As I was browsing, I was getting tired of short and simple reviews of Voyage Century Online. Some of the player's reviews are worth it, but there is a lack of in-depth reviews for this game. I though I should be able to write a review myself before complaining of people writing "bad" reviews. So I started my personal quest: reviewing Voyage Century Online as I though it should be reviewed.
The following text is the result of my work on this quest. I would like you to give me any advice and opinion you consider suitable.
Please, note this review is aimed at people who are not really into VCOnline, so I have tried to be as descriptive as I could. In addition, I am Spanish, not a native english speaker, so my grammar, spelling and vocabulary might be full of mistakes I'd like to correct.
Voyage Century Online BETA Review
This review features the free to play Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game “Voyage Century Online” (VCOnline from now on) in it’s beta stage. Impressions showed here reflect the opinion of the author of this review and are not in any way absolute assumptions and may vary as the game approach it’s release date.
Voyage Century Online claims to be the first nautical MMORPG of the market. It comes to us as a port from the original Asian version, which has been already running for some time.
What we get is a free to play MMOG which steps away the typical scheme seen in most Asian free to play Massive Multiplayer Online Games. Instead of focusing only in grinding in a fantasy setting, it introduces new features which were never seen before among the other games of this kind. It includes sea battles, a crafting system which is indeed vital to all players, the ability to play the game without having to kill one single mob if you don’t want to by playing the merchant or crafting role, and a realistic setting that sets it apart from most current MMORPGs
As the graphics are the first thing that we appreciate when we play a game, we can say the graphics for VCOnline are pretty good at land. There are free to play MMORPGs with better graphics out there, that is for sure. However, the graphics for VCOnline work fine. Animations are good, and the textures are beautiful. 3d Models tend to be pretty too. However, some lighting effects and models look more detailed in other, more recent free to play games, mainly because of the freedom that their fantasy setting grants to their art direction. VCOnline, as works much closer to a historical setting, has its graphics at the service of a great gameplay, while still looking good and reflecting very different graphic schemes for the many different cultures showcased.
When sailing in battle, storms or near a dock, the camera approaches the ship and the game graphics look great indeed, and awe inspiring thanks to light reflections and great ship and water modeling. Dawn and Dusk are memorable moments too. Unfortunately, the fact that lightning changes from total light to evening, to night without any soft transition hurts immersion.
When sailing in high seas, the camera will go higher in the sky, and you will be left in a living, breathing world map, with graphics looking a bit cartoon-like, as everything is scaled to be easy to tell what is it. If we had to find a similar graphic style to compare this screen to any other game, it would be the sailing screens of “Sid Meier’s Pirates!” It doesn’t look that good, but it works fine, and the other two graphic sets (close sailing and land gameplay) do show us all the good graphics we might want to see.
This is in fact a great decision, as it ensures the game will work on slower machines without any problems, which is something most current MMORPGs with better graphics, can’t say. An option for better graphics if you can handle them, or slightly more polygons in player models would be welcome. Currently, however, the graphics are already good (just not “best”) and have attracted many players to give this game a try.
The sound of the game starts in a nearly mute status and you have to raise its volume in the menu if you want to listen to the songs. The music woks well, as you will find it good at the beginning, and it will sound appealing. After some time, you just won’t realize it is sounding and adding another degree to the gaming experience. The only complain music can cause is in storms and similar events, where music looping is too evident because of the song’s ending don’t fading into the beginning of the music track. Experiencing a storm is visually great, however, in this case the music hurts the overall experience.
The game has no voiceovers, but sound effects are solid – both battle effects and sailing effects. It feels great to hear your boat creak when you enter a close sailing scene and approach a peaceful city after a long trip.
The world of VCOnline is supposed to reflect the real world in the discovery ages. This means you can travel though whole continents, from city to city purchasing goods, robbing merchants, or discovering new animals and treasures. In order to capture this feeling, the game features 40 cities all over the world. Each city has a different architecture and layout, reflecting it’s culture. Obviously, as this is a game about discovery, you will have to find them before you can see them in your map.
