Personally, I think Trion invited more grief than it wanted with the importation of ArcheAge to its portfolio, and with many MMO players still stinging from the disappointments that ensued with that title, I almost cringed when I heard that Trion was bringing in yet another game from Korea.
Almost cringed. Because for some ArcheAge is a blast, and even failures can benefit the future. Also, why shouldn’t an MMO studio be scouting good games wherever it can get them? So I attempted to shoulder off any meta bias in favor of approaching my first few days in Devilian’s alpha program, discovering for myself a game that’s a mixed bag in its present state — yet compulsively consumable even so.
Asian to the core
Before getting to the good and the bad of this massively multiplayer Diablo clone, I must make one overarching observation. Devilian is completely Asian to its core, from the design to the the storytelling to the character classes. For some this is a pro and others a con, therefore I feel I have to point out that this doesn’t have the western vibe that its contemporaries like Path of Exile and Marvel Heroes do. No, this is an action-RPG that’s steeped in culture with a heavy splash of anime. Take that for what it’s worth.
To its credit, Devilian plunks the player down in the thick of the action from the get-go without a lot of annoying hand-holding. This is a Diablo clone, after all, so all you need to know from the onset is that clicking is good, and clicking faster is even better. Gradually over the first 20 levels (they come quickly), Devilian peppers in tutorials masked as quests, but they’re spread out as to keep it from feeling as though a developer is force-feeding you a manual all at once.
I went with the Gunner class — because huge guns are awesome — and hit my first big stumbling block with Devilian. Every class is both race- and gender-locked, meaning that my Gunner had to be one of those skimpy-dressed little anime girls that probably attends junior high school during the week. As far as I know, this restriction is not something that Trion can or apparently wants to change, and that is a crying shame.
Those Diablo feels
The user interface isn’t too difficult to grok, and I appreciated how it wasn’t trying to clutter up my screen with buttons. Pages pulled up were a little clunkier than I would’ve liked, especially with the inventory’s teeny-tiny icons and the ugly-as-sin daily calendar.
As you might expect, the bulk of the game is progressing to an area or dungeon and blasting/cutting/whipping the ever-loving stuffing out of endless waves of bad guys. In this crucial aspect, Devilian meets and even exceeds my standards for a good Diablo clone. While I might not like piloting a tween canoneer, she handled wonderfully, spitting out hot death with meaty whump-whump-whumps and taking out crowds of foes within seconds.
I cannot stress enough how important this aspect is to Devilian. I’ve played enough cruddy Diablo clones to know that not getting that frantic and flashy combat down is a death sentence to prolonged interest. Here, I was happily chewing my way through the landscape because each encounter felt downright satisfying.
There’s a lot of flexibility as to how you set up and play a class, with each sporting three talent trees. I went with a simple setup: My Gunner would toss out a field of land mines and then use targeted artillery strikes to pull mobs into the field of death. Seeing the explosions and corpses as creatures tried in vain to get near to me was worth every click.
Another plus is the look of the game. Far away or up close, Devilian is quite attractive. It’s not going to win any beauty pageants, especially in its hammy cutscenes where clipping seems to be the order of the day, but I thought the scenery was well-detailed and the combat effects visually arresting.
What I really loved was the use of the auto-run feature next to the quest tracker. I didn’t have to stress out about navigating a map or remembering which weird-named mob was where; I just clicked on that button to watch my character mount up and sprint to the next area. Yes, it’s lazy and completely on rails, but it works with this type of game. Between auto-running and the click-fest nature, Devilian is the type of game that can be played with one hand while leaning back in your chair.
The devil buys Prada
While I didn’t get into the social features that Trion’s been touting as the hook that will keep players coming back, I did poke around to get a feel for what players might be in for in regard to the business model and cash shop. It’s hard to tell whether what’s present will make it into beta and beyond, but as it stands there are a lot of Asian free-to-play techniques here, including time-limited mounts and pets, a small inventory that needs your money to make it all it could be, and costumes, costumes, costumes. Frankly, anything that would make me not look like I was going to get frostbite from the thigh-down would be a welcome purchase.
I progressed far enough to get my Devilian mode and play around with it some. While it’s the titular feature, going Devilian is as old as Super Mario getting his flashy star or fire plant. It basically makes you stronger, gives you a fiercer look (in my case, skin-tight black leather and a wiggly devil tail), and lends you a new skill bar. Devilian mode is to handle tougher enemies, or so I was told.
From what I saw in those first few hours, Devilian nails the core of this type of game. What really remains to be seen is how Trion handles the microtransactions, how restrictive F2P will be, and how the community will respond to a game with a generic title and an eastern vibe. It’s staying on my hard drive for the forseeable future, but I cannot make predictions one way or the other in terms of its future.