On a cold late night during PAX East I was able to attend a media event for Echo of Soul, a MMO being brought to North America and Europe by Aeria Games and developed by Nvius located in South Korea. Initially I was fairly skeptical of the game thinking it was just another MMO being brought over from another market in hopes of being a flash in the pan, making a few bucks before ultimately being put down to rest. From the presentation giving by Tom Nichols, VP of PC Games at Aeria and Alex Kim, CEO of the development house Nvius and the hands-on time I had with the game it certainly is trying to make strides to appeal to the audience but they have a steep hill to climb.
Echo of Soul has seen tons of success in it’s home country of South Korea when it launched in 2013 to allow the game to expand into other markets including Taiwan and China in 2014. That means that the game is well established, supported and has a ton of content. The North America and Europe release will also include there touted Season 1.5 patch that includes a slew of PvP content on top of their existing 1v1 and arena modes. In addition the game will have a companion app that you can download on your phone or tablet that will allow you to manage your inventory, access the auction house and chat with your friends. In a PvE setting expect to spend plenty of time going through dungeons outside the normal questing hubs.
The game relies on dungeons as a major part of the PvE experience to the point where they boast they have over 60 dungeons available in game with the majority of them having multiple difficulty levels. In the presentation Alex promised that each dungeon, each area will be uniquely different. He wanted the player to experience something new as they progressed their characters and travel the land. To prove his point we were given a tour of the various landscapes found with the game. Examples given include lush with grass and open space, an area that looked like it came straight from the bottom of sea. A dark dank place littered with ship wreckage and debris as well as, their take on a world from a dream, a dark mysterious place with architecture that varies from place to place.
In my playthrough session with other members of the press I played as a male warrior (gender determines what class you can play) who specialized as a defender, the tank specialization as we went through a level 37 dungeon. As a person familiar with MMOs it was easy to pick up and play. The game’s combat follows in line with traditional MMOs with a tank, damage dealers, and a healer. Opps sorry, Echo of Soul doesn’t have a healer class. Players will have to utilize various potions to heal themselves as well as tonics to mitigate damage. When you are playing in a party, your party members can heal you just by clicking a plus sign next to your name in the party frame. Healing members of your party does have a cooldown associated with it so you won’t be able to faceroll through content.
So instead of having a player dedicated to solely keeping the party alive, healing becomes a concerted effort by the group and everyone needs to make sure to take as little damage as possible so they can focus healing and assisting the tank who will need it the most. Since I was playing the tank in my group my priority was to make sure I had the attention of the monsters so the group could swoop in and eliminate them as well as provide support to me with heals and support abilities to keep me from dying.
Outside of making healing a group effort the overall experience was something I’ve seen a thousand times already. I pulled groups of mobs as we progressed through a dungeon until we reached a portal that would take us to the final boss. The final boss was a touch more interesting than the mobs we were fighting previously. Throughout the encounter additional monsters would show up and try to buff the boss. If you didn’t kill them quick enough the boss would get stronger potentially decimating the entire group. After we beat that boss, the developers offered us a chance to try a harder version. The fight was essentially the same but we also had to avoid a lot of area-of-effect damage in addition to killing the summoned monsters. It was a bit more of a challenge but we were able to get through it.
Overall, the experience was smooth. I noticed no hitching or lag while playing, the framerate was spot on and everything looked nice. The only issue that could be seen was that translation wasn’t finished which was excusable as the build we were playing was in alpha for localization. Some tool-tips weren’t completely translated or words were cut off awkwardly. Outside of the dungeons we had a chance to look at some of the underlying systems of the game. The Gem System is a way of upgrading your gear. As you play the game you pick up gems that can be slotted into gear. You can obtain stronger gems from more difficult monsters or combining lower quality gems and making something stronger. The latter is a gamble, every time you try to combine lower tier gems there is a chance for the process to fail losing your gems and receiving nothing.
Now I know what most of you are thinking, “Sheesh, another potential grindy MMO. You would think they would know that stuff doesn’t work here.” To be honest I can’t answer how the whole experience will be when it launches here in the west but I can attest from my hands-on time that if you ever played MMOs that came from the eastern markets you know what you are getting with Echo of Souls. I don’t know if it will be a grind fest but you’ll be dealing with standard MMO conventions, heavily instanced PvE encounters, and a dose of PvP. I enjoyed my time with the game, I don’t know what else this title to can bring to the table besides the unique healing in party play to really make a solid impact into the western market.Related: Developer, Echo of Soul, Hands On, PAX East, Preview