Arena Online Review: Clean Slate for the Clean Plate
By Vincent Haoson (Vincenthaoson), OnRPG Journalist
Arena Online is a client based MMORPG from the GDTeam and published by Kalicanthus Entertainment. The game takes place in a world simply called Arena, where three races, the Nordics, the Humans and the Elves are at each other's throats vying for supremacy in a medieval world.
Upon entering Arena, I was not impressed with the world that welcomed me. You start off in the beginner "village" where you get the grasp of the overall controls and game system. While the character design is pretty clean, not much can be said of the surroundings and of the game sprites and animation.
Character movement is strictly constricted to the mouse while the keyboard works as the "shortcut" key for the various skills and magic spells you will acquire as you continue your adventures in Arena.
Initially I had no problems with the mouse being the default and locked control for character movement, however the movement itself is where I find problems. Call me jaded, but I got used to smooth controls on other MMORPGs but it seems in Arena it is pretty clunky.
Personally, I don't have problems with clunky controls however it does get in the way when you do PvE or PvP, there are times when you catch yourself casting a spell then suddenly you see yourself start attacking with your equipped melee weapon without a smooth transition from one move to another. It can be pretty irritating specially when you're trying to "level" a stat (this will be explained later on).
You can actually "chop" enemies as well
The controls also feel very heavy. Whenever you move from one point to another you have this feeling that your character is carrying a heavy load. There's also this thing which makes it seem that your character is running with his head facing up like some old cartoon character trying to run fast.
Admittedly, the character controls and movement grated on me for the first ten minutes of the game, however, once I got past that I finally saw the game's "meat" as an MMORPG.
I'm referring to the game systems that are in place in Arena Online. I can say that Arena Online is one of the few MMORPGs out there that can say that they bring the role play in role playing games. Unlike most MMOs where you're given stat bonuses at every level, based on your job class or race, in Arena Online you have to work (sans grinding your stats) for the character type of your preference
Also, levels in Arena Online are not a deciding factor in a character's strength unlike in the usual set up of MMORPGs. Levels in Arena Online are based on the highest stat a character has, not on the amount of experience points he has earned by killing monsters.
Character Customization > Character Looks
Arena Online uses the "grind a stat" system where you start off with your stat categories (ex. vitality, dexterity, strength etc.) all set to 0. Leveling these stat categories are reliant on the way you play. If you keep using melee attacks your attack and strength stats will improve, and getting hit constantly will increase your vitality.
See them green trees? You can make them grow!
I really liked how logical the stat improvements are done with Arena Online. The more you keep on using the same type of attacks improve your efficiency on the weapon which in turn is similar to training in real life. In fact, if you are familiar with DnD or tabletop role playing games, the stat system and even the stat computations in Arena Online are pretty similar to these games, even the damages and weapon stats ring true to DnD.
However, while Arena Online's stat growth is pretty customizable, this is not true of the game's character customization. In character creation, you are given a basic set choice on how your character looks.
This is the best it gets-- Oh! you can however see the cape once you get one
The other thing I liked about the game is that it has a huge skill library. Unlike other games where you're stuck with the skill set that's locked to your characters job class, in Arena Online the absence of a set class enables you to choose which skill you want to develop. The game almost hands you every skill in your race but you are limited to developing a certain amount of skills on specific stat levels.
This is just page one of many
The stat system is pretty tricky to understand if you do not pay attention to the tutorials and guides. Arena Online's skill system completes the whole "customized character growth system" in which the game is really proud of.
All in all, I enjoyed how Arena Online plays. However it still took a while for me to get used to the tricky controls and dated graphics engine. The game's story is flimsy at best so the game pretty much banks on the totally customizable stat system.
Yeah...This is the map
I also forgot to mention that the game is pretty much set up for the Russian/European market. This is a problem because there are times where you see ???? in the game chat window. The paranoid in me keeps on thinking that I missed something but who really knows?
Did you say what now?
If you're the type who likes their characters an empty shell that you can fill yourself then you should try the game. However, gamers who have little patience to deal with in-depth character development and prefer pre-set stats and skills based on their job class then you better go for the bigger named MMORPGs.
Game system gives you freedom on your character's path and growth.
Character stat customization is based on your gameplay and not on any game preset.
Character strength is based on how you want your character to grow and not on the level.
Visual customization is kept to a minimum.
Movement transitions are very clunky and can confuse you at worst.