The Overall world screen, or High seas screen, is the screen you will see while traveling between cities or exploring. You can travel through a pretty good cartoon-like reproduction or the real geography while avoiding storms that could sink your boat, finding drifters that will grant you items and silver –these drifters are often contested, as they are a pretty big gift for any player- and avoiding pirates. Time passes fast when traveling in this screen. Going from Athens to Barcelona can take you 5-10 minutes, depending on the speed of your ship, which is found to be very slow at the beginning of the game. One might argue avoiding storms is not funny, and traveling between cities becomes boring. Fortunately, you still can say things to other players in their boats, and use guild chat and party chat while traveling.
Each of these 40 cities in game is divided in 3 parts: the port, the suburbs and the city itself. The port and city are where tavern, church, and most Non Playable Characters are located, while the suburbs are a place where you will find the usual mobs and places to gather raw materials. These areas are all different in each city, can be connected in different ways and vary the area you can find NPCs.
The port is the area you will enter after approaching the city in close sailing mode –having to do this is a nice touch, as it works as a tie between the cartoon-like graphics of the world map an the 3rd person view of your character.
It is a big area which only serves the purpose of allowing you to get to the city and/or suburbs, and have some sailing-related NPCs. However, lately this area has experienced the highest booth density of all areas, because of being the only area of a city which will be visited for sure by incoming players.
Player characters detect collision when trying to go through a NPC. This means you can’t step through a NPC, such a guard, or an enemy, and this makes NPC enemies' ambushes harder as it won't be easy for you to retreat. It also ensures no one will set a stall over a NPC so when you click on it, you get into the stall instead of the NPC dialog box, which is too common in other MMOGs. In addition, there is a certain radius around stalls where no other booth can be set, avoiding these stall masses we are used to see in most MMOGs.
There is no collision detection among playable characters, however, so crowded zones won’t hurt your pathing. This feels strange, as there is no visual distinction between a player model and a NPC model, but you get used to it in a very short time.
Cities are used as a background for some very important NPCs, as the guild manager, the skill tutor, bank clerks, warehouse managers and many people in charge of giving quests to the players. Depending on the city, some NPCs are located in the port instead of the city itself, but this area never experiences a lack of activity.
Suburbs is where most of the land grinding and collecting activities take part. This zone tends to be the biggest of all three areas, and reflects the exterior of the city. Most low level suburbs include several different mobs in the shape of wild animals –which can be non-aggressive and tend to be the easy mobs of the area- and human mobs like “depressed poets” or “evil alchemists” who are much tougher.
Some of these suburb areas also feature special “dungeon-like” environments such as the pyramids. If you get to these zones, you will fight even tougher enemies as mithical monsters. These can be gorgeous giant creatures, which really look amazing. This way, the game introduces some fantasy into the setting without ruining the main experience. Regular mobs are everyday beings. Dungeon mobs are based in the legends of the zones you are visiting. This way of introducing a certain degree of imagination to the game is great, and reflects the thought of the era, as monsters and miraculous beings were supposed to exist in strange places no one ventured into.
Each suburbs feature planting areas, mining areas and timber felling areas. Some of the resource spots in high level cities will not be available for you to use if you are under a certain level in a certain skill, and will give you resources of some levels only, depending on the city. The areas where you can plant, cut trees and mine are easy to find, and tend to have several people on them all the time. This makes it easier for people to adapt to new cities.
All areas in a city seem alive. While most used NPCs do not move, guards and some named NPCs are always walking around, and go to bed at night. Furthermore, many players can be seen walking around in starter cities. Higher level cities, however, lack of player population at this moment. We think it is a matter of time for people to be changing their main area of operations to these zones which currently lack of player life.
In addition, it must be noted that cities have a very different feel to each other, which is emphasized between cities which do not share the same cultural background. The different costumes aof NPCs and music helps to enhance the distinct architectonic styles you can find.
The distribution of buildings and passages in the city optimize the real size of the zone, which is not that big as it feels like. A glance to the extended map will confirm the city is relatively small (we have to remember that there are 40 different cities with 3 areas each to visit). It won’t look like that when you are walking through it, however, which is a great addition for immersion. In total, the size of land you can visit in 3rd person view in VCOnline may be about the same size than most MMORPG we can play, although the fact that it is so fragmented in tiny areas may make it look smaller overall, as we look into the maps. The real fact, however, is this game does not feel small at all when playing through it due to the great design of these areas.
One drawback of this fragmentation is loading screens. Although they are fast, this game has you changing areas so often that you’ll see yourself leaving your mouse for some seconds because of hitting a loading screen far too frequently. However, the high seas map has almost no loading screens, so you can travel through the world without worries. In addition, the loading screens are fast enough to not to be a real annoyance.
