Kritika Online Closed Beta Review
Pros: Intense and fun gameplay, fast gameplay, lots of customization
Cons: Grindy, repetitive
Recently we got an invite to check out the new action combat MMORPG Kritika Online being published by En Masse Entertainment in the west, created by Allm, a Korean developer, the game has already seen success with the Asian markets for a number of years and is now finally getting to come to our own shores. We were able to meet up over Skype with Brian Knox, the Senior Product Manager at En Masse, who would give us a guided tour through the game, explain the direction of the title, the focus of closed beta and walk us through some instanced based “Danger Zone” encounters.
Logging in we faced four pre-made level 20 characters that we could choose from, the game has four base classes (Warrior, Gunmage, Rogue and Reaper), with each able to specialize into different sub-classes once they reach level 15, which we were told takes around 2 hours of play, with a further 2 hours to get up to our level 20 character. Preferring DPS we were guided to the Castpaw class, a highly mobile and arobatic combatant using melee attacks and dodges to get in and out of battle quickly.
We were told that the core focus of the game is for players to battle through various instanced dungeons, known as Danger Zones, which consist of multiple areas filled with enemies and generally culminate with a boss encounter. A lot of the game is available to complete solo, but some of the higher content or personally increased difficulty instances require multiple players in a team to battle through. Working your way through a danger zone tracks your damage dealt, damage taken, the number of deaths suffered, the time it took to finish and some other variables; once the stage is complete players are given a score and based on their score some appropriate loot.
The content is repeatable, so much so that it is encouraged in various ways such as the quest system guiding players to new areas in a danger zone that they could otherwise ignore if they were trying to complete the stage as quickly as possible. Brian also told us that multiple “alt” characters are also highly encouraged through the Rest system that when a character has been inactive it builds up a rested bonus that grants them extra XP and loot droops when used, as well as this players get an added buff based on the collective level of all their account characters, so the more characters a player has and the higher their level then the stronger all their characters become.
Heading into one of these zones ourselves seemed to be instantly reflective of the early tutorial content that we’d already checked out that day; a very linear map for the most part with each area locked off until you cleared all the enemies in it. It’s a very restrictive system and quite a stifling way to progress through a level; the enemies in each area feel fairly similar and so having to constantly fight through every single enemy can get a little bit grindy after a while. You get to choose the difficulty of the encounter, with Easy, Medium, Hard or Insane as the available options, Brian told us that the difficulty is one of the main focuses of the closed beta to make sure it’s balanced enough to provide a level appropriate challenge without being too easy or hard, though they are pushing for their Hard and Insane difficulties to be the most challenging across all the regions that Kritika Online is currently played in.
The combat system is actually quite enjoyable and it utilizes a very action focused beat-em-up brawler style combat, stringing together combo attacks from the pretty long list of skills we had, actively dodging incoming attacks, juggling enemies with consecutive strikes keeping them up in the air, and button mashing to break stuns. It’s pretty involved, and quite chaotic, and very very explosive and flashy, but there is an element of “I’m just smashing everything without thinking too much”, more so because there was no definitive in-game guide on what combos you could do and relied more on players working them out themselves through experimentation. The combat didn’t feel difficult or particularly challenging; the premise of our class was get in, do damage, get out, but we barely needed to back up and were constantly taking on half a dozen enemies at once (though we imagine this would be much different in PVP).
Our foray through the first instance went pretty well and we ended with an S grade (a step down from the top SS) and were able to flip a card for some rewards and one of the other guys being declared the MVP. We headed back into town where some of the other elements of the game were explained to us such as the focus on crafting and upgrading your gear with materials and items acquired as loot drops from the repeatable content. One of the benefits of the system was that gear levelled up with you and players have the chance to remove an enhancement and put it on a new item, meaning they aren’t simply permanent upgrades that are lost when you get a better weapon. Looking over the shop and there was no real gear options to be seen, so avoiding in part any pay to win, and instead the shop focused on convenience items and cosmetics with a bunch of costumes that could be unlocked; the cost of the shop is another thing the team are looking to gauge opinions from in the closed beta.
Our break over we headed into our last danger zone and cranked things up to Insane difficulty; the actual area itself didn’t feel too different from the previous one, nor the enemies that we fought, even on Insane the area mobs were cleared pretty easily (though we did have top gear for our level) and it was only the Boss that posed a challenge. The battle itself was another combo fest of the three of us smashing it to pieces and ripping through the additional healthbars Insane mode adds to it, but this huge mech dog beast had a particularly devastating charge attack that managed to one shot us twice, though a quick resurrect brought us back into battle (with penalties to our score). We weren’t the only one to go down and once the fight was over we got a B rating but we did manage to snag the MVP spot, so the Insane mode definitely holds up.
All in all it was a fun experience and the restrictions of the somewhat linear progression may be excused by many for the beat-em-up combat. What it loses in its open sandbox element kind of sways it away from a more traditional MMORPG, and instead it falls very much in line with the Asian style stage based MMO that focuses on grinding through repeated content to improve your character (and in turn be better in PVP). For us it’s the kind of game that we’d enjoy playing casually, but know full well that being an Asian grinder would take a lot of replays to ever be competitive. Whilst the closed beta is on the guys at En Masse are really listening to the players feedback, wanting to make sure that information that gets back to the developers is as important from the western market as it is from the already established Asian playerbase.