Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Byte: Rising Force

Not feeling so well today - the bronchitis I've had for the last week is steadfastly refusing to just fuck off and die - so as a consequence I spent most of yesterday in bed. Perhaps it wasn't such a good idea to "have a nap" because I was feeling ropy after dropping Fleur off to school after all...

One thing that cheered me up yesterday, though, was getting a DVD packed with RF Online Beta code. This makes it the second MMORPG Beta I've wangled a place on this year, the first, of course, being World of Wheelcraft. Sorry, Auto Assault. The good thing is that RF Online is only a couple of weeks from release now, well into the second stage Beta, so they should have gotten rid of most of the bugs by now, giving me much more of an idea of what the finished product will be like.

RF Online, if you haven't seen much about it yet, is a Final Fantasy-style, MMOG, with lashings of sci-fi and fantasy themes, and like Auto Assault, is set around an epic struggle for dominance between three factions: the Cora, the Bellato (cue millions of "Bellato sucks!" jokes) and the Accretians; the sexy fantasy ones with the skimpy knickers, the butch ones with mech-tastic penile enhancing war machines, and the ruthless robotic terminator-a-likes, respectively.

Having played both RF Online and Auto Assault now, the jury's out as to which one will get my MMOG subscription this year. RF Online is nicely polished and has an innovative way of assigning quests (they're automatically given to you as you level - none of this seeking out quest-givers lark) and you can level nice and quickly (I got up to Level 9 in an evening's play), but the quests themselves lack imagination and the game seems based almost exclusively around grinding. The world is vibrant and the enemy design is quite good, but there are a couple of interface issues, particularly a needlessly obscure way of showing the level of mobs. Why can't they just use numbers? It would have saved me half a dozen respawns last night... The PvP (or RvR - Race vs Race, as they call it in the manual) combat element may spice things up a bit, but I can't see it truly rivalling World of Warcraft.

Auto Assault, on the other hand, is just that little bit different. The GTA-esque freedom, the much faster-paced, more involving combat and sprawling scale make the grinding element much more palatable, and not all the quests are of the "destroy 20 generic enemy of this level" variety. It still has a veritable mountain of bugs to be squashed, and is a far more raw around the edges than WoW or RF Online, but also has the three faction PvP dynamic, which should promise to make things interesting in the long term.

They're both good in their own particular way (if I were to be thoroughly disreputable and review the Beta code, I'd place them both around the 8/10 mark - but I don't review Beta code, so forget I said that), and I'd have to reserve judgment until I've played both final products, but instinctively, I'm leaning towards Auto Assault. I just wish they'd leave their Beta servers open longer...
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