Skyforge – Open Beta
Skyforge is an MMORPG that went into open beta today. You play as a god that has recently undergone apotheosis and is working to protect the planet. I’ve been playing the closed beta since last week, so I think now is the appropriate time to let people know what they are getting into if they decide to try it. I’m going to try to cover what it does well and what it does poorly in a concise manner.
First of all, Skyforge is really, really pretty. The character models are very well done, the different classes use weapons that are visually distinct, and most of the spell effects are cool. The adventuring zones are huge, and so far mostly feature gorgeous rolling landscapes that stretch as far as the eye can see. If you remember all the things I said about the graphical quality of Guild Wars 2, those go double for Skyforge.
So far, I’ve spent a lot of time just running around in this game, checking out the nice beaches and forests. I like that the progression through zones is fairly nonlinear, because it sort of lets me goof off and enjoy the world. I think the architecture in general is well done, and especially the ruins. There’s even an early zone that evokes imagery of rural farmland America, and I found it to be very accurate, right down to the gigantic bugs attacking people. I’m a fan of the aesthetic of this game, and I appreciate the attention to detail in what essentially boils down to a power fantasy of being a god.
Skyforge also gets some points from me by simplifying the characters. You make one character ever, so far, and all progression is contained to it. I say “it”, because there’s an NPC in the main city that can change absolutely every quality of your character (including gender) at any time. You can also change classes at any time, but they all level up separately. I tend to get distracted by alts in MMOs, so it’s nice that I can keep the majority of my stats and progress when I want to see how other classes play.
The combat in this game is very mobile. Everyone has a certain number of dash moves to avoid ground effects, and in general you’re encouraged to move around a lot. I’m playing a Berserker, so I mostly just jump in and whirlwind until everything dies, but I understand that the ranged classes have a lot of combos that slow enemies or knock them away. Much like a lot of newer MMOs, you’re not glued to the ground while fighting, and the whole experience is fast-paced and fun. There’s no healers in the traditional sense, some classes have shields and healing in small amounts, but mostly you survive combat by dodging things and picking up the healing orbs that come out of the enemies.
The enemies usually come in groups of one strong monster and several weak ones, pretty standard stuff. I will say that it is often difficult to tell what is hitting you and from where. If you’re fighting more than one strong thing at once, it can be challenging to keep doing decent damage while also avoiding death. I’ve gotten to a high enough level area where I die fairly frequently, sometimes due to carelessness, and sometimes due to lack of helpful feedback. The spell effects look good, but not when they pile on top of each other and create confusing noise while you’re trying to decide what to do. I’ll be honest and say that maybe I haven’t looked hard enough, but I would love an option to make other players’ effects less visible (World of Warcraft has this).
Skyforge seems obsessed with complicating enriching the leveling experience by doing away with a traditional XP bar and letting you judge your general progression with a stat called “prestige”. You need more prestige to go on better adventures and use better items. Prestige is gained by wearing better gear, but primarily is it obtained by filling in the Ascension Atlas, which you may recognize as the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X.
I really don’t care that they borrowed this idea, I think it works for this game. You use the Atlas to unlock more classes, access more moves and talents, and gain general stats. You fill in the circles with sparks, which are gained by adventuring. It all really boils down to a slightly less convenient leveling path with a lot more freedom. I might sound a little sarcastic, but I do think it offers an interesting experience in a genre that normally doesn’t have as much choice.
Overall, though, I think that Skyforge emphasizes grinding for sparks a little too heavily. Even though I’ve only been playing for a week, I’ve seen the same dungeons many times over. There are weekly caps on how many sparks you can earn, and already I can feel the fatigue from trying to meet the cap every week. I like the gameplay, but not enough to progress quickly. Honestly, I may not play the game much longer, because despite the name of this blog, I’m not really invested in this particular grind. It’s a fun diversion with a lot of good ideas, and I may post another update of my experience with it later, but I’m not certain it actually has staying power. Thanks for reading, it was fun to talk about something that isn’t Grimrock!