Early Access: Tiara Concerto
It feels like each of the games shown at the Gamania Gameshow last week held a strength that made it unique from the others. In the case of Tiara Concerto the defining factor is its animation quality. This game plays well, but each action and reaction from foes and players alike just comes out seamlessly. For anyone familiar with Skies of Arcadia or the Tales of Series, this game will throw you into massive nostalgic shock due to the gameplay style, driven storyline, and air pirate theme coming together. But great animation, pretty outfits, and nostalgia isn't enough to compete in the MMO market so I'll start with the core mechanics and build up to why Gamania is so confident in this game heading stateside.
Tiara Concerto bases its character selection on a system of 3-3-2. 3 races, 3 classes, and 2 weapon types per class. This basically leads to 18 potential ways to build yourself as each race provides passives and skill variations and each weapon unlocks new ways to each class.
Beast: The beast race is hardier than the others. With higher physical attack power and defensive stats, they are right at home on the front line as any class. What they lack in magic ability they make up with additional combos to help keep foes stunned longer from range.
Gamania studies show their play testers spend over 70% of their time staring at their character's ass. Tiara Concerto capitalized on it.
Elves: The elves are the opposite of the beasts in every way, both shorter in stature and extremely vulnerable to taking any kind of damage. It's usually unwise to use any of their melee range abilities unless you are extremely confident in your ability to block and counter an enemy. Their magical abilities are top notch and make devastating use of long charge attacks skills.
Humans: Humans are balanced, neither specializing in defense or over the top magical prowess. However their unique execution of skills and freedom to excel on both the front and backline allow them to skill spam like no other and compete quite well with their racial counterparts.
Performer: The tank class. They can utilize two-handed swords for maximum offensive power or polearms for long range attacks and skillful aoes.
Composer: Composers are mid to long range fighters. They can excel at long range with charged shots from their twin guns or get more personal with the gun blade. Their agility and resistance to critical strikes make them surprisingly resilient in intense boss battles.
Tuner: Tuners are the mage/cleric classes, utilizing Harmony and Chord skills to utilize the elements of fire, earth, water, and wind to support their team. They pack the greatest punch in combat but can die just as quickly under the care of an unskilled player. Utilizing your racial specialization to its fullest is key to unlocking the ultimate potential of this class.
World Map VS Instances
Tiara Concerto couldn't claim to be a true pirate MMO without an extensive exploration system on its world map. There are constant treasures abound for the keen eye to discover, including musical instruments that can unlock hidden dungeons or even alter currently unlocked dungeons to include new more powerful monsters, challenges, and even storyline. Once inside a dungeon the game changes drastically from an open world sandbox exploration game to a heavily story driven game with missions to accomplish and fast-paced action combat galore.
Tiara Concerto uses its beautiful animations to the fullest with the action and reaction system. Every attack, whether done by a player or enemy, features a clear animation signaling the strength and type of attack being prepared. Some AI will actually dodge away or attempt to interrupt your attack, so you better believe you need to be just as active and aggressive to stand a chance. Players can crouch, jump, block, counter, and use various dodge oriented skills to their advantage to escape from enemy attacks. The type of escapes vary from class to class with performers utilizing powerful knock backs and defensive stances, composers using lunging pistol shots, and tuners using snares and long range teleporting. Producer Gabriel Pang even suggested that if they can iron out some of the roughness of dodging skills, they might even introduce platforming challenges into the game such as skillfully jumping and ducking across ropes to board an enemy pirate ship.
Although the obvious reason of learning these escape tricks is in order to stay alive, a note gauge system will further reward players for their style. As your gauge increases, you gain access to more powerful Sforzando attacks that will really cut through the most daunting of foes. Though the difficulty of actually building up to the level that Sforzandos unlock means you will likely only utilize them on key moments of the storyline when death is certain without them. Another reason to care about style points is that each individual member of the team will be graded at the end of successfully completing a mission. Those who contributed the most towards the musical gauge will receive higher grades and greater potential rewards, with a bit of luck.
Another system in place that really lets players cut loose is the Accent State. Though I'm not entirely sure of the details involved with unlocking this mode, when the little pink haired girl from the trailer sings, your character goes wild. All cooldowns are removed, channeling time increases, and the game is broken down into a spam fest of how many skills you can get off in rapid succession and still duck away from the boss in one piece.
Settle Down Captain Sackbut!
Combat intricacies aside, Tiara Concerto further mixes up the medley with mission based objectives beyond kill X and walk to Y. I feel like they haven't quite developed them to the point that this is game changing, but it was still nice to be barraged by endless pirates until destroying their side cannons or infiltrate a pirate ship and search for hostages between decks. Too many MMOs up till now have relied on flat boring maps and Tiara Concerto really adds depth and realism to its flying pirate ships.
Very much to the North American press' dismay, PvP was not yet ready at the time of the gameshow. This became even more painful after we learned that they are planning an airship capture the flag mode as well as the standard PvP deathmatch. Many of the skills in this game seem built for PvP and, if done well, PvP could be the difference between Tiara being a success and being a blockbuster title in the western market.
Overall this game felt like one of the more solid and complete games showcased at Gamania's Gameshow. My few gripes though must be known as this game has so much potential that I don't want wasted. The deep focus on animation sometimes slows combat down a bit, and you find yourself unable to force your character to react to enemy attacks that should have been dodgeable. I also felt like the game was a bit too casual friendly for an action game, and I would like to see more rhythm actions included in long channeling skills. A game built around a musical theme and not having an element of rhythm based skill charging just seems silly. It was also a bit ridiculous that some performer attacks would launch you straight behind you into your blind spot if you had targeted your foe prior to using the ability. If they make animations cancelable and actions like defending and jumping more responsive, this will be an action game worth counting down for when beta is announced.