8

An unoriginal MMORPG yet a very enjoyable one, thanks to a friendly community and lots of little fun features.

Grand Fantasia is an anime-themed free-to-play fantasy MMORPG with steam-punk splash. That alone should tell you this game is amongst those thousand other cute looking MMORPGs that pops up these days. And knowing Aeria Games is behind this, it was known to happen anyways.

So what's so grand about this fantasy adventure online? Let's get to that point-by-point.

Your first entry in the world of Grand Fantasia is where you make your own character and enter the world at the newcomer's island. You will notice immediately that although the character customization provides some variety, they are not solid. There are roughly 30% chances to see someone in the game world who is a look-alike. And once you choose your looks you cannot change it unless you get a costly item shop item which is let down. They should at least let us change it for free once.

The newbie island AKA Siwa Island is extremely easy with no hostile monsters anywhere except a boss which can be soloed by practically any primary class. Experience rate is enhanced in these levels and players who begin as Novice can reach level 5 in 5 minutes after which they choose to change into either a Fighter, Hunter, Acolyte or a Spellcaster- the primary classes of the game. After this they may choose to leave the island anytime and enter the mainland of Saphael or continue to roam Siwa Island since you cannot return to the island once you leave.

Upon departure players get the choice of three cities to embark on- Kaslow the city of warriors, Ilya the city of magic and Jale the city of steam mines and Archers. Although which city you go to doesn't matter. There are plenty of quests for everyone. So with little dedication, one can easily reach level 20 in a day. Players advance once more at level 15 and again face a class split at level 30 and change into one of the two advanced classes for that class.

The advanced classes are-
Berserker - Primary melee DPS with some exceptional PVE abilities and is the only class that can stun strong bosses.
Paladin - Primary Tanker class with somewhat healing ability and therefore welcome in all parties.
Ranger - A Ranged DPS with good evasion and cloaking ability with bright PVP career.
Assassin - A melee burst DPS class which can cloak even during combat making them a good PVP option.
Cleric - Primary healer and support class which is, like Paladins, welcomed in all parties.
Sage - A highly versatile support hybrid class which can change into animals which allows them to fill the role of any class.
Wizard - Magic DPS and Nuke class with ability to teleport and has exceptional damage and end-game PVP potential.
Necromancer - A summoner class which excels in crowd-control, debuff and enemy manipulation and naturally excels in PVE.

All classes advance again at level 65 into their supreme forms.

GAMEPLAY (8 OUT OF 10)

All classes in this game are fairly balanced. Although there has been nerfs on some classes, they are not made severely weak. A class is usually good in PVE if not PVP and vice versa. Although PVP option in this game is limited (There are no PK or Player Killings which is a good thing in my opinion) with the ability to duel another player at any level or join PVP arenas after level 30.

The game is fairly unoriginal with little or no innovation at all. Many monsters are clearly copied of some other game (A creature in the game called a 'Sunbird' looks like Chocobos from the Final Fantasy games) and some names will make you wonder where have you heard that before.

The user interface is similarly, nothing innovative. However it gets the job done. The controls are easy to master however the lack of skill combos and a proper skill tree are really disappointing.

The battle system is the same point-and-click game and the battle system is glitchy at times (selected enemies sometimes get unselected when you pan the camera).

Quests are usually uninspired and have the same old boring "Collect X number of Y items from Z enemies" missions. Although there are many repeatable which offer good experience and reward and powerful guild bosses which offer fame for the guild the defeating player is in. Quests are also confusing at times since it does not clearly mention what you really need to do to finish it.

The one thing that's both original about this game and amongst most criticized part of this game is the Sprite Companion System. Players can make tiny cute characters called 'Sprites' which can evolve upon gaining experience. At first sprites add a new dimension to playability as the players are required to take care of them, make sure they don't get sad by chatting with them often, give them treats and in return they craft items, collect materials for crafting, disassemble items and perform certain alchemy. And the good thing is, they can do that while you are busy in combat or anything else which is really neat. They can also 'assist' you in combat by automatically picking up anything the monster drops, even curses! While this may sound sweet at first they receive immense criticism for being unsuccessful and luck dependent. Most good item craft attempts usually fails losing your precious resources that you either worked very hard to paid to get. They also refuse to come out if they are in a 'normal' mood which is odd. Item's to increase their mood level are also costly for beginners.

Like the sprite system, many items in the item mall are luck dependent. Magic Alchemy Clays which are purchased by real money or Aeria Points can be used to change into several costly items often fail to reach their highest tier leading to the loss of AP for no profit. No items however, are a must-have to reach end-game. There is an Auction Hall at every major city where players sell these premium items for in-game gold, giving players who cannot afford to purchase AP a chance to get them.

The world of Grand Fantasia is a nice world full of friendly players. But it still feels a little odd when you feel that the NPCs are placed in random order around the city with no plan to make it convenient for the players.