Interface is a very important part of a game in MMORPGs. VCOnline works with standard point&click movement and selection, with a certain camera freedom. All actions besides movement are activated via your 9 shortcut bars, in a conventional way. All buttons are located in a screen that will fill up as you get new abilities (like compounding metals to turn your ore into iron) for you to drag them into your shortcut bars, where you can click on them or press the suitable hotkey. In the screen that shows all buttons –the Instruction Panel- you have buttons classified by tabs and what kind of function do they serve. The existence of this menu gathering all your buttons is great, as it encourages you to experiment, and keeps abilities classified and helps you not to mess them up in your user bars, but keep them in a certain, logical order.
You can find there some buttons to trigger many gestures for your character to do which, unfortunately, do not work if your character has something on its hands, reducing its usefulness drastically.
The screen information includes the standard status bars (for your character or your ship, depending on you being sailing or not) compass/minimap, and buttons to open every interface menu. These menus are pretty well organized and grouped, so you wouldn’t have to keep many different buttons near your cursor, and submenus are easy to understand and navigate. The overall interface is in fact instinctive, although the existence of the Instruction Panel might be hard to figure out to new players when trying to do a task like turning logs into timber for the first time.
The map is useful, and shows a view from above of the whole zone, unfortunately revealing its real size. It really useful, however, as you can look at it for certain NPCs or players, as they appear in the extended map as colored dots showing their name when hovering with your cursor. Issuing movement orders works in the map too, allowing you to travel long distances with a single click, in city or even the high seas screen –be careful with storms and pirates if you decide to do so- If your ship or character crashes with something solid, it will just stop. The ability to issue movement orders for your character using the map is especially great when sailing in high seas, as the zooming out distance in this screen mode is too restrictive (It can be understood as a way to deliver the player the feeling of uncertainty of sea travel, as issuing orders with this zoom level based on compass/minimap estimations will never take you straight to your destiny)
The only complaint with the camera we have found is centered in the high seas screen. After sailing out from a battle or a storm, the camera will have changed its position, not going back to the location of the camera before entering the event, and this may make issuing movement orders confusing because of visual references being lost.
Dialog boxes are fine, although lack of the boat-like skin you can see in the standard interface, and this is a pity as the overall mood is hurt. Translation needs lots of work, but it has been greatly improved since alpha.
The inventory screen is one of the most used interface screen in MMOs, and we can say it has been implemented in a great way. First of all, we have the standard paperdoll-like equipping interface, and then the bagpack in the shape of several tags that divide your inventory in equipment, quest and crafting articles, and standard items. This is a great way to have your inventory organized. In addition, you have 3 character properties tags, showing your characters basic attributes, skill levels, and reputation/noble titles earned. It is a solid interface for items and stats, as you can divide stacking items with a single click. It has a little problem, however. When switching items by selecting item A and clicking in an inventory slot occupied by item B, you will have in your hand item B, and the first item will be placed in this last slot. However the icon in your hand will not change to reflect you are holding a different article.
Finally, the Chat area works fine, and is divided in a series of sub channels, including a general channel, which will show all channels content, a city chat channel, a public information channel mainly used for traders, a guild chat channel, a private channel and a team (party) channel. People usually complain about game fonts being too small to be read in a comfortable way, and it may difficult to read indeed. Text is complemented by a considerable amount of smilies you can use if you want to. It is not common to see them being used, but it is a cool option available to players.
Your avatar in this game is a captain of a ship and can be customized in character creation. You do have a decent amount of early customization possible: You can change his/her face, hair color and choose its gender and culture –this means your new character might start from Athens or Alexander, and have different starting clothes-
No other initial customization can be made and you will depend on clothing and other equipment to distinguish yourself from other player characters. This is not bad, but the fact there is not a really big number of faces makes too easy for you to find a player with your same face you chose. In addition, the hair colors are rather similar, so they do not make you look special. We are not asking for hair colors not fitting on the game theme, but more intense red tones would be appreciated, for example.
Luckily, being able to get suits from so many different cultures will guarantee you won’t be running into clones of yourself the whole time. In short, players look all different, but you will soon be recognizing faces. Anyway, there is still much more room for customization in VCOnline than in most “one character per class” or “a preset of 4 characters for you to choose from MMOs”.
