First impressions of the elusive Phantasy Star Online 2

    
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First impressions of the elusive Phantasy Star Online 2

We certainly live in interesting times. Last year, the idea of playing Phantasy Star Online 2 while I’m explicitly told to not leave the house was literally a, dare I say, phantasyBut here I am, doing exactly that. And aside from a 24-hour stint in Animal Crossing with my wife, this game has taken over most of my now-abundant gaming time.

Phantasy Star Online 2 came out way back in 2012. Confusingly, it released only in Japan. Of course, thanks the tireless efforts of fans, English-speaking players have always had a chance to play the game through fan patches. But if you’re like me and play MMOs only on official western servers, that’s not an option. For many, the dream of this game coming out stateside petered sometime around 2016. But those who waited are now in for a treat with the release of this free-to-play title.

In the eight years it’s been out, the game’s received many quality-of-life improvements along with all three “episodes” of the game, the equivalent to expansions. Servers in the west will have parity with the Japanese ones. SEGA never mentioned when open beta closes, but some events run until late April, so it’s possible what we’re playing right now is actually a soft-launch.

I’ve never related to a chapter title more than this one.

In my recent Shadow Arena article, I mentioned why it’s critical to have a really strong focus in any game, and PSO2 is all about fashion. This game gives players an unprecedented amount of control on how their characters look. There are the basics like height, hairstyles, and skin tones. Then there are the features that allow players to customize the physical proportions of their characters. It even has a stomach-and-butt-slider!

But before getting to the all-important butt slider, players need to pick a race, of which there are four: Humans, Newmans, Deumans, and CASTs. Newmans fit the elf archetype, while Deumans are your “humans with horns” variety. My favorite are the CASTs; they’re robots and androids. The CASTs have a variety of aesthetic choices too, and players can create something that looks like a Gundam or something with more human features.

I just rewatched Evangelion, so I had Unit-01 in mind when I did the color scheme

So much of this game is centered on self expression. Players have access to various outfits (body parts in the case of the CASTs) with many different dye channels to work with. Arm, leg, and back items float on on their areas and run the gamut from blades, shields, and even some silly little items. Every player also gets a friend called a MAG, which is a tiny robot that floats beside them providing stats, extra attack support, and most importantly, style. Even small details are considered: Players can adjust where their character keeps their weapons sheathed and even add layers to outfits.

I could go on for ages the many different ways a player can design a character, but it’s this singular focus that really makes this game shine. This game knows it’s got something for you. Are you the type that likes pink pigtails like one of our commenters? There’s like four different types of pigtails and every single shade of pink available. The cash shop is also well-stocked on many fashion items to choose from. I didn’t really have a chance to explore, but the catalogue is expansive. The game depends almost exclusively on cosmetics from what I see, and that’s fine. It really doesn’t feel like the gameplay is gouged.

Protip: Throwing your wallet at the TV will NOT automatically buy these items. I tried. Didn’t work.

Coming from Black Desert Online, I was floored at how much inventory space players get. Every character gets 50 slots with a 200-slot shared storage. Players can purchase more inventory space too if they need. That’s a lot of space to work with, and there are very few barriers to gameplay. I haven’t put a cent into this game yet, and there’s still so much.

So what about the gameplay? PSO2 is a hack-and-slash with a hybrid of instanced and public spaces. The town is a central hub filled with players. In the combat areas, it’s a mix of instances and a shared space. Combat areas usually have one shared space to kill monsters on and do events, but the next combat zone can be a single-person instance.

Along with combat is the crafting and gathering part of the game. Here’s the main gathering hub. It’s a cafe!

The game also offers its own version of zone events in the form of monster attacks and giant boss monsters showing up in both private and public instances. It’s a nice addition; it adds to that feeling that you and your fellow players are in dangerous territory and should be on their guard.

Regardless of where players are, the monsters respawn, so players can choose to find a spot to just kill monsters and grind EXP. Those who didn’t like Black Desert’s grinding because of encountering players will enjoy grinding in this game. There’s no dueling for spots – just kill, get loot, and get EXP. It’s relaxing, and the combat is just dang satisfying. Players can also conduct exploration missions where all they need to do is get to the end of the instance where they fight a giant boss, and boy are they scary.

