Saturday, July 14, 2012

Continent of Strife - Continent of the Ninth Seal Review

   Continent of the Ninth Seal, or C9, is an action RPG created and hosted by Webzen, a Korean company, and just recently seeing it's full release. The game features nice graphics, amazing action gameplay, and many different styles of play to fit almost any player. There are four different classes at present (Hunter, Fighter, Shaman, and Witchblade), each with three subclasses (2 for Witchblade) that define your fighting style. Not only that, but the game comes with a little social network thing that latches onto the side of your screen to let you post your actions to Twitter and Facebook.
Currently: Looking at cool visuals!
   The game even has in-game video recording software. At this point, some may wonder "is there anything this game doesn't have?!" Well, we'll get to that in a bit. First...
   Non-Player Characters (NPCs): Not Bad
   The developers of C9 put respectable work into making the player interested in the story, though the actual story is a bit lackluster. The way story goes, there was a man named Nefer who lead the Rondat Empire before it got destroyed by the current king of the land, Acheron (if I have this right). Nefer was overcome by grief and became a dark lord, uniting monsters n' such to destroy the kingdom and all of the innocent civilians within. You... are just some person who came out of the blue. You must defend the kingdom from destruction, even though there are many stronger characters who could have easily done the job. In short, it's a generic good vs. evil story.
   The reason I put this in the good section is because of the NPCs in the towns. Instead of just saying the same things over and over again, they will address you by name and talk about things that are relevant to your current situation. For example, they'll mention story-relevant achievements ("Is it true you're the one that led the attack on Varuka Fortress?"), or items in your inventory ("I see you have a crystal! Why not exchange it for one of these?"). It' s all text bubbles, but it's pretty cool to read and adds a lot to the game's immersion.

   Tutorial: Informative
   This game's tutorial is integrated into the gameplay. It includes quests that give you basic introductions into some of the combos you are capable of, along with a special "see your future" section. This gives you a preview of the different subclasses for the class you chose, detailing their fighting style, giving some backstory, and showing a couple of their moves. It also let's you see the fighting stance of each subclass, which is a nice extra detail. You will also be given periodic class tests that you are required to pass to upgrade your class, meant to test how you're advancing. You don't pick your subclass until level 20, so you have a lot of time to get situated.

   Action: Actiony!
   All fighting portions of the game are restricted to instances, where you can bring up to 3 friends and fight together. Regardless of your class and skill set, learning how to execute flowing combos is a large part of the game. With enough practice, you'll be chaining together insanely long combos using almost every skill in the book, complete with throws, slams, and lots of air juggling. To combat this, the dungeons feature large masses of enemies, making up for their bad AI and slow attack speeds with sheer numbers.
Heh, you may think you have me surrounded, but little do you know...
   The player character is a little overpowered in dungeons. The game has four different difficulty levels. Normal, Hard, Expert, and Master, plus an extra stage on the 2nd and 3rd continents called Hell. Even on Master mode the game stays very easy to win, at least until around level 30. Higher difficulties give better rewards, more gold, and more exp, along with the monsters gaining more HP, attacking more often, doing more damage, and appearing in greater numbers. Not only that, but the maps actually get longer depending on the difficulty level. And yet you can still see this:
   And turn it into this:
   In 10 seconds or less.

   Pace: Fast
   Though the action slows down considerably in towns while you're accepting quests, the movement speed isn't too slow. Not only that, but while in dungeons you're given a skill called "Rush", which lets you move faster than you can in towns while also regenerating your MP. It's good that even if you find yourself a long way from your objective, you can easily just run straight there without the game giving you enough time to get bored.

   Player vs. Player (PvP): It Works
   Starting from level 20, you can enter the Arena and fight other players. What's nice about this is that almost every combo that works in PvE (Player vs. Environment, or dungeons), works in PvP. All those elaborate and awesome looking combos you were pulling on harmless goblins still work on that tough Blademaster as long as you can land it. It's landing it that's the hard part.

