Skyforge North American Closed Beta Preview
SkyForge is the up-and-coming god-themed MMORPG. The game features quasi-action combat with intense boss fights and a path to godhood. The last time I talked about the game was in my Early Look of the SkyForge Russian Beta. Unfortunately, during the Russian beta, I didn’t get very far into the game, but I did get to a decent point this time. If you’ve been following the games development, you’re probably as excited as I am about the game coming to North America. I mean, who doesn’t want to be a god?
I’ll start this off by saying that there is a lot of customization options for creating your character within SkyForge. From fine tuning the features of your face to using a boob slider to define your character’s bust, you won’t want for options. Which is fantastic, because a lot of us enjoy playing a high quality, great looking character. If you’re the type that likes to design characters, dress them up in costumes, and show off, then SkyForge is probably a game you want to take a gander at.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is the gear and skill customization. For the most part, this is lacking. It’s definitely the most disappointing portion of the game for me so far. However, as the game is still in closed beta testing and is being actively developed, there will probably be more options in the future. Gear is restricted to rings, your weapon, and a secondary weapon/defensive item.
There are not many options and you just choose whichever has the highest stats. And, at least for Cryomancer, they look the same. With very few options and your class basically defining their stats to a T, allowing for no room for experimentation or change, gear is a disappointment.
The skill choices and talents are only a bit better. For the most part, your skills are pre-defined. However, at a certain point you begin to unlock the ability to switch out some of the skills. There are a number of talent slots and decent number of talents to choose from, and those talents can have a decent effect on the skills themselves. From what I saw with in-game chatter and from experience, for the most part there isn’t much room to be different if you want to be decent at PVP or mission running.
Although this belongs under “Customization,” the Ascension (and Class) Atlas are so important they deserve their own section. Early on, if you don’t do a bit reading you will probably be disappointed with the Ascension Atlas. Why? Because you’re not really told that the Atlas you have available to you at the start of the game is only a class-specific Atlas and isn’t the actual Ascension Atlas. So you’ll go three or so hours thinking, “Dang, this is disappointingly linear,” which the class-specific Atlases are. They’re very linear with very few options for diverging paths.
However, once you unlock the actual Ascension Atlas at Prestige 2,000 (I’ll get into Prestige later) your mind will be blown by how huge it is. It’s honestly on par with Path of Exile. Perhaps not as large, but definitely close. And there are some six or so classes you can unlock through it. Along the way are tons of nodes that give stuff like stat bonuses. If you’re the type that likes to unlock everything, you’ll have your work cut out for you.
You may notice that each node on the Atlas has a color. This is because each node is ‘unlocked’ by use of a specific type of Spark. There are four types, currently: Blue, Green, and Red (which have some sort of in-game meaning attached to them), plus class-specific sparks, used to unlock important nodes in a Class Atlas. You get these sparks as rewards for completing missions. The amount of sparks required depends on how far you are into the Atlas – towards the beginning a node may only cost fifty sparks, but further in you may find that they cost around a hundred-and-fifty or more.
If you’ve seen any screenshots or video of the game yet, you’ve probably noticed that SkyForge looks fantastic. It’s probably one of the better looking games I’ve played. The art style is something unique – realistic, with cyberpunk and Ancient Roman/Greek elements mixed in. Because of this, there is some extremely stunning architecture in the game. You may be adventuring in some ancient floating ruins and then you’ll transition into a sci-fi city that looks a lot like Coruscant from Star Wars.
The hair and cloth simulation is nice, too. Really brings to life the characters in the game, both NPC and player. And if you enjoy flashy abilities with lots of lights and explosions? Well SkyForge will be a treat. All told, I took at least four hundred screenshots during my time in the first closed beta. The great thing, though, is how well optimized the game is. I suppose it’s easier when you’re working with smaller areas, but I was able to play the game at the absolute highest settings without a hint of lag in any situation.
This image doesn’t do this view justice.
Becoming A God
One feature I didn’t get a chance to try in my time in the Russian Closed Beta is the Order features. This is where you begin to take your steps into godhood, gaining adepts and followers who have faith in you and rely on you for aid. I haven’t gotten to far into the system – just the first steps into it. It seems like a lot of the content available in the first Closed Beta was restricted, too, so I’m not sure how far I could have gotten to begin with. The developers have spoken about how certain portions of the game mechanics will be available in browsers and mobile; I imagine that the Order system is what they are talking about.
Adepts are a special kind of NPC you can recruit to be your representative of sorts. You can assign them regions of the world to help the populace and spread your Order (which is basically the “religion” around you). Your first steps to godhood are meager – you meet a single follower who will praise you and give you gifts from time to time. Eventually you will have garnered enough attention to warrant your own statue. And that’s when you begin gaining adepts that you can send on missions.
See the resemblance?
These Adept Missions make use of special resources gained through normal missions as completion rewards. These are things like Medical Supplies or Chemical Kits. Depending on the type of mission, it will have a length and reward, will gain you a certain amount of followers, and will require certain types of resources. For example, if you send an adept to go help refugees he will require some Medical Supplies to get the job done. As your Adepts do missions, they will gain experience and advance in levels. You can combine Adepts in a form of “training” to unlock a new tier for one of the Adepts.
Again, I wasn’t able to get as far into this system as I would have liked. So I can’t comment much more. There are hints of things like being able to have certain types of temples in each region that can grant special stat bonuses such as critical hit chance. You also will gain gifts from your followers based on the actions of your Adepts, but I didn’t see any use of them yet. In general, though, I liked what I saw and look forward to delving deeper into the system.
