This writer was invited to sit down and sample Perfect World Entertainment‘s latest offerings at E3 2011. Known for free-to-play MMORPGs such as Battle of the Immortals and Forsaken World, the developer/publisher presented three very unique titles during the event: the cel-shaded brawler Rusty Hearts, the first-person shooter Blacklight Retribution, and the monster-slaying action MMORPG RaiderZ. Read on to learn more about these fantastic titles.
The first title on our plate was Rusty Hearts, an Anime-inspired dungeon-crawler/action game. Rusty Hearts shares much in common with the Devil May Cry and Castlevania games; namely fast-paced action combat, gothic-inspired environments and demonic and monstrous enemies.
What was immediately noticeable while standing around the in-game town hub was the large amount of customization options available to players. While only two characters were available in the demo, over two dozen variations of these characters stood around town, with differences ranging from hair color to ridiculous costumes. I was given control of the scythe-wielding Angela, who was nigh unrecognizable due to the enormous bear outfit she was wearing.
The town areas are where players can interact with one another, form groups, trade, or simply explore. The many pathways and gates in town lead to instanced dungeons, where the real heart of Rusty Hearts lies.
Once players dive into a dungeon, the camera is locked into a side-scrolling view, which gives Rusty Hearts an old-school brawler look (à la Streets of Rage or Double Dragon). Dungeons are overrun with undead creatures and freakish monsters – some are easy to deal with, while others can put up a terrific fight. If the combat isn’t demanding enough, however, players can select from four difficulty levels to find the right level of challenge.
Combat is very combo-centric, with each playable character possessing a wide selection of attacks and skills that can be chained together to stun, juggle, or knock-down enemies. Players can defend themselves from attack by blocking incoming blows or evading them. The blocking mechanic is relatively strict; bosses can break through defense and players cannot effectively cancel their attacks into a block should the need arise. On the other hand, the evasion system is less rigid, allowing players to dodge away from attacks more easily and giving combat a more fluid feel overall.
In addition to offering full gamepad support (I played with both keyboard and mouse as well as an Xbox controller), Rusty Hearts offers more hardcore fans a solid PvP experience with features such as battle arenas, guild battles, and a tournament system.
Rusty Hearts is expected to enter its closed beta phase in July 2011 and will be free-to-play, so players need not worry about pesky subscription fees. Players interested in being a part of the closed beta can sign up for it on the official website.
The next title PWE presented was the first-person shooter Blacklight Retribution. Utilizing Unreal 3 and DirectX 11 technology, Blacklight looks great, especially for a free-to-play game. It is also highly detailed, featuring a wealth of customization options: from weapon modifications to swapping individual pieces of armor, I wasted plenty of time fiddling with my character’s appearance, much to the chagrin of the rest of my team.
While Blacklight doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel as far as core gameplay is concerned, there are unique elements to the combat that make the game stand out when compared to other FPS titles. Engagements are generally fast and frantic, due in part to a unique feature called the Hyper Reality visor. This allows players enter a “scan mode” which lets them see the position and movement of their opponents and allies. This means that players can find their target (or be found by an opponent) extremely quickly, making for very intense confrontations.
The biggest threat my team faced, and the most unique aspect of fighting in Blacklight, came in the form of mechs – players equipped with powerful mechanized armor called the Hardsuit. Unlocked through the weapon depot once players earn enough points, the Hardsuit not only increases its wearer’s resilience, but it allows them to chew through their opponents with ease. It certainly didn’t help that my team and I sucked: by the end of the match almost everyone in the opposing team had earned themselves a Hardsuit. To maintain balance, these powerful tools have a weak point which can be exploited by opponents: it is only visible when using the Hyper Reality visor. It was certainly a neat feature, though I admit I lacked the skill to take advantage of it.
The last title Perfect World presented was RaiderZ, a title that played like a cross between Nexon’s action-heavy Vindictus and Capcom’s Monster Hunter series. Imagine, if you will, satisfying action combat, massive monsters and an open-world environment, and you will get a good idea of the “feel” of RaiderZ.
RaiderZ offers its players a tremendous amount of control over their character’s growth. More conventional fantasy MMORPGs feature strict class systems, in which a player must choose a pre-set role for his/her character in combat. RaiderZ tosses this notion out the window, allowing players to select from over 350 skills and abilities to create their own class. Players who want to focus on pure damage-dealing can choose skills that encourage this, while players who want to create more hybridized classes can select from skills that suit their desired role or roles.
Customization is all well and good, but taking down massive mythical monsters is the name of the game in RaiderZ. After practicing on a dummy for a bit, our group left town to start a mission. We encountered plenty of cannon-fodder enemies, as well as two bosses during our demo session: a goblin-operated golem and massive dragon.
The goblin-golem was protected by a magic crystal in its chest, which mitigated any damage it received. In order to damage the boss, we needed to destroy the crystal. The problem with attacking it directly, however, was that it put players in the beast’s melee attack range, From powerful swipes to charges and grabs, the golem could knock away or stun its targets effortlessly and deal ridiculous amounts of damage while doing so. Recognizing the creature’s patterns and attack telegraphs and dodging accordingly was crucial to success. We were given the benefit of infinite resurrections: playing the game legitimately will offer players no such luxury.
Eventually we shattered the creature’s core, which allowed us to finally damage and defeat the boss. A facet of combat unique to RaiderZ is that enemies (and bosses) have various breakable appendages, which can be recovered and used by players. The crystal shards broken off the golem’s chest, for instance, could be picked-up and thrown at the boss for damage.
With the golem down, we took on the dragon next, who swooped in on our group as we traveled across the plain. Much like the golem, the dragon had a wide variety of attacks, but all of them were recognizable or predictable after spending time fighting the beast. After the intense workout we received from taking down the golem, the dragon seemed almost disappointingly easy. Still, it did its very best to rend us with its claws and teeth, or roast us with its fiery breath. After a few minutes of hacking, slashing and dodging, the beast breathed its last, bringing our demo session to a close.
It is satisfying to see MMOGs embrace precision and action, and it is impressive to see Perfect World Entertainment make the push on the free-to-play front. An oft-heard expression from free-to-play gamers is that PWE’s titles are all very similar to one another. All three of these upcoming titles are not only highly polished, but they are radically unique games that stand apart from the publisher’s previous offerings. We look forward to seeing more of these titles in the future.