Sword of the New World: Granado Espada - Manifest Destiny - Review  

Manifestations of Content
by Anna Marie Neufeld

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   Destiny awaits the explorers of the New World. Deeper into the wilds, hidden lands full of unusual creatures and new allies await. Many new items await the hands of those brave enough to strike out into these unexplored zones. For those preferring the familiar, they need not fear as there are still tasks to perform without stepping into the frightening new areas. This review assumes that the reader has some basic understanding of the original Sword of the New World game and concentrates on additions and changes that are made or impacted by the expansion specifically. For those that need a refresher, a review for the original game can be found here by the same author.

   While the core mechanics of the game have not changed, with the expansion comes the removal of the Lock Defend Mode option. This is what allowed players to automate nearly all of their play; however, in the long run it was not uncommon for veteran players to turn this option completely off even when it was available. This means that players who depended on this system will need to reacquaint themselves with how to enter defend mode (Ctrl-E or spacebar) and when (typically after moving or looting). Newcomers to the game really won't notice the difference, but those who played by spending the dominant amount of time AFK will likely be put out by the change. As of this review, a month after the change, people have either adapted or left, and thus the issue is mostly a point of interest.

   A dozen new Unique Player Characters (UPCs) have been added with the expansion with varying degrees of usefulness. Some are very simple to get, with some like Soso requiring as little effort as beating up the UPC and then handing over a set of items, to the famed summoner Viki, who requires an arduously long questline to finally add the child to one's family. The UPCs themselves are new but what they do generally is not -- Angie, for example, has the two construction stances previously split between the UPCs Jack and Yeganah. It is interesting to note this will be the first time players must choose between two UPCs. Families who acquire Kurt will not be able to quest for Edward and vice versa. These UPCs are different enough that most will want to acquire them, even if they simply experiment with them, but they are, for the most part, no more or less powerful and versatile as characters already available in the game.

Caption Shiny Weapons

   The two new major sections which arrived with Manifest Destiny are Gigante Island and Bahamar. Gigante Island is colourful and fun while simultaneously fixing a severe levelling problem that plagued the late game. Previously, between levels 84 and 90 was essentially a "dead zone" -- there simply were no zones to level in which had enough monsters for players to level up without moving. This is more or less important depending on party build but essential to non-active/AFK levelling. The island zones begin at 70 and range up to 100 with the middle zone being 80-88, filling in this gap perfectly for those who are willing to travel; warp points cannot be created within the battle zones as each consecutive section requires a key which disappears upon use. Bahamar, set to be released later this year, was in a state of flux at the time of the review and will not be touched upon.

   It should come as no surprise that the music has remained delightfully beautiful in the new areas. With more than a dozen new songs to accompany the additional zones, players will be able to fall in love with the music all over again, or continue to revile it. The elegant visual standards have also been maintained and fleshed out within the new zones. Unlike some MMORPGs, the expansion zones manage to be unique from the previous offerings while still blending into the expected atmosphere of the world. In addition, characters created after the expansion will follow the traditional costume system; before Manifest Destiny players had a choice at creation of a dozen costumes. Now the choice is gone but in exchange, equipped armour will change the appearance of stock characters. Costumes remain unchanged and will override both pre-expansion outfits and post-expansion armour.

   Some of the economic changes in Manifest Destiny have caused notable changes in the game's difficulty. On one hand, almost all the new UPCs require reagents for their abilities. This means that players will need to either rely on the characters that were available previously (an easily accomplished endeavour), or sink considerably more vis into reagents for their characters. For those that do more idle levelling than active, this budget crunch will make levelling their new characters somewhat frustrating. On the other hand, before the expansion nearly all the items found in the cash shop (which require real money to purchase) could not be traded. This has caused a considerable shift in the economy as well as the playerbase as those who could not or would not purchase these items can now access them. Thus, the number of veteran families and UPCs requiring cash shop items are on the rise. While this mean some players may opt to pay where they may not have before (and vice versa), it remains to be seen what effect overall this change will have on the game.

   With the expansion came a completely redone translation. For the most part, this was a huge step in the right direction. Now many aspects of the game which were previously confusing are fully fleshed out -- stance names as well as items and equipment use proper grammar. However, that isn't to say there aren't still errors. The help system still uses awkward descriptions and phrases, leaving new players only slightly less confused than before, especially since help files for items not included in this version of Granado Espada are still present. There are also still glaring errors with the translation, such as "Long Coat has been disband" a message that appears when a piece of armour breaks while trying to upgrade it. Other than that, the interface has received a general artistic touch up; many UPC portraits have been changed to better stand out against their stock counterparts. In addition to tidying up the localization, the expansion also fixed bugs associated with numerous end game bosses; prior to the expansion, these bosses could not be defeated, which was a damper on end game content to say the least. Most of these issues have been resolved and many new pieces of equipment are being spotted around the New World as time passes.

Caption Gender Bending Viki

   The game still retains the originality it had, but adds very little to it. Most of the UPCs have new abilities, but they are based off ideas found in previous characters. For example, Soho has a new martial arts stance which is similar to those already seen in Irawain and Gracielo, two fellow martial artists available pre-expansion. What is available is generally well received and there isn't anything to particularly drive the originality down. The story, as the new translation shows, is well done but even the new localization can't hide the fact that there is still no overarching storyline which ties everything together. Though the expansion fixes most of the lower level content, the bulk of what is added requires characters that are over level 50, right up to Veteran. Those wishing to press through this at all haste will find they've worked as little as 100 hours, including some of the time it would take to level the newly acquired characters.

   Manifest Destiny does what it set out to do: provide content to the level sixty and above crowd. Those new to the game won't find much of what's available appealing but since there's plenty to do before the game starts dragging out, this honestly isn't a bad thing. The new content really isn't going to inspire new people to join, but then again it's not meant to. What this expansion meant to do was accomplished, and that is keep people in the game for longer at higher levels. How much longer will depend upon the player, but at the very least there's evidence of some effort.

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