Although it was first announced back in 2010, there hasn't been much to say about Royal Quest until recently. Last week, we got the chance to sit down with some folks from 1C Company and get a proper demo of the MMO from the King's Bounty developer.
Speaking with the demo team, the first thing they wanted to stress was that although Royal Quest is a free-to-play MMO, 1C has no plans to sell any items that change the gameplay experience. Instead, anything you can buy (rather than earn in-game) will either be visual or something that is designed for convenience. For example, in the visual realm, 1C has plans to offer custom pets and clothing. With these, you can change how your character looks, but not your stats.
On the convenience front, two of the things you will be able to purchase are a larger inventory and what 1C is calling a "casual premium" account. In short, the casual premium account has a permanent XP and loot multiplier on it so that you'll level up faster. The intention is that players who don't have hours to devote to a favorite game, but still want to be able to play with their more hardcore friends, will be able to snag a premium account and keep pace — even if they're not online as much.
If the idea behind the premium account sounds familiar, it's because it is. In many ways, it is no different than a World of Warcraft player paying someone to level up a character for them or even the recent Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 promotion that offered double XP to those who bought Mountain Dew. The only real difference is that 1C is cutting out the middleman.
Royal Quest is set in the land of Aura. It is described as a land of magic and technology, so you'll be able to use spells and magic weapons as well as more traditional items, like guns. During the demo, we saw one character using what looked like a machine gun with feathered angel wings on its sides. Probably a mix of magic and technology that one.
As players level up, they gain access to mounts. Mounts can be used for exploration as they appear to offer a speed increase, as well as combat. One of the examples we saw was a hero hopping onto a dragon and then using a lance, jousting style, to attack enemy mobs in the world.
We're told that combat is designed to be user-friendly, with the developers citing the clickable "Diablo-style" method of combat as the inspiration for their control system. Along the same lines, very low-level characters will not give off any aggro in the beginning areas of the game. This is done to ensure that new players are not overwhelmed by mobs. Early monsters will fight back if you attack them, but they will not strike the first blow.
Combat in Royal Quest has an elemental component, which impacts both weapons and mobs. When fighting, you must ensure that your weapon and the monster you are engaging are not both attuned to the same element. If they are, then it doesn't matter how strong your weapon is, as it won't do any damage. For example, if you're using a fire sword on a fire dragon, you won't make any headway. Pull out an ice sword, and you'll start doing damage.
Characters can be customized by placing experience points every time you level up. This can be done manually or automatically, at least until level 20. Characters past level 20 will have to manually assign their experience points. Up to five characters can be saved in a standard account. Signing up for a premium account gives you an extra slot.
Visually, Royal Quest is very bright and colorful. Characters are detailed and distinct, making them easy to tell apart on-screen. While we didn't get too much time to dig into the character creator, we've no doubt that there are plenty of options based on the various player characters we saw wandering the world. Fans of Katauri's work on the King's Bounty series will immediately recognize that game's influence here. Visual cues from Japanese RPGs are also present, resulting in a look that is very accessible.
The camera in Royal Quest can be pulled back for an overview of the area or zoomed in so close that you're practically playing in the third-person view.
PvP (player vs player) support is part of Royal Quest's design. Instead of having PvP servers, though, the game will have specific PvP areas. The example we were given during the demo is the Elenium Cave area. Elenium is an extremely rare and valuable mineral in the world of Aura, and the caves are where you can mine it. With wandering mobs and an open PvP area, getting Elenium is a high-risk/high-reward endeavor. To encourage all players to give it a try, you can only lose items that you find in the PvP area after entering the instance. Anything you bring into a PvP area cannot be looted from your body by other players, even if they kill you.
Catering to clans, Royal Quest offers up castles and sieges. A castle is a clan stronghold and offers benefits to the holding clan. You can't just walk up and claim one, though; you have to fight for it. Castle sieges are multistage affairs, with any clans vying for a particular one first fighting each other. The winner then goes on to attack the castle itself. There will be set times when castle sieges can occur, so defending players will have to be online at those times. If no one is there to defend your castle, you will very likely lose it.
Last, but not least, we were shown the trading aspect of the game. Instead of a traditional auction house, Royal Quest features a race of creatures called the Ashkelots. Looking a lot like Orko from the old "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" cartoon, each Ashkelot is a tireless merchant. After buying a trade contract, you can place an item for sale with an Ashkelot. You set the sell text and the price as well as the location of your Ashkelot. You can place it anywhere, which should make for some interesting choices as the overall game economy develops. Will people cluster them together, essentially creating user-generated stores? Or will players try to space them out, so their items don't get lost in a sea of similar sellers?
Breaking into the MMO market is no easy task, if only because success relies heavily on player involvement. If the world isn't full, the game isn't fun. Royal Quest will be going up against paid heavyweights as well as established free-to-play options, but 1C and Katauri seem to be up for the challenge. With an open beta planned for Russia in the near future and a North American release planned before the end of the year, you'll soon have a chance to see how it plays.
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