When I receive an e-mail telling me that Iíve been invited to play a port of a Korean MMORPG I get filled with a sense of dread (Codemasters Iím looking in your direction). Simply put Korean style games donít appeal to a wide western audience. I got that familiar feeling when I received my invite to play Sword of the New World.
In fact the feeling of dread was a double whammy. I have quite a good idea of what games are coming out and Iíd never heard of SOTNW (or Granado Espada as it was known overseas) and it had already been released. Fortunately for me (and hopefully many more of you after you read this review) my feeling of dread was unnecessary as I was initially in for a treat.
Whilst downloading the games client I did a little reading on the game. One point that impressed me immediately was the fact that the game is initially free to play. Anyone can download the game and play up to a certain level. If you then want to continue you just pay the monthly fee. If you do not wish to pay then there are the following restrictions:
* Level 20 Cap: You will not be able to progress your character or family beyond level 20, once you reach level 20 you will stop collecting experience for quests and kills.
* No Trading: You will not be able to trade items from or to your character or family.
* No Customer Support: You will not be able to receive customer support for any concerns you have with your play experience.
I applaud the developer for approaching the game is this way. It gives gamers a chance to see if the game is suitable for them before committing financially.
Once I downloaded and installed the client I booted it up and was very pleasantly surprised. Recent MMORPGs have had remarkably high system requirements and gamers with mid-range machines are left with very bland offerings as they are unable to see all the various effects. SOTNW works very well with mid range systems and the graphics are fantastic. Not only does the game run at a solid frame rate but areas are rich with detail and a joy to look at. In fact the game captures the detailed environments that you would expect from a single player role playing game on a console. This is the most artistic and well directed art work Iíve seen since guild wars. In fact I was smiling for the first 5 minutes of gameplay. The games stylised graphics excellently reflect its theme. Rather than a game based around elves and orcs it is set in an imaginary continent that reflects the settling of a new world (think America being settled). The costumes are nicely detailed and wouldnít look out of place in a period drama. Building architecture also reflects this setting.
The games sound is also exceptionally well done. The music generally fits the period feel of the game, though in places a few of the soundtracks have a slightly more techno feel (which is precisely what Iíd expect from a Korean MMO).
Unlike a lot of other MMO games you are not focused on a single character instead you have a whole family. Upon starting the game you are given Ďquartersí for your family to live in. You then get to create characters to fill them. As the game progresses you can expand your quarters to allow for more family members. Initially your characters can be created from a set number of classes, being; Fighter, Scout, Elementalist, Wizard and Musketeer. Further in to the game you unlock special character classes with unique abilities and, generally, higher stats. Character progression is also different to the norm. Each class has a number of sub-types, for example a scout can be a medic or assassin among other sub-types. These level depending upon what equipment you have equipped. For example a scout without a weapon will act as a medic whereas a scout with daggers will level as an assassin. Whilst you can improve individual skills with skill points, the range of skills feels a little limited.