As another feature that can increase customization, it has been stated that there will be a player housing system in the future.
In addition, according to your reputation and skills, you can apply for a noble title, and/or a title based in your skills, which will be displayed near your name. (which can be seen by pressing the Alt Key). You can also change your home city to any of the 40 cities in the game, and its flag will be shown besides your name too. It Is a good detail, and influences some actions –like applying for noble titles- that can be only done in your home city, so fortunately it is not just a cosmetic change. In addition, each culture has their own titles.
Your character does not have any traditional stats like “Charisma”, “Wisdom” or “Strength”. These have been eliminated and values like max HP depend on certain skills such as bare-hand fighting (which, surprisingly, gets experience when fighting with a weapon. It is not a real issue, but developers might have to consider a name change for this skill or a change on it’s leveling system in order to get it to make sense). The elimination of these traditional attributes does not hurt gameplay in any way, as other skills fulfill their function, but it means you lost a chance to customize even more your character. Having skills depending on stats, and these stats leveling up as skills are used would be a great system to implement within the current skill system.
In addition, your ship can be customized to some extent when you are in game. First, you can “upgrade” it (rebuild it) into one of 3 kinds of ship per level. Sails can be painted with several motifs –which might be considered ugly to a certain extent- and the hull can be dyed into several colors. Dyes and canvas are needed to paint your ship. Furthermore, your guild or home city logo will appear on your sails.
Only two characters per account are allowed in each server. This is a way of ensuring no one can master all skills with their characters, but some people will consider this number too restrictive.
As we spoke about skills, it is suitable to explain the skill system in VCOnline.
In this game, there is a different set of skills for your character and your ship.
Concerning your character, there are 17 skills, which feature weapon skills, naval skills, collection skills and Trade or crafting skills. As there is no class system in this game, every player character can learn whatever skill you want to. This is done by talking to the skill tutor and buying the skill. He will give you the “basic training” you need to start using this skill, so now the skill-related actions are available for your character in the Instruction Panel to be dragged into one of the shortcut bars.
There is no overall level in this game, but only skill levels. Each skill levels up as you use them, so the more you mine and smelt metal, the higher your mining skill level will be. This can remind you to games like Ultima Online, where a similar system was used. It fits the realism philosophy this game says to have as a distinct treat.
Each 4 times a skill reaches a new level, you get a Special Point. Special Points are used to buy a special subskill at the Skill tutor. More Special Points can be spent at the skill tutor (along with some money) to upgrade subskills to the next level. These subskills are scarce –not more than 4 per skill, which can be found to be too low for weapon skills, for instance- and they can be of two types: Player activated (mainly for weapon and sea faring skills) and passive skills.
The player activated skills for weapons are good, but too scarce, when we compare this game to other free to play MMOs focused in grinding, which feature a much bigger amount of moves and special attacks.
We understand this game is not only about killing mobs, and it features tons of content and gameplay styles these other games do not offer. However, the lack of a biggest amount of movements and special attacks makes grinding in this game look too simple in comparison.
As opposed to you, your ship has 3 main skills. Each of these improve certain attributes of your boat, such as turning rate or capacity, and serve as prerequisites for upgrading your ship and ship equipment. They also gain new levels as long as they are used. General ship upgrading is called rebuilding, and increases the stats of your ship by a big amount, updating its looks too, so you don’t need to buy a bigger ship, and abandon your current one. Processed materials have to be provided for the upgrade, which is something some people disagree with. Getting these, however, is not hard when playing in a guild or having spare money.
By having separate stats for ships and players, a ship is worth money or not on it’s own, and can be sold for a price not only based on it’s overall level and class. In addition, ship can be upgraded into 3 different paths. One focused in fighting, another in sailor capacity and speed, and another in cargo space. This way, any player can find a ship that is suitable for them.
As we said, the game allows every character to learn all skills. However, you can only get 7 skills to go past level 31. These are phase 2 skills, and you can choose what skill to unlock at the skill tutor when it reaches lvl31, allowing it to reach lvl100. 7 skills is a number big enough for having decent military and crafting/trading abilities, allowing for a mixed character or specialized ones. This limit ensures no one will get all skills leveled to the max level and people will still need teamplay.
