ARGO Online (First Impressions)
It’s hard to enter a market that already has a big name player leading the way. Even if your ambition is limited, having a major competitor close by can stifle your growth and leave you gasping for air. This is why you never see a hot dog van outside a McDonalds – or any FPS titles launching the same month as the latest Call of Duty.
Forcing your way into the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game market is even more difficult because it’s nigh-on impossible to ‘have a bit of a go’ with an MMO, you’ve got to go all in. They cost an absolute fortune to develop and maintain, and worse still, anybody with the slightest interest in playing an MMO probably already is. Whether they pledge their allegiance to the World of Warcraft, fight the Guild Wars or play superheroes in the DC Universe, players’ time is already taken and hundreds of game hours and years of real time already committed. Friendships are forged, alliances pledged.
Into this difficult environment comes ARGO Online, another MMORPG that wants to catch your interest. I hope you don’t mind, but I thought I’d have a play through the early hours of the game on your behalf and see if there’s anything here worth your time.
Once your account is registered, you are asked to choose a faction – the technologically inclined Noblians or the more ecologically harmonious Floresslah. From there you pick a class and enter the world. Some of the classes are more obviously geared towards solo play than others if you’re not big on the whole team playing thing, but all are designed with a late game role in mind. For my play sessions I chose a Floresslahan Mage (which is effectively the heavy weapons specialist), but the usual tropes are there – tank, melee fighter, summoner, rogue, healer etc.
On entering the world, you’ll notice that the interface is pretty familiar and the control method, standard. There are the usual quick slots at the bottom of the screen that include your powers and consumables. Everything is on a cool down, so you need to wait for a timer after using a power before you can use it again, the whole thing feels very easy to get into if you have experience with WoW or GW2.
As usual, the opening quests are ‘kill me 6 space rats’ kind of things, but as you make progress and being to unravel the story of the conflict between the Noblians and Floresslah, there’s a good chance of being drawn in by the lore of the world and the quest types do vary.
Unfortunately, the game betrays the fact that it is relaunch with some dated graphical assets. Being an MMO, this isn’t a huge issue as many of them look complete butt at the best of times. However, they are functional and nothing that will disrupt your play. Some of the vistas and towns are fairly impressive, but if you’ve played modern MMOs, you’ll be satisfied rather than impressed. Sound wise, the in game sound effects are a weak point, but the background music is excellent. I strongly recommend turning that up and playing with headphones.
The opening hours, like most MMOs, are very forgiving and lead you gently into the world of ARGO. The occasional player comes wandering past you, but there’s no ability to team up on the fly like Guild Wars 2 and even Defiance has. Still, you’re never lonely as there are a host of characters in the world that want to tell you their troubles and enlist you in the task of delivery or ‘rat killing’. Conversation can be unintentionally hilarious, as the localisation is – if we’re being kind – still in progress; there are some incredibly clunky sentences and phrases. Voice acting is very limited so the clangers dropped by the writing really stand out. I found myself ignoring the talk after a few hours and just going off on the quest, but you may have more patience and sympathy then I do.
ARGO Online boasts an interesting auto route and auto farm system that allows you to send your character off to a location without having to take the trouble of guiding them directly. It functions differently than ‘fast travel’ featured in a lot of MMOs and RPGs, because you actually traverse the landscape in real time – this allows you to see mobs that you might want to take down or quest markers you might be interested in and take control to attend to them. It’s a good system, although the path finding is bizarre at times. It really needs an option to avoid mobs as well, as you can end up pulling aggro from beasties that you’d rather have avoided. Strolling through and annoying a large group of monsters 2 or 3 levels above you can really put a crimp on your day – especially if you’re playing a support character rather than one that can take care of itself. The auto farm system is designed to allow you to hunt for loot by taking down creatures – although I could not get it to work properly in my time with the game.
At launch I experienced some problems with connection and stuttering on screen but I’m happy to say that these issues seem to be ironed out for the most part. Rare indeed is the MMO that is smooth at launch.
Like most free to play titles, you are invited to spend money real money by buying UserCash which will allow you to purchase costumes, pets and experience boosts. During the early hours of the game, this makes little difference – although it may well be a different story with the 3v3 or 5v5 battle elements in the game.
Like any MMORPG, the true depth of the game is only revealed with time but it can be difficult to decide where to invest your hours if you’re looking for a new time-sink. There seems to be enough here to warrant your attention, and there certainly is a deal of charm about the world, despite the somewhat dated graphics. Give it a go and see if it grabs you – not quite Steampunk meets not quite future-Elves has got to have a home somewhere. Maybe it’s with you.