Out of all of the games I’ve played for F2P Kingdom, this one is definitely one of the most conflicting ones. Skyforge as a gaming experience has flashes of brilliance, but Skyforge free to play has some traps that I’m not a fan of but then again it also has some reasonable offerings as well, while at the same time I wasn’t able to get a clear picture from the very start…look, I should probably just start from the beginning.
Skyforge is an action combat MMO set in a world of high technology and basic mysticism meshed together in a way that isn’t really fully explained. The game takes place on the planet Aelion which apparently is under consistent alien attack. The only line of defense against this ever-present threat is the Immortals, a collection of literal gods and goddesses that take up arms against the danger.
Conceptually, playing a god is pretty interesting and the angles the setting takes gives the whole “bunch of powerful people saving the world” thing feel more acceptable. While this world’s pantheon of deities don’t really seem to be capable of doing much of anything other than cut up enemies real good, that’s probably for the best in a world as besieged as Aelion. It lends a bit of rationale to the idea of being some suddenly magical being, instead of being told you’re The Chosen One even though you’re surrounded by other Chosen Ones.
This idea of being a god extends into Skyforge’s advancement system. Instead of base levels, you earn Might and Prestige through amassing Followers. Gaining Followers is achieved not just through combat, but through spending a currency called Knowledge of Monsters at a Church built for your character as well as spending Credits for Rituals in devotion to your godly self. It’s a pretty clever little twist on the character level number thing.
So, about that whole cutting up enemies real good part. The combat model in Skyforge feels like I wish DC Universe Online did. It’s combo-heavy with a limited action bar, but the animations are crisp, actions flow cleanly from one to the other, and pretty much every strike made impact. When you’ve had time in your chosen class to get all of your tricks, it feels incredibly good and is probably one of my favorite combo-driven combat models.
What sort of took me by surprise the most was the way classes in the game work. While it boasts a total of 13 classes as of this writing (with 14 coming soon with the arrival of the Revenant), you’re only free to play one of three at the interim. However, working your way through the game’s campaign map and clearing the land of threats opens new Temples, which in turn adds more classes to your roster. And while I was hoping to play a Gunner out of the box, I enjoyed my time as a Paladin quite a bit and have grown to adore being a Berserker that much more.
You can hot-swap out of classes with the push of a button much like you can in RIFT. What’s nicer still is that, with the exception of your weapon, your character’s loadout and equipment applies boosts no matter what class you roll. It’s definitely the most convenient implementation of class switching I’ve seen recently.
Where the game falls short for me is, again, its lore. There’s a world here and there’s certainly some clever steps applied to Skyforge’s systems to make you feel like a god, but the planet of Aelion really isn’t anything greater than a collection of instances or dungeons or the occasional shared world area. So we’ve got less of a world and more of a bunch of pretty dioramas to run around in.
Still, as multiplayer lobby MMOs go, Skyforge isn’t a really terrible gameplay experience. I’ll probably peek in once in a while but at the same time, I’m not sure I’ll work up the desire to because of a couple of its free to play business model implementations.
On the topic of those implementations: I’ll be breaking down Skyforge’s free to play model in four different categories: Account Limitations, Store Interruption, Store Offerings, and Store Reliance. Each category is then rated as Minimal, Acceptable, and Oppressive with explanations on why I came to those ratings. Finally, I’ll offer up a summary of what I feel Skyforge is like for the first-time free arrival.
Account Limitations: Minimal
What are Account Limitations? Anything that locks content away from you, from character or class choices to hotbars, access to dungeons or end game. These are things that flag you as one of the “freeloaders” and restricts your play.
As a free player, you’re going to be hamstrung less by the fact that you’re not buying anything and more by the game’s advancement that bars some of the more intriguing-sounding classes away until you’ve cleared a map. It’s not terribly ideal and I’d much rather it be more open, but I’m also not terribly upset by it. As a matter of fact, my time as a Paladin made me very comfortable with how combat worked enough that I was able to play a Berserker with relative ease.
Everything else is otherwise available to you in-game in terms of equipment and content, so there’s not much to gripe about here.
Store Interruption: Acceptable
Store Interruption is based on how frequently you’re reminded of the in-game store during play. This either occurs through pop-up reminders that dominate your screen or buttons that redirect you to items offered in the store.
There are some redirects sprinkled through the UI elements of Skyforge, but they’re also just out of the way enough that I didn’t feel a great deal of pressure. Perhaps the most obtrusive one was a window-eating pop-up about some special sale on a bundle that includes a Class and some other boosts, but that’s probably the most egregious bit of panhandling. There’s not a lot more to say beyond that, really. Redirects are there, but they’re subtle enough.
Store Offerings: Acceptable
The Store Offerings section is a quick look at what the store has to offer. From the selection to the variety of items, this is your at-a-glance idea of whether the store is interesting and if prices seem to be fair.
You’ve got boosts, a couple of currencies you can pick up, mounts, and a selection of costumes. Nothing terribly fancy or off-putting here. Prices were reasonable enough, though it actually took me a bit to realize what UI redirect would let me load up on store currency to purchase things.
What’s nice here, too, is that a fair selection of items from the store can be bought with game currency earned through simply playing the game. While some of the prices are on the higher end and I feel that in-game currency is better spent on advancement, it’s a nice touch.
Store Reliance: Oppressive
This is an overall score of whether a game enters the “pay-to-win” realm with its offerings. Does the in-game store have an abundance of boosts? Does the leveling curve feel like you need to buy pots in order to progress? That’s what Store Reliance measures.
Here’s where things get hairy for me. It took me a while to realize it, but from the very start I was granted Premium Account status. It was a sort of reward that was handed out at the end of completing a Region in the campaign map. I didn’t notice it for the longest time and so I was thinking that rewards were awfully generous. Only until after I went to the screen you see there that I realized why.
To that point, I can’t in good conscience say that my experience as a free player was truly free. Perhaps the instantly-granted Premium status was intended as a show of goodwill, but all I can see is a rug that’s about to be whipped out from beneath me. The Credits and Knowledge of Monsters currencies that I was earning were enhanced by Premium, and those currencies are directly integral to your character’s advancement.
I’m not so sure that you can play this game to its fullest and effectively without buying Premium. Even though I was handed the upgrade for simply playing, it struck a wrong chord with me.
I would really like to enjoy this game more, but that one little random bit of Premium Access really put a damper on whatever enjoyment I was gleaning from Skyforge. That said, I really do enjoy the game as a gameplay experience. However, the fact that Premium access felt so vital to effective advancement has essentially tainted my impressions.
As a true free to play title, I’m unconvinced that Skyforge is as open without this boon. Of course, it’s entirely possible that I’m making more of this than it really is. To that point, if anyone reading this has been playing this game without a Premium stipend, you’re more than welcome to share your own impressions.Related: Column, F2P Kingdom, Free to play, MMORPG, Skyforge