So Phantasy Star Online
has a solid presentation. The real question is -- does it stand up in the gameplay department? The answer is yes
, but it's a guarded yes, and one that must be explained. While Phantasy Star Online
is an absolute blast to play online, it is rather, too often, despite
the core game mechanics rather than because
Now, before I have legions of fans descending on my head, saying 'd00d PSO r3wk3s', let me say that I enjoyed my time with the game quite a bit. But there are quite a few niggling issues that kept it from being all of the experience that it could have been. Besides all of this, though, Sega must be given mad, mad props for making the first Internet multiplayer console RPG.
The first steps in PSO consist of creating your character. Choosing from three different classes and three different races, you have a nice variety of playability offered to you. There's an important point to be made here, though -- if you're not planning on playing online much, you may want to go for a Ranger straight out. The solo battles with the other two classes can become frustrating to the point of irritation, and they really only shine when in groups with other players.
Once you've entered your serial code and created your character, you're given a choice of going online and playing or playing offline. Although they're the same game underneath, they play like completely different beasts.
First is the offline play. You'll find yourself running back and forth between the Pioneer 2 -- a spaceship sent to colonize the planet Algol, where, of course, something has gone Horribly Wrong -- and whatever dungeon you're delving into. The game consists of very sporadic 'plot' (I use the term loosely here), and many jobs from the Guild. These Jobs have you running back to the dungeons, doing various quests for various sums of money. The money isn't as important as the experience gained in the quests, as many of the battles that you'll face while playing will beat you senseless until you gain enough experience.
If it sounds a little rote, well, it is. This is basically a rehash of the old roguelike game, most recently seen in titles like Diablo II and Darkstone. The difference is that you always explore the same dungeons -- their door-opening arrangement changes, as does your starting location, but the core conceit stays the same. If you tire of looking at the same few environments all the time, you'll tire quickly of PSO.
And, unfortunately, that's just about all there is to the single-player game. You can get new stuff to use, raise levels, and power up your Mag, which is a little floating beastie who helps you much as you play the game. Think of it as a Tamagotchi with teeth, and you'll have an idea of what purpose it serves.
The offline experience is merely a precursor to the online experience, which is where PSO really shines. You'll find quests that are solely online, and you get to group up with one to three others and take on the dungeons together. The groups don't have to stay together, but it's highly advised -- some of the battles require a large amount of teamwork. And the ability to talk with people from around the globe with a language-neutral methodology really helps. Be prepared to waste hours playing this game online.
There are issues here as well, however. The camera is downright atrocious at times, forcing you to hit the trigger button often to get a bead on an enemy. People joining a game can cause the game to pause for a while. And PSO doesn't officially support the broadband adapter, which is a bummer.
But it's still too damned much fun.