The game features a mixture between a player driven economy and a standard NPC MMORPG economy. Most standard items, like weapons and suits can be bought from NPCs, as well as tools for collecting and crafting. Crafted items, however, tend to have better stats (hp bonus for weapons, for instance). In addition, raw materials can not be purchased from NPCs, so people have to buy them from collectors or collect them by themselves –which involves killing mobs to get wool, for instance, or using planting, mining and lumberjacking skills- This means it is real people who sets the prices of this market, like it happens in real life.
As the motif of this game is Realism, it is a very suitable system, although risky, as prices for new items are high, and need time for people to get the needed skills and start producing them in order to drop because of a drop in the demand. This has caused some complaints in the non crafters/collectors, who have found some prices to be abusive. The players in the game need time to adjust prices to demand, as seen in real markets, and low level items will drop their prices by a huge amount. However, High level raw materials no one has will still have abusive prices, But being a top player in a game should not be easy, and the people capable of providing these goods will have devoted a whole skill (usually more) they had to raise to this high level which is only useful for crafting/collecting, not battling, exploring or trading.
VCOnline allows us to play very different roles. For instance, we can go and fight as a warrior, buccaneer or pirate captain. As the seas are very populated with NPCs and playable characters, a pirate captain will never lack a prey to hunt. Open Seas are, in fact, a free PVP zone where every player is supposed to be able to attack and loot other players. The suburbs in the cities -where mining, planting and lumberjacking spots are located, in addition to enemy mobs- are also a PVP free zone. Currently, there is a fairly hihg level restriction to pvp and noob protection, so it will only take place between high level characters. This will add difficulty to the game for non warriors, and will increase the sense of community and fun by having groups of people hunting revenge at someone –rewards for hide and seek can be posted in tavern, too- so we consider it another risky touch that will add to the overall fun of the game.
Battling takes place either on land or seas. Land fighting with swords, axes, falchions or guns is pretty similar to any other Asian MMOGs. You click on your target and tell your player to attack, triggering a skill occasionally. As we said before, the lack of a bigger amount of battle skills hurts this part of gameplay, which is, however, solid enough to be fun.
Using special skills will consume part of your stamina, which is recovered over time, and has a better rate of recovering if you are sitting, like in most MMOGs. This game, however, allows you the possibility to have your stamina refilled by a priest –in exchange for some silver- or sit inside the tavern of the city, where stamina is recovered even faster.
Sea battle features your ship against a number of enemy boats. The main weapon of your ship is a certain amount of cannons with different kinds of ammunition for different targets, such as sailors, sails, hull or the whole ship. In addition, you can purchase mines of various types, or grappling hooks. Furthermore, there are some player triggered skills used for sea battle only, such as ramming. Your ship can be equipped with different shields, that will protect it from certain kinds of damage, or protect certain parts of your ship like sailors, sails or hull. Sea battles are fun, and pretty chaotic when facing a whole army. When a sea battle starts, a battlefield is created an anyone can join and take part of the battle, which is great for receiving help, or just having fun with other players. This also brought killstealing and lootstealing issues, wich upset many players. If PVP comes into play, this fact might turn into a great reason to start PVP battles. At the moment however, PVP is not available for most players, and lootstealing becomes a real problem.
Grappling is a whole world by itself. You can use several kinds of grappling items, such as Greek fire, which delivers damage over time, and Tracers, which increase your cannon damage to the target for a certain amount of time. You can also equip a smoke grapple or slow the speed your enemies with another kind of grappling item.
In addition, you can also use Grappling to board an enemy ship. There, some of the sailors of each boat and their captains will face each other face to face. The strength of your sailors depends on your skills and number of sailors of your ship –so it is recommended to kill all the sailors you can with the proper ammunition in your cannons before grappling or being grappled- In short, sea fighting is a deep system which makes up for the simplicity of land fighting, entertaining players who like to see their enemies sunk in flames.
If you attack a ship which is not a pirate one, but belongs to a certain country, or if you shoot a guard in a city, you will be hunted by this city. They will use everything they’ve got to take you down, so while looting NPC merchant ships might give you lots of money, it is hard to keep yourself alive in lower levels. This means people wanting to play the pirate role might have to wait until late game to be competent at their job. This way, the only player pirates you will encounter are really something people will fear, which is great, as cities can handle lower level pirates.
