Gates of Andaron:
By Mitch Baylosis-Benesa (Syllica)
Let me clarify what I think some of you have been wondering about: why does Gates of Andaron (GoA) look a hell of a lot like 4Story-from the graphics and interface, right down to its spells? The answer is pretty simple: the game is actually one and the same. So why is there the need to release the same content with two different names?
Actually, Gates of Andaron and 4Story are like identical twins developed by ZEMI Interactive. They both have the same history, identical looks, and some habits, but the two have different personalities and different clothes. While 4Story is globally released and directly updated by ZEMI Interactive, Gameforge 4D secured the rights to publish the game as Gates of Andaron for the North American market with ZEMI Inc's support. GoA tweaked the chronicles and most character names, and the two have some different features.
Weaving Stories and Features
Gates of Andaron tells the tale of the gods, whose creation became the center for greed and a quest for power by the different races. Known as Andaron in the old days, Iberia became the battleground of Derion and Valorian, the two warring kingdoms who both believed that they earned the gods' favour. Caught in between is Gor, another kingdom that refuses to take sides and remains neutral.
The game prompts you to choose between Derion and Valorian from the very beginning. You can choose from three races which are available to both kingdoms: the Humans who are, while physically agile and flexible, intelligent enough to utilize technology; the feline Neved who are very much in tune with nature; and the Fairies who have mastered the elements of magic. All classes are available to all races: the strong Warriors, the stealthy Night Walkers, evasive Archers, elemental Magicians, the healing Priests, and creature masters called Evocators. If you want to try all of the classes, you can create up to 6 characters in your account.
The plot of GoA, while undeniably already overused in MMORPGs, still works well because of the features that mesh with the plot. Because of the given conflict, expect to be conquering territories, laying siege on castles and killing enemies from the other faction as a staple of the game. The instances also provide light to the mysteries that still shroud the game's world.
The Way I See It
Like other players, I can't help but compare GoA's graphics to that of the almost seven-year old World of Warcraft. It is very vivid, eye candy, and also a little on the cartoony side. But don't let the graphics fool you into thinking that GoA lacks seriousness as a game. The beauty of the combination of the game's lore and cartoony graphics is that it balances out the lore's intensity with fun and enjoyable-looking characters. Another function of these graphics is that the game does not demand high PC specs to be able to run on maximum settings.
The similarity to WoW doesn't stop there. Don't worry; I am not going to turn the game review into a complete compare-and-contrast with WoW. In fact, I think that this is one of GoA's advantages as a Free-to-Play game. GoA managed to pull off some of the same ingenious tricks that WoW, the pay-to-play MMORPG has done, such as ending up in the graveyard as a soul when you die. You must return to your body to be revived. Just watch out if you die in the middle of aggressive creatures or a player from the opposing faction starts camping your body. The latter scenario will be unavoidable since killing enemy players will earn you Achievement Points, which you can use for crafting. Don't fret though, a certain player may want to only kill you for a maximum of 3 times since they will no longer receive Achievement Points after that. You have 10 minutes to scram afterwards and call backup to hunt down the creeper LOL. If you wanted to play WoW but weren't convinced enough to pay monthlies, then GoA could be your alternative. Suffice to say, 4Story does have a lot of common things with WoW as well.
The Tickles and the Ticks-Off
The interface is neat and doesn't take much screen space, but the sounds are just standard. There are also a lot of assigned buttons for alternate control, like the WASD keys for directional movement instead of point-and-clicking, R for run, and instant target hunting with the Tab button. Pretty much all the key options that everyone MMO should have, but not all do. Also, being part of a guild will allow you to experience Area Conquest, which fills your lust for regional conquest battles.
The game's website is peppered with primers for new players. While I laude the fact that GoA doesn't charge players for their weapon repairs like what Allods Online, GoA will make you pay with real money for mounts that will only be available for a certain duration. I'm not exactly sure at this point which is the lesser evil. Speaking of money, there is no auction house in the game. Of all the things that GoA didn't adopt from WoW, it had to be one of the most useful and efficient features in an MMO. In this game, you have to vend or set up a shop to offer your goods. Thank goodness it's F2P or I'd have torn a ligament over a day or two of my paid monthly wasted on AFK vending.
GoA has a workable and enjoyable system. It has cartoony but vivid graphics, a perfect balance of pvp and pve mixed content, and a rich lore that ties together the plethora of features in the game. While the elements and features have been done already and have been somewhat blatantly copied from other MMOs, GoA can still be an appetizing game amongst the free-to-play MMORPG throng. But it still lacks the substance of a main course MMO. GoA's population is decent, but how the staff will keep their players hooked on GoA will be the question since its twin is already offering citizen switch to the neutral kingdom. Overall, I guess the defining factor for GoA to be enjoyable is how the community grows as an integral part of the game because it not only has to compete with the genre itself but against a clone of the same game.