Sword of the New World

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: K2 Network
Developer: imcGAMES


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PC Review - 'Sword of the New World'

by Keith Durocher on Aug. 16, 2007 @ 1:32 a.m. PDT

Swept by an exotic New World fever in the 17th century, Sword of the New World is a fictional yet profoundly historical exploration of the new found continent includes features that are all-new and exclusive to the U.S. version of the game. K2 Network’s version will offer a new character customization feature with hundreds of costume options, while an improved control scheme and in-game tutorial makes controlling multiple characters familiar and comfortable (for MMO players). In addition, the game includes an all-new story with hundreds of new quests.

Publisher: Infocomm Asia Holdings / K2 Network
Developer: IMC Entertainment
Release Date: July 10, 2007

Today, I think I'm going to break with tradition and just skip the usual preamble. No flowery introductions here folks, just the facts. I'm reviewing a PC game called Sword of the New World, a third-person perspective massively-multiplayer online role playing game set in a highly detailed recreation of Baroque-era Europe. It's been out in Korea for a while now, under the title Grenado Espada. That it's Korean should tell you something of what its mechanics are like — this is a grinder, plain and simple. However, there is some elegance that keeps it more engaging than other such titles, like Lineage 2 or RF Online.

The "story," as it were, involves a massive war that ravages the land to such an extent that expeditions to a new world are necessary. Two galleon captains, Gilbert Grenado and Ferrucio Espada, make a treacherous journey to a new land. Once their initial colony has been established, the call for adventurous explorers goes forth, and here is where you come in. I must admit that this is an extremely glossed over account of the back story, but I assure you the full tale is not only long-winded and full of names that do little but confuse, but it also has little to nothing to do with the gameplay itself.

Unlike other MMO titles, you don't start a single avatar and level it up. Instead, you create three avatars that all share the same surname, and play the game as a team. You have five options to mix and match: fighter, wizard, scout, musketeer, and elementalist. More class options become available later in the form of quest rewards and the like, which are represented by "cards" in your inventory. Once you have the card, you can then go to the creation screen and start up the new class. For example, the retail copy I'm using for this review carries with it a code that gives me a card for the Rescue Knight class, a type of musket-wielding warrior who can resurrect members of the group who've fallen in battle.

If you think about it, you have quite a lot of freedom to create whichever kind of group dynamic you wish. If you like high-damage groups, then start a team of three musketeers (pun intended). Is balance more your style? Then mix it up with a fighter for tanking, a scout for healing, and an elementalist or wizard for ranged attacks and buffs. Initially, this system takes some getting used to, but once you've had some time to wrap your head around it, the experience feels quite comfortable. Here we do see one of the most glaring issues with Sword of the New World, though: class balance. Simply put, three musketeers do such obscene damage at such incredible range that you can quite comfortably coast along and rarely even need to drink a potion of health, much less require the services of a scout.

Sword of the New World is not an intuitive title to play because most of its details need to be dug out, like the juicy seeds of a pomegranate. Want to learn new skills? Figure out where to go to buy new books to teach you those skills. Crafting? Theoretically, it exists within the game, although I have yet to sort out exactly how it functions. Don't expect much help from the tutorial; it seems to exist mostly just to show you how to use the auto-play commands. What I haven't quite put my finger on is if this is a flaw of design, or merely a sign that the developers have completely different values.

We must face facts and admit that Korean MMOs are rarely easy for the average Westerner to grasp. However, once you've figured out the details, Sword of the New World plays very smoothly — almost too smoothly. If you want, you can leave blanket controls running and let the game take care of itself. For example, you can click an "assault mode" button in your interface and then click on an area in the distance from where your group is. Your avatars will then travel to that spot, attacking anything they encounter along the way. You can also set commands to loot everything on the ground in the exact same manner, so you can just run a gauntlet killing everything and then run right back, picking up all the treasures dropped from the initial run. Your involvement in the entire process is minimal, serving mostly to make sure the AI hasn't tripped up on itself (which it does with annoying frequency).

Now, as you might have ascertained by now, Sword of the New World is quite easy, especially in comparison to the likes of Lineage 2 or RF Online. While it is almost identical in basic mechanics (little depth, almost no story, excessive grinding), it does have an urgency of pace, and the action in Sword of the New World is the fastest I've ever seen in an MMO. Yes, even faster than City of Heroes. Instead of a lengthy fight involving as many different skills as you can muster, most combat is nasty, brutish, and short, ending so quickly it can often be difficult to execute a single skill. As a result, you will go through five or six concussive melees in the same time that you would normally fight a single mob in other MMOs.

During all this frantic slaying, you will level up like mad at least until roughly level 20, which is the cap for non-paying players. However, you will quickly see that you actually level two separate elements of your characters, and then things start getting confusing. Basic experience, that's easy enough to figure out — kill things, go up levels, and get stronger. However, you generate experience for your stances separately. Stances in Sword of the New World dictate what special skills you have, and they play a big role in group strategies. The clearest example I can think of is with the scout, who has stances for combat and stances for healing. If you leave your dagger-wielding band-aid man on healing exclusively, you'll find his ability to shank monsters is lacking. Also, if you rely on skills excessively, you'll find your stances out-level your base level.

So how about we talk about the graphics? After all, this is ultimately the main selling point to almost any game released these days. Sword of the New World has an exceptionally vibrant visual style, and if I had to boil it all down to one word, that word would be "opulent." Never mind that the setting itself, Victorian-era old-Europe, was rife with decadent detail; try mixing that with the Asian flair for anime-exaggeration, and you should have somewhat of an idea what I'm trying to get across. There is a certain realistic quality to the environments and character models, and the execution is stunning. No matter what you may think of the overall game itself, Sword of the New World is a beautiful creation. If I have to get really nit-picky (and I suppose it's my job to do just that), then I guess I'll point out that for some strange reason the models for all female avatars have freakishly oversized hands and feet. It's comical, actually. It's almost as if Uma Thurman were their reference.

I also have to point out how laughably terrible the musical score is. Any of you who may have taken in the movie Ladyhawke in the '80s should also recall how out of place the music was. High fantasy mixed with cheap-synthesizer A-Team-like tunes just don't work. This is exactly the same issue Sword of the New World suffers from. All of the music is completely out of place and out of synch with the mood and ambience of old-world Victorian Europe. One would expect a score heavily influenced by Baroque classical orchestration; instead you're treated to an agonizing mish-mash of muzak and light house techno. At least you can turn it down.

Sword of the New World is free to download (also available at retail via Elephant Entertainment, which adds some bonus material) and play, and there are restrictions that you need to pay to remove: your level is capped at 20 (100 without the restrictions), you cannot trade items between characters or teams, and you have zero access to customer service unless you pay. I would guess that those who click with the fast pace and gorgeous setting of this game will gladly pay for it. Those who aren't wired for the Korean MMO experience of heavy grinding and repetition will probably find that level 1 to 20 is just enough to sate the urge to try something new. I personally think Sword of the New World is very well done for what it is, but I don't quite gel with the style of gameplay. I certainly have no reservations about recommending it, though, since it's definitely worth playing. The only question is, for how long.

Score: 8.0/10

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