In the online mode (which we played on live servers), while you can play through the same story missions, far more attention is paid to the monster-packed dungeons with none of that distracting plot malarkey, and fellow players replace the computer-controlled automatons. Like Guild Wars - although Phantasy Star was doing this sort of instanced area years before - you play in your own unique area. Unlike Guild Wars, if you don’t lock your dungeon, random people can pop in to join your adventures. Also mirrored is the direct-control and arcade-style combat, admittedly with full-on RPG stat-improvement and equipment-selection.
Grand aims. Disastrous execution. Technically, it’s all over the place - you wrestle with the camera for the lack of lock-on. It plays in a window by default, and you have to quit out to change that. There’s little in-game help as to what’s going on, or for finding your way around the needlessly large bases, other than tutorials that are yet more of those interminable cutscenes. Back in story mode, the NPCs are among the least intelligent of recent times, following you meekly and not attacking anyone not in the vicinity. Even if they are the ones who take all the credit in the cutscenes, with your character a silent, personality-free void.
March 3, 2008