There are many games that were loosely based on history. One can pick any of the significant, historical events within man’s timeline and with a bit of imagination and artistic direction, create a decent MMO. So lo and behold, a new MMORPG tries its hand in paying homage to one such event in history with Legend of Silkroad.
Legend of Silkroad is the free-to-play MMO from JC Planet and Silent Typhoon Studio. Set in the historical era when the eponymous Silk Road was the premier way of doing commerce and trade between East and West but with some added magic and flair, players are to choose between the Escorts and the Robbers either to ensure that the trade caravans tread the path safely with their goods intact, loot and revel with the spoils of war or outright lay dominion over the fabled road itself.
A Case of Historical Fiction
If you’re somewhat as interested in history as I am, the idea of having a game revolve around the Silk Road has the makings of something worth playing. Historically, the Silk Road was the main channel that served as the waypoint for cultural interaction from the people over the Western side of the world with the people hailing from the East. Legend of Silkroad’s approach was to incorporate territorial dispute between three leading powers of the era – China, Rome, and Persia. The twist in this three-faction war is the addition of fantastical elements such as magic called the Forbidden or Prohibited Skills, which are essential in collecting Magic Stones, gems that have phenomenal cosmic powers that will sway the war in favor for those who might possess them. Adding some magical realism can only add to an already intriguing concept, as long as it’s overused, and SIlkroad does it best to have a proper balance between the fantastical and the factual.
Each country has a specific character class: Rome has the Knight and Mage classes, while Persia has the Ranger and Rogue classes. China for the most part is not yet accessible for players, which is a bit of a letdown, as one can gander a guess as to what classes they offer (my money’s on Shaolin Monk and Guan Yu from Dynasty Warriors, because you can never go wrong with Guan Yu). Legend of Silkroad tries to contrast each country by the available classes which is an interesting approach of showing further historical authenticity mixed with magical realism. Rome houses Knights and Mages, due to their scientific and military prowess, while Persia’s Rogue and Ranger classes convey that Persians used cunning and huntsman-like means to get some veritable advantages from the opposing countries. With regard to the actual skills of these classes, they are, for all intents and purposes, what you might expect they are supposed to be – Knights can be played to be tanky characters that smash slow but hard; Mages are in charge of elemental damage, Rangers are long-ranged specialists capable of sniping down monsters and enemies, and finally Rogues are the trickster class which revel in subterfuge and sneak attacks.
Afterwards, players are instructed to choose between two factions – the Escorts and the Robbers. From their namesake, Escorts are the protectors of the Silk Road, and are charged with overseeing that the Trade Caravans which traverse the said road are well guarded from any ruffians who’d dare to loot the precious cargo. In contrast, the Robbers’ role is to steal whatever contents there are in the Trade Caravans such as resources or maybe some Magic Stones if they’re lucky.
Damaged and Surplus Goods
The addition of which faction players need to pick further adds to the seemingly grand scope of Legend of Silkroad, with players having the option to choose between rule-abiders and rule-breakers. But unfortunately, there are some elements within the game that stick out for the wrong reasons.
Legend of Silkroad’s camera and movement controls would be two of those elements. It is a no-brainer nowadays that MMOs have to have adequate camera and movement controls so that players can adjust accordingly when positioning themselves and to get a good look at the field of battle as combat ensues. For the most part, Legend of Silkroad’s camera and movement controls feel stiff – players have to switch between moving via W,S,A and D buttons with the mouse, and the camera movement feels constrictive because when you try to move the camera while you’re moving just to see the huge, expansive landscapes, more often than not your character will stop in his or her tracks and you’re forced to click towards the destination again. This proves to be infuriating, especially in battle sequences with PvE and PvP, as your characters’ movement seems to be impaired most of the time. The game tries to remedy this somewhat by allowing players to teleport from one instance to another by clicking on the map, but it feels more like a cop-out than anything else; sure they make traveling a cinch, but when a game tries to eliminate the need to traverse their satisfactory-looking world by means of one click, it comes across as a sad attempt of covering one of its flaws.
Regarding skill trees and other enhancements, while Legend of Silkroad gives players a surprisingly diverse skill sets that aim to cater to one’s play style, the overall layout of the skill trees and weapon enhancements look alien and are a tad bit difficult to understand unless you’ve had some experience with other MMOs. The skill tree and enhancement windows are also become hindrances when they’re all popped up in the HUD as you cannot see where your character is going. Having a better way of navigating the pop up windows and having a smooth and flowing interaction with these should be taken in consideration by the developers.
There is also the small issue with some writing mishaps when talking with the NPCs or going through the motions in the tutorials. There are some broken English here and there, and while it provides some instances of hilarity (looking for grammatical errors and weird sentences is a good way to shave off some of the dead air in-between quests), in the long run this oversight needs to be addressed if this game wants to be taken seriously.
The Quests Remain the Same
As players start off with their quests, one glaring thing that the more seasoned MMO gamers will figure out is that Legend of Silkroad’s quests are very rudimentary at best. Most of the time, the game’s NPCs will have players go to a certain location and kill x number of monsters and go back to the city to get their just reward. Now, while there is nothing wrong with that tried and tested quest format, it’s a completely different conversation when most, if not, all your game’s quests revolve around going from one place to another and just killing random creatures. After a while, battling the seemingly random monsters will become boring and stale. While there are some other quests like escorting or robbing the Caravans, those quests also become quite boring as the game progresses; even if these missions are exceptionally harder compared to the “Kill X Monsters / Get Reward” ones, there is no sense of fulfillment once the quests are accomplished. Not even the flashy skills, explosions and new armor and weaponry rewards can cover the uninspired quest designs. It’s a shame that this new title does not offer anything new in the MMO genre, and they squandered on delivering a game with such a highly workable theme.
Speaking of the creatures, it seems like the available monsters are just peppered across the whole overworld map with little to no foresight with regard to the viability or feasibility that those creatures can actually exist in that specified spot. One example of this weird placement is the inclusion of Sirens and Naga-looking serpentine creatures huddling en masse deep in one of the game’s forests. At first, it was very amusing sight to see: hulking anthropomorphic serpents that clearly have no business in the surface world and would rather be located near a coastline, underwater, or even near any body of water. To say that these creatures are fish out of water is an understatement, but yet in Legend of Silkroad, they can be seen frolicking amid the trees, for some reason.
Pros and Cons
Here are the pros and cons of Legend of Silkroad:
– large instances to explore
– perpetual Player versus Player outside neutral cities
– a lot of skills per character to choose from and master
– refreshingly difficult PvE
– camera and overall controls are cumbersome and takes a while to get used to
– too many ability and enhancement pop ups that are quite difficult to navigate
– quests are too ordinary and unimaginative
– story elements are rather forgettable and not at all appealing
– some NPC dialogue and tool tips have grammatical errors that might confuse newer gamers
It had some potential and an interesting historical link, but sadly Legend of Silkroad did not capitalize enough on their source material to make the game stand out among the other MMOs. With some questionable creature choices, ordinary quest designs, and frustrating camera and motion controls, Legend of Silkroad just meanders to that of a generic, grind-til-you-get-bored MMORPG. If you’re the type who enjoys grinding far too much, then this title should be worth checking out, otherwise, you’re better off playing other MMOs.