My First MMORPG: "Perfect World"
I've played a fair share of solo CRPG's, but I came across an MMORPG that seemed quite inviting and well-worth test-running. That MMORPG is called Perfect World, a new Chinese-mythology-themed MMORPG released by "Perfect World International," and is said by many to be quite competitive with, if not surpassing, other MMORPG's such as "World of Warcraft." On top of that, it's FREE to play; the service company makes its money by selling you bonus items and services (completely optional). Although it's genuinely free, "Perfect World" is a REAL, commercially-developed MMORPG; it's the real deal, and not just some freeware wannabe.
Here is a chronicle of my beginning journey, and since I've never played an MMORPG before, this is from the perspective of a complete MMO neophyte. I will try to be as brief as possible, so bear with me when I cut corners and such in the retelling.
Although the game is Asian-themed, the presentation is very Westernized. There's nothing here that would look out of place in a Western RPG. There's NO CUTESY anime stuff in this game at all. In fact, it all looks TOO Westernized; those who are looking for something radically different from the Tolkien-inspired fantasies might be disappointed. It's "World of Warcraft" with a slightly different skin, as far as I can tell. And that's not a bad thing, in my opinion....it's not too esoteric to the point of being unapproachable to Westerners, culturally. Really, it doesn't feel very "Chinese" at all to me, so don't be afraid to dive in.
A few things about PW that separates it from other MMORPG's:
1) At higher levels, your character can FLY!!! And that means the concept of "aerial battles" comes into play!
2) You can also acquire mounts, such as horses, dinosaurs, exotic creatures, and so forth, which allows you to travel faster. Although other MMO's have "mounts," in this one, some "mounts" can FLY! Again, aerial battles are possible (and likely)!
3) It's genuinely free-to-play. Although the company makes money selling you "bonus items," there appears to be little incentive for you to purchase them unless you're really hardcore. Even if you do buy a few items here and there, overall, it's still cheaper than a monthly subscription to another MMORPG. But for casual gamers, this is a real-deal MMORPG for free!
4) You can tweak your avatar's facial features more than any other game (!) I've ever played! Spend enough time, and you can probably make a near-exact clone of yourself!
5) Clans can battle in arenas for territories! Thus, there's an incentive for clans to recruit good players (like yourself!) to help them win territories! This seems like a good idea in that it promotes online comraderie, rather than bar players from snobbish clans.
6) While I can't compare it to other MMORPG's, since I haven't played them, the presentation here (graphics, audio, etc.) is very slick, gorgeous, and professional!
Perfect World: the Game
"Perfect World" is based on Chinese mythology, and is set in the fantasy world of "Pangu." Here's the "Cliff Notes" version: There are three "sentient" races for players to choose from: human, winged elves, and "untamed" (a half-human/half-beast hybrid). There is a background story-line here; basically, as far as I can tell, the "Perfect World" is threatened, not only by corruption, but by the undead "wraiths" and such, which you must battle. I know that my description is perfunctory, but check out the website for more background. Bottom line: there appears to be a "plot" to the game, which goes against what many have said is a weakness of MMORPG's: lack of plot.. The more "quests" you complete, the more plot is revealed to you.
Perfect World: The Installation:
With all the rigamarole, it took about 2+ hours to download the client, unpack the installation, download the "worlds," etc., on a high-speed connection. Approxamately 3 Gigs of storage on your hard drive is required. Once installed, the client downloads "updates" and whatnot, taking another 10 minutes or so.
There are rather limited race and character class options in this game, compared with just about any other CRPG. Races: you can be human, "winged elf," and "untamed" (a human/beast hybrid), each with specialized skills and adjustments. Each race offers male and female genders.
Character classes are fairly limited: each race essentially has two classes: variations on "warrior/archer" and "magic user/cleric." Hardcore D&D'ers might balk at such limited choices of race or class, but I found it really didn't matter much in the actual game. And there are no "alignments;" you are who you are in this game.
I chose a (boring, I know) human warrior, and named him "KodaiSamson." I wanted to name him "Kazuhiro Samson," but apparently that name was too long for the game to accept.
One aspect of the "Character Creation" process that was extremely impressive was the vast ability to create your character's physical appearance! I've never seen a game, MMO or otherwise, that allowed the gamer to tweak his avatar's facial appearance to this degree! There are so many tweaks and options that you can spend HOURS getting your avatar to look just right! You are encouraged in the game to create an avatar that looks as close to your "real life" appearance as possible, so that's what I did. While I didn't quite get my avatar looking like my exact duplicate, here's what I came up with after about a half-hour of tweaking:
(P.S. I'm better looking in real life than my avatar! I didn't spend enough time tweaking my facial appearance!)
