Tread with Caution
Coming from publisher Gpotato, Sevencore is a new MMORPG that bills itself as a game where 'technology meets fantasy' and is set in a 'post-apocalyptic world'. The promo artwork and website media help to give the impression that this would be a sci-fi fantasy game somewhere along the lines of RF Online or Phantasy Star Online. Unfortunately, given what I've experienced so far, let's just say that things aren't exactly what they would appear to be. Sevencore is host to many a problem and I would advise everyone interested in playing it to tread with caution.
Aesthetics – 6.5
Unlike some of the more recent games out there, Sevencore doesn't make use of fancy graphical tricks like normal maps or ambient occlusion. The game still looks decent though, with characters and environments sporting detailed textures. I didn't have any issues running it with everything maxed out (and anti-aliasing turned off) so most of you folks out there with decent rigs shouldn't have any problems too.
One point I do need to mention is the inconsistency with Sevencore's graphical quality. It's not that the game is ugly, it's just that it isn't always beautiful. The first few hours of the game are probably the best example I can use. The newbie island that everyone starts the game from is simply gorgeous. Lots of trees and some fantastic scenery is what welcomes all the new players to the game. For a F2P MMORPG (where expectations are normally lower), I was rather impressed by what I saw. It's after I left (or rather right before I left) the island at level 10 that the eye candy took something of a nosedive.
Upon setting foot in the first city in the game, I was horrified by the uninspiring Victorian-era architecture that greeted me. Bland and repetitive textures were used repeatedly everywhere. The environment was sterile and there were hardly any NPCs or objects in the street. The entire place just felt completely lifeless and this emptiness was further reinforced by the lack of players running around. All of this took place within the first few hours of the game itself and left me somewhat worried as to what was in store for me next.
Well, I'm sure we all know how many games like to put their 'best foot forward' by impressing players with everything including the kitchen sink during the opening hours. In Sevencore's case, it feels like they used up 70% of their magic tricks in the newbie island and didn't leave a lot for the rest of the game.
The scenery outside of the city was something of an improvement, but there was still an overwhelming sense of blandness. I can't quite put my finger on it but it's the same feeling I got when I played the first Gears of War: everything everywhere looked like they were the same color. Sure, there were a few structures (e.g. wooden fences, cottages, windmills) here and there that helped to break up the monotony, but I felt they were doing the game a disservice just by being there. It didn't take long for me to take note that for a sci-fi fantasy setting, there sure was an over-abundance of medieval stuff.
For the game's GUI, most of it is pretty normal and nothing out of the ordinary. The interface is serviceable and has all the usual suspects in their rightful places: ability icons at the bottom, minimap at the upper right, quest list on the right, etc. The various elements can't be repositioned though, and I'm sure this will irk some players out there. There's no health bar above your character's head and the buff icons are super tiny also.
To make things a bit interesting, Sevencore seems to have taken some inspiration from the Windows OS and implemented a taskbar of sorts in the game's GUI. Windows that you've recently opened (e.g. Options, Inventory, Map) will appear as rectangular icons in the bar at the very bottom of the screen (just like in Windows), and the amount of money you're currently holding will be shown at the lower right where the Notification Area should be. While it does seem like a cool idea at first, it doesn't take long to realize that this taskbar copycat is ultimately useless as almost all the game's windows are just a hotkey away.
Gameplay – 5.0
Sevencore's gameplay is where a lot of the game's problems make themselves apparent and man is the list long. For a modern MMORPG, Sevencore sure has plenty of stuff that's missing or badly implemented compared to the competition out there.
If you're hunting monsters, a word of caution: them critters in Sevencore respawn very quickly. While this may be a good thing if you're looking for normal quest targets to take out, the super-fast respawn rate makes things very troublesome if your focus are Rare Monsters. After slaying any one of those, grab your loot as fast as you can and RUN FOR YOUR LIFE otherwise they're gonna respawn right on top of you and give you another extra round of fun & excitement.
