Sword of the New World: Granado Espada - Review  

Old World = New World
by Anna Marie Neufeld

Usually Easy
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   Imagine a time when Europe was the preeminent culture and fashion centre of the world. Then along comes a discovery of North America--a new frontier to explore. Now, instead of the historically accurate new continent, populate it with monsters and adventurers looking to flex their skills. Welcome to the New World, and be prepared for anything and everything. Monsters are crowding so much of the newly discovered world, it will take a trio of adventurers to even begin to make a dent in the masses. This is how a player will begin in Sword of the New World: Granado Espada and the adventure never stops. With amazing graphics and sound, as well as a solid battle system, the game performs well despite the slim story and rapid paced slaughterfest that can become overwhelming quickly to inexperienced players.

   Sword introduces an idea often used in single-player RPGs but thus far hasn't been seen in MMORPGs: multi-character parties. The Multi-Character Control (MCC) is introduced at the start of the game and is an innate, unique part of the battle system. The player begins with a choice of 5 stock classes: Scout, Fighter, Musketeer, Wizard, and Elementalist. These fill roles that are mostly self-explanatory: a Scout heals, buffs, and can attack with daggers; Fighters can use almost every melee weapon, and excel at soaking damage; Musketeers use rifles and pistols and can specialize in both area damage and single target skills; Wizards can both buff and deal damage; lastly Elementalists are the crowning achievement of damage and can dish out huge amounts of area effect damage. Each class has a variety of 'stances,' which are dictated by what weapon they have equipped. For example, a scout equipped with one dagger is in Assasin stance, while having no weapons equipped on a Scout allows it to be in Medic, Bard, or Trapper stance. A stance has three to five special abilities which do extra damage on top of the auto attacks performed. Each character starts with only a few options, but after satisfying the level requirement can learn others by purchasing the appropriate stance book. Some advanced stances also require a previous stance to meet or exceed a certain level. For example, for an Elementalist learn Evocation Ice players must first have Possession Ice at level 12. Stances level up independently from characters.

   For players looking for additional variety, there is an alternative to stock characters in the form of Unique Player Characters (UPCs). While these characters have both advantages and disadvantages compared to the original five options, they also each have something unique to bring to a team. UPCs are rewards of quests done for that character--in essence, they are joining the player's family as a reward for doing a favor to them. All characters equipped with weapons auto attack when an enemy gets near unless Auto Defend mode is turned off, and scouts will automatically heal. This gives the game a unique quality: the ability to "AFK Level." Players may opt to simply let the game run and for the characters to play themselves in a very simplified manner, as undirected characters will not use any special abilities. This feature may attract casual gamers who wouldn't normally consider an MMORPG; they merely need to set up their characters in a safe position before stepping away to do, well, anything else really.

Missing the 75+ zones?
Partial Pre-100 Map

   Party setup is at the player's discretion, with mixing and matching easily done. To begin, the Quarters (character selection screen) is limited to four characters, but these can be increased by spending Vis, the in-game money, to a maximum of 36 slots. This allows for all five stock classes as well as almost every UPC currently available. All the characters in Quarters level 10 and above contribute to a Family Level, which rises slowly as both more characters are added to a family as well as individual character levels. At first, a Family Level gives only a bonus to Constitution (hitpoints) of 1% per family level, but it improves at 10 and onward, giving a striking bonus (attack power) of 1% per level as well.

   Sword of the New World does involve both Player versus Player (PvP) as well as Player Killing (PK). Anyone with a Family Level 6 or higher can be targetted for a PK, and if killed lose experience and may delevel. If an antagonist is successful in attacking, they are moved into Baron Mode. Barons are marked as hostile with red text when mousing over those characters and will lose additional experience if slain, as well as dropping several non-equipped items. Those not interested in Baron mode will be delighted to hear there is a non-Baron server available.

   Two areas that will definitely capture players are the music and visuals of the game. The graphics are very well done, and it is one of the nicest looking MMORPGs to date. A variety of costumes are available per class at creation for stock characters, allowing more customization. UPCs currently only have one costume, but more will be available via cash shop later. Customization later in the game can be accomplished by wearing wigs, hats and alternative costumes. The important thing to remember is that armor (any equippable item that gives bonuses of any kind) itself does not change a player's appearance. The music is not only incredibly well done and addictive, but instead of having only one song per area, there is a variety which cycles through a jukebox randomly so an area never becomes too boring. This variety is a huge boon to the game where a player, much like other MMOs, can easily spend 8-10 levels in one zone before moving on if they so choose.

   The game starts out easing the player into the system; any party will do, including one without a Scout healing thanks to copious amounts of healing items that drop from enemies. As the player progresses in level, parties must be practised and/or well balanced to survive in the dungeons, where mobs spawn almost non-stop. This does not mean that a player is always locked into the same three players, unlike many MMO's; rather, it means it will become apparent what combinations the player will prefer for their own playstyle and risk threshold. Having no scout at a higher level is incredibly risky, but it's also satisfying seeing three damage characters gang up on everything and still win. The difficulty of the game does change significantly at 51: from 1-50 charaters will automatically resurrect if they fall in battle. Once they have passed 51, however, they will not rise and the only way to bring them back to life is to have a scout resurrect them, or to return to quarters and remake the party, starting back in town. This makes both active and AFK levelling much more daunting, as one bad mob rush can wipe the party without remorse. It isn't unusual to see a few 51-52 parties lying around: people who simply aren't used to not being able to get back up. This feature means that while levelling prior to 50 is rather fast paced, post-50 this speed slows down slightly, as either safe camp spots need to be found, or the player needs to squad up with another family. To reach 100 with a primary trio including quests and missions takes about 200 hours, with subsequent families taking far less time since most quests and missions will have been already completed.

   The one place Sword of the New World falls flat on its face in an embarassing fashion is the localization. The translation for the first dozen hours of playtime is practically flawless. However, as the game progresses past level 20 and the player moves into new towns and accepts new quests, the translation degrades into rather mangled English. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that many of the text windows were not made to fit English text and often wrap poorly. This cripples the in-game help system more than the poor translation does, as tips get cut off mid-sentence. This is something that will clear up given time and patches, but at the moment hurts the game significantly.

Gentle Moment

   While the concept of a multi-player party isn't unique to the RPG genre, this is the first time players are able to control this many characters in an MMORPG. It's also interesting to see how well the mix of magic, practicality and technology is meshed together without fuss or over-the-top explanations. The story, though slow, is explained through missions which the player can take every few levels and while not intense, has several interesting and startling moments that will push the player to continue. When these missions have proper translations, they will be even better. These mistranslations can be completely skipped for players simply looking to grind with no interest in the storyline or the missions involved. Unlike many other current MMORPGs, questing isn't required or expected. Those looking for something different to play should definitely give the game a try; those looking for a gripping novel should, however, look elsewhere for now.

   Sword of the New World: Granado Espada has the potential to be a solid MMORPG for both casual and dedicated players. Aiming mostly at a mature audience, it has a great potential providing it can get over the pitfalls and hurdles that currently drag the game down. While it will never kill the juggernaut, nothing says it cannot compete alongside some of the more popular alternative online games once things have been corrected.

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