The Aelinet is one of the more interesting features in the game. I saw it in the Russian beta, but it was one of the portions of that game not available in English back then, so I actually had no idea what I was messing with. At a glance, it doesn’t seem like much – almost like a make-believe social network your character is supposed to post his thoughts on. We’ve seen similar things in the past. But once you delve a bit deeper, you realize just how much it offers. Aelinet is a fully-fledged built in Social Network for the players of SkyForge. It supports the creation of communities for players to join, class calculators, news updates, your own personal feed/wall, and more. My favorite part, though, has to be that it gives you easy, auto-login access to the forums. That, and the ability to troll friends.
The gameplay in SkyForge is similar to other hub-based mission-runners such Phantasy Star Online, Path of Exile, or even Dragon Ball: Xenoverse. There is a central “hub” called the Divine Observatory and a few other “social” locations. From the Divine Observatory you can go on missions to help the people of Aelion. Depending on the type of mission and the difficulty, you may be in there for as little as ten minutes or as much as forty minutes. Some of the Group missions can take over an hour if not properly organized.
Each mission will give you a reward for completion. These rewards are generally Sparks – used to unlock new nodes on the Atlas – but can also by credits, Adept mission resources, or other useful things. The three types of missions are Squad – which are meant to be done solo or with a couple of friends, Group – meant to be done with a full group of players, and Region – which resembles a questing zone in other MMOs, as it allows for numerous players to play and adventure together whether they are grouped or not.
My favorite of these three were the Regions. Unfortunately, they were also the least frequent. Up to Prestige 2,000 I only came across a couple of them. I enjoyed the Regions so much because they afforded opportunities to talk with people as I adventured across the Region. They also looked damn impressive. Playing solo missions would often get boring or tiresome, no matter how great they look or interesting their bosses. I would miss the interaction with other humans while I adventured.
Seeing this massive statue in the background from anywhere in the Region was impressive.
That all being said, SkyForge is definitely a grindfest. If you’re not grinding Sparks, you’re grinding Adept Resources. If you’re not grinding either of those, it’s money. If not that, you’re grinding for weapon drops for weapon upgrading (which I’ll get into soon). The thing, though, is that the game successfully entices you to grind away because the rewards generally feel worth it. I personally do not mind the grinding because I enjoy the gameplay, the setting, and the sense of accomplishment it brings. Which is very rare for me – I usually can’t stand to play grindy games for long.
As I mentioned in my article on the Russian Beta for SkyForge, the looting system is kinda odd. Not because of mechanics, but because of the way it looks. Most of the time, the enemies you kill will drop the Pokeball-looking things pictured above. These will drop Class-specific Sparks and Credits. On occasion (always when defeating a boss) a box will instead drop that contains a piece of equipment. You’ll probably want to grind equipment drops as they can be deconstructed into Upgrade stones, used for upgrading your weapon.
Which brings me to the upgrade system. I’m fifty-fifty on this system. On the one hand, upgrade systems have a long and detailed history of being abused by Free-to-Play games and turned into pay-to-win system. On the other hand, though, I really like the upgrade system in SkyForge so far. Rather than upgrading a specific piece of equipment, you upgrade an equipment slot, of which there are only three. One for all of your rings, one for your primary weapon, and one for your off-hand/secondary. This is amazing as you wont be attempting to upgrade twelve or fifteen pieces of equipment – even if you switch weapons or classes, your upgrades remain. And, so far as I can tell, there isn’t a chance for failure. So, while I’m fearful that this upgrade system may be exploited, I’m also very optimistic as it’s a fantastic system and I wish more games would do something similar.
Combat in SkyForge is something of a hybrid system. At times it feels like an action-combat game, but at other times it feels like a modified point-and-click. This can be jarring, but usually only if you’re playing a ranged class, and you get used to it right away. Other than that, the combat is fun and has an intense nature. Each fight you partake in you’ll probably enjoy to some degree.
Each instance of combat feels like an epic battle. Especially some of the boss battles, which often have interesting mechanics involved. Like I often do, I chose to play a mage during my time in the SkyForge Closed Beta. I did play as a Berserker briefly, though, and I can safely say that if you enjoy good and flashy melee combat, you’ll love SkyForge. Each attack felt and looked amazing, as if each strike of my massive chainsaw-greatblade had actual heft behind it. Plus, as a Berserker, your ultimate allows you to briefly transform into an uber firegod.
Melee classes tend to rely more on combos, while ranged classes rely more on individual abilities. The game introduces you to abilities slowly, unlocking more as you progress. Some of them are unlocked through the Atlas. Each class, though, has an Ultimate ability that does something epic. For Cryomancer that’s a large AOE that will do massive damage (one-shotting most enemies) and freezing those that survive, while the Slayer transforms into some sort of amazing purple Ninja, and the Berserker has the fire-form transformation I mentioned.
The only real disappointing thing when it comes to combat were a handful of bosses spread out across the game. Most bosses have some sort of trick or gimmick to make the fights interesting. However, some of these bosses either didn’t have this or their particular gimmick was annoying. So, out of every three or four good fights, there’d be a boss fight that I absolutely hated and could not stand. This is because, for the most part, bosses have high damage resistance and a 10x HP bar, meaning that the fights can be dragged out much longer than is enjoyable.
After playing the Russian beta, and now the English beta, I can safely say that SkyForge has a ton of potential for the future. The game is there, now it’s just up to My.com to successfully launch a good, fun product and continue delivering content. At this point, the only thing that can ruin the experience is a pay-to-win cash shop, so hopefully My.com realizes this and will stay far, far away from it. I loved the general gameplay – especially the Regions – but hated some of the minor boss fights. And really, who doesn’t want to be a god? If you’re interested in SkyForge, I’d say head over to their website and either sign up for the potential to get into the beta or buy at least the $20 Founders Pack as I did – I’ve already got my moneys worth and it’s only the first closed beta test.
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