A Free-to-Play RPG Worth Playing, Landing on the Vita in Early 2013

Picotto Knights may be free to play, but by avoiding common pitfalls typical of the pricing model, it could end up as the Vita's surprise hit of 2013.

The free-to-play market on the Vita is the slimmest of all, but the good news for Vita owners with shallow pockets is that more games are on the way, starting with GameArts' and GungHo Online Entertainment's Picotto Knights. We had a chance to take the side-scrolling action role-playing game for a spin at the Tokyo Game Show, and though superficially it looks like a cutesy take on Castle Crashers' formula, its rewarding multiplayer components and a generous approach to the free-to-play model should strike a chord with budget-conscious fans of RPGs and beat-'em-ups.

Character development is the driving force behind Picotto Knights. You start the game by choosing your Cocoroid, one of the miniscule heroes fighting off the Dark Army. There is a good selection of base Cocoroids, and you can ground their skill sets in one of five classes. However, since every class can equip any of the eight available weapon sets, a typical mage can forgo the traditional staff in place of a bow or sword. Though you have class-specific abilities, Picotto Knights is melee heavy to the point that your weapon choice has as much of an impact on the gameplay as your chosen class does on your skill tree.

Controlling your Cocoroid in battle is straightforward: movement is controlled with the analog stick, X is mapped to jump, square performs a light attack, triangle commands a heavy strike, and circle blocks incoming attacks. Using the L and R triggers toggles different commands for the face buttons, represented on either side of the screen.

The range of potential customizations, from a visual and statistical standpoint, expands rapidly once you start collecting loot and purchasing new equipment. Much like in Diablo, the actions in-game are enjoyable in their own right, but are nowhere near as compelling as discovering new equipment or a healthy stash of gold. Even the Cocoroids support the hoarding of loot, regularly extolling the virtues of treasure during battle cries.

You may assume that for a player with enough real-world money, collecting treasure is optional in a free-to-play game, but that's only partially correct in Picotto Knights. While you can't purchase new equipment outright, you can purchase keys to access chests that have a better chance of containing rarer-than-normal loot. The other option is to purchase tickets that can be used to acquire items within the in-game store. Rather than going for the traditional pay-for-power model, GameArts has found a way to maintain the game's influence on your character's items and abilities without ruining it for people adhering to the free-to-play mindset.

The stamina meter plays another important role in the monetization of Picotto Knights. With each level or stage that you complete, your character loses a single bar from the stamina meter. A typical level consists of sections filled with hordes of enemies, punctuated by a boss fight at the very end. The amount of experience earned in battle is tied to your stamina meter, diminishing your earning potential as it depletes. It's possible to recharge stamina using potions purchased with real-world money, but it also auto-fills when you aren't actively playing, resetting completely each day. Thankfully, even if your meter runs out, you can still play Picotto Knights to your heart's content; you'll just earn minimal experience for your efforts.

Even when playing solo, there are always four Cocoroids on the battlefield, whether they are friends, your friends' ghosts, or randomly selected combatants. The best part about the inclusion of your friends' ghosts is that the experience and loot they earn is carried over to their Cocoroid the next time they connect to the PlayStation Network.

For a free-to-play game, Picotto Knights is surprisingly inviting to the cheap among us, allowing you to play endlessly without completely neutering the experience. It's got the chops to fulfill the multiplayer desires of the Vita-owning masses, and since everyone can jump in for free, it's poised to become one of those games that everyone with a Vita plays at one time or another. Of course, it helps that it's actually fun, undeniably charming, and potentially addicting. Picotto Knights is available now in Japan and will appear in the PlayStation Store in North America sometime in early 2013.

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Discussion

1 comments
Megavideogamer
Megavideogamer

A free to play game for the PSvita. Sort of like DC Universe on-line for PS3/PC this will be interesting to see if this will work out on PSvita. I'll give it a go when it comes out.

dovberg
dovberg

phantasy star online 2 will also be f2p in japan in February.  

 

Cybrggame
Cybrggame

Interesting... I wonder what the benefit is of decreasing the amount of xp a player can earn. Seems like they're trying to get people to play for a limited amount of time, but to what end?

BlackBaldwin
BlackBaldwin

I don't nor will ever support free to play games but I may check this game out on my vita since heck there hasn't been anything released for it in months that interests me..

Ovirew
Ovirew

I like the artwork, but I guess I won't know if I like the gameplay til I try it.  It's too bad you have to play with 3 AI comrades at all times though.

tgwolf
tgwolf

Free to play is long overdue, it's quite the embarrassment that it was compelled by technology...rather embarrassing.

thetruth7
thetruth7

Yay GameArts!!! Can't wait :P

iandavidvinoya
iandavidvinoya

I'm more interested in the customizing and looting mechanics. Hope it is deeper than the gameplay. Still, this looks promising and being free is a great thing! I'm gonna try it as soon as it hits NA release.

Pete5506
Pete5506

Neat, looking forward to picking my Vita up come the end of October 

JimmeyBurrows
JimmeyBurrows

Interesting, hate "pay for a boost" games, because they usually change things to almost force you to buy things, but sounds like it'll be fun for a while if I get a vita (which I really want to buy, but the games are still lacking for me.)

2bitSmOkEy
2bitSmOkEy

Looks fairly similar to Dungeon Fighter Online which is surprisingly a lot of fun.

CyberLips
CyberLips

Looks like fun , and it's free so there's no harm in trying it out!

InquisitorCrox
InquisitorCrox

I wouldnt bother with it, even if it was completely free...

pcty
pcty

Is it coming to the west?

Lhomity
Lhomity

I spotted a gameplay video of this last week and I can say its definitely on my "Wanted List" once I buy a Vita (soon). This looks like a lot of fun.

criticalmigz
criticalmigz

 @JimmeyBurrows i agree.. worst year was 2011 for vita..2012 is fair..but first quarter of 2013,has lots of promising games for PSVita.. Soul Sacrifice is one of em(too bad MH4 is 3ds exclusive).Killzone mercenary is one. but picotto knights would be good too, and im pretty sure that most who owns psVita, has a character in picotto knights,atleast thers something that pokes us everyday .hehe

packtop
packtop

 @pcty 

 

If you would have read the post completely you would have saw that they saw it's coming to NA sometime in early 2013

pcty
pcty

 @packtop  @pcty Sorry that I expressed myself so poorly. I just meant to show surprise, maybe the use of "!" would make it easier.

I already played this game on my friend's VITA, I think he was playing through hangame