First impressions of Caravan Stories: More a gacha game than an MMORPG

    
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First impressions of Caravan Stories: More a gacha game than an MMORPG

When I was in college, my algebra professor once told me to curb my enthusiasm because inevitably, some thing or other will disappoint me. For the most part, that rule has proved true. But I’m an emotional guy, so I’m prone to getting swept up in moments of personal hype. One such instance was earlier this month when Caravan Stories came out.

I was excited about this game. I like games in the anime style, even if the gameplay can be middling, so I’m willing to ignore it if the game was good. Plus, ever since Black Desert came out on the PS4, I’ve found myself using my console more often. The opportunity to play another MMO was just too good to pass up. I practically begged my editor here to let me do this first impression and I was so hyped to check it out in person.

As soon as I launched the game, I immediately appreciated the graphics. The colors are crisp and bright. Aiming Inc. also added a filter effect where the colors seem to “move.” It’s as if it each frame was colored by hand. So far, so good. At first glance, the game already looked a ton better than its closest competitors, like KurtzPel and Soulworker.

The download was fast, but watching this cutscene just really made me more excited to play.

I moved on to the character creation screen. There are five total races. The standard humans, elves, orks, and dwarves are here. There’s also the gessy, which are tiny animal people. It’s a pretty straightforward system until you realize how tightly race is tied to class. I only know that orks and humans can be tanks. I forget what the other races play as, and that’s not from laziness; the game allows you to make only a single character, and once you make that character, it can’t be deleted.

Looking back, I should have started seeing these warnings signs for what they were, but I was just too hyped to play.

The character creator was also pretty weak. There really isn’t much to character creation. There are only a few preset faces and hair options, you can’t change your toon’s body shape, and even color choice is limited. It’s a far cry from my main MMO, Black Desert, but then I used to play Kritika Online and it had a pretty bare-bones character creator as well, so I didn’t really mind it at the time. (Once again, hindsight is 20/20.)

So I made my character, watched the cutscene, and started playing. Nothing particularly stood out upon starting the game. I spawned in what I initially thought was just an instance, and after a few minutes I encountered a red flag that was impossible to ignore: the auto quest button.

Nooooooooooooooooo!

The revelation hit me harder than a glass cannon eating a tankbuster. At that point, I had seen everything I needed. But I pressed on, for science, and for the single hope that I was wrong about this game.

Here’s the thing: Caravan Stories is a gacha game popular with mobile users overseas, but according to Sony it’s “a top-rated MMORPG from Japan.” I’m going to abstain from calling that false advertising; it’s more like another culture’s definition of a genre has gotten lost in translation. I can see how this game could be considered an MMORPG for some. For me, the cutoff is a common player hub. This game does not have one as far as I can tell.

For those not familiar with how gacha games work, let me explain. You know those capsule machines at grocery stores that give you a random prize when you put money in it? That’s called a gacha machine in Japan. A gacha game basically works on the same principle: You put money into the game, and hopefully you get something that’ll help you progress.

Battles take place on a separate screen. Each character in your party can cast one spell.

Since this is a gacha game, you can expect to get high end gear and upgrade materials through the gacha system. Getting new characters is also standard to the genre, which in retrospect explains the bare-bones character creator. These games often run two-week “banner events” that entice players to spend more by promising a rare drop only available for two weeks. Justin did a write-up about this a few years back if you’re interested in jumping down that rabbit hole, but the bottom line is that it all ties into the game’s battle system, which is more like a traditional JRPG – a turn-based battle system.

When battle starts, you go into a battle screen with yourself and your selected party members. The characters do all the fighting on their own, but you can influence the outcome by activating the one skill each member has. That one skill can be a taunt, AoE, or heal. In the time I played, it’s a very simple system and the game pretty much ran itself. It got boring really quickly.

I was also very disappointed when I found out the game had a stamina system. After a certain amount of time, you will not be able to use heroes because they’ll get too tired and you’ll need to bench them so they can recover. (Or pay money to fill them up again.)

The caravan will be your home base. Believe it or not, I’m about to install a machine that lets me open loot boxes.

