Plenty of Sparks, But No Flame
I want to play Skyforge. But when I do play it, I immediately regret my decision. It’s at once both a fun game and a frustrating mess, and I can’t stress enough that everyone try it for themselves. For some of you in trying Skyforge, you’ve found a new go-to game. For others, you’ve learned precisely what you do not want from this genre. Me? I’ve learned that I want some of what Skyforge does, while loathing other aspects.
If you want more in-depth tales of my Ascension to Godhood in Skyforge, feel free to read our earlier Review in Progress articles (One, Two, and Three). This final review is going to be more of a summation than an in-depth look at all the game’s features. We feel you’ll get more value out of what we feel the game’s ups and downs are rather than reciting what’s available in the game.
Let me start with the frustrations I’ve been having.
I’m still going to play Skyforge, but much less going forward until certain things are changed, if ever. It may seem a small complaint, but as a working father, I can’t stand that Skyforge only gives me rewards and sparks if I finish a complete adventure or dungeon. I know, I’m lame, right? How dare I ask them to give me experience points while fighting through content, rather than just at the end. But that’s the rub: this is one in a long list of things Skyforge does different from all MMOs and RPGs that just didn’t need to happen.
Another issue like this that drives me up a wall is the many different variations of sparks and other currencies. It’s as though Obsidian and Allods were not watching the missteps of others games, rather intent on fixing things that aren’t broken to begin with. I can get behind sparks being the game’s nomenclature for “Experience”. But what I can’t stand is how certain activities give certain types, thereby forcing players to do content they don’t want to do to progress my class and character. And don’t even get me started on the overall convoluted nature of sparks, replicators, and all the other ridiculously obtuse currencies.
I also think it was a complete misstep to lock classes behind the Ascension Atlas (a sort of winding skill-tree for your character). It’s great to have something to work towards, but I think it’s an artificial sense of accomplishment to make players work towards a class they want to play. A solution would be allowing them to select from more than one of three classes to start with, maybe even letting the player select their starting three classes. But I highly doubt that’s going to change now. You can buy access to the Knight and the Alchemist by purchasing a Collector’s Edition digital upgrade, but that’s currently the only other way to unlock other classes unless you bought a founder’s pack. It’s a F2P game, so offering people the chance to pay to unlock individual classes seems like a no-brainer, and I suspect the option will be coming in due time.
Stats are another thing completely out of whack in Skyforge as of this writing (though next week’s patch hopefully will address some of them). Prestige is an overall summation of your character’s power, and stats you accrue via gear and ascension atlas upgrades feed into this. Might, which seems like an obvious stat to take for DPS classes, is pretty useless right now and all you really need to focus on is Strength, Luck, and Critical Chance. But the game basically feeds you “Green means numbers go up”, leading players to boost their Prestige level while basically hamstringing their character’s effectiveness. Couple this with the fact that you cannot trade at all in Skyforge, and if you want new gear to fix mistakes you’ve made you’re going to be doing a lot more grinding hoping for good drops.
It may seem like I’m out to get this game, but it’s precisely because I like Skyforge that I’m focusing on the negatives so much. So let’s get into what I do like.
Combat is fun, impactful, and each class has their own unique gimmick that makes them stand out. The story is actually pretty decent, if you can get past the bad voice acting, and the overall look and feel of the UI and in-game visuals are stunning. A designer once told me that if you can get combat and movement feeling good in your game, half of the battle to keep players playing is done. Skyforge does the combat and controls superbly. While I wish you could easily remap keys, the setup we’re given is comfortable and characters are responsive to commands. It’s quasi-action combat with soft-targeting may not be the skill-based action some are looking for, but it feels really good in practice and the skills and effects do an excellent job of highlighting that your character is indeed a burgeoning god.
Skyforge does an excellent job of making you feel powerful and giving achievement-based players plenty of things to work towards. It’s just a shame that this is all there is to it for now. Your followers and the Facebook-esque game of bossing them around is a useful distraction, but like so many other systems in Skyforge, it’s woefully under-explained. So whole the action is good, the systems in place compelling, the overall experience feels incredibly shallow and grindy. The best MMOs are good at hiding the repetition and grind. Skyforge needs to learn a few things from its older brothers in this area.
From the very beginning of the Open Beta and its early access period, I was hooked on Skyforge. But it fought back against me too often to stay for long. I’ll keep checking in, wishing and hoping some of my complaints go noticed. But really, I shouldn’t put too much stock in my own opinion. For all intents and purposes, judging by the amount of clicks Skyforge gets here on MMORPG, it seems to be doing just fine on its own. Obsidian and Allods Team’s new MMO is a bit like a struggling but gifted high schooler you want to see succeed. Because you see, Skyforge is easily the best new MMO in recent months, but that doesn’t make it special or give it a pass when it can be so much more.
GAMEPLAY: 6 – On one hand, the combat in Skyforge can be great. But on the other? You’ll repeat so many “adventures” and there’s so precious little else to do except grind prestige that the game quickly leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
VISUALS AND SOUND: 8 – Skyforge is a beautiful game. The characters themselves seem a little homogenized and bland, but the art direction of the world, the UI, and the overall sound are superb. Points off for the god-awful voice acting though.
POLISH: 7 – Apologists for Skyforge will use the open beta as a crutch, but the overall polish of Skyforge is lacking. Mainly, it’s just badly optimized. And while I’m sure it’s being worked on, the game is as good as launched and runs terrible on good hardware. Otherwise, I’ve had very few issues in the game.
LONGEVITY: 7 – There’s a lot to work towards in Skyforge with your god and the game’s current 13 classes to unlock. The problem is that beyond progressing your prestige level and working towards other classes, there’s just not a lot to do.
VALUE: 7 – The cash currency, Argents, are unobtrusive and you never feel pressured to spend money on them. But the simple fact is that players who are not on the premium subscription (optional) will progress painfully slow without the bonus to earning sparks. Skyforge is free, sure… but you’ll enjoy it more if you pay up.