No matter what class you pick, be it the sword wielding hunter or the space-marine vibe of the hunter, every hit has a satisfying percussive sound. The animations are well done and the combat has a really nice rhythm to it. Button mashing is not the best way to play this game. While that’s possible, your DPS will be lower. After the first attack, properly timing each subsequent attack will provide extra damage. There’s a visual symbol of one circle getting smaller and hitting the attack button when it reaches the same size as a second, smaller, circle. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it really differentiates itself from the super mashy action MMORPG titles out there.

And you’re not just fighting some tiny enemies here. From level 1, the monsters are downright ferocious. The focus on aesthetic is front and center in this game. It makes a point to make sure you’re doing cool things while fighting massive beasts without any need to grind. The game’s even balanced out so that players have a fighting chance against higher-level mobs too. It just doesn’t seem to get old.

Interested? The game is available in its open beta for the Xbox One right now, so give it a download and try it! Every MMORPG player will get something out of it. This game is just downright fun.

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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Suikoden

This is beyond stupid to not release this on PC. I have an XBox one, but my kids use it and my daughter plays Sims 4 on it and I’m not starting a battle over the xbox when it’s plain as day this should be on PC. I mean, if they had a date out there, it would be one thing, but to not even have an announced launch date for PC boggles my mind.

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Castagere Shaikura

Too bad Microsoft is holding back on a PC launch so they can sell more Xboxes. In fact, I’m starting to not like how Microsoft is the one that got the game here to the west.

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agemyth 😩

Phantasy Star Online 2 is not selling consoles. The presumption that MS is delaying the release of this ancient F2P game does not line up with the way MS treats other releases including their own first-party games.

Seems more likely that the localization team is just focused on releasing on one platform at a time. This isn’t a big investment for Sega or Microsoft.

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Castagere Shaikura

Sorry but that is was bugging me. The game is old and PC, PS4 and switch ready in Japan. Yet MS is pulling the Xbox trick first here in NA. You can’t tell me we won’t see Xbox ads for the game everywhere when it does launch here.

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agemyth 😩

I don’t expect to see much or any advertising by Microsoft themselves beyond some blog posts and front page store placement for a few days.

This was a good opportunity to improve relations with Sega Japan and win a tiny bit of good will from the small group of players who have been waiting all these years for this. And like Jack Pipsam said, it seems like Microsoft is the only this is happening at all.

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Jack Pipsam

At this point it’s either Microsoft helped or SEGA would have never done it. They had like a decade of sitting on this thing without budging lol.

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CPTGLORIOUSBEARD

Its a $1.50 to revive… 5 dollars to reset your skill tree 5 dollars to get another mag and the scratch tickets are basically loot boxes. i dont see how this isnt gouging you. gameplay aside the cash shop is one of the worst ive seen.

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Sorenthaz

I mean, the game needs to make money somehow. $5 for a MAG isn’t too bad when you consider everything a MAG provides. That’s like the only real “must have” thing if you plan to play multiple classes with one char, and the first one can be used to specialize stats into whatever you want to focus on first.

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CPTGLORIOUSBEARD

They have costume packs, monthly premium, a battle pass, a fortnite costume shop with a timer and daily changed items, character slots, costumes that only affect one character unless you get a duplicate and etc. They have several revenue streams.. paying money for gameplay affecting items is excessive and greedy. I don’t care if the mag does my laundry 5 dollars to reset that thing is outrageous on top of time of all the other stuff. And there is zero defense for paying to reset a skill tree. on top of these are the only things you cant buy with ingame money which makes zero sense

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N0sSyndrome

If you had played the game you would know:

1. You get 3 character slots for free, if you don’t want to pay for an additional mag, just run 3 characters with one Mag type per character.
2. Every fashion item from the “lootbox” is tradable, if you don’t want to pay for it, just buy it from other players willing to pay. I played on JP for a long time, never paid a single dollar for fashion and I have multiple fashion sets by now
3. The Fortnite battle pass can be bought for basically free, as long as you play the game, you buy it with a currency you can either purchase or receive very often in game by playing.
4. Mag resets for $5 are useless since there’s a way to reset them for free in game.
5. They give out skill tree resets fairly often, at least on JP, I have 15 in my inventory and never bought a single one.
6. Monthly Premium is worth the price and is not an uncommon practice in F2P games. Tera, BDO, Star wars, etc. all have a similar model