STORY (6 OUT OF 10)

The story is first told in a cut-scene after you create your character which tells who you are and what is your role is and then formally introduces your sprite. Other than that only the NPCs hold little pieces of Saphael's history which no player bothers to read. Therefore the story is soon forgotten as you play through.

The NPC's have little back story which are at times fun to read. But most players ignore them so the back story is hardly developed in this game. Talking to sprites sometimes makes them say interesting stuffs which may hint something at the story but that's it. Once again, there is nothing innovative about it.

FEATURES (8 OUT OF 10)

The game is a very simple MMORPG. Most of the features here are what you would see in other games. The unique sprite system deserves a mention.

There is a lack of stat allocation therefore there are no actual way to build characters attributes the way you want except wearing the right apparel or carrying the right item. All classes get an auto-stat allocation upon level up which is good in the sense that it prevents you from messing your character's build up. However this may not appeal some players.

The game is very gear dependent. It means everything in PVP so players without the right gear stand little chance in PVP. Carry the right sword, shield and armor and you are unstoppable. Carry the wrong gear and you are crushed. But then again, PVP wasn't the brightest side of this game.

There are mounts for players to ride on that varies from land based to flying. Many mounts are wonderful creatures which vary from Wolves and Mechas to Dragons and Pegasuses.

There is a lover system in the game which allows players to have lovers. Lovers get an experience bonus and buy new lover skill with love points which they acquire on their weekly anniversaries. One disappointing feature of this is that although the love coins are shared between the lovers, the skills are not. This means that both lovers have same amount of love coins but the one who spends them get the skill and the other will have to wait till the coin grows back again for him/her to acquire the skill.

The game lacks many other minor things which otherwise prevent players from having a convenient game play. The Friend list and Guild list could have been a little more informative. The Quest system could definitely be improved. A skill tree rather than the existing click-and-buy-skills is always welcomed and the game's crafting, fortification and alchemy definitely has room for improved success chances.

GRAPHICS (9 OUT OF 10)

The game attempts to bring good graphics and mostly succeeded. The vast grasslands near Kaslow, the beaches at Angoya and terrifying terrains at Blackatoa deserve mention. With dynamic shadows to lens flare, every pixel works together to produce a beautiful world that comes alive with toon-like realism backing up the game's anime styled theme. However the unrealistic looking water always manages to catch attention as it does not even produce a splash. And although there are day-night transitions in the game the lighting highlight remains almost unchanged in night. So you can't tell its night unless you look at the sky and find stars which definitely could have been improved for better looks.

The character animations are fair and some are very funny to look at. Like your characters face after you die or when you perform an emote. Most animations and expressions (like veins on head for an angry face or T_T shaped tears for a crying face) resemble anime style so this should appeal anime fans anytime.

All-in-all the game is bright and colorful and won't let down an anime fan. However anime and toony graphics does not appeal everyone and some may call this game 'for kids' who aren't this game's only target audience.

SOUND (8 OUT OF 10)

Most MMORPGs tend to have good soundtracks. Grand Fantasia is no less. The music is nice and upbeat at times but gets very repetitive after a while. The music is also uninspired and boring at times so turning off the music and playing something else on your media player does help.

Apart from the simple musical score the sound effect are really good. When exploring the wild you will sometimes hear wild beasts making their own noises which adds somewhat depth to the game. While your sprites are mute most of the times they do make noises from time to time.

FINAL VERDICT (7.8 OUT OF 10)

Grand Fantasia lacks originality. The game also isn't as grand as its title suggests. But the world has its own flavors of enjoyment and fun which any game should be all about. Even with so many little downsides and missing features it still successfully manages to deliver the entertainment a MMORPG is expected to bring. Most importantly: it's free to play. Also it can boast of a very friendly community and helpful GMs. With many criticisms and lots of room to improve, Grand Fantasia is still in its infancy and has lots to growing to do. While it lacks innovations and is not the best free-to-play MMORPG out there, it's definitely worth a try and is very easy for players of any experience or age to grasp.

PROS

+ Free to play
+ Friendly community
+ 4 classes that branch into 2 Classes each
+ Instanced Dungeons
+ Interesting Sprite system
+ Mount system
+ Lovers system
+ Well maintained Servers
+ Bot Server

CONS

- Unoriginal concept
- Uninspired Story
- Limited PVP
- Disappointing Crafting and Enhancement system
- Sometimes confusing and unoriginal quests
- User Interface needs work at some places
- No Player Shop feature
- Music can get repetitive at times

SCORES

GAMEPLAY - 8 / 10
FEATURES - 8 / 10
STORY - 6 / 10
GRAPHICS - 9 / 10
SOUND - 8 / 10
OVERALL 7.8 / 10

FINAL RATING - 8 / 10

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