   Player vs. Player (PvP): Lags
   PvP combat lags a lot. Landing a hit against a player without lag is hard enough if your opponent knows how to dodge, it's even harder when you do land the hit but you knocked down to the ground regardless because of an attack that didn't show on your screen. Not only that, but even though there are three modes of battle, they're all pretty much the same. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Team Relay. You might notice that in all of them, the objective is the same. That is, combo a guy until he dies. In Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch (mostly the same, except Team Deathmatch doesn't allow intrusion and Deathmatch is usually with bigger teams), this usually turns into mobbing a guy until he dies. Even with the three combo escapes given to each class, you'll often find yourself lagged back into an enemy combo, even after using an escape, if you're getting attacked by multiple guys.
*takes hands off the keyboard*
   Balance: I Can Already Hear the Rage Backlash from Mentioning This Topic
   Not to say the game isn't largely skill based. If you're just more skilled than your opponent, there's a large chance you'll win. There are still two problems, though. The first one is level and equipment difference. The higher level player with better equipment will almost always win the fight unless he's just terrible. The second problem is hard-counters. The classes in the game are set up in such a way that they are at a disadvantage when faced with certain other classes (for example, Scout < Ranger, Warrior < Scout, Blademaster < Illusionist), and will lose the confrontation with that class most of the time. Don't worry though, there is no "best" class in the game. You're free to choose any class you want and jump into PvP fearlessly!

   Gender Lock: Mildly Annoying
   All 4 classes in the game are gender locked. There are no male Witchblades or Shamans, nor are there any female Fighters or Hunters. This isn't exactly horrible but if you wanted to play a male character that casts meteors, you're out of luck.

   Shrines: Blue
   To clarify, there are shrines placed about 3/4 of the way through every stage and come in three different colors, chosen randomly: red, blue, and purple. Activating these shrines refills HP, MP, or both depending on the color (red for HP, blue for MP, purple for both). Some of the later stages on Master can get pretty difficult, so you'll want to start using the shrines to revitalize yourself without wasting potions. What's annoying is getting to one of these shrines, being on low HP and having a hard time, and finding that it's blue. 
   I'll admit that this may be something that only matters to me, but you'll remember that using Rush regenerates MP. This means that there are very few times when I will desperately need my MP bar refilled. It can get pretty frustrating.

   Artisan Crafting: Slow
   You can choose an Artisan job to craft things easier. Watch out though, once you choose an Artisan job, you can never change it. Aside from that, the crafting areas tend to be out of the way, on the opposite side of town from the dungeon entrances. Not only that, but crafting itself is pretty slow, since it requires you to stay there and craft everything on the spot with obligatory progress bars for each thing you craft.

   Final Score: 4 out of 5

   I can honestly say that C9 is a game that didn't skimp on any details. Both PvP and PvE are fulfilling, though PvP could use some refining. The quests are compelling and streamlined, and fighting is genuinely enjoyable. Even the graphics and character movements are smooth and clean. And for free, no less. Looks like the years of beta testing definitely paid off.
Currently: Still looking at cool visuals!
   Extra Things to Know
   - Stamina system is in place. If you run out, you can't do dungeons. Normal stamina refills every day, Booster stamina refills every week (booster stamina is used after normal stamina is depleted).
   - The Warehouse is shared between characters on the same account. Store away!
   - Hell mode accessible after reaching second continent at level 25. I would not advise attempting to solo it.
   - Up to 20 quests can be active at once.
   - Join a guild and party with them. Partying with guild mates levels up the guild faster.
   - You can add a flag next to your name with a text command.
   - There is an Auction House.
   - Treasure maps can be earned from completing dungeons, that give you access to "secret" stages. These stages give much, much, much more gold than usual. Nice alternative if you don't feel like bothering with the Auction House!
   - The screenshots taken for this review were done with pretty low graphics settings (I love 60 fps). If you have a great computer, the game will look much better!
   - It may be a bit difficult to get help from the community in-game. There is no Help chat, and World chat is constantly spammed.
   - Spend your skill points carefully.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the review. been playing and enjoying this game myself. you couldn't be more right about world chat. it's constantly bombarded by spam. and the community as a whole isn't too chatty or helpful when compared to other mmorpgs.