opted to go through the 'Master Quest' and this is clearly evident by the shiny 'M' or 'H' icons next to their names. It's also not hard to tell why: if you're intent on participating in PvP, Raids, Guild sieges or any other form of high-level endgame content in Flyff, you'll definitely want to max out every aspect of your character.
The player population have also developed their own methods for overcoming the insanity of the grind. Terms such as 'Leech' and '2nd client' were some of the things I heard on a regular basis. The 'Leech' method is self explanatory, and I'm sure many of us have done this at some point: tagging along in a high level player's party and just sucking up all the exp whilst doing nothing. For the '2nd client' trick, players would register multiple accounts and also fire up multiple copies of the game client to log into different characters at the same time.
Well then, what about the flying? For a game that's supposed to be named 'Flying for fun', you've probably noticed I haven't really said much about it at all. The truth is, and you can cue the laugh track at this point, there really isn't much to say at all.
When I was working my way towards level 20, there was an incredible sense of anticipation. I was expecting loads of content to be unlocked the moment I purchased my hover board. I mean, the name says it all right? Flying for fun? Well... no. The flying comes across more as a means to shorten traveling time than something that actually feels like an essential part of the gameplay.
I must admit, there was a certain sense of liberation once I took to the air. The explorer's spirit in me took over for quite a while as I went on a tour around the various areas in the game. I even got a close look at some of the high level monsters in the northern island that I would be fighting if I ever made it to level 120. There aren't any level restrictions governing where you can go and monsters on the ground won't aggro you while you're in the air. No longer bound to the roads, I was zooming around wherever I pleased... until I hit an invisible wall.
Despite giving players the impression that they can fly all over the place, the areas where you can get some air are more or less confined to the airspace above the game's landmasses. And when traveling between the islands, you can only fly through invisible passages that are vaguely indicated by floating signposts. So much for the sense of wonder and exploration.
Air combat, while present, is largely a stressful affair if your character class is not a Magician. Mages, being the spell throwing fellas that they are, are the only class that can perform ranged attacks on aerial targets. All other classes have to get in close and clobber away while the target is flying all over the place. Aside from a handful of flying insects that I encountered near the second major town in the game, I don't recall coming across any other flying monsters.
Innovation – 5 / 10
Well, here's a tough one... how's a 7 year old game supposed to stack up in terms of innovation with some of the big boys out there right now? Despite my skepticism, Flyff does manage to pull off a few tricks that I haven't seen elsewhere before.
The most obvious one, and this is because a nice chunk of the GUI is devoted to it, is the Action Slot at the lower right of the screen (You can't miss it, it's the revolver cylinder thingy). Up to 6 combat skills cam be assigned within it and you can fire them all off (pun intended) in quick succession with the press of the 'C' key. It sure beats having to go all manual and press '1', '2', '3' and then '4' every time I start a fight.
One other innovative feature I came across actually a simplified take on obtaining quest items. Some of the items that the quests tell you to gather aren't obtained by chopping trees or slaying monsters, they're literally found lying on the ground. Easily identifiable even from far away by a twinkling animation, a pop-up with a brief description will appear if you mouse over the item even if it's out of reach. I'm not exactly sure whether this is something that the game developers built on purpose or because they were cutting corners, but since it did made my life easier, so I'm just going to mention it here for completeness' sake.
Aside from these two points, there isn't going to be much in this game that will really surprise you. Tiny skill trees, one class per character, the reliance on the 'holy trinity' of classes are just some of the 'old-fashioned’ things you'll find in this game. Almost everything that you see should already have been implemented (and improved upon) in other more recent MMORPGs.
Polish – 5 /10
For a game with 19 versions under its belt, I still managed to find plenty of things about Flyff that annoyed me to no end. If this were a new game that's fresh from the oven and just coming out of closed beta, I'd probably be less critical of any bugs and mistakes encountered. But for a game like this with its long history, to still have so many problems after such a long time... now that is something I have a hard time accepting.
One of the first things that anyone will surely encounter upon entering the game is all the incessant spam by the RMTs. That's ok. Just add them to your Ignore List by typing /ignore
The other obvious problem that almost everyone will notice is related to the shadows that are 'cast' by objects and characters in the game: they change direction as you move the camera around. It's as though the Sun's position is related in some way to the position of the camera. While it's not something that's particularly game breaking, I found it very, very annoying. What little immersion I could derive from the game had been obliterated by this (what should I call it?) graphical bug.
Another major annoyance rears its ugly head after you take to the sky and start zooming around the game world: Monsters and NPCs don't seem to be affected by the 'Object Distance' setting in the game that governs draw distance. You'll be able to see mountain ranges and landmasses that are miles away, but monsters will sometimes only spawn into existence when you're a short distance away from them. Is this something that the game developers implemented on purpose? Spawning monsters only when players entered an area? It certainly seemed that way, and while I should applaud them for minimizing systems resources on their end, it doesn't make for an immersive gaming experience on mine.
