Continuously on the look out for an MMO that isn’t a boring grind-fest (which seems to be a tall order!) I stumbled upon GhostX. Not the most imaginative name, but its approach to levelling and combat seems to be anything but the norm. It advertises itself as a ‘Metro Action RPG’ because of its urban city location, filled with sewers and shopping centres for your character to explore. After logging in to the game a substantial amount of customisation is available for your trendy teenager, who certainly seems to have taken fashion pointers from games such as Persona 3 or The World Ends With You.
GhostX instantly gains my respect for actually trying to create a storyline. I can understand that in an MMORPG players will be more concerned with their peers rather than NPC’s, but it never hurts to try and make an engaging setting for beginners. A series of basic cut scenes introduces you to three nanobots, small mechanical beings that you’ll need to choose from to start your adventure. They’re capable of attaching to your arm and becoming your weapon, so you’ll have to pick wisely to learn the combat style of your choice. After the tutorial you’re enlisted as an agent by a strange team called White Aurora, an organisation who is apparently set on stopping an evil demon from taking over the world. A lot of the dialogue and translation is broken in these scenes, so it’s never told in a particularly emotional or engaging way.
In the absence of classes nanobots take on a role similar to Pokemon. They gain experience points independently of your character, learn their own skills and evolve into stronger, more advanced forms. Being able to equip and switch between potentially 100 nanobots gives you a lot of variety and never restricts you on the type of player you’re going to become. You still have an individual stat point system for your angsty teenager, but it’s a welcome change from the ‘archer/magician/healer/sword fighter’ concept used in most MMO’s. For example, if you’re heading into an area where you know you’ll be particularly weak, you can always switch nanobot types to give yourself a bit of an edge.
Rather than a passive combat system of point, click and sit back, GhostX takes on a more direct arcade approach. Hitting A launches an attack, repeatedly tapping A launches a simple combo and Q/W/E are used for skills. They can all be combined with jumps and dashes, making a game play style that never feels like grinding. However, that illusion is quick to fade. Initially it might not feel like grinding, especially as you stomp through a few of the entertaining quests, but as the hours slide by you’ll begin to realise that your brain has already switched off. The enemies have little A.I and no tactics, so the active battle system goes to waste. Once I reached level 6 I found myself spamming my favourite skills and very rarely being interested in the battles at hand. Is it really worth replacing the point and click of a mouse with the hammering of a few different keys? It also suffers from a bit of lag, resulting in the strange effect of delayed hits and damage. A minor irritation, but one that doesn’t seem to disappear at even the highest internet connections.
The NPC quests are plentiful, meaning that you’ll never be stuck without something to do. Phone calls, missions and notices blend seamlessly together so that you always know where you should be heading next. Many of the missions also have additional requirements which if met, give you a perfect pass mark and bonus items. A leader board of players who have completed it with the best score also add some competitive incentive. Some of the quests feel too similar (how many times have I seen ‘kill x amount of monsters’ or ‘pick up x amount of drop items’?) but this is no different from other MMORPGs really.
The cell shaded graphics, collectible nanobots and action orientated combat are great features. If you’re an avid MMO player looking for a title that’s a little bit different, this might just be what you’re looking for. However if you hate long, arduous grinding as much as I do, your going to have keep waiting for another title. Or maybe I’m just really not suited to this genre of gaming?