Aside from questing and the grind, there are a few Instance Dungeons in the game too. Only problem is they don't seem to work yet. Despite having shimmering entrances and NPCs indicating the existence of this gameplay feature, I couldn't find a way to enter the first 2 instance dungeons I came across. Was I doing something wrong again or was my level too low? Was I missing some essential item? The game certainly didn't give me any hints when I talked to the NPC or tried to go through the dungeon entrances.
In addition, Sevencore's crafting system is similarly problematic and has a broken and incomplete feeling to it. One such involved me handing over more than the required number of quest items while I was leveling the herbalist profession. Despite repeatedly clicking the quest text to hand the stuff over, the blasted quest would simply not disappear from the NPCs chat window. There was no response, no confirmation, no nothing to affirm whether I was doing it correctly or not. It's only after I closed the window and talked to the NPC again did the quest text disappear and I realized that I had lost my hard earned herb supplies to a freaking bug. By the way, if you're wondering what to do with those food ingredients that are taking up space in your backpack, just sell/throw them away as the cooking profession NPC is disabled in every town and city.
Aside from the profession NPCs, I feel the need to complain about the Guild Registration NPC. The moment you hit level 20 and are able to create a Guild, the game will find a way to usher you back to the very first city to talk to this fellow. 'Talk to me and I will tell you about creating a Guild!' he says, to which I accept the quest and his next words are 'To find out more, use the game's help section!'. What on Earth is THIS? The game was doing such a good job of pushing all those Question Mark tutorial icons in my face during the opening hours, why couldn't they just do the same when I dinged 20? They made me go all the way back to the city and randomly die while entering the building to see him only for the idiot to tell me to look up the in-game help? Goodness.
You may have noticed that I mentioned something about randomly dying. I like to call it Random Death Syndrome and there's a chance you'll experience it in this game too. I died unexpectedly while walking into a building in the city to register a guild, another time while I was flying over the sky in transit from one town to the next (my corpse was floating in the sky and locked in a riding position) and another time while frolicking in the fields outside the city. I have completely no idea what happened in those incidents. Was it due to lag? Or did someone use his powerful haxxor skills to off me? Who knows. In hindsight, maybe my character felt that his existence was meaningless and decided to do himself in.
In addition to the issues listed above, one of my bigger complaint has to do with the NPC population in Sevencore. I don't have any actual numbers handy, but I'd say it felt like most of the characters you'll speak to are made up of male, obese, red demons. It was HORRIBLE. Imagine for a minute if all the NPCs in World of Warcraft were Orcs, or if all the NPCs in Guild Wars were Charr, or if all the NPCs in Final Fantasy XI were Galkas. Wouldn't that be terrifying? Guess what, that's exactly what most of Sevencore felt like for me. Out of the 3 races in the game, they had to pick the ugliest one to be the face of almost every NPC. Most of them are male too, so the gender imbalance is VERY noticeable.
Thankfully, not everything in this game is jinxed. Mainstays of the genre like branching player professions, auction houses, guilds, repeatable quests, armor/weapon enhancement and gem slotting are (expectedly) present. Unfortunately, the problems with the game are so numerous that the negative aspects stand out much more than the ones which work just fine. Just so you know, the problems don't end here.
Innovation – 5.0
Sevencore has an interesting take on the pet system in that pets that have reached level 10 can be used as mounts. Your character is able to harvest resources, go for a swim, talk to NPCs as well as fight monsters while seated firmly on your pet. I'll have to admit that it was kind of cool. The major drawbacks to this is that the abilities at your disposal are restricted to those of your pet and its HP is the one that's gonna get deducted if you get into a fight. Dead pets won't auto revive after a period of time so it's always a good idea to keep a revival syringe or two handy. Just for the sake of completeness, I should also mention that if you decide to plunge off the side of a mountain, your mount will sustain massive damage and almost certainly die. So if you're intent on offing yourself or taking the fast way down, do consider getting off your ride first.
