Having already been pushed back a week, Revelation Online has finally entered closed beta in the West. It’s Revelation Online’s first closed beta test, and publisher My.Com stresses it is more of a test on servers and hardware than anything else. This is apparent straight away as the build contains about a tenth of the English translation it needs, with some Russian thrown in for good measure.
At first sight, the upcoming free-to-play MMORPG from Chinese developer NetEase feels like junk food. It’s beautiful, plus it has flight early in the game, auto-pathing for quests, strange costumes, and hilarious trope-filled characters. The initial expectation can easily be that these things come together to make a pay-to-win disaster like many other free MMOs.
Where Revelation Online looks like a bag of cheese puffs on the outside, inside it is an all-you-can-eat buffet.
The visuals are stunning, so much so that I caught myself stopping to take photos of the background. The NPCs tend to fall into the “lanky, beautiful, super-human” basket, but character creation is robust enough to make a unique character that lets you stand out. You start by choosing a class from the 6 available: Vanguard, Blademaster, Occultist, Spiritshaper, Gunner, and Swordmage. Then you move onto a “body type” screen, which, if you’re playing a female character, boils down to choosing between a woman who stands “sexy,” a woman who stands “cutely,” and a child. For male characters, at this point, all you choose is how they stand.
The defaults and presets in character creation are all very tall and skinny, but you can make muscular characters, characters with a bit of fat on them, or make the prettiest model you can imagine, if you’re willing to play with sliders.
After character creation, you’re thrown into Revelation Online’s story. From levels 1-29, this is about all you get. The game moves you along rails, quickly throwing levels at you while driving you through a narrative that is honestly, both very good and very confusing. Everything progresses quickly from zone to zone, but you rapidly attach to the cast nonetheless. Revelation takes these generic characters and somehow makes them lovable. Your character’s best friend, Akuta, is introduced by literally tripping and falling off a boat, and then complaining about sea sickness. He’s clumsy and silly, but all his bragging turns out to founded when he saves your life time and time again. You find yourself shaking your head at his antics, and eventually being very glad you have him with you in the story.
The voice-acting, while currently in Chinese, is superb, and we can only hope for English VO that’s half as good. The actors help the story along in subtle ways. When you seal away an ancient dragon spirit, he cries in pain and you’re left wondering if you did the right thing and if he was actually even the bad guy.
After you hit level 29 and get your permanent wings, the game opens up exponentially. The story quests still happen, but they’re staggered and occasionally you come across one that requires you to level 5 times. In such cases, the game then points you towards “The Path to Greatness,” a special page that tells you what you can do daily and weekly for large amounts of experience. These include dungeons, gambling items, or even the hot springs, an area for socialization where you show up in your under-things and drink wine and eat snacks for free experience.
For the times you aren’t just lounging around, eating fruit, however, combat in Revelation Online is great. It’s fast paced and requires concentration to stay alive, dodging enemy telegraphs and staying out of range of their more focused hits. The game introduces dodging with a quick time event, of all things, and it somehow works out. You see your character do beautiful maneuvers in slow motion, making you feel like pressing shift and D actually saved them from taking a bullet to the chest. NetEase hammers these in with early single-player instances that pit you against bosses, occasionally with just a timer at the top of the screen and all of your attacks disabled. You get dropped in to simply survive. The first time this happens, it’s a mandatory story mission, so you must learn to recognize boss patterns and dodge properly to move on in the game, effectively preparing players for dungeons where others will depend on them.
Movement is different in and out of combat. Out of combat you use Levity, which is pretty much just energy, to jump, glide, dash, and dive around the map, it’s also used as your stamina while sprinting on a mount or when flying. It’s a very solid system, easy to control, and running out of energy only slows you down, instead of force you to plummet out of the air like you would assume. In combat, Levity is just the power to dodge. You get about 2 dodges every couple seconds, and you need to use them carefully.
All classes play slightly differently, from the Spiritshaper, a mobile healer that has shape-shifting at higher levels, to the Vanguard, a melee class that doesn’t even lock onto enemies with tab targeting and forces you to properly aim in action camera mode to be a good tank. The Occultist has two modes, a dark and a light, one for damage and buffing party damage and critical hits, and one for light healing and buffing party defense in the most critical of times. Every class feels different, but properly fleshed out in the game.
Dungeons start out with a single player version. You move through the area, unlocking doors, avoiding traps, fighting bosses. In other modes, you go through the same area with a team, with enemy and boss damage and health upped, and more of each spawning in every area. In single player you might fight 3 bosses in succession, and in Easy and harder, you might fight them all at once, working together with your team to not get stuck in their devastating telegraphs that may cross over each other and end you quickly. At the end of a team dungeon, your score is tallied up, and depending on how well you did, you can open between 1 and 4 personal loot chests, on top of the final, large shared chest you may roll on, need versus greed style, with your team.
Revelation Online, in its closed beta form, has a lot of issues. The translation and costume clipping are the most noticeable problems, but those will all hopefully be fixed up by release. There are some things that may turn people off of the game, including the auto-pathing system that can make your character take themselves to the quest objective. While it’s almost impossible to get lost, if you use the auto-pathing, you never really know where you are on the map. You teleport around for the quests, and fly wherever you need, and it isn’t really useful to pay attention. This led to several times where the auto-pathing broke, and I was completely lost in the wilderness.
The game also has beautiful costumes and armor sets, but if you play a female character, you fall into the familiar pitfall of free MMOs where you get to either look sexy or cute, with not many chances to look like the powerful warrior the game claims you are. Your character is almost always going to have her thighs out to the elements. A female Vanguard can stand next to a male one and feel like they’re completely different classes, as one is fully armored like a tank should be, and one is wearing short-shorts and thigh-high boots.
Revelation Online, at this point in development, looks like it has a lot of potential. It’s fun to play, wonderful to look at, and has a lot of good points. NetEase can go a lot of directions with the game in the coming months, but, so far, it looks like they’re going down the right road.
You can sign up for future betas on the official website.