Sword 2 Review

By Adam Ma on August 9, 2011

Most MMO's have to work hard to make themselves interesting. The formula for the genre has become an unchanging thing, and anyone who's played a single game in the genre knows the overall theme. Players kill monsters to gain experience, experience leads to levels, and levels lead into killing bigger monsters. The challenge behind the MMO is getting players interested in killing the monsters, and making a world that most would genuinely want to explore. Sword 2, like most MMO games, faces this issue head-on in its own way. It has some interesting mechanics, some unique aspects, but is it enough to hold attention over other games in the genre?

That all depends on how much patience the player has, and what kind of learning curve they intend on dealing with. Sword 2 starts off like any other game should, with a tutorial. Players find their character washed up on the beach after some sort of shipwreck, and must make their way to the closest city. Along the way attacking, movement, item collecting, and more are explained in a series of tutorial bubbles. But it is here that the game's flaws begin to slowly unravel.

Sword 2 is a game that suffers from an extreme amount of complexity, coupled with game design that does nothing to really assist the player. The best example is in the first hour or so of the game. During the character creation process where players must pick a class, family name, and first name for their character (along with a few minor customization features). Class descriptions give a short explanation of what they do, which is something along the lines of 'ranged DPS uses ranged attacks to DPS' and 'casters cast spells to buff and debuff and damage.' After players finish the tutorial with their first character, they're then asked to make two more in the same manner, and then are given all three to control. This is not the problem, but rather a core part of the gameplay that is actually very cool.

The problem is that there are very limited opportunities before entering the main game world to test out how operating three characters at once even works. It's completely trial by fire, as are most of the in-game events. Quests to rescue individuals will teleport players into a random dungeon encounter, while others just let players wander off into the world to get items. The game makes a lot of assumptions about what the player will do, and those unfamiliar with the Asian-style of online games may find themselves frustrated.

Combat is done in a few ways, as each individual character in a three man squad can be assigned different tasks. For example, assigning character a defensive stance will make them attack any monster that comes nearby, while passive stances will let them just stand there and hang out regardless of what is near them. Each character's individual attacks are all bound to various keys, which aren't completely intuitive but still easy to use. The problem just lies in remembering what attack does what. Once each character's special moves are memorized the result is a player controlled group that can do a very wide variety of things depending on what classes have been chosen.

This same vague complexity infects every other aspect of the game like a web, making it difficult to figure out where to even start. Whereas most RPGs punish the player for leaving an associated level area with monsters too difficult to typically beat, Sword 2's grinding-based system erases all boundaries. It's possible to just set three characters in a single area and have them attack everything infinitely, for non-stop levelling. Enemies respawn so fast, and can often times be one-shot, that this 'auto-grind' option is extremely viable, and further deteriorates any sense of accomplishment in game.

Sword 2 also boasts a 'political PVP' system, where players run for office of sorts, in a bid for political control. It's an interesting concept to be sure, and adds a whole new aspect of the game to be immersed in, but reaching that point takes a bit of time and social interaction; two aspects of the game that Sword 2 doesn't really encourage on an investment level.

Graphically the game looks nice, and it's always welcome to see games using the free-to-play model and putting forth a bit of effort into their world. Zones have an interesting level of detail in them, and the world would definitely feel much more alive and real if it wasn't for the never-ending clusters of monsters that are packed in swarms. It's an unusual issue, as many MMOs severely under populate their world. Instead there's simply too much going on, though it never becomes a graphical burden.

Soundwise there generally isn't much to say about the game, but Sword 2 deserves a special bit of extra commendation. It's impossible to say what was going on in the mind of the individual who designed the game's soundtrack, but for some reason or another they decided that the game needed both classical European music and techno beats. One minute you're shooting a bunch of giant spiders listening to an upbeat violin, then the next DJ Whomever is dropping down some generic techno beats. It was confusing, yes, but it also made things at least a little fun. A well played move on behalf of Sword 2.

Final Thoughts

Overall it's hard to know who to recommend this game to. Most of its flaws are not mechanical in nature, but rather design based. When you take the time to control all three characters and learn how to use everything in sync, the game shines as fun and innovative. However the process reaching up to this point is laborious and unforgiving, and most may find this to be too much of a deterrent to press on. Consider Sword 2 a diamond, recently excavated. Unpolished, unrefined, and without form - the game does its best to let you know that there is something truly valuable there. Unfortunately, its best may simply not be enough.

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