In addition, and no doubt taking inspiration from other more recent games out there, Sevencore has its own implantation of an auto-potion system as well. Sliders are located on the HP/MP bars of the GUI and these are used to indicate the point at which your character will automatically quaff potions. The last time I remember seeing this was in Maestia Online.
Another good idea, and one that's sure to make lots of people happy, is the experience point boost given by the game to people who play alts. If you're trying to level an alt, and the game detects another one of your characters who is higher in level, you'll get a really fat 300% exp boost. It's something I totally didn't expect and I'm sure many players will appreciate the assistance in overcoming the dreaded grind while catching up to your main's current level.
Polish – 3.0
Right from the character creation menu, my Spidey Sense was already telling me something was off with this game. While the graphics for the female characters were gorgeous (and the skirts were short too), there were two things in particular that literally horrified me. While customizing the hairstyle and face type for a female character, I zoomed in for a closer look. The in-game camera literally went right through the head, clipping the 3D model and exposing the hollow insides of the character's head. Yikes. Next, I went about customizing her chest size and moved the slider all the way to the left. Instead of a flat chest, my character ended up with caved-in boobs. Goodness gracious me, how on Earth did this even pass QA? Never before have I ever experienced such a total utter lack of quality in the presentation of the character creation menu. I hadn't even finished creating my first character and was already getting bad vibes about the game.
Speaking of the game, there's a major problem with it that I like to call the Mystery of the Missing Texture Maps. At some point, you'll start to come across certain buildings / elements in the game that lack their color textures and show up with a black and white gradient. Occurrences were infrequent at first and I brushed them off as just minor visual annoyances that didn't impact gameplay. But as the tourist in me climbed every mountain and crossed every stream, more and more instances of this problem appeared. In the end game zones (where the level 78-ish monsters hang out), there were so many boulders, plants, buildings and mountainsides missing their textures that I had to wonder whether anyone in QA was even doing their job. I even set my game client to verify the game files two times to make sure that all the problems weren't due to corrupted files.
Sevencore's localization effort is something of a mixed bag too. The quality of NPC dialogue wasn't consistent and sometimes felt as though there were 2 separate groups of people handling the translation. This is noticeable right from the newbie island itself as some NPCs would have fantastic dialogue while others' had stiff lines which just sounded plain weird. One of the more memorable incidents related to this was when the game told me in its poorly localized intro to be careful while landing my aerial vehicle after which I flew right through some tree branches.
Longevity – 1.0
I don't really have anything good to say about how long Sevencore in its current form is going to last, so I won't talk about it. However, I really do hope that gpotato pushes out content updates and fixes for this game FAST. Considering that the Asian English version of Sevencore is still up and running after so long, there has to be something which that version's publisher is doing right to keep the game populated and active. Whatever voodoo magic those folks are using, gPotato had better borrow some of it real quick.
Social – 3.0
If you're eager to start your own guild in Sevencore, I've got great news for you. Guild registration is completely free and available to anyone who's hit level 20. All guild members will automatically have the guild warehouse at their disposal too so it's also not a bad idea to register one just for the extra storage space. To make things even sweeter, you can disband and re-register your guild again and again as many times as you want. Don't like your current name? Just hit the disband button and pay a visit to the registrar NPC again.
Many of the other social aspects of Sevencore are the standard stuff you've almost certainly seen elsewhere. The chat window is tabbed and in its right place at the bottom left of the screen. All the usual features that you'd expect in a modern MMORPG like friendlists, blacklists, partying, item trading and dueling are here... with one very important footnote: the near lack of character motions.
While there are character emotes in the game, it's almost impossible to tell at first glance if you're just looking at the options in the game menu. You know how almost every F2P MMORPG out there would dedicate a window (usually filled with icons) to character emotes? That's missing in this one. A bit of experimentation will net you /dance, /point, /laugh... and that's probably it. Are there more? Possibly. But without essential ones like /wave, /sit, /yes or /no, what little motions there were seemed almost pointless. Heck, even the /point doesn't even make your character point at anything, it's only a generic message that appears in the chat window.
