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Skyforge

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PlayStation 4 Version is Button-Mashing Bliss

By Gareth Harmer on April 25, 2017 | Columns | 0

Press X to Pwn

Whichever route you choose, expect to do a lot of killing, as the remnants of those invading gods are still lurking. Whether it’s robots, beasts, insectoids or fish-creatures, there’s always someone that needs smiting and another part of Aelion that needs liberating. Luckily, the active combat has made an excellent transition to console, with most of the combat moves feeling extremely fluid.

One of the handiest abilities is using L1 to lock on to a specific target, allowing me to use the two thumb sticks to strafe around and avoid incoming attacks. Holding down the left stick also works as a dodge, while Cryomancers get an ice dash that slides even further to help get around the killing floor. And for dealing the damage, everything feels within comfortable reach using triggers and buttons, or combinations for the more impressive (and longer cooldown) stuff. There’s even an effort to preserve momentum, with mobs (and bosses) dropping health orbs in a very Diablo-esque manner.

Just as with RPGs, loot is thrown at you thick and fast. Luckily, upgrades are very easy to spot, with Skyforge’s character interface doing a strong job of pointing out when an upgrade is available. But even when it’s not permanent loot, there’s a chance for mobs to drop a special weapon that deals incredible damage. Robotic Mechanoids would drop laser cannons, while the rat-like Vird would drop staves or scythes. One creature even dropped a giant tulip that I wielded like a hammer, smashing creatures from above or swiping them with a windmill. Whatever I got, it felt like something to look forward to.

It’s not just gear that drops, with most mobs offering up currency in the form of Credits or the mysterious-sounding ‘Knowledge of Enemies’. This is how progression manifests in Skyforge. Credits can be spent at your Cathedral to lure in more followers, and those bits of Knowledge can be spent at the Tower of Knowledge to increase your character’s Might. Both work together to increase Prestige, which is an overall measure of character power.

It’s at this point that I felt a little uncomfortable about Skyforge’s item shop, as it allows Argents (bought for real money) to be converted to credits, which could then be spent on attracting more followers to your cathedral and progressing much faster. Sensing this, Allods have put a cap on how much can be spent on the Tower of Knowledge and Cathedral each day, making it more of a ‘pay to progress faster/more reliably).

Like many free-to-play MMOs, Skyforge also offers a ‘Premium’ subscription, which increases the loot from monsters and boosts the rewards for completing adventures. It’s well worth picking up, especially the 3 days of free Premium access available to new players. Premium time is also sometimes offered as a loot reward, which can be a significant boon to those sticking to the free side of freemium.

Godly Groupings

Making the console transition is always going to be a struggle for MMOs – there’s no keyboard, so chatting with other players is always going to feel awkward. Which is why it’s no surprise that Skyforge on PS4 does away with the chatbox all together, relying on group finders to do the heavy lifting. Luckily, queues are short and the experience is relatively quick, offering compelling loot for your time.

For a larger-scale PvE experience, the world of Aelion also includes some gorgeous open-world questing Regions that sit alongside the more linear instanced adventures. While it’s not essential to complete them all to finish the campaign, they’re a welcome contrast to continual dungeon running. Each Region has several questing themes, including a linear thread to pull you through the zone, and a number of quests that can be picked up on the way. And yes, there’s open tagging to go along with the active combat, which randomly encouraged cooperation with my fellow deities.

The big problem with these Regions is that they lose meaning relatively quickly, partly because quests are so easy to take part in – just walk up to an area marked on the map and look for targets to kill or objects to activate. It felt that I was being sent to kill stuff because smiting is part of the god job description, and it quickly felt that I had no other purpose. Depending on how much you value a compelling narrative behind mashing the buttons, this may be a deal breaker for you.

Which means, even though there’s PvP (both King of the Hill and 3v3 arenas), Skyforge on PS4 feels much like a single-player dungeon crawler. It’s no wonder that the player community has started up a dedicated subReddit and Discord server to share tips, help find groups and even form Pantheons (the equivalent of Guilds).

Perilous Performance

Back in the early days of Skyforge’s PC launch, our own Bill Murphy highlighted the performance issues he experienced, despite having a meaty gaming rig to power it. Disappointingly, those performance issues have made their way to the PS4 version, with framerates plummeting in open-world Regions. Luckily, performance was much higher in single-player Adventures, which works as another gentle nudge towards that linear gold brick road of progress.

On top of the lip-synch issues I pointed out earlier, Skyforge also displayed several animation glitches during cut-scenes. NPCs would twist their necks Exorcist-style to look at an unseen person off-camera, or the camera would dramatically sweep as if someone had re-cut Law and Order to Skrillex’s latest music video. During combat, picking up a special two-handed weapon would cause the character to skate around as the running animation parted company from movement speed. None of these are game-breaking, but they highlight that porting to console isn’t without its problems.

And then there’s the agonisingly slow torture by friendly computer voices. On the one hand, the ARC companion follows you around with the idea of providing assistance, injecting repetitive lines of artificial banter as if it’s an acoustic cheese-grater assaulting my ears. On the other, the Argus system attempts witty remarks while I traversed those instanced Adventures, as if it desperately wants to be GlaDOS but can’t quite pull it off. While it’s possible to tell the former to go away, the latter lingers on throughout my Skyforge experience.

Unholy Grind

Is Skyforge on PS4 worth the download? If you can handle the grindy end of the MMO spectrum and aren’t clamouring for a hugely social experience, then I’d suggest giving it a try for yourself. The 3 days of premium access are a welcome boost and, if you choose to stick around, the Chosen Immortal Starter Pack on the PlayStation Store is a purchase worth considering.

Yes, it’s fair to say that there’s a lot going on in Skyforge, including in-game events that have just started up and the Bastion quest system to unlock further passive abilities for your character. But these all rely on the same existing instanced Adventures, even though they offer multiple difficulty levels and random challenges to try and mix things up a little. If the combat, classes and monsters don’t mesh with you, this probably isn’t the game to sink too much time in.

Which is a shame, as the combat works so well on the DualShock controller, both in terms of moving around and mapped class abilities. Dashing and dodging feels intuitive, and dealing damage feels effective and precise. And, because the mobs have little symbols over their heads, it’s easy to tell the difference between a trash pack, damage dealer, tank, or spangly special. Reading, planning and enacting the attack works surprisingly well, arguably pushing the experience above the PC version.

Ultimately, though, RPGs are currently going through a renaissance, with some incredibly good examples arriving on PlayStation 4. While Skyforge arguably offers a longer-lasting experience and the option to play with friends, the trade-up in social doesn’t balance the grind-based content repetition. If your main console purpose is to seek out content-rich single player experiences, you’ll likely be better served by investing elsewhere.


OVERALL: 7 for PS4


Pros:

  • Great combat
  • Engaging (optional) story
  • Beautiful locations

Cons:

  • Performance and animation issues
  • Significant content grind
  • Limited social tools and no chat
  • Mixed voice acting

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Gazimoff

Gareth Harmer

Gareth Harmer / Gareth “Gazimoff” Harmer has been blasting and fireballing his way through MMOs for over ten years. When he's not exploring an online world, he can usually be found enthusiastically dissecting and debating them. Follow him on Twitter at @Gazimoff.