I have never denied that I have "a problem" with MMO games. I used to play them compulsively I value online and co-op gameplay much more than single-player adventures. That's why I happily leaped into Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis, a revamped version of the MMORPG that, at one time, conquered Japan gaming by storm. Unfortunately, I quickly found out that we are not dealing with the release of the game, but only with early access thereof, or little more than a demo version. The real bells and wistles are yet to come but won't we forget this game by then...?
WHAT IS NEW GENESIS AND WHAT IS PHANTASY STAR ONLINE 2?
These are two separate games, albeit linked together. Phantasy Star Online 2 is the original, which not long ago received a final update tying up all the loose ends of the story. New Genesis, on the other hand, is a stand-alone, revamped version that takes place 1,000 years after the events of the original and presents a new story.
Both of these productions share the general gameplay principles, most character classes, weapons or skills. Nevertheless, New Genesis is geared towards a semi-open world, offers nicer graphics, and a few other improvements. Interestingly, however, we can move our character between both versions of the game. This also applies to cosmetic items gained in Phantasy Star Online 2, which can easily be used in New Genesis.
Don't be surprised by the size of this production almost 100 GB of download is because both games share the same installer. As a result, whether you want it or not, you will own both Phantasy Star Online 2 and New Genesis. Just in case you want to play a different game.
Create your waifu
Before I start whining, and I guarantee I will, I have to commend New Genesis for what it does right. This title has a nicely expanded character wizard, allowing you to create your virtual persona according to your own preferences. Fans of animι will probably take the chance to create their waifu, enthusiasts of robots will make a cyborg, and everyone else will design a more or less bizarre hero the possibilities are very broad.
Noteworthy is the fact that we have the opportunity to use the assortment from Phantasy Star Online 2, which means a huge amount of options for visual customization of the hero. New Genesis has thrown in some alternatives of its own that definitely present better quality. On the other hand, there are also (at this point) far fewer of them, so the choice turns out to be limited if you don't want to use the old assets. However, the developers assure that over time, there will be more options to change the appearance in New Genesis, so our character will become prettier and prettier.
I would venture to say that this is one of the main elements that the authors have focused on and what they want to encourage players to buy. I mean the visuals, but not all of it just our protagonist. There is a noticeable leap in quality compared to Phantasy Star Online 2, which has definitely outdated a bit. New Genesis offers fantastic models and it's a pleasure to watch smooth character animations. Against this backdrop, the enemies are slightly worse, and the environment much poorer.
You can see where most of the budget went, but it's no surprise. Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis is evidently addressed to players who like to dress up their hero in nice outfits and refine their appearance. All this in order to go to town and perform some sort of dance (preferably enticing) to the delight of the players gathered around.
FREE AND EVEN PRETTY FAIR, BUT WITH ONE EXCEPTION
It has become accepted that free-to-play MMORPGs are more expensive than subscription games. If you want to accomplish anything, you have to pay for premium stuff. How does this look in Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis? It's fair. There are no weapons in the item shop and no PvP, so there is no unfair advantage.
What awaits you there is, above all, accelerated leveling up and a greater chance of item drops. Plus cosmetic stuff or a pass to change a character's appearance. In addition, New Genesis also offers a premium account, giving you access to more storage room, your own four walls, or allowing you to put items up for sale in your own store.
Free-to-play players can only buy, so it's a sizable bonus that, despite appearances, doesn't turn the game upside down. This is because the quintessence of the game is the drop of equipment, so acquiring it from others is just taking the easy way out. No one is preventing you from doing this, and the player's store itself doesn't change anything because there are no pay-to-win elements to it.
Brilliant combat system and semi-open world
Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis also boasts a brilliant combat system. It is dynamic, demands attention, and allows you to fight in the air as well. Clashes are spectacular, and the whole thing has been adapted to game pads as well. Most of the struggles involve smaller groups of monsters that take a few moments to fight, allowing you to seamlessly move on to the next opponents. The movement of the characters is also praiseworthy I wish that you could move and jump so nimbly in every MMORPG.
The real fun begins with the minibosses, however. Oversized enemies have their weak spots, they are deadly, and on top of that, we can't see their health bars, and we can only judge by their behavior what condition they are in. You could say it's a cheaper Monster Hunter, and that wouldn't be much of an overstatement. Such enemies have their own behavior patterns and require focus. One careless move and we have to wait for someone to resurrect us.
A huge advantage and a change from Phantasy Star Online 2 is the semi-open world. In New Genesis, we traverse closed zones with a limited number of players. There are enough of them that you don't feel like you're playing alone, and at the same time, there are never enough of them to complain about crowds. All activities, except for the tasks from the main story campaign, we perform in the company of other people.
This works great because there is no compulsion to team up. Players in chat report on larger groups of enemies or stronger opponents, and then they can band together and fight side by side. When someone falls, then strangers help almost immediately, resurrecting them. No one is arguing about trifles, there is no tension, everyone is just playing together and fighting together not with each other. Such a simple solution made Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis a reminder of what MMORPGs are all about: playing with real players.