None of these F2P purchase options are abnormal for a F2P and in most cases, PSO2 handles them in a way that is so fair and not intrusive that it is basically a non issue. I don’t get why people are so upset about any of this

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CPTGLORIOUSBEARD

I’m level 50+ on 3 classes because I can’t make my mind up on what I wanted to play before landing on gunner and wasting time flipping shit on the market and leveling my 13 star gun to 30 and my mag to 200 to use said dex based pistol at level 20 on forward…. my name is mindsouljah on ship 2 on Xbox. I’ve played for 70 hours. So uhhhh yeah I played it. I haven’t received this free reset yet. Which is it? Are you talking about the jp version or the us version? Because they aren’t the same game…

Just because I can trade for stuff out of loot boxes or they give sg for the battle pass doesn’t change my point. It costs money….right? There is an option to buy it correct? Or am I making that up? Am I having a fever dream that this game has 18 more pay streams than the jp version? and it is all ripped directly from fortnite. They have several streams of revenue is what me and the other guy were talking about.. They aren’t crying poverty. And it still costs money to reset your skill tree and mag. It’s a thing that exists right now… Your defense of this game on another patch on another version of the game shows I actually played the one I’m talking about.

And citing tera and bdo did it first isn’t helping your point when better like Warframe and path of exile have better pay models and cost the same. Neverwinter, BDO, PSO 2 and TERA all have terrible cash shops. Especially when one charges you 1.50 for revives 5 bucks for a skill tree reset and 5 for a mag reset..

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N0sSyndrome

My mention of other F2P was strictly about the premium pass.
For the skill reset, I was very clear I was talking about JP.
PSO2 NA has been out for literally a week, would make no sense to have a skill reset by now.

It is true that there are more revenue channels on NA than JP, which makes me cautiously optimistic since they’ve all been completely optional and not offering anything even worth mentioning.

I know I won’t change your mind, and you seem to selectively read what I write. So I’ll leave it there. To each their own I guess

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CPTGLORIOUSBEARD

It’s more than 10 classes and some skills flatly negate skills being used as a sub on other classes. With tons of combos.. it’s only so much content so flipping through classes and etc is essential in games like this… So yes it makes since to have a reset. There isn’t a valid reason to charge money for it. Besides greed… In-game money is just for drinks and the auction house when it could be used for mag resets and skill tree etc. Hell they could charge badges or something you could farm for like when the emergency quests come up or some something…hell you can’t even trade for these two things specifically

I read what you wrote you missed my point. I don’t hate the game at all.. it’s dated AF and won’t hold my attention forever but I’m enjoying it…. I just hate how greedy Sega is when they didn’t have to be.. I don’t have issues with cosmetics. At all. Or the loot boxes even tho they don’t have duplication protection and have emotes and other garbage in it to dilute them anyways… Even the fortnite fomo timer section is fine. It gets scummy when you charge money for something no other game would dare do. Like when konami charged money for extra character slots in a single player game. It’s literally zero defense for it. I don’t care if I get a free one it’s there for a reason.

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Meanie

unless it was changed, you get at least 1 free mag from the game just from playing pretty early on. i dont even think i needed more than that one unless i was super concerned with min-maxing.

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Sorenthaz

Hoping the PC version is released by summer. It’s stupid as heck to release an originally PC game on Xbox first, then keep the PC crowd waiting despite the PC version not requiring as much work as getting it ported to a console. Only reason it’d require any extra work is if they’re trying to force integration with Xbox Live to where PC players will have to go through the Microsoft Store and use the Xbox Live app or something. Or are trying to integrate it with Steam I guess.

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Jiminy Smegit

Excited to play this but a little bit annoyed there is no real news of the PC version, other than vague promises of this year sometime. Localisation is obviously done. Bugs have been worked out on the JP version. Only reason I can see to delay news is because Microsoft want to sell more Xbox’s to people who have been waiting for this game.

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starbuck1771

Currently they’ve got the base game with game pass. $29.99 for the Rogul bundle, & $59.99 for the Sonic the Hedgehog collaboration bundle. In the Xbox store.

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agemyth 😩

PSO2 is not a system seller in 2020. People have waited this long what is a few more months for a proper English PC release.

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imayb1

Too bad it’s still XBox Only. I would play if it was available for PC.

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starbuck1771

Give it time young one.