It’s been about 12 years since Phantasy Star Online was released on the Dreamcast. Since then there have been updates, side stories and offshoots, but none of them were a true sequel.
On July 4th 2012, that all changed.
Grab your Mag, it’s Darker hunting time!
Welcome aboard the Oracle and its interstellar voyage to the far reaches of space. You are a new recruit in Oracle’s special group known as Arks. As a member of Arks, it is your duty to explore newly discovered planets. Of course, nothing is ever that simple and you’ll be up against so very serious threats. You’ll need your wits, skills, and the help of your friends to pull through.
One of the biggest changes that any player will notice right away is the ability to jump, which might not seem like a big deal at first. Jumping opens up a lot of advantages in combat, allowing players to jump over obstacles, onto enemies, as well as giving the ability for aerial combos. While on the subject of combos, players can now collect disks that give them special combo abilities that can be put into a chain of up to three moves.
The three primary classes of Hunter, Ranger and Force return, as well as the three primary races Human, Newman and Cast. Each race can play as all three classes and can switch between them, with a separate skill tree and level for each. There are now multi-party areas where you will encounter others parties, as well as the chance to encounter stronger monsters. There are hundreds of other minor and major changes, but covering them all within this review would be a bit hard to do.
This is a true sequel and I quickly fell into form almost immediately. The only thing holding me and others I played with back, in some cases, was the language barrier. I’m pretty confident that this game will be as easy to understand and play as the original even with so many differences. The menu set up is intuitive and, once you get the hang of it, easy to navigate. The HUD is easy to read and doesn’t take up much real estate. Combat is fast and frenetic with combos, dodging and jumping. The new TPS aiming will set the camera over the shoulder, making it the perfect choice for both Force and Ranger players. Maps and enemy spawns are varied enough to keep repeat runs interesting, which is good as you’ll be running the same missions multiple times.
The Matter board, which unlocks parts of the over all story, and Client Orders will always offer something to do. Periodically there will be a special emergency mission in which you must defend a city from an invasion. Every mission can be run solo thanks to the inclusion of the Partner System from previous games, allowing you to take an AI controlled version of your friends into combat. There is no level cap between players, meaning higher level friends can join you to help get through tougher missions. Whatever your play style or schedule, PSO2 pretty much has you covered.
The audio visual department is top notch, especially for a free to play game. There are a few textures that are startling low-res, but they didn’t really detract from the overall experience. The music is decidedly PSO as are the sound effects. Both of them together made me feel rather nostalgic as nothing else really sounds like a PSO game. This is the sequel we were waiting for and it does not disappoint in capturing that feel we all remember.
Currently, there is a plan to release PS02 in both Europe and the US early next year. In the meantime, there are plenty of guides available online for those wishing to jump into the game now. There are many features being added that will more than likely be available to Europe and the US at launch, so waiting might not be a bad idea either. It all comes down to how badly you want to play.
Overall, PSO2 is everything I could have asked for with some extras I hadn’t even thought of. While it’s missing content that was available in Universe, as well as a few things from Episode 3, it still manages to surpass both. However, this isn’t going to change non-fans into new fans of the franchise, so this isn’t the game for you if you didn’t like the other entries. This is the game that fans of the original were waiting for.
GO Rating: 4.5/5