By Remko Molenaar (Proxzor)
There are few older games in the MMO genre that survived the mass grave of shutdowns that hit in 2012 and 2013. Cabal Online is one of the fortunate few to carry on and even successfully launch on Steam. I remember back when it first launched in 2006 in Europe. There was huge hype surrounding the launch since so many titles had neglected our region. But for those that missed out on the excitement let me tell you a bit about it. Cabal Online is a free-to-play 3D MMORPG that manages to carry a solid community with standard classic MMORPG elements and controls. I went back to this game to check it out for old times’ sake and sniff around for that nostalgic feeling.
In Cabal Online the player is able to choose between many different characters that each branch out in their own type of gameplay and weapons. Currently there are six available classes to choose from: the warrior, blader, wizard, force archer, force shielder and force blader. I went with the Force Archer that specializes itself with magic infused bow craft to ensure each shot is a killing blow.
Well that’s one way to play them anyway. See your character can be customized while leveling to your personal preference. Each time you level up you are free to up various skills and stats to how you would like to build your character. You also get the option to do this automatically, but if you want to specialize yourself into one thing, like doing damage, being tougher in battle or a less stereotypical build, then you are free to do so; you have the full control over your character. I see Cabal Online as not just a classic MMORPG but one that set the ground rules for the base character customization players should have access to. Back when I started playing, the generation of MMORPGs wasn’t that far, and Cabal was seen of one of these special games that had a lot of content and features to offer to the player. Unfortunately other features in the game haven’t aged as well and lack many of the staples of the new generation of MMORPGs.
Each area of Cabal Online is split in zones, when you first start out in the game you will be shown how to teleport to these different zones. Back in the day when powerful PCs were out of the price range of the general public, there weren’t many games with open worlds. The ones that did were few and far between due to the massive budget required to optimize such a feat. Thankfully Cabal Online justifies the loading time between zones by putting in effort to visually differentiate them, with well-planned layouts. While questing is pretty basic, at least the scenery and mobs will change the experience up a bit. Dungeons also litter the region for an extra challenge whether you’re playing alone or have some friends near the same level as you.
To be blunt though the PvE content is just filler so don’t come expecting a strong experience from this element alone. The player customization and focus on contests of strength between players is where Cabal Online shines. There are tons of PvP features that could entertain you for hours. You can turn on the Player Kill system and start having fun by attacking people at random, or you can actually join PvP game modes like team versus team and other mission battles with an ELO matchmaking system. Focusing on these features is the quickest way a developer can get to my heart. Without them older MMORPGs just feel like bland and pointless grinds so I’m glad Cabal understands the importance of well thought out PvP features.
But all the content and features in the world can’t fully polish Cabal’s weaknesses. The game is clearly an aged title and has clunky controls common from the era. The way your character movement animations work don’t help either as it seems stiff and unresponsive at times. Plenty of invisible walls are present to further hinder your enjoyment. The game also felt like pretty much the same experience I had back in 2007. The updates are primarily related around additional end-game grind content and the core gameplay is practically untouched minus the new classes. While the community itself is still active, it feels to have lost some of its enthusiasm over the years. Most of the regions I visited seemed to have a few players acting like bots, and few players hanging around in the towns to chat with.
Cabal Online has a history, in both a good way and in a bad. If you have played the game back in 2006, then there will not be many significant differences. Unfortunately that is a bad thing, but it also gives me the nostalgic feeling, since many titles from that era have ruined their content with cash grabs and other poorly planned updates that destroyed the core balance. Cabal Online offers a lot of content for people that prefer to raid dungeons, or for people who just seek to test their skill against other players. As I have said, I find the game to be standard, perhaps generic in a way, because it has nothing too special to offer. It’s kind of the white bread standard of what an MMORPG is. Hopefully they manage to carry their focus into the rumored sequel soon and get this title the proper updates it needs to compete in the modern market.