This past week has been a mighty full one for our genre in terms of the number of beta tests that landed on our collective lap, but one of the stranger sounding ones was the “equilibrious test” of Perfect New World purely by its choice of adjective alone.
With that word in mind, I can hardly consider the game in any sort of balanced state right now, as my time in this test build of the MMORPG has led me to the conclusion that there are a lot of things that need to be done in order for it to hit anything approaching equilibrium.
From the very jump, PNW visually presents itself pretty well overall, with some very lovely graphics and some pretty fluid animations all throughout. The game world that I got to explore through my 20 levels of play wasn’t bad looking by any stretch of the imagination, but at the same time it also didn’t really astonish me too terribly much either despite its seeming as if it really wanted to. It kind of suffers from similar over-designed game worlds in that things just sort of blend into mush.
The game’s story was similarly lackluster, carrying all of the restraint and finesse of a drag racer. The whole thing starts off with my character trudging up some incredible mountain to reach a sacred land and become a Soul Tamer, but lo and behold, my character is a Chosen One, destined to become a Prime – except I’m thrown into some sort of conflict that unleashes wraiths upon the world, corruption in parts of the land, and negativity as a literal force of dangerous nature as opposed to a normal human emotion, I guess.
The whole storyline just darts from moment to moment, hoping that it exudes some manner of drama, peril, and intrigue, and when one moment doesn’t meet those immediate metrics, it rushes forward to the next in some panicked hope to try again. The awful localization and even worse voice acting doesn’t do the whole thing any favors either, and switching to a different spoken language was not a solution since the subtitles would often show different text to what was said or sometimes would be cut short by some UI glitch.
So, if the visuals are just OK and the story is forgettable, then it falls upon the gameplay to carry things through, and unfortunately there’s not enough here yet to make a keystone to hold up the whole rickety arch. There is an active combat model on offer that feels built primarily around a mouselook control scheme, though using tab targeting is an option, albeit an awful one since it doesn’t really feel great. Regardless of controls, the combat model of PNW managed to toe this weird line between the tight and active fighting found in TERA and the greasy sensation of DC Universe Online’s. I would be impressed if it weren’t just annoying.
There are a couple of important mechanics in PNW’s combat model that contribute to fights feeling bad. Most of the fighting involves dodging small attack and opening up with your own combos, but sometimes enemies can engage attacks that have a super armor state or even bigger attacks that have what I’m going to reference as a mega armor or staggerable state. These different states are identified by a color and are countered either by using an ability that has the sunder effect or by summoning a powerful spirit beast attack respectively, in a sort of rock-paper-scissors kind of interplay between striking, dodging, and using the right abilities.
On paper that sounds engaging, but in practice it feels wildly inconsistent. Sometimes the telegraph colors can be a bit hard to read, especially when the screen is coated in some sort of filter effect to presumably enhance the drama of the battle, but more often than not the hurtboxes of associated attacks come out far faster than those that my interrupt abilities produce, leaving my character tossed in the air and juggled by multiple attacks as I waited for my character to hit the ground; anyone who’s played a fighting game can understand just how frustrating it is to miss frame timing and just watch helplessly as your character is pummeled until you’re allowed to press another button again.
To Perfect World’s credit, it doesn’t appear that any of these combat problems could be attributed to lag, so as far as I can tell the servers stood up, but the game’s jarring performance kind of ate frames, making knowing when to engage the right abilities harder to do. Nine times out of 10, I managed to get through some of the beefier enemies simply by dodging instead of using the tools the game wanted to give me, which felt bad and made fights longer than they really needed to be, especially since hitting the right attack opens the target up to some big damage.
Most of these complaints sort of skirt past other experiences as well, such as the very mobile game-feeling sensation of every single thing I did loading heaps of free crap so long as I pressed UI buttons, the empty feeling world in terms of both other players, and the really boring little events that pop up that seem to try and encourage exploration but feel like nothing more than being tugged along a state fair midway. The whole thing just felt… well, unbalanced.
All told, PNW does not give the impression that it’s ready to be out of the oven yet, but some of these problems at least seem to be correctable. The awful story, bad localization, and terrible voicing seem like walls that just cannot be cleared any longer, but the combat mechanics could probably be fixed given enough time and testing.
Even so, it’s really hard to know if that will be enough to lift this one out of presumed “temport” status. Barring some sort of revolution in combat and Perfect World deciding to spend money on localization, it’s going to be really hard to think Perfect New World is going to hit that dream of balance that this test build tries to imply. And should that miracle occur, that may still not be enough to make this one anything more than a forgettable bummer anyway.