Written by Brian Perry Jr., Senior Editor of Onrpg
Recently I sat down and put some serious time into IGG.coms newest title Zu Online. It is another free to play title (as are all their games to date) that takes a much different direction than any of the others so far. It is a fully 3d title that really focuses on player versus player content to occupy the players time which is unlike anything they have brought out to date.
An interesting choice that was made was of the graphics. They decided to use Cel-shading to make the game look and feel more like a comic book. While I am not entirely sure about this decision, I have to say that I am quite impressed by it. Character, NPCs and monsters are all done in this art style. Other artwork in the game such as the flying objects that will move you through large areas of a zone are also done in this style which really makes the game feel like an interactive art project.
As with other IGG titles, the sound could not live up to the graphics. While there was a huge improvement this time, with background music that better matches the areas of the game, it still fails to draw you in. Unfortunately, the sound effects are not even as good as the music which made me wonder exactly what was being considered by the audio engineer that put them in. The longer I played the more irritating it became and I eventually just turned it off altogether and put on my own music.
The gameplay of Zu Online is a mixed bag. It is extremely easy to pick up and play even by someone who has never seen a game before. There is enough variety to keep even the most hardcore gamer tinkering with talent trees and classes to decide which one is the best for their playstyle. With level 300 being the maximum level one can get, there will be a lot to do. Hell, theres even territories to battle over in PvP that provide a lot of benefits to the side that controls them. Like most games from China though, the grind gets ridiculous. Starting around level 100, it begins to take 4 or even 5 times as long to get a level compared with the levels in the 90s. I can understand why this is done, but it still makes it quite difficult to stick around for someone like me (who has to play so many different games every week). Most likely this will be addressed through a combination of patches that ease the grind or through item mall items which will boost your exp gain to a respectable level. This still will leave a little to be desired, but hey I can support the idea that selling exp boosting items is good for business.
One surprising element of Zu Online to me was the community. The communities behind free to play games normally consists of a bunch of people who are/were picked on in high school so badly that they need to take their frustration out in a video game or are just total idiots that make you wonder who raised the little devils. With Zu Online though, the community is spread out over three factions that are vying for control, and it seems to bring everyone together. Very quickly I was able to get a guild, level up, and begin joining battles for control of areas. Never once did I experience anyone that was stealing my kills or taunting me after death. I am clueless as to how this happened by I would like to beg IGG to try and make sure the same happens with all their future titles.
Typical of IGG, Zu Online has very low system requirements which lead to smoother gameplay. The servers did not lag much and the game ran at a blazing 85 frames per second for me (though I am running on a dual core, 2gb ram, 512mb video card system). Considering the focus of the game is on PvP when you get to the higher levels performance is a key issue. This is one place that they made sure they shined.
Overall, this was a solid game from IGG. Definitely a huge step up from their previous titles, but there is some more room to grow. If you are a fan of PvP, Cel-shading, or just need something to occupy your next 75-150 hours then Zu Online is a great option.