E3 '09: Perfect World Entertainment


Developed by Runic Games, Torchlight was described to us as Dragon Lair meets the Incredibles, but the truth is, this Diablo-style 3D action/RPG is the spiritual successor of Fate (which I really enjoyed). And I'm glad they said that, since I was starting to think along the "rip-off" lines!

For the most part, Torchlight takes what's so great about Fate and makes it better. This time around, not only you get the single-player experience, but the game will also be a free-to-play MMO.

The single-player gameplay is basically that of Fate. You can pick from three character classes, male Destroyer, male Alchemist and a female unrevealed class. Your character also gets a pet, which was so handy to have in Fate to carry extra items and send it to town to sell when needed. Killing creatures gives you experience, which allows you to level up. When you level, you're awarded with stat points that you can distribute among your attributes (such as defense, strength, magic) and skills (your spells).

Fishing is back, providing you with ways to enhance your pet, but there is also an enchanting component to the game.

Just as in Fate, there is plenty of replay value due to the random generator. The dungeon layouts will never be the same, and as if that weren't enough, you can retire the characters who have reached max level and profit from them by unlocking new perks for newly-created characters.

The most unique feature for the single-player experience is the Map Editor, which is a way to encourage the modding community to create and share dungeons with other players. The Map Editor will be released with the game and allows you to edit exiting maps or create new ones, by adding your own level design, quests, monsters and particle system.

As an MMO, Torchlight expands on character customization and larger maps, offering player mounts, and adding Territory Wars and PvP. Social aspects of the game will include chat features, friend lists, world events and player weddings.

Torchlight will become available Fall 2009 initially as a download. For some more information and random banter, listen to Rebecca's chat with Max Schaefer and Travis Baldree.

Perfect World International: Age of Spirits

Perfect World is a Chinese Mythology-inspired MMORPG already released and counting with two expansions. Oddly enough, we've never heard of it until shortly before E3, so we all went to check it out.

Starting with the characters, Perfect World offers three different races (Human, Untamed and Winged Elf) and six playable classes (Archer, Cleric, Barbarian, Venomancer, Wizard, Blademaster). You can customize your character in detail, by adjusting nose size, eyes color, cheeks, face shape, hair style and more, but you can also import your own photo and basically make a character than resembles the real you.

The game was meant to run on both eastern and western market, which means it would have to fit certain specific hardware requirements. With the performance feature, you can easily switch the way the game looks to tailor it to your computer's specs.

We had a quick look at how the mounts work in the game. One of the differences from other MMOs is that here you can fight while riding your mount. But say you're a Barbarian and you're riding your mount… then you morph into tiger form… someone else can come over and use you as a mount too!

There is an interesting Fashion System based on armor layers. You can customize the way your character looks without actually changing the equipment you wear for fighting. This feature is accessible anywhere straight from your inventory, with no need to interact with NPCs.

While the game is free-to-play, there is also a micro-transaction system, something that is becoming very common in MMOs and in some of them, completely turn the odds for the players who purchase these special items. But in Perfect World, the micro-transactions won't give you access to equipment with higher stats just because you have to pay for them. Instead, this is focused on character customization for aesthetic reasons only, and not to make a more powerful character.

Another interesting feature is the Genie System. Genies look like fairies and they hover around your character. It's a bit like a pet. It levels up with you and has an elemental affinity (water, earth, fire, etc.). You can have one Genie per element and can switch between them on the fly. Genies add another layer of strategy to PvP combat, since while you may know a character class pretty well, you don’t really know what their Genie is capable of.

Other features include Territory Wars for guilds, day/night cycles, good and evil alignment and consequences for choosing them, crafting, world events and marriages.

You can check out Perfect World International yourself for free at http://www.perfectworld.com/.

Ether Saga Online

Ether Saga Online is another Chinese MMORPG and the English-based version of KDXY, a title inspired by the Journey to the West novels. It is similar to Perfect World International, but the major difference is the actual look of the game: colorful and cartoony anime look, with somewhat chibi-looking characters, as opposed to the more mature look from P.W.I..

There are three different races and six different classes available in E.S.O.: Ranger, Rogue, Conjurer, Shaman, Dragoon (the tank), Mystic (the healer). Character classes have unique styles of gameplay, but as you level up you can further customize your abilities by assigning points to specific elements. There are also special skills related to the character's birth date and group skills for clans/guilds.

Every class is allowed a pet, and basically, you can capture any monster you enconter and tame it to use as a pet. There are 9 kinds of monsters in the game world, each with specific strengths and weaknesses. They can also drop a special card that lets you transform into that particular monster, gaining their attributes for a limited period of time.

E.S.O. also offers raids, dungeons and PvP gameplay, but you are able to solo with your character up to maximum level. Soon there will also be a patch to allow an "easy mode" for dungeons, which adjusts the difficulty of monsters and boss fights so that you are able to clear them on your own.

Some other interesting aspects were the extremely large game world composed of three realms, which still has a huge area that allows for further expansion, teleporters in the main cities, a quest helper feature that lets you find the way to the quest person by clicking on the quest, and smart pathing (which means you won't be stuck trying to run through an object when auto-running, but find the way around it and continue to your destination).

Ether Saga Online is currently in open beta, free-to-play and with a microtransaction system that allows you to purchase permanent items for your character such as outfits, mounts (including a very cool Ghost Rider bike) or instant teleports, and not things that will overpower a character. You can check it out at http://eso.perfectworld.com/.

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