Phantasy Star Online 2 – Quick look at the first official English server

[Beta keys] As most of you would have known, Asiasoft is the publisher for Phantasy Star Online 2 for the Southeast Asia region, and the very first English server to go live. I was invited earlier today to give the localized game a test-run for a couple of hours, and here is my brief report.

Phantasy Star Online 2 SEA - Media preview

Customization – Character customization options are plenty, and I expect dedicated players to spend up to an hour creating the most unique look. I will say it is definitely at least on par with Blade & Soul’s system, perhaps even deeper. Of course, there are preset looks as well, which look really awesome.

Phantasy Star Online 2 SEA - Character customization 1

Races and classes – There are currently 3 races and 3 classes at launch (the Japan server has more). The mecha-like race is really unique, and I am guessing Gundam fans will be choosing that as the main race. Similar to the other 2 humanoid races, there are enough customizations to keep everyone occupied.

Phantasy Star Online 2 SEA - Character customization 2Phantasy Star Online 2 SEA - Character customization 3

Audio – The Japanese voices stay intact, while English subs are added during cut scenes. It is the most logical way to do, as most Southeast Asian gamers are probably anime fans who are used to watching subbed episodes. I would hate to hear English dubbed voices.

Localization – The game (at least for the start) seems to be localized fully in English text, and quite professionally done as well. For those who are worried about the Asian “Engrish”, I have yet to encounter any. More on the localization terms below in the “My worries” section.

Music – Nothing changed from the Japanese version, every piece of music and sound effect stays the same. There is a really traditional Japanese RPG feel, and I guess I shouldn’t expect less since SEGA is a bona fide Japanese developer.

Combat – I started out as a Wizard, but hated the fact that the normal left-click combat is a melee one. I eventually switched to a Ranger, where I had awesome fun with machine guns and grenade launchers. Pressing the “Z” key switches the camera view, where the back of the character is seen at the bottom left side of the screen rather than a full third-person mode.

It was really like an online shooter! And yes, players can do jump shots as well 🙂 The only problem I had with combat was accurately aiming at the flying mobs, where the cross-hair seems inaccurate. I will try this again during Closed Beta next week. Holding weapons such as grenade launchers, though fun, has its disadvantage as well. For example, taking a much slower time to turn around after firing each shot.

Phantasy Star Online 2 SEA - Gameplay screenshot 1

Maps and dungeons – Phantasy Star Online 2 is basically a dungeon-based MMORPG, but the “dungeons” are designed like open environments, hence there is not much feel of being in a “dungeon”. Up to 4 players can be in a party, although there will be 12-man ones coming. There will be sudden new objectives while running other quests, sometimes spawning tough mobs, which definitely provides an element of surprise and up the ante.

Death revival in instanced maps will require help from party members, or simply purchase a revival item from the cash shop. the final choice will be to revive at the command room, and re-enter the map and catch up with the rest of the members.

Phantasy Star Online 2 SEA - Gameplay screenshot 2

Gears – Gears in Phantasy Star Online 2 are graded by stars, rather than “common”, “rare” etc. Crafting is not in the current version, hence players will beed to rely on good monster drops or upgrading weapon stats through the NPC to improve combat power.

My worries – I have 2 main worries, which are the somewhat unique UI and following of quests. First off, players can’t simply right click to equip gears from the inventory. They will have to open up another window to equip, which might be a hassle to most gamers who are accustomed to the standard way.

Main quests are apparently known as “Paradigm” here, which is another window and not tied to the “Q” button. There is also no quest window on the right side of the screen to help players keep track of progression. These are just cosmetic issues, but I feel that the developer should not bank on players getting used to these and instead “localize” these parts.

Launch schedule – Official launch for Phantasy Star Online 2 is set on 29th May 2014 (head start for Closed Beta participants on 27th May 2014). Do note that the SEA version is only accessible to players who live in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Philippines.

Phantasy Star Online 2 SEA - Gameplay screenshot 3