Phantasy Star On-line 2’s open beta kicked off on the Xbox One final evening. The loot-gathering, monster-bashing multiplayer recreation initially launched in 2012 however by no means got here to the West. How does it really feel eight years later? A bit of clunky however oddly addictive.
Phantasy Star, which began on the Sega Grasp System within the 1980s, is likely one of the most outstanding and long-lived Japanese role-playing recreation collection. The setting, a colourful combination of science fiction and magic, has all the time felt experimental. This was no clearer than with Phantasy Star On-line, an oddball on-line RPG for the Sega Dreamcast. As MMOs labored to ascertain themselves, Phantasy Star On-line led the cost on consoles. It adopted within the footsteps of Diablo, providing a sparse story with evil monsters and a choice of randomly generated maps for leveling and looking down loot. Phantasy Star On-line 2 retains that format however has extra character customization, facet actions like fishing, and an evolving story. When it launched in Japan in 2012, it was a hit, however Sega was sketchy when it got here to a western launch. It wasn’t taking place, however the reply was by no means a flat “no.” Followers clamored for years till it was introduced eventually 12 months’s E3. The Xbox One beta offers these followers what they’ve all the time wished, although new gamers would possibly discover the preliminary expertise complicated.
In Phantasy Star On-line 2, you play as a member of a space-traveling exploration group referred to as ARKS. Your job is to discover new worlds for habitation and struggle off quite a lot of monsters within the course of. There’s an overarching plot together with your new accomplice and a mysterious physician, however it begins gradual. Over time, this has expanded into a number of episodes filled with mysterious weapons, hidden identities, and warring territories. There’s even an anime. However that’s probably not the hook. The hook is that even immediately, Phantasy Star On-line 2 is extraordinarily playable. It’s a type of late-night gaming popcorn the place you log in, see what missions your pals are operating, and hop planet facet to see what you could find.
The fight revolves round just a few key options together with deliciously rhythmic button presses that grant further harm in case you get them proper. In any given struggle, you’re switching between a “pallet” of weapons in your chosen—for me this implies an thrilling shift between long-range bow capturing and speedy katana slicing—whereas additionally juggling particular skills. You would possibly find yourself taking part in as a “Bouncer” who speeds alongside on jet-boots or a summoner with cute monster pets. There’s slightly little bit of the whole lot, and it’s genuinely shocked me how addictive it’s to hurry out into the sector and sort out completely different bosses.
However within the moments the place the interface slows down motion within the discipline, Phantasy Star On-line 2 reveals its age. It’s an pleasurable expertise, however there’s been years of streamlining in different video games like World of Warcraft. MMO followers curious to see what the fuss is about would possibly discover themselves gritting their enamel in occasional frustration.
Phantasy Star On-line 2’s stock house is fairly restricted, not less than in relation to carrying objects in your individual. It’s attainable to ship objects proper to storage or discard them everytime you need, however as a rule, you’ll attempt to choose up new loot or skill-granting discs solely to comprehend that your pockets are full of 90 completely different swords. This implies hopping into the stock display to type by way of what you need and what you suppose is okay to chuck. The issue will be mitigated with some expanded stock tickets from an in-game retailer, however you’re nonetheless choosing up tons of loot per run. Even after spending slightly extra time between missions to organize, there’s all the time the chance of over-clogged menus. It could actually convey exploration to a screeching halt.
That’s the factor. There’s loads of video games which might be arguably “higher” than Phantasy Star On-line 2. Story-lovers have Closing Fantasy XIV, motion gamers have Guild Wars 2, and there’s even old-school-focused choices like World of Warcraft Basic. Phantasy Star On-line has all the time scratched a really particular itch. That is the kind of on-line recreation that’s actually about what you convey to it as a substitute of no matter bells and whistle it may give you. Hop in, embrace among the strangeness, and occasion up with your pals. You’ll have a superb time sporting Sonic the Hedgehog ears whereas competing in an area race, fishing, or going through a brand new monster.