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RF Online: Choose Your Alliance

Company: Codemasters

With the exception of City of Heroes and Star Wars Galaxies, most MMOPRGs are set in fantasy worlds. RF Online (Rising Force Online) takes a different approach; while most of the game is set in a strictly sci-fi inspired universe complete with big guns, laser swords and mechs, it still retains some fantasy elements like elves and magic. These help to give the experience a unique feel while still providing enough familiar ground that the experience doesn't feel completely alien.

PvP is a major element in nearly every MMORPG and RF Online aims to take this a step further by making it one of the game’s main focii. While you will still see the more traditional small skirmishes found in other games, most of RF Online’s PvP battles include thousands of players battling for control of strategic areas of the game world. Key to these battles is the game’s three factions, each of which comes with its own unique in-game attributes.

Of the three factions, the Accretia Empire is the one that is most deeply rooted in the game’s sci-fi aspects. The Accretians are a race of mechanized warriors that share something of a hive mind. While all of its followers have free will, everything they do is done for the betterment of the Empire itself. The Accretians are a materialistic race who take pride in their position as the galaxy’s strongest race; a belief that has led them to wanting to become stronger by expanding their reach to other planets, leading them to Novus, the main battleground featured in RF Online.

The Accretian race is made up of powerful mechanized units, making them ideal for players who favor sheer power over anything else. Their main weapons are called Launchers, which as the name suggests are giant cannons. However, these Launchers must be earned, so while Accretian players will eventually see great power, they will first need to earn them by completing missions and gaining experience.

The Holy Alliance Cora stands in sharp opposition of the Accretians. They are a deeply spiritual society that excels in the mystical arts of magic. While the Accretians are based more on sci-fi, the Cora are more fantasy inspired and resemble elves. However, the Cora are not as different from Accretians as they may think. Similar to the Accretians, the Cora’s history is built on wars of expansion waged in the name of their religious beliefs and their god, Disem.

The Cora’s main weapons, besides their blessed armaments, are their magic abilities. Advanced Cora players will be able to cast devastating spells and even have the ability to summon familiars to aid them in battle.

The Bellato Union combines the mechanics of the Accretians and the magic of the Cora. They are dabblers in both, but masters of none. The Bellato are known mostly for their highly mechanical minds and vast industries. In addition to making devastating machines of war, they are also experienced traders. This, of course, has caused them to become a greed-filled race with an eye for expansion.

In addition to a shortened stature (a result of the high gravity found on their homeworld), Bellato players can expect a blend of both the Accretian and Coran races. They won’t see the higher-end benefits like launchers and summons, but will still see a powerful combination of guns and magic.

An aspect that really impressed me about the three factions is that none are made to seem like the “good guys” or “bad guys”. Each is as flawed as the next, which goes beyond the set up found in most MMORPGs. Instead, most of the factional rivalries are built, in large part, on the rivalries set up between players. Factional loyalty is such a big part of RF Online that you’re only allowed one character per server. So, unless you’re willing to delete a character, you’re attached to the faction you chose at the start.

RF Online features four classes, although the Accretians only have access to three. Spiritualists are the token “magic user” class, and the only class Accretian players can’t aspire to (after all, they’re robots and have no souls). Rangers and Warriors are the “power” classes, with Rangers giving up some of their close-ranger power for ranged attacks. Specialist's abilities differ based on which faction you are playing as.

RF Online’s unique approach to the genre goes beyond a simple blending of sci-fi and fantasy elements. The game’s appearance also blends elements of realism and anime, producing the game’s beautiful presentation. While it may lack the technical impressiveness of games like EverQuest 2 and World of Warcraft, RF Online makes great strides in delivering a stylized approach that just looks “cool”.

RF Online takes a more action-oriented, point-and-click approach. Skills are assigned to the Function keys (F1, F2, etc.) and mapped to a hotkey bar. Skills rely on Force points, which act like mana in other games. Each skill requires a varying amount of points that regenerate over time. The catch is that you can only regenerate points while standing still, which requires you to have plenty of potions on hand during battles. I assume this is meant to keep players from spamming a particular skill over and over again, though it does slow the play experience a bit and makes you a little apprehensive about using skills. It adds strategy, but also a bit of paranoia. Other player attributes include Health and Stamina, both of which can only be regenerated by standing still. Again, both are highly dependant on potions and suffer from the same downside as Force points. Hopefully this will be tweaked before the game launches.

Much of RF Online’s single-player experience seems to be geared towards building your character up to participate in the game’s large-scale PvP battles, giving it a flavor that should be familiar to Guild Wars players. Missions are of the “Kill X number of X” variety, so there isn’t that much variety on that end. Still, your ultimate goal is to take part in the thousand player PvP battles, so it is worth the grind.

While RF Online doesn’t look like it will be a completely groundbreaking experience, there are enough unique elements that should help to make it one of the better ones. Provided some of the smaller nagging issues can be dealt with, RF Online could be one of this year’s massively-multiplayer success stories.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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