When captured by a city, the player will have to spend 2 real time hours in jail. These hours do not count unless you are logged into the game so it might be boring for some people, but you are forced to experience the punishment you deserved. The 2 hours period can be shortened by certain means, such as gaming with the prison guard –playing Mastermind, in fact- or hunting rats. Descriptions and instructions, however, are not very useful, and knowing how to play with the guard might be too difficult. The lack of better translations and explanations is one of the weak spots of this game.
In order to do quests, you must join one (or more) alliances. Quests from the Warrior Alliance usually involve both hunting mobs on land for items and pirates in the seas, while exploration quests will send you to do certain discoveries, trading quests will make you buy and sell certain goods, and crafting missions will ask you to deliver some crafted items or raw/processed materials. In addition, there are some quests that will make you deliver some letter to a certain NPC, or do something beyond the “kill ten rats” scheme, which is great. There are not too many missions, but their number is enough for players to keep interest in the game. In addition, by belonging to a guild you gain access to guild quests, whose success benefits your guild. However, the mistakes in translation, and mistakes in NPC/item naming make quests hard to follow. As previously mentioned, the language barrier is one of the main problem this game suffers from, even thought translation has been vastly improved since Alpha Warriors tend to develop high level warrior ships. These are armed with a huge amount of cannons and have a lot of hull and sail hitpoints. It is a deadly enemy in a sea battle, but lacks of cargo space and speed.
As a merchant, you will experience the pleasures of traveling between cities in trade runs. The life of a trader involves buying merchandise of a certain level within the limits of the trader, and selling them in another city. During travels, you will have to face pirates, however.
Trading is a relatively low source of money in the early game, as you get nearly no profits for your trade runs. However, merchant quests pay really well, and will get you the experience needed for trading with bigger amounts of higher level merchandise. Some quests are supposed to have a time limit. It doesn’t seem to work, but could add an interesting twist to standard quests.
The game has a dynamic demand system for merchant’s goods. In the public tab of your chat interface, you will be notified of which goods are in high demand in each city, and selling there these goods will give you additional profit. These demanded supplies change after several minutes, so to maximize your income you have to be keen to your chat screen and have a bit of luck. This way, no one can take profit of a good market setting for too long, and the activity is more interesting, as the price of trade goods changes over time.
Trade runs can be boring, but very profitable when they are part of a quest. Most players, even if they do not plan on playing a merchant role, do some merchant quests to get money and increase the structure attribute of their ships. Merchant ships are rather slow, and have good hitpoint values. Their number of cannons is minimal and they do not carry many sailors either, but have a great cargo bay capable of fitting much more items than any other ship class. This way, trading ships are often , considered good ships, as other classes find their cargo bay insufficient.
Ships will sail slower when overloaded, just as your character does. This means it might not be profitable to fill your ship with cargo to trade in some circumstances, and you may prefer a lower amount of merchandise per trade run in exchange for more travel speed. As you will get attacked by explorer class pirate ships and yours have the lowest amount of cannons of all ship classes, you may consider purchasing mines, or using Greek fire as your grappling tool. These pirates are nothing but an annoyance. However, you might be attacked four times during certain trade runs, so you might got tired of entering in easy battles too often. This is for low level traders. As your ship upgrades, your enemies will be tougher.
You can have some security against pirates when sailing during daylight. Most direct routes are very populated by NPC traders and patrols who will attack incoming pirates, so your attacker might be intercepted. It is good to sail through these routes to minimize the pirate danger, but seas are totally different at night, as patrols are much more scarce.
The trader job is rather relaxed, and may be boring for some people and you might want to experience more action. But it is great that VCOnline allows us to do this job as an alternative to killing mobs and pirates, without having to stop anywhere. The merchant job was created for people to be always running around. Exploring is another possible full time activity in Voyage Century. You can travel near shores in order to make discoveries which will grant you reputation and money.
The day of the explorer is about looking for discovery sites or quests. As you sail near land, you might get sparkles near a zone. This means there might be something to be found in this spot. You should then toggle on the exploration state to send a certain number of sailors to explore, and wait for it to be found. You might get provisions while waiting, more sailors, or lose sailors and ship hitpoints. In fact, losing sailors is really common, and some times it is not worth the discovery.
