MMO Beat-Em-Ups (Off Week Update 11-30-2012)

You know I haven’t even touched the next game I’m working on yet?

Ok, so with the release of Episode 32 on DarkBlood I was starting to notice just how often I seemed to gravitate toward this genre. After all, if you recall the opening to Episode 0, we were all about to play Turtles in Time before my Xbox crashed. (The actual situation that was based on, we were about to play Castle Crashers.) Regardless, the games in my hypothetical and parenthetical situation were both Beat-em-ups. I fucking LOVE Beat-Em Ups. I have no idea why. If you had any idea how much time I spent with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game on XBLA for that review, you’d be all the more mad at my release schedule for MMO Grinder giving me only a week and a half to work with any given title. (This is also when scripts took me 4 weeks to 3 months to complete, I had a worse microphone, and didn’t quite have a grasp on how to talk to the camera without staring at it like I was afraid it was going to hit me.)
Yeah, the games are repetitive, yeah they’re much less fun to play alone, and I totally don’t care. Get one like Castle Crashers, River City Ransom, Scott Pilgrim, where there’s a bit of progression and a variety of moves to use, and I’m all over it. Not AS much of a fan of quarter-muncher Beat-em-ups, but I’ll still give one a few playthroughs when I have the chance. (It’s where you’re most likely to find me at MAGfest, really.)

So now that’s I’ve sampled 4 different MMO versions of this genre. Let’s take a quick look back at all of them and how my perspective has changed:

Dungeon Fighter Online (Episode 5)
I have NO idea this game had such an… intense fanbase. Not that’d I’d expect anything less from Nexon’s playerbase, but let’s say this is now my most viewed MMO Grinder episode on Youtube, and the comments make me want to set fire to anyone with a Youtube account. Myself included. Just the self-proclaimed experts and massive nitpickers I’m used to seeing on… well… the City of Heroes review. It’s pretty much souring me on the idea of ever getting back into it… also Nexon. Regardless, DFO is much simpler, but I honestly feel it’s the weakest entry out of the 4 I’ve looked at. My main gripe is no only how hard it can be to hit enemies, but the RPG styles “miss” mechanic. Nothing, NOTHING is more annoying than getting a good combo going and seeing “MISS” pop up in the middle, ending it immediately. Also the stupid Nexon launcher, really low resolution, and overly complex quest and town layout doesn’t lend itself well to fond memories.

Rusty Hearts (Episode 9)
This is a game I kinda feel bad for leaving alone, especially since most of the reason was my laggy ass computer making the later dungeons nearly unplayable. RH is a game that THRIVES on timing, and keeping an eye on enemy attacks. It’s much more cerebral then the other games, as your attacks are slower and more deliberate. Now that it’s available on Steam, like a few other offerings from Perfect World, I might jump back into it for a long overdue Backtrack. (Yes, I’m aware DFO is also on Steam.)

Elsword (Episode 19)
I loved the hell out of this game before I understood something about it. This is another one of those titles where I was getting a lot of flak for… not at the level of vitriolic volume of CoH or DFO, but still vocal. See, there’s a system in place I didn’t catch on in this game. The game itself never spoke about it, and when I did hear about it, it seemed… wrong. The “knockdown” system. See, in Elsword, when you hit an enemy to the point they fall over, when they get back up, they have increased defense and become harder to kill. Early on it’s easy to miss this as enemies are generally weaker, and you finish them off fast, but as you go on knocking enemies down too much can render them nigh unkillable, and the community CAN’T STAND people who do it. Mechanic in place, I understand it… BUT IT MAKES NO DAMNED SENSE. In every beat-em up, fighter, what have you, knocking people down is something you most likely WANT to do. It gives you reprieve from attacking them, and in games with massive amounts of enemies, it lets you keep the amount of threats down to a minimum. Having a game mechanic where knocking the enemy down is a BAD idea is the most counter-intuitive thing I’ve ever heard. Competitive Martial Arts awards points for knocking down your opponent. And the fact an enemy gets STRONGER by knocking them down? Go ahead and have someone push you over, or just fall backward onto the floor. Tell me how empowered you feel after you do it. Still, I love this game’s manga aesthetic, it’s a lot of fun to be had, and I do want to check out the new character, but… just… that.

