In a host of MMORPGs that often feel like clones of the same remixed combat and character development systems, it's hard to find a game that stands out. Requiem: Bloodymare is one of those games, and it's easy to see why many people are flocking to try an MMORPG that promises a horror genre experience.
Storyline and Immersion
Don't let the horror tag fool you. Requiem is a world of mixed science fiction and fantasy elements - gory, yes, but not terrifying or suspenseful. The back story of Requiem is full of war, technology, and magic, and players come into the story after a tragedy that caused the world to split apart, scattering its races, hiding its secret knowledge, and mutating its wildlife into monsters. Players are part of the Ioxenic genetic reprogramming, utilizing special DNA to create defenders of mere humans caught in this violent world.
Players will only get a feel for this storyline in their first tutorial quests, as they learn the basics of game play and train their skills to learn their first class. Beyond that, the story is mostly forgotten, with generic quests placed into this setting with no feel of heroism or power on the player's part. World areas have little life of their own, and appear to be little more than a dumping ground for NPCs and monsters.
Requiem uses a simple and relatively clean interface. At default, two skill bars are provided along the bottom of the screen, along with a chat window, the player's health, mana, and buff display, an experience bar, and a minimap. Small buttons along the right side of the screen allow players to access their various character screens, as well as options such as server battles, battlegrounds, and the item mall.
Character movement can only be accomplished via the WASD keys or via the mouse, but only in a point-and-click format. This makes movement awkward, especially in PvP, where the ease of mouse movement or being able to use the arrow keys is denied.
Graphics and Sound
All of the character and monster graphics in Requiem are highly detailed, with a slight Lineage feel. World graphics, however, are not nearly as impressive, and it feels like years of gap between environmental detail and character detail. While characters stand in impressive armor, the world around them is flat, with copied textures with occasional rocks and flora thrown in for detail.
Of course, the real appeal for the graphics in Requiem is the gore, something the game doesn't lack. The game is rated mature, and for good reason: even the deer are subject to dismemberment. Heads and limbs will roll, literally, along the landscape, bones will break, and blood will spew over monsters and players alike. If gore appeals to you, the satisfaction is endless. For players who dislike the effects, the blood effects can be turned down, although the game will remain graphic.
Sound effects, unfortunately, are lacking in the game; monsters generally sound alike, and combat usually consists of general "whacks and thwacks" with no real excitement or realism lent in. Likewise, the background ambiance and music is equally dull and muted; I found the game more enjoyable playing soundtracks from other horror games in place of the generic music.
Combat in the game is of the usual formula of auto-attack combined with trained skills. At first, players will only have a very limited number of attacks and buffs to use. Healing is also limited to one race only, so most players will find themselves resting or chugging potions after only a few fights.
Monsters have their own abilities, usually involving a strong attack or the ability to call allies to their side. While combat begins as a very single target oriented experience in early levels, it quickly expands into facing players against two or more monsters at once. Spawn times can often be fast for a player going solo, making potions particularly valuable, and can leave players overwhelmed if not above level of the current area.
Equipment is a common drop from monsters, and can be upgraded via compounding and reinforcement systems that allow players to increase specific stats of the item. Armor sets are also offered throughout the game, from level 15 and upward. These sets offer great bonuses that encourage players to instance or trade for them.
Classes, Skills, and Specialization
There are eight basic classes available at level 10 - two to each race - each of which splits further into two subclasses at level 50, for a total of sixteen classes. Each race has an option of melee, ranged, and spell casters, although only Turan Templars can gain healing abilities for their group mates, and only Turan Defenders are designed to tank. This still leaves a variety of classes for each play style, including light to heavily armored melee, ranged and pet classes, and several styles of caster classes. Class balance is not so clear, especially in PvP, where certain classes seem to chew through opponents with ease, although this is an area that is being looked at in an upcoming update.
