Cabal Online Re-Review: Too Much Style, Not Enough Game
By Michael Sagoe (Mikedot), OnRPG Journalist
From the second generation of online gaming, MMORPGs featuring hack & slash action were very rare due to programming limitations. Among one of those rare gems was Cabal Online, created by South Korean developer ESTsoft. It was described as “The Revolution of Action”, claiming to contain a mix between MMORPG and hack & slash gameplay, along with dazzling graphics and challenging quests to keep players interested.
That was all back in 2006. In 2012 where action MMOs are more common, and with Cabal 2 on the way, it’s time to revisit Cabal Online and see if all the claims still hold true.
Initial customization is far too lacking. Players will only have a choice between seven hair styles, eight hair colors and 4 face shapes in total. There’s no other way to make your character stand out from other players unless you purchase new hair styles and outfits from the eShop.
At least Cabal features a decent amount of character classes to choose from: Warrior, Blader, Archer, Forcer Blader, Force Shielder and Wizard, all standard MMO archtypes mixed with a few hybrids.
Customizing your character after initial creation appears to have some depth, but comes off as simplistic. You can increase the stats for your equipment by directly upgrading them with upgrade cores or by using force cores on equipment with slots. Upgrading allows for some moderate personalization, as well as obtaining runes items for your character, but these can only be used from LV120+.
Cabal Online was released back in 2006, so many of its gameplay elements are very dated. Leveling up your character will have you engaging in lots of pointless kill and fetch quests that will take several minutes or hours to waddle through. Most of the time, you’ll be fighting mindless enemies along with recolors and slightly altered versions of mindless enemies. Same goes for the dungeons/instances which revolve around getting from point A to point B while killing all enemies in your path.
Gameplay doesn’t pick up until you reach level 30 where players earn their Combo Chain skill and even then the game only improvements by a marginal fraction. The leveling pace has been improved; players must also deal with skill ranking. The only way to rank up your skills is from excessive use in combat, giving the gameplay a second layer of grinding, which is why there are training dummies available in each town, so most players can increase their skill ranks by spamming training dummies all day long.
Cabal Online attempts to give players something to look forward to by giving out rewards every ten levels, such as being able to unlock battle modes that make your character insanely powerful for a short amount of time, or being able to morph your weapon into a new weapon (warriors can unlock Scythes, Archers gain dual pistols, Bladers can use claws, etc.) which change up the feel of combat for each class, but the rewards after LV50 become meager and uninteresting.
Even for those that can deal with the repetitious gameplay they will not have much to look forward to, as the more “challenging” content is locked away for LV100+ players and endgame. It’s just another sad case of an MMORPG forcing players to grind their time away before they can get to the “fun” part.
Taking on a mob of angry gnolls isn’t as fun as it looks.
The PvP side of Cabal Online doesn’t fare much better, as many skills can stun, lock or knock down your opponent, coinciding with huge area of effects that make them nearly impossible to dodge. Coupled with the combo chain system, chances are if one of the two competitors can get a lock or stun skill in place, the match will be decided then and there, as the opponent that can get the first attack in usually wins.
Cabal Online uses very familiar MMORPG controls, including WSAD keys for movement and number keys for skills and potions. Movement works very well when controlled by the keyboard, but players won’t be using it much during combat, as movement and position with the mouse works far better.
Using your combo chain skill will allow players to attack enemies with their skills at a much faster pace, just as long as they can time their key presses with the combo meter. There’s no depth to this combo system, as it feels more like a rhythm and timing mini-game rather than a complex hack & slash element. While this system may have passed for hack & slash style gameplay in the past, it certainly does not count as one today.
Graphics and Presentation
With MMORPGs: There are fantasy themes, sci-fi themes, steampunk themes, and then there’s Cabal Online’s theme of trying to blend all those themes together into one garbled mess. The art direction is all over the place; almost as if the designers had no idea over what kind of game world they were trying to create in the first place.
Besides the awkward presentation, Cabal Online has been known for its eye popping special effects that will make every attack look like a fireworks show, and they still look great today.
Despite having multiple areas to visit, the world of Cabal Online feels incredibly small due to areas being cut off and connected by a small portal room. You can travel around and get to each of your destinations by foot within a matter of minutes. Combo this with map and “GPS” that tells you where you should be training and Cabal Online steals away any sense of exploration.
The game’s original soundtrack is generic, offering a mix between 90’s rock and alternative tunes, neither of which seem appropriate. Fortunately, Cabal comes with an in-game jukebox powered by .ogg music files which allows players to insert their own music.
Cabal Online comes with all the expected community functions of an MMORPG (Friends List, Guilds, Mailbox, Etc.) and they all work as intended. The community is fairly active, but many of the players are very high level. New players that are looking to find party members will be fairly difficult. Other than that, there is nothing in regards to community functions in particular that stands out from the rest.
With many MMORPGs bringing true hack n’ slash action to the table, many will find very little reason to pick Cabal as their MMORPG of choice. It may have had some nice ideas for its time, but Cabal Online will only appeal to those with a sweet tooth for nostalgia.
Customization – 1
Gameplay – 3
Graphics and Presentation – 3
Controls – 3
Community – 3