Martial Empires – Traditionally Different?
By Neil Kewn (Murxidon), OnRPG Journalist
If you’re in the market for a free attractive fantasy MMO, you won’t go far wrong with Martial Empires. Known as Seven Souls Online in Korea, the free-to-play MMO has made its way over to Western Shores thanks to publisher Gamigo. Familiar in style and gameplay, you would be forgiven for passing this off as just another run of the mill MMO, but Martial Empires has a little more going for it. A couple of novel ideas and polished combat mechanics mean this game is a more refined title than its many peers.
Make no mistake – the free-to-play market is still as strong as it has ever been. Players love their free content and when you take into account the sheer number of free MMOs out there, the market is alive and well. While great for gamers, this poses a challenge for publishers and developers to create a game that feels fresh, innovative and just a little bit exciting. Martial Empires has good character customization, an attractive looking world and superb animation. First impressions are good.
From the outset there are just three different classes to choose from, each with several different specializations to inject some much needed variety. The Warrior class can choose to engage in combat with spears, axes and broadswords. Shadow Walkers deal with close-range combat or can perform ranged attacks with a bow. The Babylonians act as a Mage class. Character creation itself is deep, with everything from nose width to lip thickness editable. There are numerous sliders to alter almost anything about your character, helping to create a sense of individuality amongst the player base. Character models are suitably detailed – all of your hard work won’t go to waste when you join the lush world of Neha.
When you first log in, there’s a small adjustment period. Tooltips provide a decent amount of information about mechanics and how to get a decent start in-game, but anyone who has played any number of free MMOs will feel right at home controlling their character and performing actions. Unfortunately the more advanced features aren’t explained very well, as the built in help manual is sparse and filled with spelling and grammatical errors, unwelcome evidence of the game’s move to the West. Movement is via the WASD keys or through point and click, and the user interface is pretty much standard in its representation of player health and abilities. A minimap on the bottom right of the UI highlights important characters and places of interest, and that’s where you will find your first quest.
Gaining experience, levelling and acquiring new skills and abilities is your first priority. Quests that are doled out by NPCs usually involve travelling, collecting, killing or variations on all three. Quick to complete and handsomely rewarding, you will be moving from area to area relatively quickly and introduced to other aspects of the game as you level. Levelling up also grants Skill Points which are spent improving and gaining new abilities depending on your chosen specialization.
One of the most satisfying things about Martial Empires is its exciting combat system. Thanks to high quality animations, abilities have a sense of real power behind them when performed. A shaky-cam effect adds a visceral edge to even the most mundane and simple of confrontations. New abilities feel powerful and damaging, which go a long way in making those kill-x quests appealing. In combat you are encouraged to jump from enemy to enemy to fill up a Combo gauge, which in turn awards you with bonuses when attacking.
Another perk of combat is Fury, a meter which fills when enemies are defeated, granting access to an extremely powerful character transformation. Not only are you given a bonus in damage for a period of time, you also glow and sprout massive wings. A neat little ability. Battlegrounds make up the bulk of centralized PVP combat, offering arena based confrontations against other players or against powerful enemies. Guild Warfare is a relatively new feature that pits clans against each other for the chance to win a Tournament Cup. There’s a good amount of variety here and they make a nice diversion from levelling.
Another interesting feature is the Slot Machine gambling system, or “Jackpot”. The slot machine awards players an item, in-game currency, experience or a limited buff. By killing enemies and turning in quests, you earn points used to activate your next slot machine spin. It’s always fun to pull the lever and see what prizes you get.
Martial Empires’ Crafting system plays an important part in the game, and you will often see players seeking out higher level crafters to create advanced items. Enchantments and a “Cube” item combination feature are also in, with the former being particularly useful in increasing the stats of armour whilst providing an aesthetic upgrade with the use of Bloodstones.
Speaking of aesthetics, Martial Empires’ world of Neha is an attractive fantasy landscape. Well detailed, it’s populated with nicely modelled characters and animals. It doesn’t suffer from painful aliasing issues prevalent in other games and runs very smoothly. Lag is rare. Unfortunately the client itself can be unresponsive and is prone to crashing, especially when switching windows.
Typically games of this class use a cash store to fund itself, and Martial Empires is no exception. Offering a wide variety of premium items to aid in your travels, payments are made with a virtual currency known as “Ducats”, which is recharged using real-world cash in blocks starting at 300 Ducats. Potions, costumes, experience aids, extra bank space and crafting enhancements are all up for grabs, priced at a reasonable amount.
Martial Empires is a fun, fast-paced game that any fan of Western MMOs will immediately enjoy. Complimenting familiarity, or as some may see it – unoriginality, with a couple of neat ideas goes some way in differentiating it from the other run of the mill games available. It may lack polish in certain areas (most apparent in its awful translation), but its rough edge doesn’t detract from the overall experience too much. With a little gloss, Martial Empires would make for a stellar free MMO.
Graphics – 3
Controls – 4
Features – 4
Customization – 4
Community – 2