Codemasters really are bursting into the MMORPG scene, for a company not normally known for the online roleplaying experience they are certainly making an effort to change that opinion. Not only are they responsible for the operation of the European service of the highly anticipated Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach, but they have also taken on Archlord and Rising Force Online.

Rising Force Online (or RF online as it is more commonly known) is a very popular game in the far east that boasts over a million players. The game is set around three warring factions, the Accretians, Bellato and Corites. The Accretians are cyborgs and are mechanical powerhouses that have no access to magic. Corites spurn technology and focus on magical abilities, whereas the Bellato use both technology and magic.

Each class has its own special abilities based on this background. Accretians have access to siege technology and so an individual player can wreak massive damage and chaos on the enemy. Bellato have access to mechs known as MAU, Corites can use their magical abilities to summon creatures to their aid.

As I've mentioned the game is popular in the far east, originally developed in South Korea it has been localised and distributed in Japan, Taiwan, China and the Phillipines. Codemasters are not developing content for the game but instead are handling Localisation for the UK and US market.

Rather than breaking the mould the game goes back to basics. A lot of the games focus is 'Grind'. Basically you will spend a good deal of time killing the same enemy type and gathering cash until you gain a level and have access to better weapons and improve your stats. You then move on to a tougher enemy type.

At lower levels the game does feel quite bland. You are given a quest automatically upon gaining a level. You go and kill a set number of beasts and then are automatically are given a reward, there is the occasional item collection mission where you have to kill beasts and hope that they drop the required item. Below level 30 all characters have access to the same skills and equipment. This is a let down as no matter what you play as, there is very little (if any) variety.

Later in the game things do change. You will gain access to your races special ability and be able to choose how to progress your class. I would like to see more lower level content to vary characters skills and make life more exciting.

An odd omission is the healer class. Most MMORPGs have at least some form of healer class. There are no real healers in RF Online. Instead you buy potions and use them to restore health. It does feel quite strange to play a game where you are using healing potions every few seconds rather than as a last resort.

The current trend with MMORPG games is that AFK (away from keyboard) playing is frowned upon. RF Online encourages some AFK activities. One gameplay aspect is mining. Mined ore can be refined and be turned into metals and upgrades. These items can be used by the games 'Specialist' class to construct weapons and armour. When mining under normal circumstances one piece of ore is gained every 60 seconds. To make a good amount of money I found that you need about 8 hours of mining. This will give you enough cash to process some of the ore that you have acquired. No player is going to sit at their PC for 8 hours watching nothing happen, so goin AFK is the only way to do this. One important point is that in most games AFK playing is often unfair and not practised by all. In RF Online it is encouraged and many players take part and so no-one is disadvantaged by this (apart from players who aren't in a position to keep their PC's running overnight).

The Player v Player element of the game is slightly odd. This section of the game comes in the form of the chip wars. Basically you must destroy the other teams chip without them destroying yours. Only level 25+ characters can damage the chips but lower level characters can still take place. The winner gets access to the area for a period of time and an accelerated ore production rate. The intention is for the PvP side to include massive amounts of players from each of the three factions at any one time.

As I've mentioned the game is popular in the far east, originally developed in South Korea it has been localised and distributed in Japan, Taiwan, China and the Phillipines. Codemasters are not developing content for the game but instead are handling Localisation for the UK and US market.

So far the localisation seems to be going fairly well, there are a number of translation issues still outstanding but I'm sure that those can be cleaned up in time for the games release.

One issue I have with the localisation is the swear filter. The current swear filter is quite hit and miss. Rather than blanking out offending words the whole message is blocked and is not sent. The word 'button' is currently blanked whereas some racially insensitive terms are not (I will not repeat them here for obvious reasons). Again this is a minor issue but is quite frustrating when trying to explain to someone which button to press.

The games interface isn't quite as intuitive as many western games and can be a touch frustrating at times. The games controls are set to mouse movement by default but its quite easy to switch to a more traditional WASD control system.

Graphically the game is quite impressive, the main character models are detailed and have a very strong appeal. Each race has a very distinct look and the character generator allows for plenty of variety. The games intro music is very anime-esq, in fact the game has quite a strong anime feel to in, in story and graphically.

I see the game as being a very rough diamond, and it will require a lot of work to get the game up to a standard. In spite of the various game elements that I have criticised there is a lot of fun to be had with the game, and it has a very odd charm that I find quite appealing. One thing that may make development difficult for Codemasters is that the majority of content is controlled by the original Korean developers CCR and so specific development for the UK/US market will be less likely. I just hope that some of the issues I have mentioned are addressed before release so that the game can get the player base that it deserves.