Skyforge First Impressions
TBD Overall Score
Simply stunning graphics, challenging gameplay from the get go and a refreshing change to the same tired fantasy clones
Takes a little long for classes Ascension Atlas to open up and become more customizable
There’s been a lot of hype and anticipation surrounding Skyforge, the new MMORPG from the combined forces of Obsidian Entertainment (KOTOR2, Neverwinter Nights 2, Armored Warfare) and Allods Team (Allods Online) and so we were pretty excited to finally get to try out the closed beta of the game with an all access account. For those that don’t know much about the game the basic premise is that you start life as an Immortal on a fantasy meets sci-fi planet where the Gods are not simply the beings of faith but are actual figures that answer the call of the people from atop their Divine Tower and send down Immortals to aid the common folk.
The lore alone clicked with us straight away, the idea that these Gods were simply overseers of the planet, using science and technology to monitor the problems affecting their worshippers and actively involving themselves in these matters. Second to that, and probably what has garnered such interest with the game, are the graphics which in certain places are quite simply breath-taking, but we are experienced enough to know that great graphics don’t necessarily make a great game. So as hard as it was we tried to put the visuals out of mind as much as possible, and it was hard, it seemed like we were constantly salivating at each new area we entered and admiring the overall level design that always gave a scope of grandeur.
With other MMORPGs, for us, it is always a case of the challenge that is one of the most important aspects. So many, scratch that, too many developers cater towards the idea that their MMORPG is going to be the first MMORPG their players have experienced and create a really show learning curve and tweak down the difficulty so as not to overwhelm new players. The truth is that this isn’t fifteen years ago where most people hadn’t even heard of an MMORPG, gamers are much more experienced and it’s fine dropping players in the deep end and giving them a challenge instead of the constant trashing of mobs without breaking a sweat. Skyforge does this extremely well, even playing through the tutorial we could see that there were moments where if you didn’t time your skills right or try and use tactics to move away from a bosses big attacks, you were going to find yourself face down and hitting the “Resurrect” button.
We’re pretty experienced gamers, with both MMORPGs and beyond, and even we managed to fall to a particularly taxing boss fight [Spoilers incoming] in the Port Naori instanced area (albeit it was labelled as being difficult). When entering the area your quest log tells you there’s two bosses to kill, for now there’s only one around so we figured it was a typical sub-boss leading up to the main boss type battle and steamed in with our Paladin for some melee combat. We were wrong. Once we’d inflicted a certain amount of damage after a certain amount of time a cargo container burst open and some naga/merfolk type creature rushed us and started casting a variety of water based spells and seemingly shielding the melee boss. We quickly realised that we might have to take down the caster first and so switched targets and once we’d inflicted a set amount of damage on it fled back into its cargo container leaving us to fight the melee boss and would re-emerge throughout the battle.
We died three times as a Paladin in that battle, getting close each time but struggling towards the end to keep our hit points high enough (throughout combat enemies continuously drop healing orbs that you can pick up, but they were getting a little stingy towards the end of the fight). Fortunately we were able to take advantage of one of the key features of the game and that was switching our class. We’ve in testing our Paladin but hadn’t upgraded him too much in comparison to our ice mage Cryomancer that had been our main character for the majority of our test, combined with the fact that he is a ranged heavy damage dealer it change the odds with the battle and we were able to beat it first time round. This class switching feature was a godsend (pardon the pun), able to simply go to your menu whilst in the middle of an instance mission and choosing between the available classes means players can switch up for any scenario or ensure they can switch into whatever class a group might need. We only had access to the three basic classes; Paladin, Cryomancer and Lightbinder, but we also saw in our travels the Gunner and Berserker classes, which we can only presume are unlocked through Founders Packs and such, and they looked damn impressive from what we saw.
We did find that, from time to time, there was an element of having to travel a long way simply to speak to an NPC, particularly in early mission where we had to find a Worshipper in the Park, which meant a long run through the area just to speak to him and there being no real quest or action (though admittedly the area looked amazing so we weren’t exactly bored whilst taking in the sights). Any time you have to travel back to an NPC or go back and forth between them can be a little bit frustrating and unnecessary, and other games have handled this kind of thing better (such as Star Wars: The Old Republic with the use of comm devices and holomessages from NPCs when you complete a quest so you didn’t have to go back to them).
That said at least in Skyforge you don’t have to keep picking up quests one at a time from various sources, from our experience we got the majority of our quests when speaking to an initial area NPC that would simply update as you completed them. Similarly claiming rewards when you complete a quest is an instant and effortless affair, particularly useful with the crystal resources that you earn completing quests that can be spent on upgrading skills in the Ascension Atlas system, which meant we could keep upgrading our character as we played.
The Ascension Atlas was initially a concern for us, basically a web of nodes that players unlock by spending their resources (similar to Path of Exile, but with each class having their own tree). When initially looking at the Atlas it seemed extremely linear, with no choices initially and players only able to unlock the same new skill/attribute node in the same order as everyone else. From what we could tell in game the path only really branched out a little towards the end, but even then not that much. However from the screenshots we’ve now seen from other sources it appears that, somehow, these Atlas’ become considerably more customisable and so what was our biggest concern has since been abated.
So the big question is “is the game worth it”? Well we’ve played a lot of MMORPGs and more of them are released at a pretty steady stream and none of them seem to offer that much in the original core gameplay and instead focus more on different endgame features. For us Skyforge felt like a breath of fresh air, from tutorial to early missions the combat and challenge was exciting, it didn’t feel like we were playing the through easy newbie quests just to learn the controls. The game delivers both aesthetically and functionally, and whilst the GUI feels a little different and has that sci-fi element, it’s nice to see an MMORPG not simply using the same cut-and-paste World of Warcraft interface that we’re tired of seeing.
Honestly? We could be looking at the best MMORPG that’s been coming to the market in a very, very long time.