We check out Star Vault's brutal new MMORPG and try to survive to tell the tale.
Mortal Online 2 Beta Review – One Hardcore MMORPG to Rule Them All?
Star Vault’s Mortal Online 2 is the upcoming follow-up to 2010’s fan-favourite Mortal Online. The franchise is a hardcore medieval fantasy MMORPG series like no other. Why? Because it’s brutal, difficult, frustrating, and quite frankly glorious. We dove into the beta to see what the upcoming MMORPG had to offer and to see how it had developed since last the last time we scoped it out.
As always with beta-reviews, the game is not yet close to its final form and so all observations should be taken with at least a pinch of salt.
The willingness of veteran players to help newbies may prove vital for the game’s longevity.
When trying to fit Mortal Online 2 into the ever-growing, ever-complex spectrum of games, we imagine it would fit somewhere between For Honor, Outward, Valheim, and Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen. It is a hardcore MMO for hardcore MMO gamers. It is a full-loot, full PvP, first-person, hardcore sandbox MMORPG that wears its punishing difficulty as a badge of honour and makes no apologies for it. At any point, should a player decide to, he can kill you and take everything you own. Even the game’s official tagline is “The Most Hardcore MMORPG”.
What makes Mortal Online 2 so difficult?
For starters, Mortal Online 2 is incredibly complex. When finished, it will feature over 600 skills that each subtly affect other skills which in most RPGs would be unrelated. Want to improve your precision swordsmanship? Well, you better start practicing calligraphy. As with nearly everything in Mortal Online 2, there is little-to-no handholding. At least in the beta, players are largely left to their own devices to work out skills, combat, and just about everything else.
New players are not completely without guidance. When first beginning, players start in Haven – a tutorial island. It doesn’t take long to find the various tutors who will overwhelm players with a lot of textual information. But if you’re like us, you’ll find you’re not retaining much of this info, and will instead go out and venture into the world to learn the old fashion way – exploring and battling foes.
This brings us nicely onto the next element which makes Mortal Online 2 so difficult, the combat. I can safely say that this was the first RPG I’ve ever played wherein I was defeated by the first enemy I battled – a measly shambling zombie. Mortal Online 2 features a multi-directional combat system where the slightest angling of the mouse makes all the difference to your swing and your block. Equally important are the distance you stand from your foes and the weak points you aim for in their armour.
Unlike other challenging upcoming MMORPGs like Pantheon (which takes a decidedly PvE approach), PvP is the name of the game in Mortal Online 2. While crafting and upgrading increasingly better gear is important, the combat mechanics ensure that skill will always be the primary factor in deciding the outcome of a battle. That means attacking a stranger will always carry a significant risk.
We hope and strongly suspect that Star Vault will introduce a good deal more guidance when the game is fully released. While we only reviewed the beta, the first couple of hours of gameplay trying to figure it all out was incredibly frustrating.
For the record, though, I did eventually slay that zombie – thanks in large part to a friendly stranger who gifted me with a full set of armour. I may have accidentally looted his corpse not long afterwards, so whoever you were, kind stranger – thank you and sorry. For reasons explained later, the willingness of veteran players to help newbies may prove vital for the game’s longevity.
What Makes Mortal Online 2 so beautiful?
From the very first moment I started playing, I was staggered by the beauty of the world that Star Vault have created. Despite being a smaller studio, they have surpassed much of their competition in their stunning world design. As you begin your journey in Haven, a giant cratered moon looms close to the planet while the aurora borealis lights up the sky.
Quite frankly the difficulty level stopped us from seeing too much of the world, but we know that Nave will be full of diverse landscapes, hidden dungeons, and hideous bosses. Even in beta form, the graphics are excellent (though this comes with demanding system requirements). The creative team have proven what they’re capable of and we’re eager to come back and enjoy the finished product.
There is also a certain beauty in the combat. It certainly isn’t as smooth or intuitive as in other first-person combat simulators. Your swings feel slow and cumbersome; enemies are hard to predict and therefore hard to block. But it is also more advanced and more complex; something which makes it all the more lifelike and terrifying when immersed.
What makes Mortal Online 2 so ambitious?
We’ve already mentioned the staggering 600+ interrelated skills. But that truly is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Mortal Online 2’s ambitions. They want full siege warfare complete with siege towers and catapults, player owned and rented properties, complex factional politics, trade routes, seafaring, AI guards whose equipment must be constructed, repaired, and improved…the list goes on and on.
All of these bold ambitions also contain a whole lot of exciting detail. As an example, players have the ability to enter a “Mercy Mode” wherein they can no longer use items or skills and instead throw themselves at the mercy of AI enemies. A number of factors will decide if that enemy decides to give you lenience or just takes your head clean off now that you’ve let your guard down.
While the beta was undoubtedly a frustrating experience to play at times, it did give us hope that the fully released game could achieve something phenomenal. It would be a gargantuan task, but if Star Vault can get all of these pieces to synergistically slot into place, then they will have created themselves a masterpiece. That’s because these ambitious plans of theirs were not thought of in isolation. Everything in the game is intended to achieve a greater vision.
The possibilities are near endless in Mortal Online 2, something that forces players to either get creative or specialize. By forcing players to specialize, cooperation and trade becomes an inevitability. And here at MMO Games, we truly believe that when MMOs can encourage cooperation that doesn’t have to be implemented from the top-down, that is when the real magic of MMOs comes into play. Whether Mortal Online 2 can achieve the “natural balance” its director discusses in this 5-hour long Q&A is yet to be seen. But you can’t fault their ambition.
Our Closing Thoughts on the Mortal Online 2 Beta
This is a game that is meant to be tough and that toughness could lead into some incredibly cool scenarios (paying for player escorts, bodyguards, player-to-player combat training, long dangerous trade missions, hyper-specialization, encouraging community, etc.). Still, in the game’s current state of development it just feels like too much. We get it Star Vault, you want things to be realistic, you want to be the most hardcore MMORPG around, but some of us just don’t have as much time to get slaughtered for hours on end trying to get to grips with the basics.
Games like Valheim are tough too, but at least you have Hugin popping up every now and then to offer you helpful tips. No one can take in all the detail shared by the Tutors. The problem is, that really matters. Looking back at the MMOs we’ve lost in recent years, onboarding and early-stage retention are some of the most common falling blocks. While there are some of us who love the challenge of a hardcore MMO, I wonder if there are enough of us around with enough free time to sustain a workable player-base for the game.
There is so much potential in Mortal Online 2. But with demanding system requirements and a niche offering, there is a chance they may be digging their own grave before they’re even out of the cradle. Which makes me think of those zombies again.
Many locations and systems are unfinished; many others that are already live are frustrating in their current form. And yet what Mortal Online 2 has is potential, lots of it. Whether they’ll achieve that potential without being so hardcore that they put off their audience, well at this stage it’s “too hard” to say.
Let’s be frank, Mortal Online 2 has a long long way to go before it's ready for full release.