Trying to go into a game without pre thought out notions regarding its quality is difficult. As games journalists we generally cover a game, in particular the titles by larger publishers, from the earliest stages. In doing so we inevitably get a feel for the type of game it is going to be and in most cases come to some level of expectation before we even begin to review it. This level is determined by many different factors, not the least of which being the part of the world in which the title is made, and the developer and publisher who are making it. It’s simply the nature of the beast. Many times, especially over the last few years, I have played a game for the first time with a huge level of expectation and only ended up massively disappointed (see Final Fantasy XIV). Other times, I have begun to play a game with a pre-conceived sense that this game is not going to be very well done, and those pre-conceptions are summarily dismissed. What I am getting at is: sometimes a game surprises me. Eden Eternal, developed by Taiwanese studio X-Legend and published by Aeria Games, has a rewarding class system, fun combat, alternate types of advancement, and the guild town system which together make this title stand out as easily the best in an ever improving crop of free-to-play Asian MMO’s.
If you are a veteran of Online MMORPG Games you have seen iterations of these archetypes many times over by now. Thief, Hunter, Warrior, Magician and Bard are just a few of the 12 classes playable in this title at launch, and are all familiar words in the MMORPG Games vernacular. What this game does a little differently is the manner in which you are able to play them. The class system progressively unlocks classes, as you increase not only the level of your character, but the level of the class you are playing at the time. While you only begin being able to play either a Magician or a Warrior, you quickly level up your character and unlock other classes such as Cleric and Hunter. Many of the more advanced classes require not only a specific character level, but also significant advancement in prerequisite classes as well. Players cannot unlock the Knight class, for example, without the character being at least level 25, but also at least being level 20 Warrior. I love this type of class system. It rewards the most dedicated of players and encourages that dedication. Since classes can be switched out on the fly in Eden Eternal, it is entirely possible to have a number of great types of combat experiences all in the same gaming session depending on the class you wish to play at the time. This type of class progression also allows the player to retain one character and play many different classes – there is no need to have multiple characters in Eden Eternal unless you decide to play a different race or have a desire to min/max based on the stat impacting traits you choose at character creation. While Humans were initially the only playable race, Aeria Games has announced that the Zumi, a race of cool looking mice creatures, will be launched on July 12th. I would suspect we see additional playable races down the road in this game.
If you enjoy flashy skill effects and a lot of light and noise in your combat you will love playing this game. Eden Eternal’s combat is similar to many other MMORPG Games in that you progressively learn more advanced combat skills as you progress in that class. In addition players also have the ability to enhance their skills every time the level up, so that skills learnt early on do not lose their viability late into the game. Little things like the bright overhead combat damage numbers gently remind you of the Asian influence in this title. What I would like to have seen is a few more abilities for classes. Early on in a players progress they will have already acquired all the abilities for a class that are available, and will merely be adding points to those abilities to make them stronger. A great combat combo system with finishing abilities or abilities that flow seamlessly from one to another would complement the game nicely and add a few more, much needed abilities.
The name of the game in MMO’s is progression: the gradual development of a character from nothing to something you are proud of and are dying to log into and play every night. Eden Eternal clearly takes the concept of progression and advancement pretty seriously. The class system rewards players for time spent by adding new classes even hundreds of hours into the game. There is a full-fledged achievement and title system in this game which will reward players for completing series’ of quests or defeating special foes. Since players come in all stripes, rewards in Eden Eternal come in as many flavours – and a players ability to be rewarded every time they sit down and play the game is important these days. A typical battle faced by Asian MMO’s is the daunting grind, or at least the perception of a grind. By allowing a player to play the game and receive positive reinforcement virtually every time they play, makes this perception less prevalent in Eden Eternal.
Speaking of progression and rewards for high achievement in games, Eden Eternal’s standout feature is clearly the addition of “Guild Towns” Guild Towns are not for everyone and certainly reward not only the most dedicated players but the most organized of guilds. To even be able to form a Guild Town the guild must have 30 members and the guild leader must be at least level 30. Guild towns cost 5000 gold to form and be warned - if your guild becomes inactive, the town will be taken from you! There are two types of town layouts: Forest and Mountain. In each you can build up to 5 buildings and there are certainly more than 5 building types available – so guilds must plan very carefully how they wish to set up their towns. In our interview with Aeria Games a few months ago I got the impression that this feature was a HUGE focus of the game and a great immersion opportunity for players. I suspect that after the upcoming Zumi addition, and the addition of battlegrounds for PvP that we (hopefully) see some expansion and development time dedicated to this great idea. I’ll say it a million times – player driven housing and economies are the “holy grail” of MMO’s and if Eden Eternal can capture the essence of this concept it will do very, very well.
I’ll quickly touch on the elephant in the room, and certainly something that has been a hot topic lately. Eden Eternal, like every other game Aeria Games produces has a cash shop. It is how they make their money. Yes, it is game impacting items such as armour. No, I don’t care. Aeria Games has never once pretended that they don’t sell these items, they haven’t lied and they haven’t deceived anyone – they have been there in every Aeria published game from day 1. You don’t have to buy them and you don’t need them. I also don’t expect that Aeria will introduce cash shop gear that will eclipse items obtainable in game. If you don’t like cash shop items on principle than don’t play the game, but you will be missing out. I don’t think I need to say a lot more about it than that because this game should not be dominated by a conversation about the gear you can buy – it’s better than that.
I wasn’t expecting this game to have the depth it does. I also wasn’t expecting to think that it could get even deeper in the future. I would be naive to suggest that this is a) a turning point in Asian free-to-play, cash shop games and b) that all Aeria games will be as great as this going forward. Unfortunately I still carry with me the same sort of ideas about these types of games, and one great game doesn’t negate the literally hundreds of pretty terrible games out there that are only a stones throw from this one. Regardless, Eden Eternal has clawed its way out of the box that I had inadvertently placed it in, and surprised me.
Mike WashburnEden Eternal - Review,