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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Phantasy Star Online 2 Beta Impressions

Phantasy Star Online 2 is one of those games that really takes its time to be released in western market and while it’s waiting, dedicated players have found ways to play it on the currently available servers. The South East Asian server went up a while ago and I decided to give the game a try and of course to no surprise, it’s pretty clear why a lot of people go to such an extent to play the game. For this review, I played the South East Asian version of PSO2 so I will use the terms used in that version and not the terms used in the Japanese version or in the unofficial translation patch.

Overall graphical quality of the game doesn’t really look impressive when compared to some some MMOs like Guild Wars 2 or The Elder Scrolls Online but the game does make it up in terms of aesthetics. If you like anime aesthetics, you’ll definitely like what is offered by PSO2. There are quite a lot of different ways to customize your character to your liking.

One notable thing with the character creation is the number of character voice available. If you’re an anime fan you should be able to identify some notable voice actors/actresses that are available in this game. My favorite would be Kana Hanazawa but other VAs like Hisako Kanemoto and Yuka Iguchi are also available.

All the missions in PSO2 are done via instanced areas that can be accessed through the main hub. Player can attempt these missions solo or as a group either with other players or AI controlled characters. Grouping is easy to do but some of the options given are quite confusing because it isn’t really clear what they actually do.

The combat in PSO2 is really exciting and very reminiscent of Monster Hunter. While it’s not as slow as Monster Hunter and the enemies aren’t as difficult to fight it does offer a somewhat similar experience and feel. Boss fights are a really enjoyable experience with players having to learn the attack pattern of the bosses and act accordingly. Enemies having weak spots also adds a lot of complexity to the combat and makes it much more interesting because you need to aim for those weak spots and not just beat on a monster’s foot for the duration of the battle like in most MMOs.

While character slot is limited, players can change their character classes without any penalties at the hub area making it unnecessary to make alt characters. Minor modifications to the character’s looks can be done through the in-game salon while major modifications like body scaling, hair color and clothing color will cost some real money.

The game offers quite a lot of things to do, there’s the main story, Arks Road, character requests, Paradigm Matrix and daily request. Each of these offers different rewards and are useful to level up your character although it is entirely possible to just do the main story and repeat missions to level up.

PSO2 might feel repetitive at times because players will need to go back to some areas multiple times to finish the Paradigm Matrix and requests. I do feel that the exciting combat outweighs the boredom of the grind but for those who might dislike grinding, the game does need a bit of grinding to level up your character.

The business model is quite fair, with no story or combat-related content blocked behind a paywall. Some interesting content are blocked behind a paywall however, like the player housing which might interest some players. The item store also offers some interesting choices of costumes and character voices for players who want to make their character more unique.

Overall, Phantasy Star Online 2 definitely deserves all the hype. The anime aesthetics, combined with a really good combat system really makes the game really addictive and fun. There are some minor grind and non-essential content blocked behind a paywall but what you can access for free is already more than enough in my opinion. For those of you still on the fence, do check the game out either by playing on the Japanese server or the SEA server. Both requiring a bit of know-how to access, but I think the game’s worth it.

Note: This article is an old article I wrote for another site that is now closed. The content might not be relevant anymore right now. 

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