by Adam Williams, Onrpg writer
Zu Online is an free to play MMO released about the end of 2007 by IGG. After spending several days putting in a nice chunk of time playing this game, I was impressed by both the graphics, and the gameplay.
The first thing you notice upon entering the world, is the interesting approach to both how the world looks, and how all the characters look. Everything has a very stylized, comic book look and feel, and even up to NPCs at times having tiny thought bubbles over their head for you to know what they're saying as you walk by, and when you speak to them box's appear displaying both a picture of them from a different detailed angle, and what they want you to do giving a very interesting feel of actually running in a comic book. You also notice immediately that a large amount of work was put into making the world look very very detailed and impressive over large distances as you ride dragons over enormous landscapes.
Unfortunately, the sound didn't fit anywhere near as well as the graphics. The fighting sound effects, and the music both got very annoying very quickly leading to me turning off my sound entirely after only an hour or two.
Zu Online is based on a fantastical world in what appears to be ancient china. There are five races, each only named for their playable job. These are Swordsman, Moonmaiden, Sun Warrior, Bead Fairy, and Summoner. They are also divided between three factions, which you have the flexibility to pick any of the three factions you wish. These also limit somewhat who you are able to fight in the PK system.
Zu Online, while being a typical grind game to reach higher levels to practice PvP, had a very impressive twist in that for a large part of the game you benefit from a very detailed and tiered quest system to level by, other than the typical grinding you would expect. Rather than the usual "Go kill this" or "Go collect X from Y", a large amount of the quests involve explaining many of the game features for the new player, giving a reward for learning some of the more complex features of the game. The quests also give a very large amount of detail inside the quests, making it easy for new players to complete the quests, even with no prior knowledge or assistance in maneuvering the zones. There are 300 levels, and for the first 200 quests are your best bet for leveling, so if you enjoy quests more than grinding, you'll definitely enjoy Zu. They also lessen the grind somewhat by many quests and items providing xp boosts ranging from 50-100% that also applies to quest rewards.
Along with the interesting quest system, Zu also has a complex pet system where you hatch a pet, and it grows along with you and you gear it and train it while it fits alongside you. You can have tigers or dragons to ride along the ground, or even enormous birds to fly around the zone.
On the PvP side, Zu limits it somewhat by a player not being able to participate until level 60, and also help prevent some of the worse cases of griefing by the PvP being limited to players between 60 levels below and 60 levels above you. If you don't enjoy PvP all, you can also toggle your character to not be attackable by other players. Doing this limits the rewards available to you however, with the honor points system they included, where you get points for participating in fighting people outside your guild or faction. There is also dishonor points are killing people inside your faction or guild, which weaken you in ways such as lowering attack speed. There are also zones provided where guilds can gain control by defeating other guilds, and in safe spots the guild members can afk and slowly gain experience points just from being there, making it very competitive to control these areas.
Zu also surprised me in the blazingly fast zone times between areas, and the very smooth performance and very very low system requirements to play. There was also a very surprising lack of lag even in crowded zones with huge amounts of activity and effects flying all over the zone.
In conclusion, Zu Online was a pretty good game, especially if you're a player who really enjoys questing above all else. Its a game that can easily occupy a few hundred hours of your time without getting boring, with so much content available no matter what path you choose to take. It looks good, plays easily, and seems pretty well balanced overall. The only issue with the game is the company selling special items with real money on the website, giving the people with the extra cash laying around a very very real advantage particularly in the PvP side. You can get the same items in small amounts through quests and hard work, but the people with the money can have a near unlimited supply. This isn't really a big deal, but it can get a little frustrating if you're a real hardcore fairplay person.
Low System Requirements.
Large Amount of Content.
Fast Servers leading to low lag and fast load times.
Purchasable money and items.