Elsword, developed by KOG Studios, is a side-scrolling, brawler, and anime-stylized free-to-play MMORPG. It offers a lot of fast paced action and content with colorful and striking art designs that match this very cinematic side-scroller. It had just celebrated its third anniversary and is even older in other territories. It’s time to take a look at how well this game has aged and survived the ravages of time, and find out what’s so grand about Elsword.
Elsword, at this point in time, offers several characters to choose from, differing only in their form of combat and stylistics. Customization is non-existent in the beginning and can only be done by picking up certain fashion items or buying them from NPCs, as well as the optional purchases from Elsword’s cash shop.
Each character in this colorful cast has their own individual mechanics that sets them apart from one another. For example, Elsword, the titular character, can activate his Aura of Vitality or Aura of Destruction through his special mechanic, Way of the Sword, giving him boosted stats and a web of new combos and abilities while the auras are active. Another is Raven’s Anger of Raven that enables him to deal a huge amount of damage for a short period or use it to defend himself. This element ensures that no character feels the same and adds a bit more depth to the gameplay. I admit that I have not exactly tried everyone since I focused solely on Raven and Eve, but I haven’t seen anyone play the same unless it was the exact same character.
Being released in a time where character progression equated to content, Elsword offers a multitude of advanced classes for your characters and they diverge so far from each other, it becomes unbelievable that they even came from the same base class without looking at them. From a stalwart defender to a heavy nuker, there are a lot of character options that’ll fit in pretty well with any person from any MMO background.
Once you choose your character, you’ll be greeted by the cinematic backstory of your character in the form of a comic that is fully voiced and animated in its chosen theme. It got me even more into the game by seeing how alive my character was and then proceeded to create new characters just to see their backstories. It’s still pretty rare these days with most F2Ps to have little care for their own lore, and I found this very refreshing amidst the plethora of boring, cash-grab games we see today.
The base of the combat system involves your standard movement, skills, and two attack keys that are bound as Z and X. Combos can be created from the two attack keys and vary with every character. I found this little feature interesting as it made me a tad bit more creative with all the hacking and slashing, giving a bit of depth within basic combat apart from the character specializations. The tutorial you start out in is both entertaining and does exactly what a tutorial should do, teach you how to play. I did not find it as cumbersome and it even had an option to skip it all entirely.
Once you get past the tutorial, you can finally take a meaty bit out of how the game is supposed to play. With a linear path from level X area to higher level X area, I leveled and progressed at a decent pace, the grind for levels disappeared almost entirely due to the sheer beauty of the wonderfully crafted animated world of Elsword. The people and environment of Elsword is just so colorful and vibrant, that it makes the mostly empty maps just as lively as if there were hundreds of players around you.
There is not a single moment concerning the world where there would be a tinge of wearisomeness. It’s just alive. That’s it; alive. This is especially more so due to the UI’s very clean and beautiful layout. I don’t remember the last time I played a game where I actually didn’t bother fixing the UI or didn’t complain about it.
Where Do I Get Phat Loots?
Dungeons come in two varieties: The first types are accessible only once you’ve unlocked them via the story quests and have three difficulties available that you can choose to suit your tastes. Want to enjoy the game and soak up all the anime goodness? Pick normal and queue. Or maybe you’d like a challenge right off the bat? The Very Hard difficulty might be the one you’re looking for. It’s a fantastic effort to tailor a player’s needs and wants this early, making it accommodating as it is accessible.
The second is known as the Fields of Battle that offers massive and persistent dungeons where players can do quests, kill monsters, and just have fun overall. It is basically a free-roam area that players can just explore and understand the world of Elsword just bit better. This is really an ambitious take on the way side-scrollers are and I’m sure this idea will be used more and more in the years to come. Elsword really did do a good job in presenting this idea as it got even more people playing these kinds of dungeons due to the sheer fun to be had in them.
Aaaaannd… It Begins
A few hours in, however, the solemn hand of monotony soon showed and put my adventuring to a halt. Being a side-scroller, it really was limited to mostly progressing your character in a very linear manner. There isn’t much to do outside of the story, and the optional quests were given to you once you arrive in the area for it. These optional quests also are made up of pick up X items from X monster, or kill X monster X number of times, making for such a dull experience.
At first, I took solace in the fact that I enjoyed the dungeons as well, but it turned out that I was merely distracted by the flash and grit of the comic-stylized skills of my character. They, too, are just as linear as linear could be. Regardless of dungeon type, if you boil it all down, a dungeon run simply involves defeating all enemies of the current area before you can proceed to another area where you would need to do the same and then ad infinitum. Rolling into the first few dungeons, there was a semblance of planning out your moves because you’d enter alone; but once you arrive at the part dungeons, it just becomes a mash-fest. There seems to be no concept of strategy but just hitting the boss until it dies is the only thing you would ever have to concern yourself with. There are so many numbers and special effect in the single solid clump my party is usually is in, I couldn’t even tell what we were hitting anymore.
It is not possible to access higher level areas until you actually reach the level allowable to enter it. There is no concept of exploration to be found at all. The only solution for that is simply to level further and progress at what suddenly becomes a snail’s pace past the level 20’s bracket.
PvP, as awesome as most brawlers usually are, is just what you would expect, but nothing else to distinguish Elsword from other titles. The very concept of whoever starts a combo wins is just abhorrent to the senses, and the only other strategy apart from that is to whittle down your opponent from afar. The complete and total mindset of pure offense becomes just as linear as the game’s progression.
This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
I don’t usually like talking about cash shops since there isn’t usually anything worth noting about the common cosmetic items they offer, but Elsword has something that bothered me quite badly. For one, extra skill slots can be purchased here and are a big advantage in end game content and PvP. Having the maximum eight allowable skill slots could definitely set you apart from the pack as a force to be reckoned with, either in PvE or PvP.
Cosmetic items, though I said they don’t bother me much, tend to look far too tantalizing in Elsword’s cash shop. The limited amount of customization you can access in-game just isn’t enough to make your own character uniquely you. Though, that’s my own nitpick; I’ve met plenty of other players who managed to make do without hurting their wallets and still manage to stand out amongst the crowd.
Hey, It’s All Good Fun
Elsword is a notch higher than most brawlers out on the market and is definitely worth a try. It isn’t something for the more serious gamer, but it’s pretty obvious that the intended market is the casual player anyway. With that said, it is still a laid back and fun game that doesn’t focus too much on other overbearing elements and just aims to be as exciting and charming as it could be. I’d highly recommend it to anybody who just wants to blow off a little bit of steam by smashing colorful creatures with an oversized sword.