RF Online has a compelling player-versus-player component, but the rest of the game is tedious and uninspired.
- Unique player-versus-player dynamic
- Three playable races to choose from
- Good music.
- Low-level quests are generic and boring
- Traveling around the world is painfully slow
- Very little variety in terms of items, quests, classes, and enemies
- Bland environments.
As full as the market is for massively multiplayer online role-playing games, it seems that there are always plenty of people who are looking for something new. At least, that's what Codemasters is hoping for with its first foray into the world of massively multiplayer games, Rising Force Online. Although the game is your standard MMOG for the most part, it has one significantly unique design element that sets it apart from the crowd.
RF Online is a sci-fi themed massively multiplayer role-playing game that you can play for the price of $50 for the game and $15 a month. It takes place in the galaxy of Novus, where a perpetual war wages between three playable factions: the industrious Bellatos, the mystical Corites, and the mechanical Accretians. The three factions fight for control of the Crag mine core, which produces rich ores that provide economic sustenance. The problem is that there's an epic beast, known as the Holystone Keeper, guarding the mine core at all times. The Holystone Keeper can't be killed, and he will instantly destroy anyone who approaches the mine core. Luckily, the monster can be temporarily fooled into befriending one particular race, depending on the outcome of the most recent chip war.
Chip wars happen three times a day, every eight hours. A chip war is a free-for-all, player-versus-player conflict where control of the mine core is temporarily up for grabs. Each faction has a chip control tower, and the first faction to destroy one of its enemies' towers wins the war and gains the good graces of the Holystone Keeper, effectively gaining a monopoly on mining the core for a period of time. How long that monopoly lasts depends on the health of the victorious faction's own control tower at the end of the war. However, the last person to hit the destroyed control tower can attempt to run the chip back to the mine core. If successful, his or her faction will get a full seven hours to mine under the protection of the Keeper. It sounds like a lot of work just for the sake of digging some ore out of the ground, especially since you don't actually need control of the core in order to mine. But the huge mining bonus you get for controlling the core, plus the morale boost you get from a victory, makes it worth your while to enlist.
Large scale player-versus-player warfare is an appealing concept, and while the frenzied chaos of the battles can be exciting if you're well equipped, you aren't required to participate. In fact, you have to be at least level 25 before you can even damage a control tower, which makes these daily battles somewhat exclusive. You can participate in a player-versus-player battle at any level, but unless you're around level 30 or higher, you won't stand much of a chance. Even high-level characters can expect to die often in chip wars. Luckily, the only penalty for dying at the hands of another player is respawning at one of your faction's bases and having to run back to the battlefield. If you kill an enemy, you earn contribution points, which are used to determine your rank among all the players in your faction, and the highest ranking players for each faction get special leadership privileges.
This race warfare isn't limited to chip wars, either. You'll often run into members of opposing factions in the course of completing quests. You can kill other players as you see them or even go hunting for them if you're looking to earn more contribution points. There are certain areas in the game that are more heavily contested than others, so it's usually fairly easy to avoid getting trounced by other players if you want to. It does seem unbalanced that there's no apparent penalty for simply picking off low-level players, and you'll often see people thrashing players who are away from their computers.
If you aren't into the player-versus-player style of combat, there are plenty of giant bugs, overgrown reptiles, and other exotic creatures to do battle with. You'll get very familiar with all the wildlife in the first half of the game, because almost every quest you get until you reach level 25 just involves killing 20 of these, 10 of those, and so on. The quests and rewards are sent directly to you, so you don't have to bother tracking down a non-playable character. You can check your journal to find out exactly where you need to go to find the creature you need to kill. It's convenient, but the lack of any context for the quests makes them feel entirely perfunctory. Occasionally you'll get some background information about why the quest is necessary, but it's never very compelling. Capturing 20 of a certain type of creature to help some scientist compile a report on the natural history of the planet is a pretty flimsy story to begin with, but when you get several quests with the same story, it just starts to feel lazy. There's no attempt to disguise the fact that the quests are simply there to make you to grind your way through level after level. It would be just as easy to turn you loose at the beginning of the game and say, "Get to level 25 so you can participate in the player-versus-player battles." It also doesn't help that every race gets the same quests, so even if you create multiple characters, you pretty much have to play the game in the exact same way every time.