When I spied our recent article on Leafling Online, I almost immediately jumped in. It’s currently in early access, but studio Celtaria Productions claims it’s designed to be a free-to-play game with a cosmetic-only cash shop. I’m loving the visuals, the animations, and the whole concept. A retro-stylized MMO is extremely enticing to me. I’ve been on a retro (and retro inspired) game binge for several months now. So, at first glance, I was pretty sold, plus it happens to be a PvP MMO and perfect for our Fight or Kite column. Let’s saddle up and see what Leafling’s got in store for us!
Checking off the key MMO bullet points
Even though it’s in early access, Leafling has a lot of features to dig into from both a PvE and PvP perspective. First up, it has a standard leveling system with level 30 being the cap. While you begin the game with only a few simple class choices, at level 30 you can choose an advanced class. Currently, the game lets you change classes freely without losing any levels, so that’s nice for someone like me who doesn’t want to repeat all that rigmarole again.
I really don’t even know how many different classes there are, only that the game claims there’s “over 18 classes with limitless build variety.” The justification here is that while you can quickly swap between around 10 classes or so, there are various quests you can hunt down and complete to be rewarded with the ability to use a new class. A few of the ones I found were Ronin, Dragonslayer, and Monk. Each class also has a different set of skills to use too, so you should be able to find something that fits your style.
Gear appears to be the driving force in the game, though, which is not typically my cup of tea. I tend to prefer games that flatten the gear curve early and rely on skillful play to take you beyond that. Fortunately the game doesn’t also have an endless leveling cycle, so I think long-term I could live with it, but it would really rely on the developers not constantly nudging that powercreep along.
Cosmetics are a fairly sizable piece of the Leafling endgame too. Not only are you hunting down gear that works out for your class and spec choices, but you know you want that big, flashy sword. A lot of the cosmetic gear does rely on grinding out loot or quests to obtain them, but it looks like the game has events to unlock some time limited gear too. Depending on their availability post-event, that can be a good feature or a frustrating one if you missed the event.
Speaking of gear and cosmetics, Leafling also includes some standard MMO harvesting and crafting, which is critical to gear upgrades. It’s a pretty basic system of click-click-click to harvest, gather your materials and take them to a crafting bench, and then click to combine into a new piece of gear. If you’re into sitting back and relaxing with an MMO while watching some TV; this could work out for you. As far as harvesting goes, it looks like you’ve got your staples: mining, tree trimming, and fishing.
Standard MMO with some retro flair
As I said at the top, at first blush anyone who is a fan of old 8- and 16-bit era games will immediately love the look and feel of Leafling. It just looks like home. But how does it play? Well, I’m glad I asked! Currently, it is your standard fetch quest-driven MMO – with a lot of grind.
It starts out with a nice bit of lore about settlers on this new magic island (or something along those lines). When your character wakes up, you have nice simple fetch quests to gather trash on the beach and turn it in. After progressing through a few of these, the NPCs give you some quick instructions and point you towards the main settlement. From here, you complete a few more fetch quests, with some kill quests thrown in, and ultimately get to fight a boss monster. After this, you’ve completed the available story quests and the game pats you on the back and suggests you keep moving forward, completing other quests, and leveling up.
Now, everything in the starter zones including leveling up to 30 is all protected from PvP. But with the allure of some endgame PvP down the road, I pressed on. I make no effort to hide my disdain for straight-up grindy quests that require little more than your time, but these quests were really chill. And I do mean it; I was able to just chill out and relax farming monsters and loot. Not to mention the music! I don’t know whether these were originals or not, but that beat was nice, especially that login track.
So despite my normal gag-reflex at the sound of gear grinding, I started grinding, at least up to level 30 so I could play around with a few of the classes. I found the PvP zones… and found out that I was nowhere near geared-up enough to participate. I was a polliwog with arms and legs, and I thought it might be my time to hop to it, but it turns out I was not. A basic NPC in the PvP zones took me to task. So perhaps I will not get my little feet wet in the PvP this time around.
Combat feels more like Crystalis than Zelda
While I can’t comment too deeply on participation in actual PvP, I can mention what’s available and how the game’s combat plays out. I wouldn’t quite say the combat isn’t smooth. When you attack, it triggers well enough. But there’s something about it that doesn’t quite hit that sweet spot for me. That’s why I want to say it feels more like Crystalis than Zelda. Zelda was smooth, polished, and sharp all around. Crystalis was a great game, but it was older and the combat just didn’t play as well. We can give Leafling a pass for now, as it is still an early access game, but it’s worth noting.
Now, once you’ve reached the tower, you’re able to choose between one of four different factions, or nations, as the game calls them. Once initiated into one of the nations, you’ll be able to participate in the larger battles, one of which is the Crimson Meadow. It’s a pretty recent addition to the game but it looks to be akin to a conquest battle. There are five strongholds throughout the map, each with a capture point. If your nation holds the point long enough, it receives some rewards.
The combat makes of use of a basic attack and tossing out skills. You have a skill bar to slot skills 1 through 0, but you can also keep your skill book open too and cast from there, so you aren’t really limited to the hot bar. Many of the higher-end gear will also unlock unique skills, which further separates player power levels.
That’s about as far as this PvPer is going to get with standard grinding fair. Leafling Online is available on Steam, and it’s free-to-play, so there’s no harm in trying it out yourself. It has a pretty active community on Discord too, and if you are into the hunt for loot to build ever more powerful items in a retro-inspired world, I’d recommend you take a look at it. If you’ve played it or do give it a shot, let me know your thoughts in the comments!