Character customization is done through assigning skill points while leveling. Every other level, a skill point is gained and may be used at a trainer in the city. Depending on how skill points are spent, players may also choose DNA skills, which allow for a passive enhancement such as duration to currently trained skills. Each character can utilize five DNA slots, but must spend money instead of skill points to do so.
Most skills are within a player's first class choice. The secondary class choice often unlocks only one or two additional skills, as well as allowing specific skills from the first class choice to be enhanced further (such as an assassin enhancing their stealth further). This is relatively disappointing in that it disallows for customization at high levels; new skills are felt as necessary since they are the only defining characteristic of the final class, and so two players of the same class are generally identical except for lower level skill choices.
With a max level of 71, there are limited skill points available. Players must assign these points carefully, as the only option to re-specialize a character's skill points is via an item purchased in the item mall; not even a single point can be undone for free. These items cost about five USD (ten USD for a higher level option), and can be traded for in game coin if a seller can be found.
The Nightmare and Possession System
If horror can be said to be present anywhere in game play besides the graphics, it's in the small three game-hour (36 real time minutes) window from 23:00 to 2:00 when Nightmare Monsters appear. Nightmare Monsters are dangerous and designed as group encounters. Although early Nightmare Monsters are utilized for quests, at later levels, these beasts drop Possession Beast Pieces.
The Possession Beast system allows a character to transform temporarily into one of these beasts, after filling a "Hardcore Gauge" through killing enemies regularly. Possession beasts have their own set of skills that can be trained, as well as their own useable equipment. However, the possession only lasts a limited time, during which the Hardcore Gauge depletes. Once it is empty, the player loses the transformation and must again build the gauge before transforming again. Currently, there are only two possession beasts in the game, and players can get and use both.
While not entirely unique - other MMOs have provided similar transformation systems - the possession system does lend an interesting, but limited, dynamic to game play. Just like character skills, options are so limited as to make players feel homogenous.
For the style of game, I was particularly impressed by the helpfulness of players in and out of game. Unfortunately, players in game seem to be spread out thinly. This could be due to the fact that regional chat is not available to characters without a premium subscription - meaning that finding groups can be incredibly difficult, and leaving most zones, especially the starter zone, feeling empty and void.
For a game that seems to focus on PvP content, the game felt even more lacking. Several weekends were spent queuing for battlegrounds and even the special server battle, only to wait without ever entering. At most, during peak weekend hours, I saw one or two battlegrounds running across the server. However, other players say they usually have 10-30 people on in their guild during the evening, which is a generally good showing overall.
Subscriptions and Micro-transactions
While Requiem: Bloodymare is free to play, there are two subscription options for players seeking bonuses, at $5.99 and $12.99 a month. The primary benefits of these subscriptions increase experience, lower death penalties, and increase item drop rates. What isn't stated clearly is the player experience; the leveling curve becomes so steep for the last ten levels that hours of grinding may only net 5% of a player's experience bar. Dying also gives a harsh experience penalty (which will be capable of de-leveling your character in a future update.) To help with this grind, the item mall is full of items designed to give experience bonuses: for example, the "Weekend Grind Packs," which give a character an experience boost for three days, plus potions and other adventuring items.
With this kind of experience system, it's clear that later levels become reliant on the micro-transaction system that Gravity has set up. This is disappointing, as games should generate micro-transaction revenue primarily because players enjoy the game and want bonuses, not feel they are necessary to get to level, compete, or - as previously mentioned - alter a character's specialization.
There's no doubt that Requiem is different. It breaks away from the typical MMORPG setting, and offers itself to players who are looking for a more realistically detailed game. The game's equipment, possession, and class systems offer great new experiences to a classically styled MMORPG, but feel lackluster and limited in their current implementation. The greatest concern, however, seems to be the harsh experience penalties to players without a premium subscription or experience boost from the item mall.
Requiem has a passionate community behind it, and clearly has potential to become a better, more fun MMO. With a large game update designed to enhance leveling and class balance planned for a September 24th release, Requiem could be taking steps in the right direction to take it from being average to being great.