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Fighting Is Allowed In This School
For those of you who have seen the 1999 movie Battle Royale, based on the Koushun Takami novel of the same name, you might find some close similarities to it and the school-fighting based MMO, Ran Online. Min Communication’s real-to-life beat-e’m-up MMO is no where near as violent as the movie and offers up far more guilt-free fun than the school-kid deathmatch movie.
The premise of the game is that the schools are being overrun with baddies, low-life scumbags and rival school mates. So it’s the objective of the player to join one of the three schools, and “cleanse" the environment of intruders, petty crooks and dejected pugilists. It’s one of the few MMORPGs out there where the story permeates the premise of the gameplay and it shines through nicely. However, despite the game’s original take on school-life and modern-day aesthetics, it suffers from a little too much grinding especially if there aren’t enough players around to party with.
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There’s no arguing that Ran Online is one of the most through-and-through, free-to-play MMORPG beat-e’m-up games available on the market. In fact, right after picking a school, a gender, choosing a class and a few other character features, players are thrust into the school yard just outside the main office where dirt-bags are walking around, just waiting to be pummeled into a pulp.
Speaking of pummeling…the game’s main gameplay device works on skill-combos and linked attacks. So every battle is a fast-paced brawl-fest where players are constantly switching skills and conveniently executing them with a simple click of the right mouse button. Players will spend plenty of time pounding the crap out of foes and when partied with other players, the scenario usually results in a gang of players and NPCs beating the mess out of each other.
The only minor drawback to the gameplay design is that since moving can only be done with the mouse it’s easy to misstep or inadvertently attack an enemy when trying to move to an area. Otherwise, the gameplay design in Ran is pretty darn good. It’s much faster than a game like Rohan: Blood Feud but not quite as paced or technical as Red Cliff Online.
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A modern-day, school-based MMORPG that focuses on fast-paced, arcade style fights with upgradable equipment and gang-based encounters sounds like an awesome experience on paper. The good part for Ran is that it’s also executed well in the actual game design, too. Much of the standard MMO entities are in place: timed cash shop items, pets, mounts, specialty weapons for each class, etc. What makes it work so well in Ran Online is that gamers who enjoy joining guilds/gangs/teams and beating the crap out of other gamers online can do so easily and it’s one of the main focal points in the game. Anyone who found themselves hating high-school for not being part of the cool-kid group can at least change that perception in this game.
One of the drawbacks in this area of the game is a lack of players at certain schools. The Phoenix school still has a disproportionate amount of players as opposed to the other two schools, which results in having less players to team with when not playing as a Phoenix student. Various incentives for the other two schools would have worked well for increasing the player base.
Another downside is the quest variety. While many of the quests revolve around beating X amount of baddies, the variety rarely ever switches up from that, making the experience somewhat dull several hours unless teamed with other players.
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Even though this game revolves around party-based mobbing and questing, as mentioned in the previous section, the problem is that players who start at Mystic Peak or Sacred Gate will have far less players to team with as opposed to Phoenix. Nevertheless, most players are willing to party with other players, much like Fallen Earth or 2029 Online, so long as they bring a willingness to beat down mobs and help the party out.
Another thing worth noting is that this game is mainly popular in Southeast Asia…so despite the server being made available to a global playerbase, there are mainly non-English speaking gamers populating the server(s). It’s one thing to keep in mind when playing this game, considering its strong popularity overseas.
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Graphics And Sound
When e-Games had the global publishing rights for Ran they had a nice little theme song for the game and some basketball-esque background music. Min Communications did away with the lighthearted musical themes present in the former version of Ran Online. Instead, the company has introduced a heavier, grunge theme to the soundtrack, representing more of a rebellious teenage attitude. It definitely works well and fits in perfectly with the whole school-angst that surrounds the game’s atmosphere.
Visually, the game is on par with what most gamers might expect from a several year old Southeast Asian title. In other words, the character designs look like a slightly better version of Gunz: The Duel or maybe the original version of Perfect World Online.
One thing that’s worth noting about the visuals in particular, though, is the architecture and atmospheric texture work. The artists did a phenomenal job making each school have its own engaging visual theme with a mix of light hints of Victorian and Roman-inspired aesthetics. The lighting and ambient sound is just about pitch-perfect for the game, as well.
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Ran Online doesn’t necessarily do a whole lot of new things in the genre but it makes sure that what it does bring to the table is quite enjoyable and fun. For gamers who prefer continuous battling and a lot of team-based PvP and PvE then Ran Online definitely delivers in that area. The mystery boxes that add random options to the play experience such as extra experience bonuses or maximum power gives the game a little bit of diversity to its incessant grinding.
Gamers who prefer a tightly-knit, quest-driven game definitely won't find it in Ran Online. This game is closer to the likes of Fly for Fun but with a greater focus on party oriented gameplay and player-versus-player encounters.
The extremely well designed environments and texture work also bring out and highlight the modern-day themes of the game. Added to this, the motivated soundtrack usually helps influence the action on-screen. Despite some of the language barriers by non-English speaking gamers, Ran Online is primarily an overall enjoyable MMORPG experience.