Friday, January 18, 2013

Screw your newfangled MMO’s, I’m playing Phantasy Star Online

I haven’t been posting much lately due to being back in college again and being up to my eyes in work but I’ll try and keep the updates coming. I’ve actually been making a game demo for college and really enjoying it. I’ve also been learning programming for the first time which I surprisingly love.

I just want to talk a bit lately about a game I’ve been playing lately, Phantasy Star Online. Sega closed the PSO servers for good a few years ago but thanks to some very dedicated fans there are free hacked servers available to play the game on. This is my first experience with PSO other than a quick 4 player Gamecube session which ended unceremoniously with one of the players rage quitting because it was too slow. I didn’t own a Dreamcast until well after it died and Irelands terrible online infrastructure until recently stopped me from playing it.

Here's my character Reissward arsing about on the Pioneer 2 hub. You'll see a lot of this place.
Although billed as a MMO, PSO really isn’t anything like it. It has more in common with Diablo 2 than anything else. You wander into one of the 4 dungeons (well in Episode 1, there's even more in Episodes 2 and 4 which are also playable) in the game killing enemies and picking up random loot. There’s a story there as well but I’m not far enough into it for it to have really gone anywhere. If you want to play with other players you can create a game in the lobby and wait for random people to join in, or you can join a game already in progress. Up to 4 players can play together. PSO is far more action orientated than most other Diablo style dungeon crawlers which for me makes it a lot of more fun. There are some cool features like the telepipe item you can use so new players can find you easily in whatever dungeon you are in.

For a Dreamcast game PSO looks gorgeous and even better on PC.
My first impressions of the game weren’t great. I picked a magic user as my class and found the game very difficult in the beginning. Thankfully there is no negative to dying in the server I’m playing on. However the fun increases exponentially when you are playing with other people.  I joined a few games in progress and levelled up with these guys and now I have a nice death dealing mage on my hands. One issue is that controlling the game with a keyboard takes some getting used to especially if you want to use a mage or long range attacker. Even when you get used to it I get the feeling that the game would play better with an analogue pad (the version I’m playing does not support this).

The later episodes represent a big jump in visual quality.

 Anyway if you are curious about PSO and missed out like I did, or want to relive the good old glory days of PSO before cheaters spoiled it then give it a go. Since there’s only a very dedicated fanbase playing at the moment there’s none of the griefing and cheating that plagued the games original release. I’ve had a good few memorable moments already like the time when I found one of the rarest swords in the game... twice in one session. That’s beginners luck for you. You can download the game and client from this link here: I don’t mind giving out the link because the game is pretty much abandonware since Sega closed the servers and is no longer making money from the game. This game has gotten me pretty excited for PSO 2.