Caravan Stories’ tentpole feature is the caravan itself. It’s an adorable vehicle with crab legs that’ll be your base of operations throughout your journey. Think Howl’s Moving Castle. It also double’s as the game’s housing system as well. Players will be able to customize the interior, placing furniture and tools to their liking. These pieces are often used to obtain special items, build furniture or train heroes. And these take time. Early upgrades take less than five minutes, but the more expensive ones will take hours to complete. Of course, if you don’t want to wait, you can always pay money to get it done immediately.

Your caravan joins you on your journey, it’s cute right?

Overall, I’ll have to say I was disappointed with this game – not because anything about it was bad, but because I got something I frankly didn’t expect. Unlike a lot of our writers and readers here on MOP, I’m actually a fan of gacha games, and I know I’m being hard on this game, but it’s only because I wanted to play an MMORPG, not a gacha. If gacha drives you nuts, you’ll be even more unhappy with the game than I was.

I also have concerns about the game’s viability on the PS4. The PS4 is a dedicated home console. I play demanding games that take my full attention on it. Games like Caravan Stories are best in short bursts on a cell phone, which is exactly what it was designed to be. It’s the kind of game you pull out while you’re waiting for your PS4 to load up a video game or while you’re waiting for your last DPS member to queue up.

So if you want a gacha game, just go get one for your phone. But if you’re itching to play an MMORPG on your PS4, there are so many better options out there.

Massively Overpowered skips scored reviews; they’re outdated in a genre whose games evolve daily. Instead, our veteran reporters immerse themselves in MMOs to present their experiences as hands-on articles, impressions pieces, and previews of games yet to come. First impressions matter, but MMOs change, so why shouldn’t our opinions?

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iicycube

The trends of mobile style game is really easy mode for developers.
Keep coming this and the mmorpg will goes straight down to null mode.

Covynant001
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Covynant001

Straight up, these types of games should be sent straight into a pit of fire.

😈

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kgptzac

It’s quite unfortunate that seemingly a lot of people here didn’t know this game is essentially, a mobile game that has the option to be played on some platforms that isn’t mobile… which naturally brings out the question on why on earth would you do that.

Also this game has been out for a while… and I’ve predicted that the devs would realize having this on pc and console is unwise due to superior competition, and support would soon be dropped… but I guess not? Maybe some people really like this game on pc and console and are whaling? Or maybe the development environment is godly efficient that it’s practically effortless to maintain different platforms?

A true mystery.

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Robert Mann

Well, somehow I feel far more vindicated of feeling leery of this title than anything else. Gacha is… usually about as appealing to play (unless you want to drop $500+) as Russian Roulette for a week by yourself.

I guess for those who enjoy the mobile games and don’t mind being very underpowered if there is competition or anything, but I have never seen one that was a pleasant experience all in all. Combining that with the good old Zynga “Pay to do stuff” scheme? Ew.

The rest of the game might be good in it’s own ways, but that’s a harder pass than telling me that the game is open FFA pvp with a large 4-chan presence.

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imayb1

Thanks for being our guinea pig on this one! Ugh. I was tentatively looking forward to this one. Just one character you cannot delete would keep me away from this one, but auto-questing and automated combat? What is the point?

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Christopher Angel

yeah I was excited to play it when it launched. 10-mins in after the below subpar character creation, the constant screen loading and the as you so astutely pointed out, auto-quest feature, I recognized this game for what it was; the cancer genre that is eroding our beloved hobby.

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Jack Pipsam

Yikes.
That’s a real shame.

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Bash

This is totally not what i was expecting it to be, i was sure this was gonna be an Anime like MMORPG or atleast something very close. Looks like a mobile title that also play’s on PS4

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NeoWolf

Well I was intrigued but this line below, put me me off..urgh :(

the game allows you to make only a single character, and once you make that character, it can’t be deleted.

Grrr not want an Alt-o-holic wants to hear lol Fortunately the rest of the game sounded pretty horrific too so no great loss..the wait goes on for some proper MMO anime love.

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Sasha Alex

Is this the reason they didn’t release it on PC?
It looks more like a mobile game with those big buttons.