Lost Saga Review - Frantic Fighter Hits Europe
Neil Kewn (Murxidon) - OnRPG Journalist
Many online fighting games have debuted over the years with varying degrees of success in the crowded free-to-play market. It is easy to disregard a new fighting game as being a carbon copy of the last, with titles in this genre typically reduced into violent bouts of even more violent button mashing. Whilst the idea is generally a simple one, kill your opponent before they kill you, developers have found ways of adding variety and innovation to help distinguish themselves from the pack. OGPlanet's Lost Saga doesn't break the mould, but it is a refreshingly polished action fighter that fans of the genre will absolutely adore.
First hitting American shores in late 2009, Lost Saga has now made its way to Europe. The core gameplay remains intact, taking the familiar formula of multiplayer fighters present in other games and adding several interesting dynamics to the mix. Basic gameplay, as you might expect, consists of up to sixteen players battling it out in a variety of game modes on a range of maps. From the typical free-for-all deathmatch modes to the more structured base control derivatives, there is plenty to sink your combo hungry teeth into right off the bat.
The lobby acts as the central hub of Lost Saga, accessible after a relatively small download and installation period. From the lobby you can join games, create your own battle, chat with other players and view quests. In addition you can join Plazas (rooms where players can chat, practice and uh, fish) along with access to the game's store. Jumping into a game is often a quick and easy process, with a Quick Join button automatically dropping you into the next available arena. It doesn't always find a game, but that will become less of an issue once the player base grows.
Once you are in a game it's time to select a Hero. Heroes are Lost Saga's playable characters, and they are divided into three separate archetypes - Melee, Ranged and Magic. There are several Heroes to choose from within each class, each differing in appearance and abilities. As Heroes complete battles and gain experience, they advance in level and are rewarded with Hero Points. These can be spent improving specific character skills such as Dexterity, Speed and Attack strength. You are given a single character to start with - others can be attained through the store.
The basic keyboard layout works well. The arrow keys determine movement whilst the W, S, and D keys are assigned to actions, spells and abilities. Just seven keys are all that is required to play Lost Saga, although you do have the option to create a custom setup if holding down multiple keys isn't your thing. Each Hero has four specific abilities, in addition to blocking, jumping and a basic attack.
Maps are enclosed and usually on multiple levels, so it's important to keep an eye on the minimap to see where teammates and enemies are located. From my experience you should never branch off and face a group of opponents, as tag-teaming is a common annoyance that often renders you incapacitated almost immediately. As your health bar depletes, weapons and gear are stripped from you, so the more of a beating you take the less and less effective you become. Endure enough punishment and you'll be left in just underwear, which is as humiliating as it is strange.
Thankfully button mashing won't get you very far in this game. Effective players take advantage of timing, positioning, blocks and counters to successfully KO their opponent. Fallen weapons and gear can be equipped on the fly too, adding a new dynamic to the battle. It's a lot to consider given how frantic a battle can be at times, especially when there are many players in a single game. It may frustrate some but it just makes a successful chain of attacks all that much more rewarding.
There are two currencies in Lost Saga, the Peso and the Astro. The former is attained by participating in battles and completing quests, whilst Astro needs to be paid for with real world currency. Most of the items in the game's store can be purchased with either coin, but one significant difference separates the two. In theory players can see the majority of what Lost Saga has to offer without paying a dime, but purchases with Peso generally aren't permanent. You can splash out on a brand new Hero or outfit, but without Astro those items will disappear after you have used them for an allotted time. This is not the first time we have seen such a funding method in a game and it means that regular players can usually enjoy new gear and upgrades for free.
The real world price for Astro isn't remarkably cheap and is sold in blocks that conveniently don't cover the price of average items in the store. Nevertheless, OGPlanet offers a range of different ways to acquire the currency for free. These range from filling out surveys to completing offers and watching advertisements. If you are liberal with your personal information, it's an interesting and welcome method of funding your game.
Graphically Lost Saga is a very attractive title. Cel-shaded graphics compliment the game's over-the-top combat perfectly. Bright, bold colours and cartoon textures highlight how little the game takes itself seriously. I was pleasantly surprised by the consistently high frame rate, providing a solid smooth looking gaming experience even in the most frantic team fights. Connection issues have cropped up though, hampering the fairness and fluidity of a game that demands good networking between players. Hopefully this gets ironed out during the beta testing.
Lost Saga is a polished, enjoyable casual fighting game that is easy to play but difficult to master. It's commendable that so much content is available to free players, and those who play more often can reap the rewards in free store items. Thanks to the fun and fast-paced arena combat, Lost Saga is a perfect casual game for those lacking the free time demanded by most MMOs. Whilst it's unlikely to persuade those who shun the genre to change their minds, fighting fans are extremely well catered for with everything Lost Saga has to offer.
Frantic combat that's easy to grasp
High quality visuals
Free players are not alienated
Co-op Crusade mode is great fun
Not that many players right now
Some connection issues