DarkBlood (Episode 32)
I’ve never loved a game I’ve been so embarrassed to play. It’s like someone heard my curious inquiry as to why Beat-Em-Up’s needed Jiggle Physics all the time, and thought, “Challenge Accepted”. I was playing today and recieved a quest from the waifish NPC item vendor in Water Veil asking me to find out why the blacksmith girl had such a womanly body, and how she did it, and that Blacksmith telling me she got some magic underwear as a child that made her boobs grow, and where I could get some for the Item Vendor. I am not making this up. And yet, despite how dirty this game makes me feel on occasion, I LOVE THE HELL OUT OF IT. It’s probably just due to the perfect storm of what I liked of the previous games I looked at. It’s got the combo and skill chaining combat of DFO, the free 3D movement and models of Rusty Hearts, and the flash and fun of Elsword. When you start getting good combos together and just wail away on a massive group of enemies, watching them tear apart in pools of blood and limbs it’s cathartic as fuck.  Sure, the game’s not the prettiest of the 4 (prettier than DFO but far less colorful, to be sure) and the stamina system is the most limiting, especially given the amount of times the story will force you into the exact same dungeon, but it’s not like quarter-muncher Beat-em-ups have that much to look at either… and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen more areas in Dark Blood than I have in a few of those games combined.

Now in no particular order, here’s who I feel does what best:

Best Music:
Rusty Hearts. NO CONTEST. I still think Elsword has the coolest boss theme. But RH has a whole theme of music that so perfectly blends the gameplay and aesthetic of the world. Even the few “boring” tracks are at least well done.

Best Aesthetic:
Elsword. Despite the characters being laughably polygonal, that all seems to go away the minutes to start drop kicking enemies, and massive comic panels appear from off screen with your character shouting attacks. Everything about the game really POPS OUT at you and you really get into it. So much you can’t wait to start knocking everyone over. They you find out that’s a bad idea and the wind gets let out of your sails a little bit, but to hell with it. Run solo and go to town on your enemies. It’s just a joy to look at while you play.

Best Progression:
Dungeon Fighter Online. Areas are constantly opening up in the game, and you can even see on the map just how many places you’ll get to visit. Sure, you may spend a good amount of time in Grand Flores, but the minute you’re out of there, you get a few choices on where to go, and you always seem to gain levels at a fair rate. I never felt like I hit a wall playing DFO, and the only reason I stopped where I did is because my video was due.

Best Combat:
DarkBlood. Never have I said, “Oh my god, that was so cool!” to myself as often as I have playing this game. It’s like a quicker, more intense version of DFO. Every time you unlock and get the hang of a new skill, and see how it chains into others, and are rewarded with an enemy getting launched across the room exploding on a nearby wall, it’s just… seriously, just play it. Get past the weird sexualization of the game, and the rather dodgy tutorial opening, and once the game “clicks” you’ll have a blast. Just play it in small bursts as the game does get tiring… and for the love of god, play it with a controller. Also you get to play as a polar bear in one quest. A POLAR BEAR.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t include Vindictus in this group, it’s because I felt it strayed just a bit further from the rest of these games… and I’ll have something much more fitting to compare it to soon.

(P.S. I still miss Pi Story)

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Posted on November 30, 2012, in News and Updates. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. One comment about the music in Rusty Hearts is that if you haven’t played since the time of your review you will find some tracks have been changed around over time. This is a topic that comes up in their forums now and then with people telling them to change the tracks back to what they used to be.

  2. I must say, I respect your love for the Beat ‘Em Up MMO. Being as they are the only MMO’s I can really get into. Hell, your review of DarkBlood rehashed my interest in the game (I played a little bit after discovering it on Outspark’s site after downloading, then uninstalling Project Powder… it was very disappointing, then again, after playing the SSX series for 10 years, it’s hard NOT to be disappointed by other snowboarding games. But after downloading it, I couldn’t get into it.) and ever since I re-downloaded the game I can’t put it down! Not only do you play as a polar bear, if you play the Warrior class, you can kick grizzly bears IN HALF! Yes, in half. It never gets old.

    Also, I’ve never encountered a problem with the knockdown system. I usually just wait for the enemy to get back on it’s feet, then go at it again. Oh well, I only play Elsword casually, so maybe I’m not qualified to preach lol.

    Anyway, your comment on your next review left me wondering if you’re not going to be looking at a certain Webzen game… Hopefully you are, I’ve been playing it for awhile and really enjoy it. I’m interested to see your thoughts on it.

  3. Somehow your Scott Pilgrim review slipped under my radar. Your review made me curious enough that I’m tempted to try it, it even sounds like there’s been DLC for it since then. Not to say that playing as a polar bear didn’t get my attention, but just for one quest? What I really need is a beat’em up game that allows you to be polar bears, dinosaurs, kittens, or gryphons. I think that would sell me just on novelty.

