Fight or Kite: 33 Immortals continues the trend of pseudo-MMO gaming


Even given the general pullback in the games industry from using the term MMO, I sure am noticing a bunch of other games that have drawn a whole ton of inspiration from MMOs anyway. There’s a bevy of survival sandboxes, gankboxes, and even cozy crafting games that wouldn’t exist if not for the MMOs that helped define much of these gameplay loops. And now, I’m even seeing raid-inspired gaming that doesn’t quite want to touch the term.

Of course, 33 Immortals puts MMO and raiding right on the tin, though it’s not actually an MMORPG itself. Thunder Lotus’ landing page describes 33 Immortals as “pick-up and raid,” a “mean distillation of the MMO raid experience.” I’m sure it’s that “distillation” that would rub a lot of hardcore MMORPG raiders the wrong way. Luckily, I’m not one of those.

In fact, as you’re reading the Fight or Kite column, you probably know I’m more of a PvP MMO player, not a raider, but this isn’t my first foray into raid-likes. Actually, a couple of weeks ago I took Buns ‘n’ Blades – er, Rabbit and Steel – for a spin. It’s another game aiming for players who want to experience the wild, hectic, and tactical feel of an MMO raid without spending all that time getting to the level where you can actually raid. Now, in that game, the design is focused purely on the raid boss battle with a party of four – so it’s all the insanity in a bite-sized run-through.

33 Immortals, by contrast, is trying to land somewhere in between those two raiding extremes. It’s less than an MMORPG, but it’s also much more than a boss battler, as you must navigate through a dungeon/lair and acquire some loot while handling mobs and ultimately fighting the big bad raid boss. So it’s not so small that you’re in a single co-op party, but not so large that you need full on coordination and effort of a whole guild.

A play on the tales of Dante’s Inferno

In Rabbit and Steel, you’re in a cute animal-girl world trying to save or stop the bun-princess; 33 Immortals is much, much more brutal. The lore foundation of it all is literally built on Dante’s Inferno. So if you’re a fan of the Nine Circles of Hell and ultimately going up face-to-face to defy God, well, look no further.

33 Immortals puts you firmly in the lands of the dead. You’re in between worlds, and if you can fight against your fate, you may be able to save your soul.

The animation and artwork throughout the game is beautiful. Absolutely amazing. No surprise coming from the studio that also published Spiritfarer. There were certainly areas of the map I just wanted to stop and look at everything in detail. It’s pretty incredible. (Also pretty gruesome in some spots.)

The overall objective is, as stated, saving your soul. However, to do that, you and 32 other players will run through the dungeon collecting powers, defeating mini-bosses, and clearing rooms. Based on the runs I went through, the dungeon rooms were limited to a six-person party.

And that’s essentially it; you run around the map killing minions to unlock rooms. There were several spread fairly evenly throughout the map. Within the rooms are several waves of baddies with more health and more raid-style abilities you need to overcome with your six person group. After all – or maybe just enough? – of the challenge rooms have been cleared, you make your way to the final boss of the level. Defeat that boss and you’ll have successfully cleared the run. I never saw a full clear in my testing, but that’s how I understood it.

Coordinating often seems superfluous

One of the main things that I, again a non-raider, think of when I think of hardcore raiding are the videos of players running around from spot to spot while having a shotcaller direct the gaggle. Certain players need to be assigned to handling one aspect of the room or another, and there’s usually a mess of circles of death that need to be avoided.

33 Immortals isn’t quite so chaotic. It does a great job encouraging co-op play even when you’re playing solo. The baddies I fought had very clear telegraphed attacks that I needed to properly dodge and do my best not to direct at my allies. Coordinating with allies is very natural too as you can shorthand a number of different calls with emotes and also power each other up with some co-op skills.

Specifically, the devs at Thunder Lotus implemented a co-op power gauge that fills up while you’re fighting enemies. Once it’s filled, you can trigger its special ability, which places some circles on the ground for a few allies to stand on. Once they’ve done that, you all gain a buff such as poison damage or a slow effect on hit.

While running around the dungeon – which is big but not hours-to-run-around big – you’ll end up fighting and then following groups of other players as everything you do is better and simpler with help. There’s only 33 of you spread throughout the map, after all, so there’s no reason to shy away either.

However, where the vibe kind of died was also in the coordination. Grouping felt a bit more random than I would’ve liked. It reminded me more of Guild Wars 2 world boss events than coordinated raid events. I realize that’s not really a negative for me, but for players truly looking for that promised distilled MMORPG raid experience, it may be.

If you’ve played GW2, then you will immediately understand what I mean too. Yes, you’re fighting as a team, and there are often telegraphs that you need to learn and work together to overcome. Yes, you often have several stages and different objectives that need to be completed to progress. But does all that a distilled raid make? Maybe.

Also, at least with this initial round of weapon skills, there isn’t anything cognate to a role trinity or balanced group build that I could see. It was, again, very GW2-like in that the more DPS you are spitting out, the better. There were some condition-style skills, but no true crowd control or healing to work as a dedicated support character.

If I’d had better support-style skills, I think that would’ve improved the overall feel for me and elevated the co-op experience.

Your weapon is your class – and I see potential for a lot of weapons

One thing I’m seeing more of recently, or at least paying more attention to lately, is games where your class is basically whatever weapon you’ve currently equipped. At least during its beta, 33 Immortals has made only four weapons available for players to try out: sword, arrow, staff, and dual daggers. Each played uniquely with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Personally, I really enjoyed the speed of the daggers, but there was no denying the versatility of the sword. The bow included a pretty cool ability to recall your arrows so that they could deal damage an additional time. It allowed you to kite around and line up the return ability so that it dealt more damage to even more enemies.

It certainly appeared to me that there are plans for at least a dozen weapons, just judging by the altars in the lobby zone. I’m sure someone with more brain space than I can deduce what those weapons might be. I tried to consider the current weapons as being related to seven deadly sins, since we have the daggers of greed and staff of sloth, but on the other hand we were also wielding the sword of justice, so that’s not the ticket, or at least not exactly.

Progression is largely based on what you gather during a single run. Just as in Rabbit and Steel and other rogue-likes, most of your powers and the items you’ve collected will reset after each run. However, it isn’t a total restart on future runs. You do earn perks, which basically function as power leveling. By gaining perks, increasing the level tier of those perks, and earning the gems and keys from raid runs, you’ll begin to progress your character’s abilities.

Aesthetics and cosmetics were on the lighter side, though. You aren’t able to change your base character at all in beta, but I saw different outfits and even some pet cats running around the place. I didn’t play enough to unlock any of these, but I suspect that a successful run netted players some of that loot.

I saw plenty of epic moments while playing 33 Immortals, yet I wanted just a little more. Granted, this is just the first beta I’ve seen, so I suspect there is a lot more to come. If you want to see some real gameplay, MOP’s own Chris streamed it during the beta as well. I’ll be keeping my eyes on this one!

Every other week, Massively OP’s Sam Kash delivers Fight or Kite, our trip through the state of PvP across the MMORPG industry. Whether he’s sitting in a queue or rolling with the zerg, Sam’s all about the adrenaline rush of a good battle. Because when you boil it down, the whole reason we PvP (other than to pwn noobs) is to have fun fighting a new and unpredictable enemy!
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