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To Valhalla And Beyond
GameKiss’ new MMO is the mixed RPG, up-scrolling arcade action title, Valkyrie Sky. It’s unlike any of the other MMOs out there and right from the start promises something new and different. And while I love a good game that does something that strays from the rest of the herd, it’s tough to praise and compliment the effort when it suffers from a lot of the flaws that prevent it from being an enjoyable or understandably fun experience. In this way, I have to confess that Valkyrie Sky, while unique from every other MMO out there, falters into a pit of redundancy and staleness that ultimately infects the entire gameplay, thoroughly.
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There’s no knocking the concept behind this game: being able to freely fly around, interacting with players like any other MMORPG yet being able to partake in instanced, progressive stages where up to four players can party and loot while dispatching hordes of baddies is an awesome idea. The gameplay concept is solid enough, as players use the mouse to move the character around on screen and the left and right mouse buttons to attack. The keyboard, just like any other MMO, can be used to employ various upgradable skills. As I mentioned, it has everything a standard MMO has yet with the added free-moving functionality of an early 90’s arcade shooter.
Now, the gameplay concept is awesome and its execution is handled with precise care by Yolim Communications. However, it seems like the gameplay and Celtic mythology of flying around as a warrior of Valhalla was as far as it went on the design front. When it came to character customization and diversity, the game lacks greatly. In fact, players can choose from four main classes and four sub-classes within those main classes. That may seem like a lot, but the problem is that a character’s race, gender, and entire look is attached to a class. This means that there are tons of clones and many of them are fighters given that they’re the only class that can fight manually and use swords to block attacks. This means that players will encounter a heck of a lot of red-headed avatars in the game world.
Still, given the limited created customization the gameplay concept alone is still a praiseworthy addition to this unique new title.
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There are two modes of gameplay in Valkryie Sky; there’s the walking around parts, the interacting, crafting, fishing and exploration segments, and then there’s the instanced area battlegrounds where up to four party members can venture through a level to earn experience, loot and acquire quest items. Given that the actual grinding segments are separated into instanced areas, it means a lot of players will come and go without making any interaction at all unless players make it a habit of seeking out a party.
Controlling the Valkryies and moving about is pretty easy, though, especially given that the in-game areas move at arcade speeds. I was surprised at how well the game can be played using a mouse, and how easily responsive it is. One of the other highlights of the gameplay is that each class has their own control techniques and special attacks that vastly differ from one another. Each class utilizes a different requirement for fighting bad guys, which adds a nice feeling of diversity to the overall play. Again, my biggest complaint is the lack of character customization, given that if you’re not fond of playing an orange wolf dude, you don’t have much choice if you want to be an archer.
For the most part, anyone who enjoys the vertical-scrolling arcade genre would probably get a blast out of the gameplay featured in Valkryie Sky simply because it is executed to near perfection. The skill-ranking and power-ups also add a nice touch to the overall depth of the gameplay.
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The problem with an MMO that relies on instanced areas and arcade gameplay mechanics is that there’s this awful feeling of repetition that eventually imbeds itself into the core play experience. While it may be fun downing hordes of enemies with classic arcade-style music and a lot of flashing and spinning maneuvers taking place on screen, I found that the stage progression and limited questing for lower levels hindered the game from seeming fresh after a few hours. It was odd but it felt like it was just another grind-heavy MMO, similar to the likes of Rohan: Blood Feud or Fly for Fun.
Players level 10 and below will basically find themselves stuck doing many of the same stages over, and over, and over again. Due to the low experience rates and the requirement to yield one’s time to mammoth amounts of level grinding, many casual gamers might find themselves being turned off with Valkyrie Sky after a while.
Repeating the same old stages multiple times over wouldn’t have been so bad if, maybe, there were more quests available to make it seem like the grinding wasn’t so forceful. However, due to the lack of a fleshed out questing system and the lack of a lot of items to loot, makes Valkyrie Sky feel really unpolished in the area of replay and it ultimately hinders the game’s aim for greatness.
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It’s tough to criticize a feature that works but works inconsistently. When you need a party member to participate in a low-level stage or to fight a boss, there is usually a person or two hanging around at the hub that leads to the instanced levels. However, for some of the harder levels where players aren’t quite strong enough to brave the level on their own but too low to party with high levels, the problem arises in finding a party that suits the just-in-between leveling complex. Now, thankfully there’s a party hub at the starting town so players can seek out other players around their level, which works conveniently enough…assuming they’re not already busy doing something else. I suppose the biggest problem is that the way the game is designed it just doesn’t make partying seem necessary given that the more the players the harder the levels become, and in turn, the longer it takes to complete a stage. Nevertheless, if you have friends who enjoy these kind of games the partying can be quite fun.
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I can readily say that the game is very original, unique and different from other MMOs out there. However, it’s not an MMO for everyone. The repetition factor for doing the same stages over one too many times will grate on the nerves of gamers who aren’t die-hard Macross or Sin & Punishment fans. In result, only arcade gamers who want more depth and role-playing qualities out of their vertical-scrolling action games will find solace in Valkyrie Sky. The truly limited character creation process and high clone factors will easily turn-off gamers who prefer a little diversity in their avatars and the completely mundane visuals won't find high appeal among gamers who enjoy eye-candy out of their MMORPGs. Not that the graphics matter much, anyway, given that most of the time the camera is far too zoomed out to make out most of the characters.
Maybe with a few more updates and the ability to pick a race, gender and sub-class separately could make the game more appealing to a broader audience. Until that happens, Valkyrie Sky is purely a niche title for MMO gamers looking for more arcade action out of their online experience.