Massive for nothing


Though it was in open beta when we played it (not that it makes much of a difference - it will always be completely free, and the game’s paid items store was already open for business), Holic already feels more complete than many of the other “cute” Korean MMOs that make it into international waters. A lot of Holic’s elements make it feel friendly; from the clean interface that provides plenty of assistance to the charming pastel graphics, the game goes out of its way to make the grind (yes it’s a grind - just look at the game’s title) as entertaining as possible.

Holic does more than present the usual MMO elements well, and once players get deep enough into the game, they’re able to create personal dungeons and bring in parties to go exploring. Users can also make their own quests that can be registered for anyone to try, though rewards for these are largely generated randomly by the game. This dedication to user-created content is rare among games in this genre, and it gives the relatively new Holic plenty of innovative potential - though it’s also plenty fun right now, and worth sinking some time into.

Shaiya: Light and Darkness

When people use the term “Korean MMO” to describe a game, they’re almost always thinking of games like Shaiya. A lot of what Shaiya does owes a great debt to the genre-creating Lineage series, which should tell you whether or not this is a game for you.

If the ideas of extremely long-term character development and violent PvP events appeal to you, then you’ll find plenty to like about Shaiya. The game has multiple difficulty levels, with low experience gain and permadeath making the top tiers devastatingly brutal (though the stat bonuses are enormous for the effort). PvP battles can theoretically grow to epic scale, involving thousands of human combatants. It helps that the game looks much better than the aging Lineage II, which definitely increases the appeal of the long stretches of play required. Shaiya is a rewarding game for the truly dedicated MMO fanatic who has no problem being hypnotized by the grind - and if you are this kind of gamer, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of the real-money transaction item store. You’re going to need all the help you can get to reach the end game in this one.