Skyforge, part of a joint development initiative between Allods Team and Obsidian with My.com as the publisher, recently hit closed beta status. Expected to launch just a little bit later this year, the F2P MMORPG is one we’ve been following for a while. We’ve been dabbling in the beta, and these are our initial thoughts.
Skyforge isn’t your typical MMO, at least not in some senses. In other ways, there’s not a whole lot here you haven’t seen done before. But it’s a visually stunning game, and one with pretty high production values. But, well… if you watch the video pasted below you’ll see that the voice over work needs some love, and is thankfully just placeholder.
Let’s get the basics out of the way. Skyforge has more in common with say Neverwinter, than a typical open world MMORPG like WoW or WildStar. You have a central hub where people rest between dungeons, PVP, and more traditional questing. From there, you pick one of several open world zones, adventures (solo to 3-man dungeons), PVP matches, and eventually 5-man dungeons, raids, and mass PVP scenarios. There is a visual representation of the world, but you can’t really travel throughout. It’s a zoned and instanced theme park MMORPG. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but full disclosure and my goal to inform you means I should mention the sort of game Skyforge is.
Still with me? Good, because despite a certain sense of “been there, done that” Skyforge is actually pretty fun.
Half sci-fi, half fantasy, Skyforge’s art style reminds me a lot of Silicon Knights’ Too Human, and that’s a good thing in my book. It has a unique look from top to bottom, including a very slick UI. The game begins with you taking on the role of a newly christened immortal arriving to take you place among other such lucky bastards. But before you can get acquainted with your new non-death, you tell the tale of how you came to be so akin to Connor Macleod. Once a mortal soldier in a war against nasty rat-men (think Warhammer Skaven), only to be overwhelmed and killed in battle via snazzy cut scene.
Dragged back to wherever these things and their master are from, you awaken because surprise! You’re an immortal. When you’re overwhelmed again while trying to escape their lair, you unleash some awesome looking whirly powers. And so a newbie prospective god is born. Once you’ve taken in this flashback, then you’re able to select your starting class, looks, and choose between being a male or female. Because immortals get choices, dawg! It’s worth noting you can and will be able to change your class or looks at any time, as stats and equipment are independent of your actual looks and costuming.
Combat is action-oriented, though with a soft-locking target reticle akin to Guild Wars 2 meets TERA. You begin with just one or two skills assigned to the left and right mouse clicks, but as you progress in each class (you have just one character who can switch freely between classes) you learn more skills, combos, and so forth. In the beta, we only have access to a handful of classes, and early on you start with just the Paladin (sword and board tank with lightning magic), Cryomancer (fantastically fun ice mage), and the Lightbinder (support with some nice AOE). It’s important to note that there doesn’t seem to be a real healer in a traditional sense with Skyforge. Support classes offer buffs and other spells to aid folks, but pretty much all the classes can do damage, with the “Damage” classes being the ones that flat out go the most offensive, at the expense of defense and support abilities.
EDIT 3/13/15 at 930am: If you get into the beta via Founder's Pack purchase, you also get the Gunner and the Berserker to try in the beta. Both very fun classes, I must add. I started the beta with a normal access account from previous tests, but Skyforge's PR firm later gave me and our staff Founder's packs to use.
In my time with Skyforge so far though, around 4 hours, I’ve not really had a hard time with any of the classes. Combat, as it always seems, is really easy early on. It becomes a bit more layered as you learn combos, especially with the Paladin, but by and large it’s pretty much click to kill. I’d expect the game to become more difficult as you go, but I can’t comment on that just yet.
There is a main story guiding you through the first few hours, your first “adventure” dungeon, and several steps of character progression and the game can seem pretty on rails those first few hours. I’m told that once all the main intro exposition is over you become freer to roam about and do your own thing, but right now I get the feeling that a main narrative is still the crux of what drives you from one area to the next.
You don’t get XP in a traditional sense for beating monsters or completing quests in Skyforge. Instead, you get prestige from your overall item/equipment score that determines how hard challenges are for you. And since class and prestige determines what you can wear, this score can change depending on your chosen class and how far you’ve progressed in playing. You get gear as rewards, from drops, and can upgrade items using salvage from unwanted gear. On top of this, there’s the Ascension Atlas, a fancy way to say “skill tree” that gives each class bonus stats and new skills as you spend gems earned from playing the game’s many types of content.
Rubies of Strength unlock red nodes on the Atlas and increase damage output, Emeralds of Life unlock green nodes and increase defensive stats, while Sapphires of Knowledge unlock blue nodes and grow secondary stats as well as new talents later on in character growth. Early, the Atlas is straightforward, but after some time progressing you unlock your Ultimate ability with a class and the top tier of the Atlas which leads to far less linear progression within your class. It’s something we’ll touch on more as we play, because we’ve just scratched the surface ourselves.
So far, my biggest worries about Skyforge are its voiceovers (they’re really that bad) and the general lack of other things to do besides killing stuff. I haven’t yet touched (or even discovered) crafting, and while the visuals and combat are stunning and fun I’m wondering how much fun will be had in 10, 20, 50, and 100+ hours. There seems to be a decent chunk of content to chew through, and the Observatory’s map of activities keeps changing so that not all content is available at any given time. It’s basically on a randomized cycle to keep people playing together in the open zones and available group queued content. But if killing monsters and trying to become a god is really all there is, well… who am I kidding? That’s pretty much most theme park MMOs these days. At least it’ll be fun while it lasts.
One final thing I wanted to mention is that the cash shop really doesn’t play into this CBT. You can see that there’s a currency available for RMT, but unlike other F2P games right now it seems that Skyforge won’t be throwing “deals” and “buy now!” into your face every login. I know the team wants to make money, and if the game’s fun I will, so I hope this stays the case up into launch later this year.
Look for more content on Skyforge as the beta progresses from myself or any one of our talented writers currently dabbling with the upcoming MMO. Is this one going to be the next MMOssiah? Nah. But if you let your cynicism wall down and just play, you’ll likely have some fun.