Even Gods have to work for a living. Welcome to Skyforge, created by Allods Team (known for their previous title Allods Online), in collaboration with Obsidian Entertainment. This Free-to-Play MMORPG has been in development since 2010 with its first open beta in July of 2015 and its full release to become available on 29th November 2107, with early access available to those who buy founders packs.
You play as a recently awoken Immortal, tasked with protecting your world of Aelion, from the ever-encroaching forces of other worlds who seek to steal the magical and technical powers from your people and reduce your world to ruin.
The Story and Character Creation
Aeli, the Greater Guardian God of Aelion, has disappeared but has left behind remnants of his power within the people. You are a foot soldier who, in defence of a town, died only to have your Immortal power awoken. Guided by lesser Gods and other Immortals you must defend your world from the hostile invasion of other Gods and their minions whilst improving your abilities, so that one day you may approach godhood and maybe take over the mantle of Aeli in protecting your world. Aelion is a futuristic world which mixes magic with technology. With the magical powers of the Immortals and Gods and the mastery of science you are well equipped to increase your might in defence of your world, and gather more followers.
For an MMORPG that appears on multiple platforms, the plot is a rather intriguing one and it has the promise of further and further expansions in the future with the possible introductions of new enemies and areas to explore. Whilst the premise is a rather serious one with many people dying in the war, the carnage is never fully explored so although it has a dark undertone the story can be followed and played by a younger or more sensitive audience.
With most games in this genre, you create the main character. You design them from the ground up, their gender, their appearance and even give them a backstory if you wish. The character creator is well done, and you have a lot of customisation options with your character and just enough sliders so that it doesn’t feel daunting, but enough to create a character who will be spotted in a crowd. Unfortunately, you may never see their face as accessories and clothes tend to obscure facial features and distinguishing marks. Introductory accessories and clothes style options are lacking although you can unlock more by playing certain missions or completing certain quests.
An issue with some cutscenes in the story is that they can ignore your characters gender, my female character was referred to as “him”, and they don’t quite get the camera angles right as for one cutscene which was meant to show the characters face ended up staring at her chest because she was too tall.
The sound has a rather Halo-esque feel to it with dramatic orchestral pieces being played in the background during loading screens and when you are idling. However, most of the music is obscured during gameplay by the action and combat sound effects, although when you do pause long enough to listen to it, each piece provides an atmospheric boost to the particular area you are in; from a dark moody piece in a dim lit backstreet area, to an eerie piece in the ruins of a temple. The Battle music is also downplayed when in combat in favour of letting the combat sound effects have more punch, and it works, as each hit and ability sounds extra juicy when it connects. The problem occurs with the voices; each conversation with NPCs (the character themselves are silent) sounds as though they speak every line with the minimum amount of emotion required. This isn’t universal but there are sections where someone sounds as if they are proof reading a shopping list, and occasionally exhaling for dramatic effect. However, this is an MMORPG and from my experience some poor voice acting is better than none at all. Some of the subtitles in the intro cutscenes also vary quite badly from the actual voice over and the lip sync doesn’t always match the character models.
Don’t expect to see super high levels of detail in Skyforge, due to its MMORPG nature, but do expect some pretty and visually interesting areas. Skyforge has a very clean and smooth aesthetic, very much in keeping with its futuristic, sci-fi, mystical world setting. Everything is crisp and clean, there aren’t dirt textures or individual leaves and similar objects have a uniform texture, and a smoothness to them.
The majority of the detail is seen on player character models with wires and circuits and cloth hanging down and the famous “ahem” boob jiggle physics that is now common place in modern gaming. This means that there can be large areas with a lot of people in them but very little graphically heavy strain on the servers and on your system.
Even with the toned-down textures the actual model detail is quite high, and the effort put into the lighting and particle effects makes up for the lack of surface detail with every area getting a heavy dose of atmosphere. God rays are one of the most potent effects and others like the shafts of light and glows from sparks that temporary illuminate their immediate surrounding adding a subtle depth to the area. The graphical focus however is always on the player character models and some of the boss enemy models. This concentrates your attention on your character’s story and actions rather than gawking at the area you are in.
Even the enemy character models are interesting with visually distinct enemies and the way they affect the environment around you. Virds and Carrion burrow, whilst the insect invaders lay eggs everywhere and turn civilians into pawns.