After you make a discovery, you get a logbook you can authentificate. In addition to sea traveling to discover new zones, you can discover animals, ruins and other items in suburbs, but you must be the first one to see them in the server to get the logbook. After authentificating your discovery –there are authentification NPCs in most cities, named after great explorers or scientists- you will get reputation points and some silver coins as a reward. Discoveries are one of the fastest ways to get reputation up.
Exploration quests tend to consist on sailing to a place where certain discoveries can be found, authentificating them, and getting back to the adventurer alliance master. Some times, you will be given the coordinates you can find the discovery. Some times, you won’t. In addition, the fact that some discoveries do not match word per word the description in the quest makes it more confusing because of these translation mistakes.
For this tasks, an exploration ship is suitable. These ships are the fastest ship available, and can carry lots of sailors –you will need them for exploration tasks- You can have a decent amount of sailors, but a weak hull HP and low cargo hold. This means a explorer ship can be a great ship for grappling and boarding the enemy if commanded by a skilled land warrior.
You can also gather treasure map pieces in VCOnline. As it is a very popular storyline of books and movies based on this era, hidden treasure search is implemented in this game. You can get map pieces in your loot, and you will need to reunite a certain amount of pieces before being able to read a map. This is great, since it manages to keep you interested in your next loot instead of just feeling lucky because of receiving a whole map after killing a pirate.
In order to be able to read your map, you will have to authentificate the map by paying a lot of silver to an NPC, which guarantees looking for a treasure is a true event, not just something you do as soon as you get all map pieces. This way, treasure hunting feels right in this game.
In addition, most treasures will be far, far away. It is common to find them in Asia, which may feel strange. Anyway, hunting a treasure involves you sailing into an epic travel towards a land far, far away, which can be difficult for you to handle.
After finding the buried treasure, you will have two options. You can keep the item and use it, since these tend to have interesting stats. Or you can go and authentificate it for your country. This means you will get a decent reward, in money and reputation, but you will have to give the item to your country, thereby loosing it. It is an interesting decision adding complexity to this game.
Crafting also exists in VCOnline, and it is a very important part of gameplay indeed. Crafting starts with picking up raw and transformed materials. Some of these can be obtained by killing animals like goats, and others need from a special skill such as planting, mining or timber felling.
Planting consists on getting seeds from plants growing randomly in cities suburbs, planting these in the appropriate zones, and waiting for crops to mature, which happens in about 20 real life minutes you can use to do something else. You have to plant seeds one at a time, so it is time consuming. In addition, the fact that planting zones are limited means you might have no space to plant your own seeds. This is an issue that may cause problems.
Mining and timber felling work the same way. First, you have to find a tree or rock you can harvest from. Then, equip your tool and start mining. After the order is issued, your character will keep hitting the rock or tree until his SP bar is empty, allowing you to use this time to chat, or have a drink from the fridge. This way, you don’t have to be clicking in the rock every four seconds, but you have to check your character every 5-8 minutes.
Obviously, your character can carry only a certain amount of weight. When overloaded, it will cease to run and start walking. This is something to be avoided in some places were wild animals wander near resource collection spots, as you will not be able to run to safety and crafters do not use to be great at fighting.
In addition, ore and logs have to be transformed into the materials used for crafting activities. You need a certain skill level to do this, and will consume SP and report you experience. You will get a single unit of metal or timber per every 3 units of ore or logs. This way, you are getting material at the rate the game wants you to get it, but you are getting the “failed to collect” message many times less. Furthermore it causes the skill requirement for getting high level ore not depending on the skill level needed for transforming this raw material, as the first one is based on Special Skill level and the latter one depends on raw skill level.
High level material is a great item to sell, as raw and transformed materials are not sold by any NPC and highly demanded. This means a high level collector can make good money from selling materials to other players, ensuring crafting skills are important, and players devoted to this are welcome in guilds.
After you get the materials, it is when proper crafting comes into play. Crafters can be shipbuilders, alchemists, tailors and blacksmiths. All these professions work alike, however. You buy recipes or get them as loot or quest rewards. Then your character memorizes them, and you can create the item you need if you have enough material to do it. Crafted items tend to have better properties than regular items and some of these are not sold in NPC shops, so they are easily sold too. This makes crafters important in this game, and not just second class characters. Everyone needs crafters’ products to do basic things, like upgrading your ship. It is a welcome change in comparison with all other free to play Asian MMORPGs.
