Some of you might recall that this past month, my family welcomed a new addition to its household. With a newborn around once more, I’m rediscovering things I long since forgot from the previous three, things such as random wakeup calls at 3:00 a.m., why I always have to have spare shirts on hand for after feedings, and how hard it is to game when you’re limited to a single hand.
Action MMOs are out of the question when you’re trying to soothe a pint-sized person on your lap. But you know what fits the bill admirably? Mouse-driven action-RPGs (especially since I have a Naga). It was quite fortuitous that Devilian launched this past week because I sorely needed a game that could be played solely with a mouse while leaning back in a chair.
The gaming coda of 2015
In a weird way, I think that Devilian coming out this month was the best scheduling for this sort of game. It wasn’t ever going to be a serious contender for a major MMO (especially with that name), but by shoehorning it into December, Trion Worlds was able to provide a shot of fresh gaming into these last few weeks without having to contend with much competition. That might be enough to give Devilian a running start to growing an audience before 2016 arrives and the next distraction starts waving its hands at gamers.
After playing it for this past week, I have to admit that most of my initial impressions of Devilian from back in October are more or less intact. This right here is not the deepest game, nor is it the most serious, nor is its storyline engrossing. In fact, after quest number two, I stopped reading the text altogether (that’s never a good sign — I like to read!). This is a game that casually asks you whether you like to blow, stomp, or punch stuff up and then gives you the means to make that happen.
The beginning and end of Devilian’s main appeal, at least to me, resides in its combat gameplay. If Devilian clicks with you in that regard, then you’re going to have a good time. If you’re looking for housing, intricate lore, visual customization, or many other features embedded in most MMORPGs, then you’re going to slink away disappointed. However, for an action-RPG, it’s reasonably full-featured and is definitely easy on the eyes.
Even though I still am internally growling at the Cannoneer being a little girl toting around a cannon that’s larger than her torso, I can’t help but play the class for its enjoyability factor. The sounds and effects are spot-on, often causing me to subconsciously make additional sound effects in person while I’m playing. It’s like walking around as a portable artillery unit, and the bad guys don’t stand a chance. Grouping up bad guys and delivering devastating AoE attacks and tossing bombs all over the place never ceases to be good wholesome fun.
I do have a few observations from the launch week that I’d like to share in no particular order, if you’ll let me. First up is a few disappointments I have with the title, starting with the limited class selection and fixed race/gender settings. It’s really hard to make a character that looks any different than others of your class, especially in zoomed-out isometric view. It’s an endless field of clones of four characters/classes/races/genders, and even the cash shop can’t come up with ways to visually distinguish yourself past sunglasses and wings. Maybe that’s a lot to ask in an action-RPG, but it still chafes at my desire to look visually unique.
The loot and respawn rate — two vital factors in games such as this — really need to be examined and adjusted. I’m used to loot piñatas in action-RPGs, but this game is downright stingy with the occasional dropped item and handful of coin. It’s just not that fun to loot stuff here, at least as far as I’ve progressed. And the respawn rate is ludicrously high, often plopping bosses back down on your head seconds after your defeat them and are trying to grab that dropped item. Is the respawn dynamically adjusted based on how many players are in the area? I’m not sure, but it was a problem in beta too.
The titular Devilian mode isn’t a big winner, either personally or with the community I’ve seen. Pretty much nobody is super-enthusiastic about transforming into a different form with fewer skills. Devilian form is actually less powerful than your regular one at the onset, although I’ve heard it gets quite useful for bosses later on. I don’t much care for it and will try to play the game without it if I can.
My last big gripe is that Trion didn’t lean on the developer to exorcise more of those Asian F2P elements that are so prolific over there but not as well liked in the west. The interface is littered with flashing icons trying to sell you things or tell you that you have a daily calendar challenge. And the fact that the game sells and awards stuff like time-limited pets and mounts is a huge red flag for me. I don’t feel fleeced by the game (yet) but I have a suspicion that there’s a lot more room for shady business practices if the devs or publisher wished. Trion players are still so dang sore about how badly ArcheAge handled its F2P elements that Devilian needs to be 100% on the up-and-up (especially when compared to the classy way Trove and RIFT handles the model).
Honest gripes aside, there is a lot to like here and some genuine promise. Again, the name and somewhat generic Asian design might be detractors, but in watching chat over the past few days, I saw nothing but happy gamers gleefully killing and discussing the merits of this game.
Two of the big hits with Devilian in the community are small things: the friend feature and auto-run. Friending in Devilian offers a symbiotic relationship of gift-giving; friends can gift up to 10 online (why online only? I do not know) friends presents every day and potentially receive some in return. Getting a gift in the mail from someone on your friends list is pretty cool, and the more you do that, the better the gifts get.
Auto-running is perfect — for this type of game, at least. It’s like being at an amusement park where you hop on a tram to be taken automatically to your next destination while admiring the scenery on the way. No worries about getting lost!
While I’m somewhat ambivalent about the existing skill trees, I do really like the talisman system. You can think of talismans like cards that you arrange into an equipped deck (and are, in fact, represented by cards with artwork). Each card offers a passive effect, and as you level up you can equip more talismans at a time. They can be leveled up, too, offering more powerful stats and customization options. I think it’s here that a build for your character will really take focus, and I have to admit to a small thrill every time I get to open a new talisman box.
But in the end, Devilian is always going to be more a casual title than a hardcore obsession, perfect for sampling when you have 20 minutes to play or a baby in the arm. If it understands and embraces that, I think Devilian could have a good run ahead.