Character emotes are quite possibly the most basic form of social interaction that you'd find in any MMORPG out there, and this one doesn't even have the most important ones. Considering that my character was constantly waving his arms around whilst in conversation with various NPCs, I know that the developers are at least capable of implementing character animations. Why they couldn't even be bothered to add in a few more of the most basic motions to be used by players, I have no idea. If they didn't even want to include emotes in the first place, why is there even a /dance or /laugh in there?
Value – 4.0
Despite the flaws I've mentioned so far, surely there's some hope for this game right? Well, I'll get to that in a moment. For now, let's talk about the severe identity crisis that Sevencore is suffering from.
On its website, and in the various promotional media that's being used to push to game into our sphere of attention, Sevencore has been trying to sell itself as a sci-fi fantasy MMORPG. Within hours of starting the game and after leaving the newbie island, it became very apparent that something was very very wrong with the game's setting. City architecture, town buildings, the wooden fences, the cottages, the clothing the ugly NPCs wore, the various mounts and even the gigantic seafaring frigate I saw behind me when I arrived in the mainland all seemed to indicate that Sevencore almost certainly started its life in developement as something very different from what the adverts today would have us believe. Heck, even the artwork shown during the game's loading screens didn't contain any sci-fi imagery.
Almost everything in the game felt like it belonged more in a traditional fantasy game like World of Warcraft than something like Phantasy Star Online. What little signs of technology that were present seemed tacked on and felt distinctly out of place. The helipads that the transport NPCs in the various towns were standing next to didn't blend in stylistically with the other aspects of the game world and the modern-looking NPCs were always clones of one another as though the developers were aggressively reusing what little modern/sci-fi assets they had.
While futuristic elements were present here and there (e.g. Rockcrusher mechs, floating mines), the medieval content of the game easily made up 95% of what I experienced. There's even a stereotypical final-boss-style Tower of Chaos in the end game area of the game which incidentally is a very short mountain climb away from the starting city.
In the end, i was left really confused as to what I was actually playing. Was it because my personal expectations had been set too high? I was hoping for something along the lines of what Phantasy Star Online and the Star Ocean series of games had done before but instead received one helluva lemon.
Now, i'm a fair person and I've also experienced my share of raw deals. If, despite the... dubious marketing, Sevencore actually played well and was bug free, I wouldn't be making so much noise. The problem is that there are a ton of problems everywhere in the game, not to mention the severe lack of content. So, let's try and answer that question for earlier: Is there hope for Sevencore in its current form? I have a feeling you should already know the answer by now.
But, you know... it's free, so there's that.
I asked for a banana but instead got a cucumber that was painted yellow.
If it sounds like I'm angry with Sevencore, it's because I am. Throughout the time I spent playing the game, I kept thinking of the 'Expectation vs Reality' memes that are all over the internet. While the game isn't entirely devoid of sci-fi elements, I wouldn't really say that there is enough within it to live up to whatever expectations the adverts are setting up for the masses. I kept getting the feeling that the sci-fi stuff was more of a last minute quick-fix than something the game designers originally decided upon when production started.
Some part of me refuses to believe that they could actually dare to release something so broken for general consumption AND activate the item shop for it too. The story in the game is completely non-existent so those of you hoping for a sweeping narrative will surely be disappointed. Crafting, while working, feels broken too so gameplay enthusiasts won't have anything to smile about.
The game's final saving grace, its graphics, have so many missing textures in the later areas that I have to wonder how QA managed to miss them. With the amount of scrutiny that demanding players are placing on F2P games in beta nowadays, the fact that these issues are still present is just simply unbelievable.
All in all, the game feels like a massive trainwreck in its current condition and is really not worth your time. Expecting one genre and getting something else was already bad enough but having the 'something else' be a broken, incomplete mess... that I cannot accept. Take my advice and consider doing something else with your life that's more meaningful than playing this sad excuse of a bait-and-switch. Much as I don't like poo-pooing on others' hard work and effort, I see no reason why anyone else should have to go through the same heartbreak that I did.