  4. Yea, I don’t really like the knockdown system, it didn’t make sense to me either. Something I wish they imply to the system is something like a “Off the Ground” move that resets them into a standing position so you can continue comboing. And I wouldn’t say we hate the players who do it, we’re just a group of pretty cynical people I suppose . Personally I don’t mind people who do it anymore because if they’re new players it’s understandable and try to tell them that if they knock down the mobs they will do less damage. Some accept the advices and others “I play the way I want”, if they are the 2nd option then I just let them be since that’s they’re style because I know it’s hard to something if someone if forcing it upon ya.

    • Well, for every rational player who understands the confusing nature of the system, or the personal preferences of other players, there’s 2 more that scream “OMFG NOOB STOP KD OR UNINSTALL!”

      Tyger had a fantastic video called “Teach Me How 2 Play” on MUD2MMO, showing how many gamers and MMO players aren’t exactly the best at teaching with any sense of tact or patience. http://blip.tv/MUD2MMO/mud2mmo-teach-me-how-2-play-6226791

      Before a showed up in the thread a LOT of people in response to the Elsword video did nothing but harp on me about not mentioning the KD system. It just seemed like a real hot button issue for the vets of that game.

      • Yea I’ve seen that video. I love all his videos. Keep up the good work on your videos as well.

      • Honestly, I can easily forgive not knowing about knockdown given you really do these reviews as a “noob”, and that’s the sort of thing you really need to read guides online or get yelled at about sufficiently before you’ll truly “get”. I apologize on behalf of the community if anyone offended you.

        I think you still misunderstand Elsword’s knockdown system a little bit – basically, so long as they are knocked down enemies/characters take reduced damage, and when they get back up they might do a counterattack and they’ll have a few seconds where attacks won’t cause them to flinch. No permanent boosts, and it isn’t even a huge deal unless you do it all the time.

        Mostly, it’s just in place to prevent people from performing infinite combos and punish button mashing, so I don’t entirely mind its existence (though it isn’t the best implemented system ever). The community overstates the importance of not knocking down, especially when it is more of a PvP system than a PvE one in practice.

        I kinda hate promoting my own stuff like this, but if you want to get back into the game and try out the new character, I did write a pair of guides for him/her – one for each class path currently available. There’s a sticky in the Chung portion of the official forums with links to them.

  5. With all these in mind, i’m curious as to your opinion of Dynasty Warriors Online, its not quite like the other beat-em-ups but yet I still find it fun.

  6. wait isnt vindictus also a beat em up of sorts? why didnt you talk about that one?

  7. Lol, there were a lot of errors in the text, but I let them slide, ’cause I’m cool like that.

    I never liked Beat ‘Em Ups. I grew up going to Godfather’s Pizza(R.I.P.) to play The Simpsons Arcade, but that’s because I just loved that game. I still hated wasting tons of coins on a single boss. It’s annoying.. As for Beat ‘Em Ups as MMOS, it’s not the best formula for me as chaining the same combos for the rest of eternity gets repetitive after half an hour for me. Grinding the same maps for loot and other shit is like taking the exploration and progression out of MMORPGS and just leaving the “Slash, Stab, Slash”.

    In other words, BORING.

  8. Agree with you 100% on your comments about the knock down mechanic in Elsword. I played the game for a little while, enjoyed myself a lot, but then I started reading guides on the internet with the number one rule being “Never knock down enemies”. Sure, it doesn’t kill the game play (Combos just center around getting as many hits in without dropping an opponent) but something about it just turned me off completely and I don’t plan on going back. Shame, because the aesthetics really are great and the classes are fun. (Story is terrible though. Yeah yeah, Beat em ups with story = lol, but this was one of the few games where it pained me to try and read what NPCs were saying.)

    DFO – Meh. <– My reaction after playing it for a few days

    Rusty Hearts – I want to love this game. I really, really do. It has nice graphics, good character design, well made dungeons and it's clear the developers really want it to succeed (It's also clear it's got one foot in the grave apparently) but it just got so repetitive for me. That is a staple of the genre, but more so with this. Shame since I really do want to enjoy it.

    Darkblood – Nope.avi, not playing a game that makes me feel the need to take a shower after I'm done.

    • This is true about RH. I really liked it but considering how many **months** it takes them to get around to dealing with major bugs with the game (ex: rollback bug that caused you to lose everything you’ve done since logging in, guilds not working at all, the auto channel add function not working so there’s only one meaning when that one channel on a server fills no one can log in) you can’t help but feel the game is on its last legs and PWE just doesn’t care anymore. Add to that how they’ve decided you can’t even complain about things like no guilds in the forums anymore or they’ll lock then move the thread and maybe throw around bans and well…

  9. You never felt like you hat a wall when playing DFO?

    The mental image amuses me.

    • Damn you! I just caught and fixed that. Now everyone will know how terrible my proofreading is. (You also missed about 12 more I just fixed, including a baffling sentence that used the same word several times.)

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