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In The Land Of Martial Heroes
Gamigo Games’ latest upcoming free-to-play MMORPG, Martial Empires, could be classified as a new generation title given some of its snazzy engine functionality. The game carries all the fanciful graphics and high-end visual effects we’ve come to enjoy and go gaga over when viewing the latest triple-A title. And while this isn’t an actual review, I can briefly describe what gamers can expect from this game and whether or not it’s something you should hold your breath for when the time comes for it to go open beta.
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Story? Gamers Don't Care About Story
It’s very rare to boot up an MMO because it tells a fascinating story or actually involves character development. Well, Final Fantasy XI and Red Cliff (or soon to be re-released as Heroes of the Three Kingdoms), actually tells an interesting historical story while maintaining serious character development, but it’s not like most MMOs are keen on keeping player interest with an actual plot. Martial Empires tries to take things a step further than the standard MMO maxim that includes getting as strong as possible and beating the crap out of other players, by actually including a story-oriented intro cinematic sequence.
I’m not going to try to butcher the somewhat convoluted story by re-telling it word for word, but the general gist is that the land is torn apart from constant war and an overseer gives his daughters up as spiritual guardians of the land by having martial guardians journey with him to help establish security for the land. Generations later and it’s the player’s turn to take on the role of a guardian and seek to maintain peace among the warring factions. It’s far more complicated than that but the beginning of the game doesn’t delve too much into the intricacies of story progression.
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Creating A Martial Hero
The create-a-character in Martial Empires isn’t wow-worthy like the highly detailed create-a-character in Perfect World Entertainments’ Perfect World MMORPG, but it combines some interesting options such as modifying a character’s height, head size, arm length, arm size and leg structure. This means that a lot of players actually don’t physically look alike despite some of the limited face and hair options present.
Nevertheless, no matter what options players choose for their character the animations for the design is what’s most impressive in Martial Heroes because the toons each react and respond quite fluently in the actual game, no matter what their physical proportions are.
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Martial Empires Archtypes And Classes
The game doesn’t just let players create a new hero and toss them out into the game world to just “do their thing”. There’s actually some small story-related attachments to the character archetypes offered in the game. Now, there are three main classes and three sub-weapons per class. Players can either be a warrior, a scout or a mage. And gamers who aren’t entirely keen on wielding staffs as a magic caster or getting stuck with a bow as a scout...can actually choose between one of three weapons for the character during the creation process. It’s a slightly different take on the typical character-creation measure but it will be interesting to see how it affects players at higher levels in the final game.
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An MMORPG is usually cornerstoned based on its combat functionality and how well players can adapt or utilize it in a fluent or fun way. So what makes the combat unique in Martial Empires? Well, at the start of the game most of it seems to be like the standard MMO. After level 20, though, the combat supposedly picks up as players will battle multiple opponents at once and dispense skills on bad guys like a top notch kung-fu master from a 1970’s popcorn martial arts flick. However, the standard format is the same as other MMORPGs, insofar that players will click on a monster and watch their avatar handle the rest, quite similar to ROHAN or 2029 Online. The skill system is also of the standard kind, featuring optional abilities and attacks that fall right onto the quick-key menu bar.
One of the few key things that does affect the combat differently from other MMOs is that there is a rage meter that builds up after successfully downing an opponent. After it completely charges up players can then unleash fury attacks that constantly build up the combo meter and deals extra damage. Speaking of combos, there’s a meter that counts successive combos performed, which adds bonus experience the higher the combos get. That’s actually one of the coolest combat features added to an MMORPG given that at higher levels players can rack up major bonus experience laying down some intense, triple-digit combos.
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Nuances Of Innovation
Where Martial Heroes really seems to shine is in its minor nuances of innovation. The game sports a few new features for the MMORPG crowd that enhances the overall gameplay and adventuring experience. Now the combat maybe passé, and I’m not sure if it will see much of any improvement by the time the game heads into open-beta, but one of the real highlights is a jackpot meter that fills up based on player experience and combat fatigue. When the jackpot is full players can pull the lever and choose what items they wish to try to earn in a gamble. It’s kind of cool because players can choose from a rare item, extra gold or additional experience points, and there’s nothing wrong with those options.
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Seals And Cut-Scenes
One other major factor in the play experience are the Seals. Players can open up a book that contains Seals, which can be unlocked and added to a player skill-tree. The unsealed pages unlock a wide range of abilities, including additional movement speed, extra HP, faster MP recharge, a teleportation option, additional bonus per kill, etc,. etc. The list goes on and on and it’s actually a cool feature that helps give players an edge in combat and exploration. Added to this, players can combine and mix Seals to unlock or increase the potential of new abilities, which can make or break the play experience depending on what the ability is. As players get stronger and unlock new pages the feature becomes more relevant and adds a commendable amount of intrigue to the overall presentation of the character development process.
Another neat yet subtle addition to the game are the in-engine cut-scenes similar to Mabinogi, which play out during certain quests. I thought these were handled quite well, but do take note that a high-end PC is required to get the most effective aesthetic effect from the mini-cutscenes, otherwise the textures or models may not load on time and players could miss out on the artistic display the scenes try to convey.
Martial Empires is set to head into open beta before 2010 is out. For more information be sure to visit the Official Website.
Upcoming MMORPGs for those who like something a little different out of their experience.