Phantasy Star Online Version 2
If Shenmue was the DC’s swan-song, is this it’s strangled death-rattle?
Well, after many months of waiting, Sega have deemed us Europeans worthy of Phantasy Star Online Version 2. Version 2, as you may know, is not a sequel of PSO; it’s an update, meaning that this game is PSO, just with added bells and whistles. So what has happened in the long months since PSO was launched, just what have they been holding from the European market for so damn long? Let’s take a look and see… The original PSO was simply ground-breaking. It was the very first console based Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG for short), and unlike PC based MMORPGs, offered the genre to the masses for a relatively low price, after all, a Dreamcast will cost you £100 max, a PC will run into the thousands. The game itself was basic when compared to PC MMORPGs, but with no fees and a very accessible control system, PSO won many hearts, mine included. Sigh. The graphics, sounds and controls are all identical to the original PSO, which is a good thing, as the graphics look nice and sharp and rarely lag or freeze-up. There is not a lot to say about them that hasn’t been covered before, look at the screenshots. That’s not bad for a console that costs only £60 now, is it? So then. What’s new? Well firstly and rather crucially, your character can now reach level 200. That’s another 100 levels more than the original, meaning that the game has effectively been given a shot in the arm, as players can now strive to reach even higher levels, stretching their enjoyment as far as possible. Secondly, there is another difficulty setting; Nightmare. Nightmare mode changes the game completely, whereas normal and hard have the same enemies, only stronger, Nightmare brings in a new cast of baddies for you to blast and hack at. Granted they appear to be very similar (the first boss is still a dragon, just an ‘ice’ dragon this time!), but it makes a change. There are also some pleasing new shiny weapons, items and mags for you to collect. Which is nice. There is another two play modes now as well, challenge and battle. Challenge mode just sets you on the planet surface with little or no means for survival (you are stripped of all revival techniques etc.), thereby creating a ‘challenge’. It’s mildly distracting for a while, but soon gets very samey and you’ll bore of it before long. The second new mode is Battle. Battle mode allows you to fight in a ‘deathmatch’ style, with other players, and your rankings being presented online. It’s rather good, a ‘Unreal-lite’ if you like. There are plenty of options, such as traps and sonar and such, and because of the ability to alter statistics, a level 200 player can easily be killed by a level 005 player if they aren’t careful. This mode adds some much needed life to PSO version 2, as you can find yourself challenging complete strangers to a battle to the death. Fantastico. You may of also heard of the ‘Lobby ball’ game that has been added. Well, if I tell you that most PSO V2 players refer to it as ‘Laggy ball’ or ‘Go-go ball’ due to the horrendous amounts of lag that afflict it, would you be that interested? I played it once and became so bored with the lag, that I gave up and went of in search of something a little more interesting, such as standing in an empty lobby. I really wouldn’t bother with it, which is a shame. Now for the problems. Firstly, a problem that will only effect non-Europeans. The fees. If you wish to play PSO outside the EU, you will have to fork out for a ‘Hunters Licence’ that will allow you to play PSO online. This is not really a huge problem, but considering that the first game was free to play online, many will feel hard done by. The second problem is unforgivable and effects all players, all around the globe, it is cheaters and hackers. Sega have made an effort to stop hacking in PSO V2, but not a very good one, hackers have already found ways around the safe guards and are killing players off so that they can steal their weapons and money. This may not sound too bad to PC MMORPG buffs, but in PSO there is no way of defending yourself against this ‘crime’. You find yourself trusting no one, not daring to use your best weapons in case it gets stolen. This is not how online communities function! The game, in a sense, has been completely ruined by these vermin. That’s just what you are if you are reading this, vermin. Phew. That’s my little rant over with now. So then, in conclusion what does PSO V2 offer to the new PSO player? Well it is a well-structured, beautiful RPG with thousands of players for you to interact with, and must be purchased. For the PSO veteran, V2 offers little on top of what you already have, but you will buy it, you have no choice, you fell in love with the original and you must have more. It’s just a shame that the hackers have ruined it for you, if Sega can eliminate them, add 15% onto these scores, yes, they really take that much from the game! Oh well, I must go. I have to go and destroy some Delsabers with my Maracas... “FlameHawk” (hmm, catchy – Ed) over and out. For first timers, a slightly resentful: 75% For veterans, a shameful: 60%