Twin Saga, another colorful anime MMORPG from developer X-Legend Entertainment (Aura Kingdom, Eden Eternal, Grand Fantasia), finally entered its open beta phase this August 2016, and founder packs are up on publisher Aeria Games’ official website for anyone looking for an early headstart. After a brief look at the merry candy-land graphics of this new title and a run-down of the special features, I was happy to jump into Twin Saga as a dispassionate tourist with a certain weakness for the cute and whimsical. Several hours in, this new MMO has left me with very mixed feelings and a significantly lowered bar of expectations for the game’s future but then, your mileage may vary.
First Impressions: The World
Twin Saga follows a long line of heavily instanced anime grinders with cute graphics, in-game shops, and a so-called active combat system, similar to other X-Legend Entertainment titles or Eyedentity’s Dragon Nest Online – a title I have enjoyed in the past. From the get-go, there’s the obligatory dramatic story arch in Twin Saga that the player finds him or herself dragged into as yes, an orphan with special powers, destined to fight in a great conflict between good and evil. Expect a lot of cut scenes and exposition in order to catch up with what is essentially the same old story.
The first thing that hit me as I was finding my feet and playing through the early intro scenario was that the world of Twin Saga felt like a great stage of props, with invisible barriers inside the already instanced zones that would keep my character from exploring maps and towns freely. The game keeps players firmly on a railroaded track, much to my chagrin. I can deal with loading times between greater zones in MMORPGs but free movement being so restricted, and market stalls and buildings boiling down to little more than window dressing, is a big damper on my personal MMO enjoyment. On the upside, I received a giant hamster mount around the same time that I realized maps were restricted, so that appeased me somewhat.
Invisible barriers aside, there are things to see and discover and, as mentioned before, Twin Saga is full of eye candy, quirky characters, and beautiful little details, accompanied by a very accomplished soundtrack. The cosmetic factor is well served in this title and the old school “overworld map” that is unlocked after the intro is a smart way of merging portals and hubs together for a more cohesive overall world feel while also offering players non-combat activities such as Astral Adventures and fishing.
General Combat and Gameplay
Players may choose between a set of class archetypes such as mage, swordmaster and dragonknight with further customization options down the line. Each of the classes I tried during the beta played differently in combat and the possibility to switch between classes at any time is a big plus. As far as the action combat goes, however, Twin Saga fell short compared to the more fast-paced and brawly fun of Dragon Nest, or the varied and precise action combat I’ve come to respect in Black Desert Online.
Twin Saga features non-targeted MMO hotbar combat which is either executed via keybindings or by right-clicking icons (instead of the more familiar left-clicking), but the free targeting and pacing of attacks felt so off and unprecise at times that I started missing a tab target function. Given that my mage could not cast spells while moving anyway, combat felt like an unhappy marriage of classic, slow MMO combat and a non-targeted battle system. Maybe I was doing it wrong but I never came to enjoy combat mechanics, no matter how spectacular the ultimate move animations.
As far as general gameplay goes, Twin Saga instantly sets players on the familiar path of highly uninspired fetch-and-delivery and kill-ten-rats questing. There is truly nothing new here, so get ready to chase those sparkly exclamation and question marks!
Narration and Dialogue
If there’s one feature that stands out in your early Twin Saga experience, it’s the abundance of exposition and dialogue without any real player agency or meaningful choices. Half an hour in, I was already listlessly clicking my way through series of dialogue boxes which included actual stage directions and non-verbal cues along with all the direct conversation. This MMO really leaves no room for a more individual hero experience; your character even gets told how she is feeling and what she is thinking during quest exchanges. Players looking to identify with their online avatar and who appreciate a degree of individualism will need to look elsewhere, as Twin Saga follows a very linear hero story for your character in old JRPG fashion.
That is not the worst thing about narration and dialogue in Twin Saga, however; its biggest issues lie in translation and localization. Already the starting quests received from the first hub feature a bewildering range of innuendo, from juvenile panties humor to exchanges so creepy and uncomfortable that it’s hard not to feel completely alienated considering the overall lighter mood of the game. Unsurprisingly, female NPCs get the worst deal here and after I watched cornered Eleanor save herself from a band of creepy thieves by means of a “well-timed clout between their legs”, an experience which should “make them think twice before flaunting their unwanted testosterone in girls’ faces again”, I had quite enough of the heavy-handed and uneasy dialogue in Twin Saga, but it kept coming as I progressed through the game. The below screen caps feature just one of many such occasions:
There are moments too where the English localization team seemed to have fun with quest translations, referencing western pop-culture icons or items, the same way it’s done in FFXIV with Fates and achievements. It’s up to personal taste whether “Material Girl” and “Varis Bueller’s Day Off” are a fun addition to one’s gameplay experience or break immersion in an annoying way.
Twin Saga’s greatest strengths undoubtedly lie in its special features, such as the Senshi companions and customizable Terracottages. While player characters already get an array of talent specializations and starstone enhancements to boost them, Twin Saga introduces special companions, which work similarly to summoned pets in other MMOs, to aid players in combat and level up with them. Senshis can be activated with Senshi cards and players may use a party of up to 3 Senshis at a time.
Terracottages, aka mobile player homes, are another exciting feature of Twin Saga, combining the full MMO housing experience with a handy means of transportation within the game world. Players can use their Terracottages as crafting stations too, and may invite friends into their homes to socialize. This by far has been the most intriguing aspect of the game for me, even if I haven’t tried it out myself yet.
Twin Saga will appeal to everyone with a general love for anime quirks and graphics, linear story and instanced content. While combat and quest mechanics are fairly traditional, the game features a refreshing spin on player housing as well as combat companions. For a lover of generally more mature content and persistent MMO worlds, the invisible barriers within Twin Saga’s zones, as well as unintuitive combat and a heavy load of dialogue and innuendo, were the biggest show stoppers. It’s fair to say that this MMORPG isn’t the right fit for me personally, but I will definitely keep an eye out for an official soundtrack release!Related: Beta, MMORPG, Preview, Twin Saga, X-Legend Entertainment