First impressions: Even in beta, New Genesis is the quantum leap forward the aging Phantasy Star Online 2 needed

    
14

Now this… this is more like it.

When I was last spending time with Phantasy Star Online 2, I found it to be a fun game that was mired in a whole bunch of old console MMORPG nonsense. All of the fun was buried in menus and poorly laid-out pathing. After my time with the PC beta of PSO2: New Genesis, I’ve found that those complaints are now mostly gone, which would have been more than enough on its own, except the devs at Sega also saw fit to update the core of the game as well.

Narratively speaking, NGS takes place thousands of years forward in the fiction’s timeline on a wholly new planet besieged by the DOLLS. It’s up to the ARKS – aka the player characters – to fight back against this threat. It’s all the motivation of your standard ’90s-era side-scrolling action game, but then I wasn’t really someone who found PSO2’s narrative to be very interesting to begin with.

What is interesting is the game’s combat, which feels a bit more fluid than it did in the original game. There’s still the limited number of hotbars, with abilities tied to your chosen class and weapon that are activated with mouse button presses that are either static or modified by holding down the shift key; gone is the need to time your attack presses for maximum effect. I started life as a Gunner and was immediately beset by some truly stylish and flashy combat animations as my character John Woo-ed and anime-posed while firing her weapons or did hands-free cartwheels to avoid damage. It was all impractical, overblown, and completely awesome.

Another interesting addition is a wide open world. You’re no longer crammed into a spaceship lobby to load into a series of biome-themed tunnels and can instead run out of the main capital city to explore the nearby landscape as you see fit. There are no loading screens as you move across the land a la Genshin Impact, though there are sections of the open world that do have walls to indicate an overall needed gear score in order to best survive. Nothing stopped me from entering these more dangerous zones, but doing so underleveled and underpowered often made things harder for myself.

On the subject of character progression, power level is ultimately king, a metric that takes into account character level and equipment. It’s similar to the Light level found in Destiny 2, just anime-styled, and it absolute commands everything you can do. On a few occasions I fought enemies that were well above my level and was able to mostly succeed, but my hands hated me after a long protracted fight. Basically, you can ignore power level, but it’s not really recommended, and there were only a couple of encounters where I was out-and-out punished for my arrogance/ignorance.

Furthermore, while gaining levels improves your base stats, actually improving your skills with skill points is no longer tied to simply leveling up. You now have to explore the open world to find training houses known as Cocoons that feature foes to fight and challenges to complete for extra rewards on top of a Skill Point. I also found a larger Tower version of a Cocoon that featured a lot more floors and enemies. I even managed to beat this thing solo though I probably should not have done so, which is both a testament to this game’s combat feel and my determination to consistently revive and try again.

Another thing that’s improved from the original is the onboarding. The aforementioned capital city starts off with a line of quests from a trainer NPC, and then at a certain point you’re free to pick up side quests from other NPCs in town. These so far acted like additional tutorials to guide through NGS’s myriad systems, like creating a multi-weapon (which means I could apply sword attacks to my hotbar as well as twin SMG attacks), enhancing weapons, or fighting harder monsters. I didn’t really crack past the early levels, but I felt like I was given a bit of a leg up overall. Still, there are some things that feel obtuse or aren’t really well guided, like I’m just scratching the surface, but at least I didn’t feel compelled to stop and read player guides like in the old PSO2

As for overall gameplay itself, that felt pretty similar to the original PSO2. There’s the possibility of boosting the difficulty of enemies and spawning rare monsters rising as players successfully defeat enemies still in place, challenging mini-bosses can still be found, mini-events with objectives to clear are almost constantly spawning, and Urgent Quests crop up in the open world. Just like in the original game, these are some of the more fun activities since they naturally draw multiple people in, though the adverse effect is that doing these things solo can often feel like a slog, especially the mini-boss or rare boss fights, since these foes are often absolute health sponges. Also, Urgent Quests are power level-restricted — I was able to contribute to an Urgent Quest but wasn’t able to get rewarded since my power level was too low. Still, seeing a couple dozen people converge in the open world to whale on a robotic tiger was a good time.

There are some sticking points here or there, I should point out. Some of the controls can still feel a bit weird, target locking is kind of finicky, and the overall performance on my rig could have maybe been better (this things seems to run about as greedily as Monster Hunter World did when it first arrived to PC), but for the most part, New Genesis feels like the evolution this series absolutely needed. Frankly, I’m immediately hooked and am even willing to put up with the Windows Store’s nonsense to play this game, which is already a bigger bit of praise than I can heap on the original.