PHANTASY STAR ONLINE 2 AND EUROPE TRUE STORY
SEGA doesn't like Europe, seriously! Phantasy Star Online 2 was released in 2013, initially only in Japan. SEA servers appeared, and players from Europe and the United States decided to visit them, since they didn't get their own version of the game. However, SEGA quickly imposed an IP ban on those regions and that was that.
Years passed, Phantasy Star Online 2 was developing, and a western version was not there. Completely unexpectedly, it was announced that in 2020 (7 years after the release!) this MMORPG will actually grace Europe and the USA. Indeed, the U.S. market will be fires, with the release for Xbox One.
Then, access was expanded to Windows 10, exclusively via Microsoft Store platform. In time, Sega bowed out and made the game available in Europe, via both Steam and the Epic Games Store. Unfortunately, when it comes to PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, it is still exclusively Japanese.
Level 20 and that's it? Seriously?
The current content of Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis is, unfortunately, far from sufficient, perhaps even completely unsatisfying. The level cap is 20, and the story campaign missions end around level 15. On top of that, we only have a single map with a few zones, a handful of challenges in the form of cocoons and towers (the specific equivalent of dungeons), and daily quests. And that would be it the whole thing suffices for about 15-20 hours of repeated play.
Of course, the charm of New Genesis lies not only in creating characters, but also in min-maxing, so you can pack more hours. You'll kill hundreds of monsters to unearth the rarest weapon (currently a four-star, with a twelve-star planned at some point), then you'll make sure it's the best variant, then pack all the enhancements into it, and "zenchant" the whole thing. All in order to make your hero stronger. In a nutshell, you are in for a grind or buying equipment from players if you are lazy like me.
The strength of the hero is represented by Battle Power that takes into account the power of our main weapon, our level, the number of skill points, etc. We gain the latter by completing challenges in the aforementioned towers and cocoons. Our character ability trees at the moment are poor, and, realistically, each class has two active skills and a handful of passive ones. There's not much to choose from, but that's supposed to change over time, the developers promise.
A big advantage is the ability to select a subclass an additional class providing some extra benefits. This also applies to the abilities, allowing for interesting combinations. On top of that, there is the option to create "multiweapons," which means combining two tools of doom into one. This gives us a chance to match skills from two different weapons into one set. It's great when you're not taking full advantage of every attack a given tool offers.
I, for example, playing a ranger/force class, was tempted to combine a machine gun with a rocket launcher. This way I could quickly attack a single target and shower it with a hail of bullets, or I could unleash powerful projectiles when the enemy was weakened, or there were enough enemies gathered in one spot. This introduces many possibilities of combining, but there is one problem currently, there is nothing to meaningfully test it on.
Extended tutorial pretends to be a game
The biggest problem with Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis is the lack of content. Or rather, its current lack of content, as some new stuff has been announced. Another character class, the braver, is coming soon. Apart from that, you'll be able to get more cosmetic items, we'll also get seasonal variants of already known enemies and weapons associated with the elements the first one will be lightning.
It may look impressive on paper, but in reality, there isn't that much of content. The new region won't arrive until six months from now, and only then it will be possible to say Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis actually has something to offer. At this point, everything the game provides is basically a prelude to something bigger. We know what the core mechanics and combat work like, and we can see what's the general premise about. It's more like an extended tutorial that pretends to be a game and pretty much fails.
After a week, there's nothing left to do, and after two, a person wonders why they were even interested in this title in the first place which isn't impressive in case of an MMO. If you absolutely want to check it out, I recommend casual gaming without rushing jump into New Genesis occasionally for up to two hours a week and it will be just fine. Alternatively, wait the six months for a real content update. Then, the production will offer a much larger selection of attractions and activities. So do yourself, and the game, a favor wait for the proper release, because so far, it's very much a waste of time.
It will be fine!
In all my complaining, however, I am convinced that... it will be okay. Seriously, after all, it was similar with Phantasy Star Online 2. Apparently, SEGA doesn't learn from its mistakes and is convinced that this system of releasing games works perfectly. Only years later did PSO2 receive so much content that it was almost pouring out of the screen. I am thus confident that the same will happen with New Genesis.
I'm even looking forward to it, because there's really a few promising things looming on the horizon. The current number of attractions is not impressive, but the already announced novelties allow us to believe that the game will be developed a lot further. The foundations are good and interesting enough to make it worth the wait. I wish other MMORPGs wouldn't be afraid of such a dynamic combat system. The classic "TAB-target" is already boring, and "non-target" doesn't work everywhere. The solution proposed in Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis, on the other hand, works great and makes clashes with larger opponents a real poetry.
Is there a point launching this game right now? If you absolutely want to spend several long minutes in the character creator and test the combat system I just praised, then sure. Otherwise, I recommend holding off and waiting for the updates and proper launch. The deficiencies in content are currently the game's biggest issue, but I believe this will be mended. I'll be happy to come back and give you a second report on Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis, raving about how great it is. Or at least I hope so.
Patrick Manelski | Gamepressure.com