Compared to most single-player video games, online games, especially MMOs, have a much longer life expectancy. The interaction and competition among the community can provide MMO players with sustainable pleasures. Thus, many MMOs remain popular for years, even under today’s competitive game market where new games are popping up daily.

However, players always go bored after repeating the same thing for some time, even for the most successful MMO. So it is conventional for developers to add new content regularly, so as to prevent their players from burning out. Conquer Online, the most successful Chinese style MMO, is a good example. Released in 2003, this free MMO has renowned success with 7 language versions and millions of players in the worldwide market. As six years have passed, many different features and sources have been added to update Conquer Online into the more modern version, Conquer Online 2.0. However, the side effects of those updates have become more and more clear. Many veterans have been complaining the game has become too different from their cherished “good old days”, and they started to appeal to TQ Digital to bring back the original version of Conquer Online. This idea spread fast, and had taken root among more of the mainstream CO players. After some railing from the community, TQ decided to release what they called “Classic CO”, which is a combination of the current 2.0 client and earlier gameplay.

The first Classic CO server was released in Nov. 2009, and the players’ response proved the developer had made a wise move, as the server was just chock full of players. Inspired by the success of the 1st Classic CO server, TQ has opened the 2nd server after 10 days, and the 3rd one is set to open on Jan 21, 2010. So what exactly is Classic CO? Does it live up to the mantle of the Good Old Days? In this review, you may find out the answer.


The Shopping Mall is gone!

The foremost change of Classic CO is the removal of the Shopping Mall. For a free MMO, the cash shop is a common, but critical feature, as it is the only way that the game developer can earn money from the game. And it is the same in Conquer Online. Now in CO 2.0’s Shopping Mall, one can easily find everything necessary to make a newbie into a superman if you would like to pay the cash. And many fevered players would like to spend tons of money on this PvP-oriented MMO, just for the pleasure of slaughtering their opponents on the battleground. However, the flaw is also very apparent, as big spenders can purchase uber gear and become some crazy powerhouse overnight, destroying game balance with their bottomless wallets.

In the Classic servers, the Shopping Mall was removed, and with it the ability to just buy your way to the top. Meanwhile, Classic CO only preserves a few quests in which pay users can consume their cash in-game, such as Lottery and Gear Quality Upgrades. But this type of quest is well controlled, which makes sure pay users cannot gain excessive advantages in Classic CO. This forces players to get back into the game. It is quite difficult for players to get good gear without hunting. Not everybody can obtain insane super +12 gear now.

Thus, without the buyable gear, here come the classic and balanced classes. You can work more as a team with your friends or guild mates to take out the stronger enemies you’ll come across. Each class has his own distinct purpose in the fight, and you’ll do well to learn your role on the battlefield! There is no critical weapon that makes a poor strategy to win!


Talismans… Battle Power.. All gone.

Apart from the Shopping Mall, Classic CO also removed 2 major features of CO 2.0, Battle Power and Talismans. Many comments suggested that CO’s success is due to its PvP system as well as its vivid Chinese cultural background. Compared to most MMOs published in the same era, players found CO’s PvP system was very unique, with which one should focus on skill and control while not solely level and gear. Until Battle Power (formerly called Potency) was added to Conquer in 2007, players started to find the original PvP gameplay was changing, and heading into the opposite direction they wanted.

Battle Power is a calculation of the character’s overall attributes, like level, gear, social status etc, and is the key for anyone to become a winner in any PK field. For example, it is nigh impossible for a 180 BP player to defeat 185 BP players, even if he has more PvP skill. Talismen, added to CO 2.0 later, amplified the effect of Battle Power, as high grade Talismans not only improve the character’s attack and defense, but significantly enhance their Battle Power. As a result, many old players find they never have a chance to PK or join in the Guildwar without good Talismen in CO 2.0, and just pop by Paypal and hit the Mall to buy whatever they needed to improve their Battle Power, or buy that high grade Fan/Tower.

In Classic CO, Battle Power and Talismans are taken out, at the insistence of the community. Players can focus more on HOW to fight, and not just about how much. It all depends on your strategy, not some numbers tallied by a computer or bulk-built Talismen. In truth, balanced PK in Classic CO is dramatically dynamic. You don’t need to check Battle Power and will find no bevy of unkillable players, but a complex system rising from the simple origins of tic-tac-toe. Each battle will also be different depending on your opponent’s chosen skills, so it’s never the same fight twice. And it is exactly what CO’s veterans miss about the good old days.


Ninja Skill has been tweaked
Another major change in Classic CO is that the controversial Ninja skill Toxic Fog is removed. In 2008’s New Dynasty expansion, the new class Ninja descended in the world of Conquer Online. As war brings good business to a trained assassin, the current state of the lands of Conquer Online allows the Ninja to thrive. From a gameplay point of view, as well as a PvP oriented game, the damage dealers are the most desirable classes for players. With its powerful skills and flowery design, the Ninja helped bring CO a significant influx of new players.

But not long after the ninja’s release, the community started to discover that the skill Toxic Fog makes these masked warriors far more powerful than most felt was natural for the game. For example, if you are poisoned by Toxic Fog, no matter how tough you are, you would continuously lose half your current HP, until it falls to 1. There’s nothing like getting fogged and hiding, only to have a random noob poke you for 1, which definitely made collateral damage more likely when you PK, especially around the cities.

Although most players admit the skill is overpowered, many non-pay players insist that the skill should not be tweaked as it is an effective resort against bulkers with high grade gear. As there is no Shopping Mall in Classic CO, TQ removed the Toxic Fog from the Ninja class and veterans can again enjoy the battle royale without the tease of that annoying green smoke.

Other changes
In Classic CO, players are also unable to utilize DragonBalls to socket non-weapon gear or directly level their characters. Meanwhile, gems are much easier to drop from monsters. All these modifications aim to make players get back the original feeling of Conquer Online. Back to the good old days of grinding to promote your character, not just bulking to build an unstoppable juggernaut.

Conclusion

New stuff does refresh the original content and keep the community vibrant in most cases, but more is not always better. After years of “updates”, old players may find their cherished MMO has become a completely different game, and then people leave…

So maybe it’s time for developers to stop filling their games with excessive new content, and try to help get back the original flavor of what made people want to play the game. Classic CO has made a great example for other aged MMOs. Nostalgic veterans, welcome home.