Finally, joining the game:
After finally getting past the character creation, I managed to log into a server and was dumped into the "Perfect World." My very first view was of my character surrounded by what appeared to be giant enemy bugs and walking carnivorous plants. I clicked on the "fight" button, and my character started chopping away.... was I doing the right thing?
I saw many "players" running around doing the same thing, hacking away at the "enemy." It was at this point that I started to recollect "Unreal Tournament." All these players were running around, chopping away at anything that moves, seemingly oblivious to my presence. Seeing these other players running around was really the only clue I had that I was playing an MMORPG, and not a solo CRPG.
After a few minutes of "killing," I discovered an NPC "Guide" that gave me a mission: kill 10 "beetles" and present myself to a guard at "Everblade" castle. I did, easily, and was on my way.
Impressions from a newbie:
Other than the shape of some buildings (Eastern style), I see little here that would be out of place in a Western RPG. The striking thing about "Perfect World" is how "Western" it is, boding well for its success here in America. Part of that impression is the fact that other players are running around with names like "Hotbabe," "BeerSwiller," "SmokeBong," and whatever else. The overall ambience was not very "Asian." I know I keep stressing the lack of "Asian-ness," but I'm somewhat afraid that the "Chinese" motif might scare away potential Western gamers, so I want to reassure you that this game feels very "conventional" from a Western perspective.
The presentation is incredible. From the installation graphics on forth, it is clear that this is a big-league game!
Keep in mind that I've never played "World of Warcraft," so from my perspective the graphics in "Perfect World" are very impressive. Certainly not "Elder Scrolls: Oblivion" or "Gears of War 2," but definitely on par with the previous generation of videogames (i.e. Unreal II). In fact, it was the presentation that sold me on this game..... I was expecting a whole lot less than I got!
Sound and music are pleasant and perfunctory. The in-game music is mildly Eastern-themed, but not in an esoteric "Chinese restaurant music" way. It's pleasantly orchestral and unobtrusive. As for the sound FX, they seem rather limited to basic footsteps, sword chops, and so forth. I'd like to hear the monsters "roar," but as far as I can tell, the game's sound FX are rather spartan. Perhaps I haven't seen enough of the game to make a true judgement. (note: I did come across monsters that laughed at me!)
To be honest, from the moment I stepped in, I didn't feel the MMO compulsion. If it weren't for the fact that I saw a bunch of player characters doing their own thing, there was little to separate the MMO experience from the solo experience. Likewise, I did my own thing, completing missions and whatnot, without even attempting to chat with the other players in the realm, who seemed to be in their own little world. There was nothing stopping me from trying to start up a conversation with a random stranger, but everyone looked too busy running around killing creatures and moving about; I didn't want to impose on their fun.
On higher levels, I hear that you will be invited to join "clans," but from my perspective, nobody even noticed my weak self, and likewise, I didn't pay much attention to people roaming around me. I was just playing a high-quality single-player CRPG.
The only sense of "multiplayer" I got was when someone named "Samuraibabe" challenged me to a duel in the town of "Everblade." Since in PvE mode, there was nothing at stake (no permanent damage), I agreed to a duel. She proceeded to kick my butt in under a minute, and then moved on. Hey, that was kind of cool.... I need to meet up with this "Samuraibabe:....." :-)
Speaking of battles, apparently your participation is rather limited. You click on the "enemy," then you click the fight button, and your character starts attacking. I understand that this is very similar to how "World of Warcraft" handles battles, but after some hardcore "Baldur's Gate" battle-sessions, this seemed to be a letdown. Admittedly, I am only a newbie, so there's perhaps more to the battle system than there initially seems to be.
I'm having fun! I'm not having "multiplayer" fun yet, but the game is holding my interest, even as a single-player game. As my character "levels up," I expect to be solicited by the various clans, and perhaps I can make some online friends and really feel the grasp of the MMORPG genre.
Since I haven't dealt with the "chat" feature yet, I haven't made any online friends, and thus I haven't felt like I HAVE TO PLAY all day an night. My gaming sessions have been casual, played in one-hour bursts over the past few days. I'm doing my own thing for now, and I'm cool with that. I do need to explore the "chat" system, though.
I guess I'm highly recommending "Perfect World," but I'm hesitant to do so because I don't know what I'm comparing PW against. Is it really as good as World of Warcraft or countless other MMORPG's? I don't know. All I know is that, for a free game, it's definitely commercial-quality, and it's free to play, and the presentation is tremendous. If WoW or other MMoRPG's are this good, then I'm getting a good deal for free what you guys are paying a monthly fee for!
Here's the YouTube teaser trailer to whet your appetite:
And here's a link to the "Perfect World International" website:
Come join me in the fun!