Crystal Saga Review
Genre: Browser Based MMORPG
Publisher: R2 Games
Crystal Saga is a simple point and click browser-based MMO from r2 Games. Its simple interface has a lot going for it but outside of that it feels fairly dry. A nice alternate to the heavy downloads involved in something like World of Warcraft or, more similarly, Eden Eternal, but following the same sort of layout without the level of depth you’d get from those games.
With 5 male characters and 5 female characters to pick from, each looking like something out of the book of generic anime characters, and 5 classes, it doesn’t take long to pick something that is almost bearable. With that said, the character I picked ending up looking nothing like the character I picked in the character creation slot; it was hardly a disappointment.
The game begins with you waking up from the dead and speaking with the Goddess of Fate, who seems as surprised as you are. A rather annoying quality of some MMOs, Eden Eternal suffered from this as well, is for the story to be treated as a single player adventure and every character you come across seems mildly surprised to see you. The weapons maker, your first port of call, says he’s never seen a hero without a weapon before, despite you being surrounded by heroes without weapons.
The story progresses like many other MMOs. You find a quest, accept the quest, and head out of the town to kill monsters or find a certain object. Sometimes you’ll find that object by killing monsters. Running errands is the name of the game and is easily the quickest way accruing experience points.
As you level up you receive more skill points that allow you access to more skills. As a mage character I had access to either fire or ice magic, the basic difference as far as I could tell was that the animation was a slightly different colour.
And you’ll be seeing those animations an awful lot. Battles are more difficult than some games I’ve played and, if you’re not watching your health, you’ll end up dying quite often. As is often the case, you’ll need to fight multiple monsters to complete an objective and fighting all of them without a potion of some sort will leave you near death.
And this is perhaps one of Crystal Saga’s greatest assets, that it isn’t always that easy. You’re not always getting objects that you can equip right at that minute, sometimes you’re ahead of the curve and you need to level. But with that comes the first of many annoyances. When you level up, usually by completing a quest, you are told how close you are to a milestone when you can get a certain object, leaving absolutely no surprises and no pleasure in levelling up outside of…well, levelling up.
“You’re nearly level 10; soon you’ll be able to have a pet.” “You’re nearly level 15; soon you can have a mount.”
Completing objectives is made all the more easier by my favourite MMO feature, the auto route. Click the underlined text in an objective and your character will walk the distance to your destination without too much worry.
This allows you to miss much of the intrusive Facebook advertising that the game constantly pushes down your neck. A yellow bar of text in the upper part of the screen either says that you can get exclusive pets by liking on Facebook or makes you aware that somebody else has just done it. This is to lure you into advertising to your friends and I can tell you it gets annoying rather quickly.
But more than that, since penning the above paragraph they have now taken to adding the Facebook advertisements to your objectives. Although it is labelled as optional, it is still placed there without your consent and abandoning the quest results in a failure. “Become the envy of your friends,” they say, “and like our Facebook page for instant access to the boxer bear pet.”
And even after abandoning and failing the quest, the Facebook quest still appears in my “Available quests” menu.
It’s such a small complaint in writing, but I found it annoying quite quickly, not so much because the feature has been implemented but, like their need to flaunt their Facebook pages, it’s being forced in your face constantly.
There are lots of people playing Crystal Saga, the chat box to the left is always busy with conversation and there are always people roaming around the areas you need to visit. I would say there’s a pretty big flaw here though that may have been a one-time glitch or may be a constant thing, I’ve not had much chance to retest it. There was one Golem that we had to kill and, as a group, we managed to battle its health down to almost nothing. Because there were so few of these Golems (superior to the regular golems), there were maybe three low level characters fighting each of these monsters, and only the character that initially got into the fight got any EXP or finished the quest.
Questing itself, like I previously mentioned, is a fairly standard affair. If you’ve ever played World of Warcraft, you’re an expert already. But it is when you start paying attention to certain parts of the story that you begin to see some odd decisions. For example, I was sent on a quest by a young boy who was described as pacing up and down. I speak with the boy and he tells me his sister has lost her doll.
So, a few minutes later, I return with the doll at which point he tells me his sister is also missing. Priorities, you have to love them.
This quest actually sticks out in my mind for another reason, and perfectly highlights the problems I have with the quests. Instead of using your eyes to find his sister, the little boy gives you a magic item. You move a few footsteps to the right - I’m not underestimating the distance, the boy is still on screen – and use the item, at which point your character goes back to the boy and explains that he has journeys a few steps to the right and she wasn’t there and so, chances are, she’s probably dead.
To which the boy replies “don’t worry; she came back while you were gone.”
This sort of thing continues for quite a while and you come to the point where you have to ask yourself what the point in continuing in this game is.
And that’s an attitude that I found I was adopting quite a lot while playing Crystal Saga. There’s nothing in it that presents anything new and playing it for any length of time feels like a grind. Even the music seems to get repetitive very quickly. Perhaps that is why they felt the need to include an ‘AFK’ mode, a set of macros that allows the game to play without you being there.
And what better way to play such an underwhelming game? There’s nothing really wrong with it, I can understand why it has such a large following, but it has its flaws and the little things tend to wind you up over time; the positives, such as the excellent world design, become more apparent as you journey onwards, seeing new locations outside of the beginner’s tutorial area.
And I can’t really say that I’ve scratched much more than just the surface. Crystal Saga is a fairly solid game; everything is there to make it playable. Compared to most MMOs I’ve played, however, the level of out-of-game distraction, the Facebook ads for example, is far too obvious and breaks any opportunity for distraction.
All of this leaves you with the impression that the developers threw together a game-by-numbers, trying too hard to get people interested in their product. It’s a very unattractive quality in a game and you’re left thinking about what they could have accomplished if they’d focussed more on the unique, on the story, on multiplayer features.
It’s not a bad game, but it would never be my first choice of MMO and I’m not sure if it should be your first choice of MMO either.