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:
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.
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.
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.
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)