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?
Advertisement

No posts to display

newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Drunk3nShaman

I was disappointed when I could not log back in, but I felt flustered at PSO2 and new genesis it is not very user friendly and that coming from an old MMO vet but maybe it’s just cuz I’m old.

Game confuses the hell outa me but can’t wait to play again!

Reader
Scorp Gang

When I first played (OG)PSO2 I found being confused oddly refreshing. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and it felt Great. 😁

P.S. I’m old too xD

Reader
Reginald Atkins

loved the beta, near zero lag issues and my system has more than enough power to run it. I agree with nearly every point (particularly target locking which was a fickle beast). Looking forward to the release in June.

Reader
Scorp Gang

I enjoyed it too. I worked this Weekend so I din’t get the Multi weapon. I got to level 11(of 15) I did the Tower and the urgent Quest. The Gunner felt better in someways but I did miss my skills that ley me get up in the Air Faster. Gliding was great. It really was a Loading Screen Free Open World.

I actually got sad when the Beta Ended. Finally found something to play and I can’t play it!

Reader
Kero Kero

it was a lot of quality of life improvements. It’s still not what I’d consider competitively modern, but it’s enough to appeal to old pso2 players at least.

Reader
Tee Parsley

This was not on my radar at all, but will have to give it a look now.

So, well done!

Reader
Alexis de la Rosa

I thought having GTX 1060, Intel core i7 and 16 GB RAM would be enough for this game but it runs like doodoo. I’ll stick with FF14.

Reader
Robert

I’m loving these “hands on”, “first impressions” and previews of games the site has been pumping out. If I may, as a suggestion: I know I could easily have looked this up, but a nice sidebar with game details would be awesome. Something that says “Expected:” for an expected release date (even if it says “TBA”), and any other quick links or information would be great.

Keep up the solid work.

Reader
Dankey Kang

Holy Moly is this game an improvement over the original. I tried playing PSO2 afterwards and felt dirty; as a matter of fact, I feel like labelling it PSO2 might do the game more harm then good since it’s so wildly different. (the WiiU had a similar problem since many people just thought it was the Wii)

I don’t just feel like it’s a leap forward for PSO, but for MMO’s in general really. The amount of freedom in movement you have is unparalled; as a Techter I was sprinting from foe to foe delivering much deserved bonks, then suddenly I was climbing up some giant hill or floating across some canyon and most importantly, it feels great. The combat is fantastic too, encounters are entirely skill based so I felt the desire to just fight the bosses in order to improve myself. Counters block all damage but also let you follow up with a very powerful attack so timing is everything when it comes to speedrunning.

Performance was pretty bad for me, but then I have a pretty outdated computer. The game features some dynamic scaling mode which can dynamically shift you into potato mode to save frames (and stop your GPU from exploding). The CBT only had content up to level 10 (lvl cap was 15 tho) and didn’t really allow us to explore much of the world at all, but if the game stays as enjoyable at endgame as it was at low level, I can see this making Sega a huge amount of money.

Reader
Sean Walsh

Thanks for the download Chris, so happy to hear that these were the main areas of improvement. I tried PSO2 when it came stateside, and while the combat was as fun(if not moreso) than I remember from the original, the game itself was just not fun to play. Too many confusing systems and garbage UI/UX made each session feel like more of a chore than a delight (especially compared to my latest experience with BDO, which also has many confusing systems, but they didn’t block me from getting to the FUN).

Excited to check this out once it comes out of beta.

Reader
Drunk3nShaman

“Too many confusing systems and garbage UI/UX made each session feel like more of a chore than a delight”

This was my only problem but it’s a biggie.

Reader
Bereman99

I kept wondering why target locking would pick the seemingly most random target anywhere from 90 to 180 degrees from whatever I was fighting when my camera was pointed right at it…

Eventually realized it was based on where my character was facing, independent of the camera.

That was my only real annoyance though. Had a blast with everything else.

Reader
Vanquesse V

This was the only big critique I left with as well. I would happily accept better performance (and to a lesser extent a less convoluted way of getting from title screen to playing a character) but that’s the only thing that really stood out as being “off”

Reader
Scorp Gang

I’ll have to Remember this when it goes live. I experienced this too. Imagine how Annoying it is for a Gunner haha. Atleast Chain is on me now so they took out some of the Frustration. That and Locking on.