There's a whole stewing pot of mediocre, generic,
cookie-cutter MMO's out there in the online world these days, and after a
while they seem to blend into one another. It is very rare that I get
the chance to participate in a CBT for an MMO that shows some true
promise and truly has me glued to the screen beyond the point of
submitting my review. I am lucky enough to have come across Soul
Master, a new take on the MMORTS genre developed by NPluto
and published by Games Campus.
A Day in the Life of a Soul Linker
Nobody knows for certain how it was first discovered,
but its immense power and endless potential were enough to destroy the
greatest empire of the Bunden continent: Elamond. The Magic was a gift
and a curse for the Empire that first experienced its effects. With its
populace split between fear of the unknown and a hunger for power, the
Great War that soon followed was swift and terrible. The conservative
citizens that distrusted the corrupting influence of Magic were forced
from their homes in an exodus across the continent, and eventually found
refuge to the north. The revolutionists that had embraced the darker
nature of Magic and brutally toppled the Elamond government entered into
an age of obsessive, uninterrupted mystic study.
Decades passed, and the exiled conservatives struggled
to establish a culture with powerful technologies of their own. After
uniting the various factions among themselves over the intervening
years, a new nation was born out of the distrust of Magic that had been
passed down over generations. The "Valiant" Empire that emerged was soon
well known for their advanced steam punk technologies and mastery over
machines. The revolutionaries of the former Elamond Empire had since
created their own nation state, one self-indulgently known as the "Holy"
Empire. By combining the primeval forces of light, darkness, ocean, and
sky they had perfected the use of Magic to both an art form and a
terrifying weapon. The Holy Empire soon became the most unstoppable
force on the continent, with the Valiant Empire keeping an ever wary eye
from the north.
The character creation system
, as with
any CBT, is very basic at this point in time. There are 3 factions to
choose from, Valiant, Harmony and Holy. Each faction currently has one
class to choose from. There is the ever present Fighter (Warrior), the
fresh take on the rogue class known as Bearcat and another familiar face
Customization so far only consists of changing hair
colour and choosing between 5 different tops and bottoms for your
clothing. The character creation system at this point is probably the
weakest point in the CBT, but nevertheless it's not truly an important
factor here, we are interested in the gameplay.
Once a character has been created the player starts out
in an instance, the tutorial that you will run through to learn the
ropes for playing Soul Master. There is also a small part to play in
the story here, introducing the player to the world within which they
are about to embark on a great adventure. The keys are rather simple,
WASD to move, left and right click are attack / spell casting and a few
various keys on the keyboard used for the RTS functionality. Luckily for
you impatient players, and those creating multiple characters, the
tutorial instance can be skipped and the player sent straight into the
heart of the game, the Noob City Eindrif, where you will spend your time
playing until level 10.
When you first enter Eindrif you will be greeted by
Caretaker Clare who will be sending you on your first few quests. The
quest system is pretty stock standard, exclamation mark means new quest,
question mark means you have one to hand in. The quests aren't exactly
story filled or over the top, for now they are just something along the
lines of "Hey I need some leather, go grab it for me?" of course, they
elaborate more than that but you get my point.
While the quest givers might have the enthusiasm of a
suicidal tween, the missions you partake in are a lot more exciting.
Each city has an NPC who helps teleport you to zones in which you can
complete missions, each zone is a different instance and feels very much
like a "level" within a single player title. Each zone has a level
requirement to begin with and a set amount of players that may
participate. An interesting take on this system is how it is presented.
Each zone is a book, with three chapters. Each chapter is a difficulty
(Easy, Medium, Hard) and one chapter can only be unlocked when the
previous chapter is completed. With each new chapter comes better
rewards and more XP.
Different missions range from your usual hack and slash
towards the end of the level, escort missions, defense missions and even
PvP missions against NPC's. The dueling missions are the most
enjoyable, the mission is set up exactly the same as a PvP scenario but
you are playing against an NPC instead of a real player, repeating these
missions is a great way to prepare yourself for whats to come in the
Battle Lobby. All-in-All the missions system is rather simple but has
done something about the mundane chore of questing and has given new
hope to making questing an enjoyable experience. I'm sure everyone will
have as much fun soloing all the books as I did, people find it a little
unbelievable when you solo chapter 3 of every book, as some people are
having trouble even with Book 1: Chapter 1!
A lot of players at this point are probably still
wondering how this title is an MMORTS
, and with good
reason as Soul Master is a blend of your traditional MMO with
an RTS functionality thrown into the mix. PvP and some missions are
where the true RTS gameplay stands out, players have a base and must
construct certain buildings in order to create units and buy upgrades
for units (such as attack/defense increase). The base building is pretty
limited, your buildings are constructed in predetermined spots within a
set area, but the true focus is on unit control.
All the stock-standard controls
there, from calling your units to you, sending them to a particular spot
and commanding them to attack. This all adds the fun factor to Soul
Master as this is truly a unique take on PvP and Questing. I have no
encountered another MMO that has done such a good job on combining MMO's
and RTS together, other efforts I have played have turned out
miserably. While I am open to suggestion, as I am sure there are MMORTS
games out there that I haven't played, but so far this takes the crown
in my books as the king of MMORTS.
PvP takes place in the battle lobby which can be entered
upon reaching level 5 or after finishing a particular quest (your first
duel). There are currently two game modes, Free For All and Team Play.
These game modes play out as you might expect, FFA is a 6 player game
mode where everyone goes on an every man for himself killing spree while
Team Play pits players against each other in a 3v3 brawl. The matches
are started in a lobby, which players can create or join rooms, players
wait in a little room where they can equip items and prepare for the
match ahead. You don't have to wait for a full room either, players can
start 1v1 FFA matches or 2v2 team play matches, this will help for guild
fights and setting up pre-organized PvP matches between other PvP
A nifty feature within the PvP system is the ability to
save replays of the matches you take part in, every match can be saved
and rewatched through the battle lobby. Here is a video of one of my
replays from a FFA match I won.In Conclusion
The beta is set to run for a few weeks with a level cap
of 30, the GM's so far have been very persistent with participating and
playing amongst the general beta population, so it has created a nice
environment to be a part of. The game has a lot of promise and the
gameplay has truly been fun and something unique from the MMORTS Genre.
Games Campus and NPluto have truly brought something valuable to the
table, and it is sure to be a hit when it reaches full release. For now I
will keep participating in the Beta, and I hope to see you all in there
in the future! Vist the website now http://soulmaster.gamescampus.com
for more information and to keep up to date with future opportunities
for beta gameplay, and full release information!