Elsword – Updated First Look
It’s been quite some time since our first look at Elsword; 8 years in fact. Since it’s been so long and the game has changed quite a bit, we decided to look at the game as it is now with a fresh set of eyes. It’s worth mentioning, as this would suggest, that I’ve never played Elsword until I started preparing for this video so this will be from the perspective of a brand new player.
Elsword is a side-scrolling beat-em-up MMORPG developed by KOG Studios. It opens up with a character select screen where you can choose one of the 13 available characters, each with a unique moveset and playstyle, to play as. For my time with the game, I chose Elsword who is a basic elemental sword user. It’s worth noting that most of these characters have been reworked as part of the RE:Boot event that’s ongoing with changes to their class progression and skills. Since I wasn’t playing the game before this event took place, I can’t speak to what the characters or class progressions were like before these changes were implemented.
Once you’ve selected a character it’s on to the tutorial which could honestly use some work. It works well for combat mechanics and movement, but that’s about all it works for. The game does little to teach you about its other systems like the stamina system or how quests work. I know most people who are going to pick this game up have probably played more than their fair share of MMOs and probably don’t need it, but the fact that nothing outside of combat was well explained by the game made it feel barren and confusing. Things I would normally take for granted like NPC introductions were conspicuous by their absence and could have done a lot to improve the rather bare-bones guidance the game offers.
Character progression in Elsword is straightforward, from what I can gather. As you level up, you’ll have the chance to augment your skills with bonus effects. In most cases, these are things like trading a longer cooldown for more damage, or decreasing a move’s cooldown, or increasing its area of effect. This is another area of the game where a tutorial or any kind of explanation would have been nice.
That said, the gameplay itself is a strong point for Elsword. Running through dungeons and blowing up monsters with huge combos and explosive special moves is a blast, and some of the boss fights even in the early game can prove to be challenging. There was one boss around level 40 that requires you to blow up generators before you can attack his core that actually killed me twice in one fight. Not only was it a fight that required patience and strategy, but one that was more than just a simple button mash and dodge affair which is honestly what I expected from this game at first. I was pleasantly surprised.
One thing I didn’t really appreciate about the core gameplay experience is the stamina system. I think stamina systems are problematic in and of themselves because they encourage people to spend money just to continue playing the game which is less than ideal. Still, stamina is unlimited on weekends and throughout my playtime my stamina never dropped below 90 percent before it was somehow refilled. This is another area where some kind of tool-tip explaining how stamina actually works would be a huge help. Instead I had to look it all up on the game’s wiki page just to figure it out.
Another sticking point, although minor, for me was that the game can get repetitive. A lot of the quests you’ll get involve running dungeons a certain number of times or completing a certain number of dungeons in your recommended level range and that means you’ll be playing the same two or three dungeons over and over again as you grind to meet these requirements. If you enjoy grinding in MMORPGs this isn’t a huge issue, but it kind of grated on me after the third or fourth time fighting the same boss. There are often events that allow you to mitigate this with experience boosts. The current event allows for changes to the character’s story mode by granting more streamlined quests with much higher experience and gear rewards. The current event also provides you with Job Advance tickets to make advancing to the next job class easier, and when you reach level cap you’ll be provided with end game gear to help you prepare for raiding. The current event ends on August 27th, 2019, so by the time you’re seeing this it’ll likely already be over.
There are also secret dungeons you’ll unlock when you reach level 70. You can only run these once a day for free and they change daily, but they offer great rewards for completing them and are challenging to boot. These dungeons also have a chance at revealing an optional harder mode called Luto mode, but your party must agree to enter that mode once the Luto NPC shows up in the secret dungeon. The dungeon will be made much harder, but you’ll receive better drops and a 300% increase to experience points, making it an ideal way to level up higher level characters.
Another main focus of the game is PVP, but I don’t recommend getting involved with it until you’re at or near the level cap and have some decent gear. A lot of people who are playing the PVP are hardcore players and you’re bound to be fighting some up-hill, one-sided battles until your character is a little more prepared. According to some forum users, high end PVP gear can be a “lengthy and tedious daily PVE grind” so be prepared for that as well.
That’s the gameplay loop for Elsword. You run dungeons, kill monsters, spend your skill points, and level up until you have all of your job classes done. Then it’s time to gear up for raiding or PVP. It’s a simple loop, but one that could use some fine tuning in the presentation department.
Speaking of presentation, the game at least looks good. It’s not mind-blowing but the simple 2.5D graphics look polished and sharp, and hold up well for a game that’s been around as long as Elsword has. The translation on some of the text could use some work, but it wasn’t bad enough that I couldn’t understand what the intent was. It does kind of take you out of the story cutscenes though with how clumsy it can feel in places.
All in all, Elsword isn’t a bad game. In fact, it’s quite fun. The only problems are with how it presents itself to new players. A refined tutorial system would be a huge blessing and serve to make a fun game even more accessible. If you like grindy arcade beat-em-ups with explosive combat, Elsword is for you.
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