Now to the meat of Skyforge; it has an almost Destiny like layout to the whole MMO section, with a vast single player “tutorial” that stretches over multiple regions and multiple areas. Its aim as far as I can determine is to get all the players up to a similar level before starting on the competitive or cooperative play. This is a nice touch and your progress is limited whilst still playing the tutorial missions because you need more regions liberated to get enough resources to level up your power and it means that at the end of it (which I haven’t finished yet) you will be at a similar level to all the other recent graduates and won’t feel underpowered going into the PVP arenas or PVE missions.
The layout of the world is in multiple exclusive areas which you travel to through a travel menu. This can be to linear single player mission based areas within a region or large open areas with multiple players completing mob killing missions or to special PVP or horde missions which have their own special tab.
This layout whilst initially confusing is easier to use as you become accustomed to the game and its attempt to guide your progression.
The actual gameplay itself is where the problems come in. For a start I don’t think the servers are that well optimised at the moment as, while lag isn’t frequent, it can take a while for the game to catch up to your actions. Enemies hanging around too long after their health bars have reached zero, and their animations aren’t always in sync with their attacks. Another issue is that the game has a very hack and slash, action RPG feel to it. One button does the main attack whilst another does a secondary crowd attack or special ability. The melee weapons and ranged weapons share different buttons giving the game a cross between hack and slash and third person shooter depending on your preferred style of play. Lock on, which must be engaged before you can initiate many attacks and abilities, needs to be sharp and easy to use, but it isn’t. Sometimes an enemy spawns and the lock on isn’t quick enough to latch onto it, meaning, that for a few seconds you are standing, surrounded by enemies, and furiously trying to attack them without much success. Also, the free aim lock on will occasionally stick to a certain enemy, who is usually behind the camera, when you are trying to focus on another; usually the one the camera is aimed at. Melee enemies sometimes have an attack range well beyond their actual model’s reach, and there are problems with trying to work out the right control combinations to unleash attacks that have finally cooled down as depending on your class some controls can be confusing. This means that the gameplay feels clunky and sometimes slow and puts a damper on your gaming experience.
The interface also has issues; it’s rather overwhelming and cluttered, with lots of data crowding the screen, including button prompts, mission objectives which can accumulate so much in certain areas that they aren’t all visible, and a lot of on screen waypoints that often distract you from the actual gameplay. Also, some level designs need further work as I have become stuck behind little rocks less than ankle high which my character can’t get over.
The character progression is rather fixed, but classes can be changed at will; so, killing a certain number of enemies with a certain class unlocks a fixed ability or passive ability, which is either for use in PVE or PVP situations as they have some mutually exclusive skills. Once you have unlocked all that classes skills and completed their temples quest you receive a new set of clothing, but continuing to use that character no longer gives you anymore skills or progression. This encourages you to learn to use the other classes; meaning that by the end of a certain period you can swap between your unlocked classes depending on the role you are playing or who you are better with. Unlocking other classes is earned playing the game with a currency obtainable only through playtime and missions as far as I am aware. This means that the more you play the more variety you have and the more adaptable you can be.
Being Free-to-Play the developers have to make up their money somewhere. As a reviewer I received their Gold Founders pack which is worth £54.99, which includes early access to two in game classes, the Gunner and the Berserker, a free in game mount and large amount of their purchasable currency (Argents) and a few days of premium subscription. So far, I haven’t had to use any Argents at all, as the only things that they can be spent on are mainly cosmetics, such as costumes and mounts, consumables for use in battles (probably more useful in PVP) and the premium subscription service. The premium subscription doesn’t infer any direct advantage in terms of a pay-to-win scenario but what it does do is increase the amount of resources dropped by missions and enemies and increase the rarity chance in certain mission drops, and the like. Consequently, it reduces the amount of time needed to play to gain resources which, whilst advantageous, doesn’t make you more powerful, nor does it give you any significant advantage over other players.
In general, I’m not a fan of any microtransactions, but the way that Skyforge has been set up does mean that it isn’t a pay-to-win scenario and they don’t try to coerce or force you into buying any Argents to progress in the game. It’s the softer approach to microtransactions, with some advantages but none that compromise the competitive actions within the game.
Overall, Skyforge looks set to be a great MMORPG and see a long life with a lot of updates and expansions. Its unique style and setting makes it a visually interesting game and its initial story guided gameplay means that replayability and progression are through the roof, and with lots more to unlock for those with the time to put in. However, gameplay issues and bugs plague it, but if those can be fixed or improved then it will come out a shining star.
- The first enemy you face are rat men. How original, well at least they aren’t just rats.
- Initially making a short fat dwarf in the character creator but realising that he looked ridiculous!
With a chance to improve once issues and bugs are fixed and interface streamlined.