Four Winds: Phantasy Star Online 2 offers some of the best social features in MMORPGs


I don’t know about everyone else, but a huge part of MMOs for me is the fashion. My characters need to absolutely slay the runway before they can even think about even facing that dragon. Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis understands those kinds of players. It’s got some of the most powerful character creation tools I’ve seen in an MMO, with a wide variety of fashion items to don as well as myriad social features, which give so many avenues for player expression that it’s a surprise this game hasn’t been treated as an example of how other MMOs should facilitate player interaction. It’s seriously underrated!

So for today’s edition of Four Winds, let’s take a look at the variety of social features that are available to us in Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis.

Player expression is king

SEGA figured out how to monetize this game early on: Make it easy for players to (cos)play as anyone or anything they want. Gundam? Check. Super cool and slick anime boy? Check. A totes adorbs anime girl absolutely beaming with UwU energy? Of course! There are so many choices, and it stems from the powerful character creation engine. There are sliders for everything. I’m not kidding! Players can adjust foot size, arm length, hand positions, thigh thickness, and everything in between. You will run into many unique player characters in Phantasy Star Online 2 and it’s great.

Both of these are players! The wide range of accessories and sliders can make a huge variety of different character types.

Players can make any sort of combination that they desire in this game. While strolling around town, I found a particularly fun character who was basically a floating robot. They are mechanically the same as every other character, but with the combination of the different outfits, body parts, and even unique player animations, players can expect to constantly see something new to admire and find inspiration from.

In my opinion, this is a huge part of the appeal of Phantasy Star Online 2. It adds this extra layer of fun because players can cater their player characters to their exact tastes. The way the players look is technically lore-friendly too; the gist is it’s all related to photons and the fact that the technology is so advanced that the player characters can augment their bodies however they see it. A stretch, perhaps, but it works.

To further augment player expression, the game offers accessories too. From futuristic floating rocket pods to a cute creature sitting on a player’s shoulder, there are various accessories to accent any outfit. They’re not limited to the location on the player either! Accessories can be resized and repositioned, and most notably, they’re not limited to where they’re put. So an item designed to be on the back of the character can actually be resized down and placed on the character’s wrist if that’s your desire. Players who are really into customizing their perfect MMORPG toon should consider trying it just for the fashion alone.

Encouraging player interaction

It’s a sad state of affairs when some MMOs tilt too far into solo-friendliness and skimp on some sort of meaningful player-to-player interaction. It’s equally unwelcome when an MMO uses forced grouping to get people to play together. Phantasy Star Online 2 strikes a balance that I haven’t seen often in recent MMOs in that there are so many ways to talk to others. Most socializing will happen in one of the four towns, in addition to the standard area chat, party chat, and whisper chat. Area chat also generates a speech bubble that will pop up for players on screen, so players won’t miss any messages! It makes the city hubs feel so much more busy and populated. Players who just like to people-watch and see the chit chat will enjoy the vibe it brings.

There’s way more to it than that, though. SEGA takes it to another level by offering ways to put emphasis on messages sent. Players can use special commands to make their speech bubbles have extra emphasis, sound effects, and bubble shapes to show off. My favorite is being able to include a picture of your character saying their line in a manga style. I’ve never seen something like that in any MMO (though I’m told 20-year-old Star Wars Galaxies came close). The important thing is that it adds to the overall vibe of the social game. PSO2 isn’t just a game where it’s all grinding all the time. It’s also a game to stay logged into while you people-watch or catch the latest flamewar or nonsensical stuff that goes on.

Here’s an example of what a busy day in PSO2 looks like. Take note of the player’s face showing up in the middle of the screen so people know they’re saying something.

As I mentioned earlier, the social experience isn’t limited to people who love talking. PSO2 actively encourages players to interact with the lookbook system. Basically, players can register their current outfit into a lookbook. Players can either click on a player and view it or look from a larger compendium. What’s cool is there’s an option to give kudos to players who have standout looks. Players who do so are awarded free star gems, a type of freemium currency that can be bought with real money or acquired through regular gameplay.

I personally found myself using the lookbook more often than I thought I would. I go through it to see what players are wearing today and to find inspiration for future outfits. It’s a really cool system that isn’t invasive to anyone’s fun. I’ll admit it’s a nice feeling to get the occasional compliment from players for my fashion sense.

All that scratchin’ is makin’ me itch

So how do people get all these cool items anyway? Why, gacha mechanics, of course! For those unfamiliar with the term, it stems from the Japanese gacha toy machines that will award a random toy after you put a coin in it. The term comes from the sound the machine makes upon dispensing the capsule. Global video games like Genshin Impact adapted and honed the system to great effect by offering desirable characters and items through a limited chance, not unlike gamblebox, lockbox, and lootbox mechanics. Love it or hate it, SEGA uses it effectively to fund the game.

At any given time, players have access to a variety of special scratches. As of the writing of this article, there are currently eight different scratch tickets that players can play for a chance at some of their unique items. Oftentimes, there are various collaborations going on at any given moment, and each of them takes different currencies, Star Gems (SG) and AC. Star Gems are the freemium currency that can be bought or earned by doing dailies, weeklies, and finishing the battle pass, while AC can out be bought with real cash. The big difference is that AC can be sold to other players while SG items can’t. This makes for an interesting dynamic; oftentimes, AC items will be available for players to purchase long after their initial scratch ticket run, but SG tickets won’t be available one they’re gone. In a sense, the non-tradable items are more valuable because they can’t be obtained later. It’s an interesting dynamic.

My personal take, I like the way the scratch tickets work. We get a free daily scratch too, so everyone gets something new every day anyway. Regular logins and campaigns also award players with special things too, so actively engaging with the game is made even more worthwhile.

Overall, Phantasy Star Online 2 should be a stand-out MMO when it comes to how players interact and express themselves, but to date, it hasn’t really gotten the credit its due. I think it’s best seen in person rather than through articles, however. MMO gamers who enjoy chitchatting and player interaction should give this game a shot. Who knows, it might just be the MMO you’re looking for.

The four wind tiles in Mahjong open all sorts of winning combinations for players of this ancient game – and the “Asian” MMO subgenre is just as varied as the many rulesets in Mahjong. Join Massively OP’s Carlo Lacsina here in our Four Winds column as he covers the diverse assembly of MMOs imported from the East!
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