Internet spaceships, or more appropriately Sci-fi MMORPG Games, are as a genre, vastly under represented. So its a pleasure to a review title like Black Prophecy. Developed by Reakktor Media and published by Gamigo, as a Free MMORPG, Black Prophecy is a twitched based space combat game. Using the mouse control flight system first pioneered by the Microsoft classic Freelancer, you control a small but fast space fighter.
The setting for Black Prophecy is in a future time where the galaxy has been colonized by the Human race. During that time Humans have diversified into sub races. The two dominant ones are Tyi and Genides. Tyi are a race of cybernetically enhanced humans and the Genides are a genetically tuned and perfected race of human paradigms. Both exhibiting abilities way beyond normal humans. Not surprisingly there has been years of hostilities between the human factions and the player enters the world during a time where an uneasy peace now exists.
Not bad Sci-fi stuff so far, yet the Black Prophecy team really push the immersion with an interactive prologue the player must play through before he gets to the game proper. The prologue story was developed by Sci-fi author Michael Marrak and consists of a series of scripted player missions, interspersed with cinematic cut-scenes. Apart from at times heavy cutscene usage, I really enjoyed it and it certainly made the back story a more permanent facet of my game experience. Without giving too many spoilers away you are faced with choosing between the Tyi and Genides after completing the prologue. This isn't a game breaking decision since the only difference between the two are the cosmetic visuals of their respective ships, everything else is exactly the same.
Now on to game-play, as I mentioned earlier Black Prophecy uses a control system similar to Freelancer. Where you 'look' with the mouse cursor controls the direction of flight, which in turn also determines where your guns aim. Speed, strafing and rolling are controlled by “WASD”. In a way its just like playing an FPS, its a great system and also does away for the need of a paying money for a joystick (though there is joystick support). What this all means is the combat is about actively flying the ship and relying on good reflexes to get you through the fight. As opposed to say EVE-Online where you give the ship commands and more demand is put on tactical thinking.
Armed with your space fighter you are tasked with various missions by talking to NPCs at hub stations. Missions range from kill'em all style you-against-the-hoard, Escort and Protect and the more dull scan the object. In fact I found most of the content reminiscent of 1990s era space sims. The fights come thick and fast in Black Prophecy and you can easily find yourself overwhelmed by the enemy fighters on some harder missions. So the game definitely keeps you on your toes, that's not to say there isn't enough milk runs to go around either though. But overall I find the game finds a good difficulty balance on the missions.
So what do you get for completing missions? Well like in common Fantasy MMORPGs you earn experience that levels you up, which in turn lets you invest skills point into various skills. In Black Prophecy skill points only unlock the ability to use better ship equipment rather than boost the stats of your character. For example putting more points in the energy weapons skill allows you to buy and equip better energy weapons. Only skill that doesn't involve unlocking equipment is Tactics which instead gives you the ability to pull special manoeuvres in your space fighter.
The equipment is used in the MMOs modular ship system. The cockpit, engines, weapons, shields and wings are represented as modules you can switch out and replace with better ones, allowing you to customize your ship to suit your play style. This is helped by having 3 distinct weapon systems, Energy, Explosives and Mechanical, each having their own strengths and weaknesses. As a tip I would recommend to pick one and specialize in it if you are a new player. I liked the module system it gives the game some good depth and allows for experimentation. Although there is no doubting the optimum module combinations will have been discovered now by the best Black Prophecy players.
The PvE contents main aim though is basically helping you build up a better ship to prepare you for Black Prophecy's Endgame. This is based around PvP team missions done with PUGs or Clans. Clans also have the ability to build their own space stations which also come with their own modular system. I didn't get far enough through my time playing to experience this side of the game, although its an aspect that really appeals to me.
On the other hand a big majority of Online MMORPG Games players have an aversion to PvP so may feel let down by the lack of endgame content for the PvE only crowd. But I also see this as a double flaw since the PvP may not be deep enough for those coming from EVE-Online. Since Black Prophecy features instant respawn and no item loss even during PvP missions, it becomes a good alternative for people who want to like EVE-Online but can't because of the death penalty.
I've yet to mention the graphics, which are superb, dare I say better than EVE-Online's current offering. Lots of really good backdrops so not every sector you visit is a black star-field. I was also really happy to see they had properly rendered cockpit views, as an alternative to the default third person ship view. It brought back memories of games like Wing Commander while playing with the cockpit on and the immersion was great. But I did find myself going back to third person view since you get much better situational awareness that way, making the game a lot easier.
Overall I can highly recommend this game to people longing for MMORPG Game with pick up and play space combat. Only people I can really see being turned off are those who can't or don't do twitch based games and those of a pious PvE nature. I just want to add that while playing Black Prophecy it was easy to forget it is only a Free-to-play MMO. This was due to just the level of quality in the graphics alone, plus you're not constantly pushed into visiting the premium item store either, which is refreshing. To finish there are really only a few bad points to Black Prophecy, and those bad points really are due to not being able to cater to certain tastes within the MMO market, So I'm happy to give this MMORPG a high score.
- Active and challenging space combat
- Gorgeous graphics and space vistas
- Great spaceship customization
- Prologue may drag on too long for some
- Too little PvP depth for some
- Too little PvE endgame content for some
Zac DaiBlack Prophecy - Review,