It is strange for players to devote to a single job in VCOnline. As there is no class system, everyone can do whatever their skill levels allow them to do. This means it is not strange for a explorer to do some merchant quests to make more money, or military quests to improve his fighting skills. This makes the game funnier, as some jobs may be boring for some people. You can just change your job and rebuild your ship. Or you can give a try to other activity as a way to add fun in your live as merchant, continuing with your trade runs after this pause. Many people devoted to a single “job” will get bored easily. Being able to do whatever you wants adds fun to the overall experience, as you are not restricted to play a single role decided in the beginning of the game, when you knew nothing about it. There have been some games which went towards delaying the moment to decide your class, but this system is the one which provides players with more freedom.
As this game is still in Beta, it is not suitable to go deep into the bugs you can experience. They are far too common, unfortunately, but none is a gamebreaking bug. You will see people with missing leg animations when they run, for some seconds, face "forcewalls" when walking into some areas so you have to find the right place to go through... these kind of bugs are not rare to find. However, fixing is underway.
But, After all, it is Community what makes or breaks an online game. The community of VCOnline has proven to be both very helpful and critic. As this game is still in open beta, community is still formed by totally different players, some of which will not continue playing the game.
One of the things that have caused more complains are events. This game seems to exceed previsions about player population, and some people think events have not been as big as announced.
Player support when experiencing game problems has been working great. You can ask for ingame Game Master help or chat with Support about whatever VCOnline question you have. It is not guaranteed you will get an answer different from “ask other players” by asking to Support, though. Lately, the Earthquake in China caused problems in GM communication, which arose a good ammount of complains.
This game beta opened with 2 servers, and did open a third server 13 days after the beta opening.
Given that VCOnline encourages teamplay far beyond any other free MMORPG out there, this game supports parties up to 5 players. Belonging to a party –called “Teams” in VCOnline- will grant the player combat bonuses, so being part of a party is great for everyone. In addition, it may increase your speed when sailing or give you other benefits when you are within a certain radius of your team leader.
Of course, this game allows you to choose people to add to your friend list, as usual in MMOGs. You will be notified when these people log in and log out.
In addition to the usual chat tabs for guild mates, whole city, standard chat, public chat, private chat and team chat, VCOnline features an in-game mailing system which allow you to actually buy paper at the tailor, and write letters to your friends. They can then write you back if they have paper, and storage your letter in their inventory. The fact that you actually need to buy paper to do this, being able to store letters as an item in your inventory and the fact that the interface of messages resembles so much a piece of paper of this era is a really nice touch. Guilds are a really big part of this game. To create a guild, you need a rather big amount of silver, and no less than four friends. This way, the game avoids “one player” guilds which are an annoyance in most MMOs. Being part of a guild allows you to access the guild hall, which is a guild members only area, and take part in all guild related activities, including guild quests, guild battles and guild controlled cities. Guilds have ranks for members, and departments to divide players in groups. In addition to guild politics, which involve relations with other guilds such as being hostile or allied. Hostile guilds can be attacked, and huge battles such as city blockades have been already fought between several guilds.
In addition, guilds are supposed to be given control of cities after taking them o in competitions celebrated after some periods of time. It would give guilds benefits and the ability to make decisions like not allowing an enemy to go into the city, and the guild would be responsible of the defense of the city. It could be taken by siege by any rival guild. Cities founded by guilds has also been announced as a future feature.
Guild quests are available from NPCs in the Guild Hall. These tasks are similar to standard quests, but will report nothing to you, in order to improve certain important stats for your guild. It is an interesting part of belonging to a guild, but risky as you can be attacked by anyone freely when performing a guild quest. There are many ways to contribute aside guild quests, which can be of several different kinds indeed. Guild control panels and guild screens available for all guild members are very complete, informative and easy to use.
Being part of a guild grants you some other benefits, like NPC ore smelting or weapon upgrading.
In short, we can say VCOnline is a breathe of fresh air to the free to play MMORPG market. There is still room for improvement, but the overall product is pretty solid and much better than many other free MMOs. If you are looking for something beyond standard Asian MMORPGs, you should give this game a try. It involves some very good design decisions, delivering some lessons both free to play and pay to play MMORPGs could learn from.
VCOnline is still far from perfect, and won’t appeal to some players, but it is both an enjoyable game and a step forward in complexity and innovation for free to play MMORPGs.
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