Soul Master Review: Is This Perfect For MMORTS Fans?
By Michael Sagoe (mikedot), OnRPG Journalist
Most MMOs in today's market have been have straying away from old fashion MMORPGs and instead are leaning towards MMOs that focus on other genres. We have MMO shooters, MMO action games and what not, but these MMOs only focus on one genre at a time. So how about an MMO that focuses on three?
Soul Master is a new MMO title published by GamesCampus that mixes arcade action and RTS game play with the features of an MMORPG all rolled into one pretty package. Players can travel the world of Soul Master and participate in story driven PvE or competitive PvP. While the idea of mixing these genres together sounds great, the execution of all three can arguably be seen as hit and miss.
Joining the world of Soul Master starts out with the game's lackluster character creation. You have a choice between three races (Valiant, Harmony and Holy) and only one character class from each (Knight, Bearcat and Priest, respectively.) Picking a look for your character only comes with five tops, bottoms and hair colors to choose from. To make things worse, each character class is gender locked, so you'll have to go with playing either a male knight and bearcat or a female priest. There are plans to un-gender lock the classes in the near future, though. For now, it's either take or leave it.
After you've created your character, the game opens up with a few story cut-scenes and then it teaches you the control scheme on how to handle both your main character and battle units, which is simple enough for both casual and hardcore gamers to get a grasp of. Main character movement works with WASD keys, attacks using left mouse button and special skills using the right mouse button. Controlling your battle units is as simple as pressing E to line them up and then pressing left or right mouse button on enemies to make them attack. The main tutorial takes about 15 minutes to complete, but there is also an ongoing tutorial you'll have to work through in the first couple of story chapters.
While the game is called an MMO, the MMO part of Soul Master's game world comes from the three towns that function as lobbies for players to meet, greet, shop for stuff and party up. The rest of the game is instanced for questing and PvP.
Soul Master's visuals are bright, colorful and full of life. The anime inspired style of characters are just oh so adorable and cute to look at. The environments are also nice and colorful but are simple and spacious in terms of layout. (Then again, the game is part RTS and gives the units space to move around.) The sound work done on Soul Master is mix between upbeat, energetic, mellow tones that will ease your mind while you play.
All of this mixed together with RPG cut-scene dialogue gives Soul Master sort of a console game feel to it, as if it would be a title that you would find on the Nintendo Wii or something.
Soul Master's core game play manages to blend arcade beat 'em up, MMORPG and RTS game play all into one. With your main hero, you can perform combo attacks that are either quick or heavy, plus dash attacks that will knock enemies up for a bit of juggling. When battle units are selected, they can perform one special skill when the player presses the right mouse button. Building and controlling units in Soul Master work pretty much like every RTS title out there, except that most commands are all laid out from Z to N, making option selection nice and easy. The only issue I have with Soul Master's game play is that you can't perform attacks or skills with your main hero when you're controlling battle units, which sucks since I was hoping to be able to switch back and forth between hero attacks and RTS strategies on the fly.
The questing experience can feel too straight forward since most missions amount to destroying every enemy you see or taking out a predictable boss. Occasionally, the game will throw you a curveball with stuff like escort missions, but then you'll go right back to doing the same old missions as before. Doing missions with up to three other players does make the experience a bit more enjoyable, but this will only slow down the feeling of repetitiveness while playing.
The PvP aspect of Soul Master can be addictive, but it's an experience you might not want to get into unless you have a fair amount of personal RTS experience and a tolerance for grinding. Battles in PvP are basically like every RTS out there as every battle is a race to see who can micro and macro-manage the fastest. Since I suck at both, I was thinking that my arcade beat 'em up skills would come in handy for PvP, but alas, it only got me so far.
The balance between the genres in Soul Master tends to lean way too much towards the RTS and MMO parts which I'm kind of disappointed in. Besides PvE, battling with your hero tends to be not as useful in a competitive match, since you'll just be using your battle units to do most of the damage. My time spent with the game's PvP felt way too reliant on equipment stats and levels. Even if you have good RTS skills, you'll have to spend enough time grinding quests for equipment and skill points for attacks and units before heading in; otherwise you may end up losing to opponents simply because they're a higher level or have better equipment than you.
Like I mentioned before, the missions available are all fairly repetitive and can be tiresome, despite all the missions being story driven. The entire plot of Soul Master revolves around an overused RPG cliché theme that the world is in danger and that YOU are the ONLY ONE that can SAVE IT, so it's quite clear that Soul Master isn't going to be winning awards for an original plot any time soon.
Soul Master is a nice game with potential that's being held back due to lack of varied content and required grinding in order to advance. The console game vibe it has going for it may be nice, but it really needs a console game pacing to go with it. Regardless, I still enjoyed my time playing Soul Master for its style and atmosphere alone. Those that are into RTSs or MMORPGS should consider giving it a try, but arcade beat 'em up fans should probably look elsewhere.