Last but certainly not least, there's a major bug that occurs as soon as you ding level 15 (for your first class change). If you have any remaining quests in the starter quest line, they'll just cut out abruptly and you won't have a chance to see the resolution. I was 3 quests shy of completing the entire quest line when it happened to me and for a while there I was left completely confused as to why the NPC refused me to give me the next quest.
You could probably say that I'm nit-picking. And you know what? I'm going to agree with you too. It's kind of like the upside-down fishes in Final Fantasy XI. Every fish, and I really mean every fish, in the main game (before the expansions) was actually upside down. Players noticed it when the game first launched, we laughed at it, and others even posted funny screenshots about it. But as time went on, people just couldn't be bothered no more and they kind of accepted that the fishies in FFXI were all meant to be belly up. I guess the same can be said for the complaints I mentioned above. Long time Flyff players have probably grown to accept these quirks and don't bat an eyelid about them no more. It's only the new players like myself who'll make a lot of noise about stuff that is, in the end, not game-breaking.
To the game's credit though, the localization is wonderfully done. Quest dialogue is not overly dramatic and is brief. I actually found myself getting interested in the story for some of the quest lines, and this is something that doesn't happen very often. The font is unsightly though, and yes that's just more nitpicking by me.
Longevity – 7 / 10
Seeing as Flyff has already lasted this long, it's highly probable that it'll keep chugging along for a while more. There are a sizable number of players spread across 5 servers (one of which is full-on PvP with Player Killing and 2X XP) and multiple channels, plus the amount of content available is pretty impressive.
Let me just rattle off a few from the top of my mind: Player Duels, Guild Sieges, a LOT of Instance Dungeons, Secret Room dungeons, equipment enhancement, Guild homes, Player homes, weekly Rainbow Races, Colosseum fights against boss monsters, and pet breeding. I'm sure I missed a few, but the bottom line is that there really is a LOT to do in this game. And you don't necessarily have to be level 150 to enjoy it all. For example, pet eggs will drop randomly from level 20+ monsters, many instance dungeons are accessible around level 60 and the Colosseum can be entered with a party at any level (whether you survive it or not is another story).
Social features in Flyff are the standard stuff you've probably seen everywhere else: character emotes, Private Messaging, Party chat, a swear word filter, player-to-player mail (which gets spammed by RMTs sometimes), the previously mentioned ignore list that doesn't remember names across gaming sessions, and so on. Nothing particularly special.
Right clicking on players will bring up a menu with options such as Invite to Party, Follow, Check Equipment. 'Follow' does exactly what you expect it to, and is great for those of you wanting to Leech or Power Level someone. 'Check Equipment' is largely useless as there's a default setting in the game options that automatically bars people from seeing your gear.
In the PvP server, there's sanctioned player-killing. You won't be able to wallop people if they're in town, but once they're outside... it's all fair game. If a character gets KO’ed, one item from their inventory will drop as a reward. The killer's notoriety will also increase, with notable consequences in the game world. Those of you planning to go on a killing spree should keep this in mind.
Value – 7.5 / 10
The one obvious benefit to getting your game on in an aging hulk of a F2P game is that there's a lot more content than those young whipper-snappers that just came out of closed beta. Flyff's content is definitely voluminous, and if that isn't obvious enough, the starter town is practically packed with NPCs governing access to high-level instances and events. It's almost as though they're giving you a glimpse of what you can take part in... if you make it through the 150 levels of questing/grinding (with 60 additional levels at 50% exp gain if you undertake the Master Quest).
Like many of the older MMORPGs out there, it becomes very much a requirement that you need to join a guild if you want to make any significant progress in the game. Monsters get increasingly difficult to solo, more instance dungeons become available at your current level (but can only be entered if you're in a party) and rewards obtained from Guild Siege/Secret Room activities become more enticing the higher you increase in level. Your guild can even purchase pre-existing buildings in the various towns to use as a Guild house. There's even a Lord System of sorts in the game (kind of similar to what's in Archlord or Aika Online) where the elected Lord can set tax rates and stuff.
In the end, how much value Flyff holds for you will depend on what you expect to derive from the game. Are you looking for an incredible storyline like the one in Guild Wars? You're definitely not going to find that here. Well how about lots of instance dungeons and participating in a free-for-all battle with 9 other guilds plus the chance for some epic loot? Heck yeah, now we're talking.
In more ways than one, much of Flyff reminded me of that other famous Korean export: Ragnarok Online. K-pop style BGM, out-dated graphics, uncomplicated game mechanics as well as a simple story were some of the things that gave me a nice sense of nostalgia. Despite its age, there are still a lot of players running around. Bazaars, guild recruitment shouts and (don't laugh) RMTs help to reinforce the fact that there's still plenty of life left in this game.
Young 'uns might not see as much value in this game as those of us who were there at the beginning when Ultima Online first launched. The graphics are out-dated, the engine acts up sometimes and the grind is truly INSANE. That said, if you're looking for some old-school fun with an established community as well as loads of content, you can't go wrong here. Just bear in mind that there are a lot of levels to grind through before you get to the center of all the fun & action.