Zero Online: Mecha Madness!
By Jerrico Tan (JetSet), OnRPG Journalist
Zero Online is a free-to-play sci-fi MMORPG made by TQ digital. Set in a futuristic mecha world in the outer limits, the game could be hailed as TQ Digital’s most unique asset, taking a route of scifi and mechs instead of sword and board.
The game’s main selling point is its Gundam inspired sci-fi theme. Even if it sounds like a rip-off from a major mecha franchise, it has plenty of factors making it a fun MMO. And together with the game’s extensive unit development, ZO would still undoubtedly give players tons of entertainment.
When players enter the Zero Universe for the first time, they are made to select one of three unit types: The Infantry, The artillery and the newly added Psyche types. These are generally the melee, gunner, and archer classes respectively. Each of them has their own unique set of skills that are well balanced in PvP. While the lack of class selection might be disappointing, the game’s unique unit development features like weapon proficiencies and pilotage (more on that later) would still get players glued to the game.
Players then will be introduced to a short scene about their unit arriving to the Steel Warship, where all pilots of the alliance gather and trade items. The place is like a heap of metal platforms with airstrip-like launch pods everywhere. And might I add that watching your Unit blast its jetpack thrusters to space is just dazzling.
The Zero Universe is huge, and there are plenty of places to explore. Once you get outside the Steel Warship you could travel to the Moon, Venus and of course on Earth’s surface.Most of the terrain fields are just static pixels in an isometric perspective so the environment details are not that impressive. But on the other hand, the developers still did a great job of not making the space fields empty by adding awesome 3D rendered planets and some satellite looking flying objects. Also, players shouldn’t worry about getting lost in space for this game also has an autopilot feature just like in many other TQ titles. With just a click of a button the autopilot will take you to your selected map NPC/area.
The game’s combat effects are also commendable. The 3D Unit movements when tearing up bots are surprisingly fluid and never looked stiff. Units’ skill effects (lightning effects, lasers) however, were only rendered in high-res 2.5D pixels and are quite unconvincing. Needless to say, presenting most parts of the game in 2.5D made the visuals look and feel half-cooked. Not that the game’s overall graphics totally sucked but I would really love to see this game in full 3D like Eve Online.
The goal of the game is pretty straightforward. Players just need to reach the maximum level and have the best equipment in the game so they can complete the toughest missions the fastest.
Achieving that task is just a piece of cake because leveling up in ZO is super fast. Just finishing the basic training quests would instantly boost your level to 20 and blasting just a dozen of the starter bots outside the steel warship would give you a level up. Also, if players have obtained a military badge in the game, they will have the privilege to train their unit even if they’re offline (I logged out at lvl32 and when I signed in again my unit jumped to level 45). And in addition to all of that, the latest expansion kicked the game’s maximum level cap up a notch for a longer gaming experience (from lvl180 ->lvl.190).
Taking up and completing missions that are mostly kill-quests and talking to some NPCs help players reach the maximum level cap. There are also warship missions that players can sign up for with a squad. These instances offer the best experience and equipment so I would recommend not skipping out on them just because you can’t find a party right away.
There are loads of weapons available in Zero Online. Every unit class has exclusive weapons to use. Infantry mechs can only use melee weapons, which vary from swords, sabers and lances. Guns with elements are solely for artillery units and the Psyche units are only able to use their bows with various elements.
Higher leveled weapon types require a specific weapon mastery level. Mastering a certain weapon is no easy task for it requires lots of monster killing in order to raise your mastery to the next level. Luckily for cash players, mastery CDs are available in the cash shops should they instantly want to increase their mastery level.
Forging items is also essential for unit development. Items with better quality would undoubtedly give bigger bonuses to the Unit’s stats. Rare forge items called meteors are needed in order to upgrade items. The forge success rate of an item depends on the meteor’s quality. Low-quality ones are obtainable but higher quality meteors (with 100% success rate) are an exclusive item in the Cash shop.
My personal favorite feature in ZO is the Unit’s transformation. Every player’s Unit can be transformed into an upgraded version once you reach a set level. Apart from a cooler appearance, new skills are also unlocked. Furthermore, when players reach lvl 135, they are granted access to the game’s Pilotage system. This system gives compensation to the lack of classes by evolving the mechs to a certain kind of Unit Class. Evolving to one special type unlocks special perks that are effective against a specific unit’s weapon mastery.
With all these features at hand, players would probably spend hours on Unit growth so that they can last longer in the game during PvP.
Combat (PK and PvP)
PK is available for players once they have reached lvl100. Players can turn on their PK mode anytime, but they must consider the game’s PK jail system and its consequences for abusing too many players via pk. Consequences consist of loss of exp for minor offenders and losing inventory items for the worst offenders. Useful UI is in place so you can prevent yourself from causing harm to party members or clan members in the case that mass PK wars break out.
PK tournaments are also held weekly and monthly. The tournaments are split and categorized into three ranking groups. Top ranked pilots are definitely rewarded greatly. Additionally, dueling is also available as a safe alternative for battle hungry players seeking harmless practice.
Some Uncertain Voids
Although the Zero Universe is a perfect place for mecha lovers, the game still has lots of inconvenient flaws. Among them, the hefty grinding players must endure tops the list. Farming monsters is inevitable if you want your units to improve.
Second to the grind is the vast power gap between cash shoppers and free players. Better upgrade items are exclusively available in the item shop and there is only one official weekly event that rewards players with Cash points (ZPs). If you want to compete be sure not to miss this weekly event as the cash shop items really are a huge boon in your quest for the best mech.
The Long and Short of it
With the game running in 2.5D, the system requirements of the game shouldn’t be a problem to hardcore gaming PCs. The game only requires a Pentium 4 PC, 256mb RAM and 128mb Video RAM. So in layman’s terms, if your PC was manufactured 5 years ago then this game would still run on your rig smoothly.
And despite having some inconvenient drawbacks, Zero Online is still a great game. The PK system is the primary feature that makes this one of the many competitive MMORPGs in the market. Credits, as well, to the game’s extensive Unit development system.
Mecha fans that enjoy seeing robots charge through swarms of renegade bots and watching them explode to heaps of scrap metal would definitely like this game. But in terms of depth and game system dynamics, I’d say Zero Online still has plenty of room for improvement.
Overall Verdict 7/10
*Mecha inspired presentation (with tons of space travel)
*Auto Pilot feature
*Extensive Unit development
*Graphics are in 2.5D
*Lots of grinding
*Lack of Unit classes
*Important upgrade items only available in cash shop