by Ingvi Snædal
previewed on PC
A Welcome surprise
I would like to consider myself a non-recreational gamer and it is relatively rare that I get surprised by a game. Fantasy Earth Zero however, managed not only to surprise me in a very refreshing way but reintroduced me to what games are supposed to be; pure unadulterated fun.
The game is set in the land of Melpharia which consists of 7 islands ruled by 5 kingdoms, all hell-bent on dominating one another. The Kings and Queens who rule each nation are well designed and vivid characters, each with strong and interesting personalities which come to play in various aspects during gameplay. There is nothing new about the character creation process or the classes you can choose from, but what is in my opinion revolutionary about this game is the Player vs. Player action.
The quests and tasks you do during the first few levels all serve to teach you how to play the game, how your newfound abilities work, and not to mention help you amass a sizable sum of gold to spend on items and equipment. The first few levels go by quickly and you will soon find yourself exactly where you want to be. Standing outside your fortress on a hilltop overlooking a battlefield where a battle rages on between 50 enemies and 49 of your allies. Once you snap out of it and realize that your team is one man short with you dillydallying on a hilltop, admiring the scenery, you run down to the field and join the fight.
On first glance the fights look like your standard PvP “my weapon is better than your weapon so I win” type of fight but there is so much more than that. You can easily switch between controlling the camera with a centred crosshair and a free roaming cursor with a simple touch of the Alt key. Your abilities are easily and comfortably switched between with either the 1-0 keys or the scroll wheel on your mouse. The scroll wheel feature is especially comfortable when you are in the heat of battle and need to quickly access a more powerful attack to finish of a stubborn enemy. Just scroll down until the desired ability is selected and blast it to him with a snap of the mouse.
Strategy is Key
Every fight takes place in a map with two forts, yours and the enemies, in opposite corners of the map. Scattered around the map are giant crystals that serve as your source of energy. You kneel down at the crystals to harness their power as your own, so the PvP wars tend to start very slowly with both teams huddled around the first crystal they can find. The action quickly turns around though, as the crystals can be used to construct buildings and summon monsters.
Buildings consist of everything from obelisks, which mark the land in a certain radius around it as your team’s territory, to Arrow Towers, which basically do exactly what you would expect; they stand there menacingly until an enemy stumbles to close and then release a flurry of arrows upon the sorry sod. The same crystals can later be used to summon monsters including Wraiths, Knights, Giants, Chimeras and Dragons, all of which have their strengths and weaknesses. The Wraith, for example, is strong versus players but weak versus enemy Knights. The Knight is strong versus the Wraith but relatively weak versus other players. The most interesting thing about the summons in my opinion is that you are not simply summoning a non-player character monster to help your team out in the heat of battle, you are the monster. Walking around as a Giant with an ugly grin, carrying 2 cannons on your back and looking down on all the small, puny players trembling in fear of you is just a little too satisfying.
When playing it for the first time, most players will inadvertently play it like a 3rd person shooter, totally neglecting the whole strategy element of the game. I know I did. I got lost in the excitement of slaying my mortal enemies and realized much too late that they had built all sorts of defensive buildings on the battlefield around me, right under my nose, and I had been too immersed in the battle to notice a thing. The King is a feature that is very helpful to newcomers and the developers have done a bang-up job on the voice acting. During the course of a battle, the King will give you advice, updates on the battle, tell you if you are doing well, and remind you to keep the important strategy elements in mind.
The Best Things in Life are Free
All in all I think this game will be a welcome addition to the world of MMORPGs. A world that is densely populated by games that all appear to be mimicking one another’s gameplay and haven’t brought anything new to the table since World of Warcraft implemented the PvP battlegrounds, which wasn’t even original back then. Fantasy Earth Zero spices up that PvP format by implementing a thoroughly enjoyable Battlezone 2-esque strategy element. This means that the battles are no longer dominated by the highest levelled individual with the best set of armour and weapons, but will always be ruled by the most organized team. This game has, however, been played in Asia for over 4 years and the graphics are not up to date. But that is something that doesn’t bother me; the gameplay is just too enjoyable. Enjoying a solid 300.000+ active players in Asia, North American JRPG fans are sure to flock towards this game when it finally opens its doors to them this year. Why not give it a try? After all, it is free.