Korean MMOs are an entirely different beast to western MMOs, in every single way. It’s not just the difference between the background lore and the attitude of the players, the difference is manifested in the graphics and types of character classes available; the title of the game and the overall art direction.
Korean MMO players are different too, being much more hardcore and...involved in the game, on the whole. It takes a higher level of obsession than most western gamers are prepared to offer.
Still, developers are still keen to try and bring the two cultures together and capitalise on how fashionable Korean gaming culture is becoming in some circles. imcGAMES is one of the companies which is trying to do just that, led by the creator of Ragnarok Online, Hakkyu Kim. Kim’s latest attempt to try and draw out the Korean level of obsession from western markets comes in the form of Sword of the New World: Granado Espada.
So, is Sword of the New World a legitimately decent game or is it simply yet another cutesy MMO to be populated by WoW rejects and RPGing acronym addicts? Is the fact that it’s free to play a clever marketing tool, or a useless and pointless effort to hook otherwise stingy players? These are the questions we want answered, so we set forward to try and find out just how grand this espada really is, or something.
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Deep in The Caribbean...
So, we noticed that you were starting to drift off a bit until you read that last paragraph, so we’ll just reiterate the above in case any snoring Susan’s missed out on it; Granado Espada is free to play. Kind of.
You see, while the game is free to download and try out, there are some restrictions. Free playing characters can only ascend to Level 20 for instance and they are unable to trade with other players, while those who play the premium version are under no such limitations. Premium players and those who buy a retail copy however can experience the full game and are given a few nice extras at the start of the game. Some more money, an extra character – the usual type of thing.
No matter whether you play the free, retail or premium downloaded versions though, the game always starts the same.
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First of all, players must build a family name and then create a single lead member to play with. Available classes are incredibly rudimentary, limited to the usual wizard, fighter, scout, priest and archer sets (but with priests called Elementalists and archers called Musketeers) and a choice between genders. Players can also choose between three sets of clothing for each class and gender, but beyond clothing there is very little initially available by way of customisation.
On the plus side however, the character creation stage is an excellent taster of the graphics to come. Each character’s attire is extremely detailed for an MMO and some of the choices are really quite beautiful. Without getting too effeminate for an otherwise gruff and manly games journalist, some of the baroque-influenced dresses available for the female characters are actually quite startling and beautiful.
With a character designed, gameplay begins and players are quickly dumped onto a merchant ship at sea. There’s no introduction to the story, which is essentially a fantastical re-telling of the discovery of America, and the whole point is that players must try and carve their own fate and adventure in this new world.
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So, it was that I created and assumed control of Joe Cardboard, Level 1 Fighter. I wanted to call him Guybrush Threepwood, given that we were at sea and all, but that family name was already taken. Darn it.