Review: The World R:1

The World R:1 is the first version of the VRMMO in the dotHack franchise. Based around an epic poem, the game has a rich back story and a large amount of content. The World R:1 is featured in the first four Playstation 2 dotHack games, as well as multiple animes and other media. Through this article I will be reviewing the game, as if it were an actuality, and giving opinions from a game development point of view.

To start with, the user interface for the game is very simplistic, reminescent of old-school RPGs. Two well sorted inventories, one for tradeable game items the other for player-bound key items, as well as an equally sorted skill list. By pressing the Square button, you get a simple menu for controlling NPC party members, something not many games allow you to do. The main problem with the interface is probably the “mini”-map, which is a huge clunky square in the corner of your screen. All in all, though, it gives you everything you need to play the game.

For gameplay, The World has its ups and downs, although the positives seem to balance out the negatives. The game follows a basic dungeon crawler design, with central “root towns” allowing access to near limitless amounts of fields, each with a single dungeon. The game also has an element most online games don’t, and that’s a saving system. If you die, you go back to your last save, a very good interpretation of a “permadeath” system for online games. All interactable objects in the game use the same system, when you approach them, a menu pops up allowing you to choose options. This is also how you attack enemies, move in and a menu with “Attack” in it will pop up. This makes the game very simplistic for newer players to learn, but almost too simplistic to keep interest. Skills help with this, however, which I will get more into with combat.

Player creation is quite limited in this game, with little customization. There is the choice of gender and class, although outside that most people of the same gender/class combination look very similar. The only equipment that has an effect on appearance is your weapon, although some versions appear to have rare costume items. In terms of class, you have 6 choices, 5 melee classes and a magic class. The melee classes are well balanced, having options for many players different play styles, from tanking and dealing heavy DPS, to the twin blade which has fast low damage attacks but is the best with magic of the melee classes. The magic class, however, being the only pure mage, is quite unbalanced. It has high DPS damage spells, buffs, debuffs, healing, reviving, basically everything a mage needs. The only thing a wavemaster cannot really do is tank, which explains why in future revisions of the game, it was split into three seperate classes.

In town, you will find multiple things of interest. The “Chaos Gate” is where the adventure begins and ends, players find fields using a unique keyword system, allowing a player to adventure and find interesting areas on their own, and share them in a simple way with others. The “Recorder” is where you save your progress, which should be done regularly unless you want to be sent back a few hours when dieing. “Elf’s Haven” is the storage service, allowing you to store your items for free. Then there are three shops, for weapons, magic, and other items. Although not marked on the map, a seventh feature is the Grunty Ranch, which allows you to raise grunties to adulthood, each with their own benefits, such as trading you rare items. Generally the towns are quite large with lots of empty space for players to meet with others or hang out at.

Fields and dungeons in The World are quite simple, as with most the game. A field is a medium size round world, with buff shrines, grunty food, magic portals, and of course the dungeon. Buff shrines are exactly what they sound like, a single use shrine that will buff the party with a random buff. Grunty food is also regularly found in fields, calling out their names (yes, the food talks). Magic portals, when approached, will either spawn monsters or a chest. There also is usually an oasis somewhere in the field, which has a chance to upgrade your gear, or if you want, exchange gear for silver/gold axes, a collectable item. The dungeon is randomly generated based on the keywords used for the field, and contains much of the same things as the fields. After fighting your way down the depths of a dungeon, you will find a treasure room with the statue of one of the six gods of the game. Some of the best equipment and rarest items are found this way.

The item system is one of the features with many ups and downs. All skills in the game are gotten from items, either from the equipment you’re wearing, or from spell scrolls. This leads to interesting choices for what equipment you use, giving situations where you choose between better stats or better skills. As nice as this is, however, the equipment system does have one confusing flaw, the levels. R:1′s equipment all have levels, but these appear to be completely seperate from player levels, I personally haven’t found much info on it, other than an indication of how good equipment is. The equipment is also quite linear in this game, however the skill system helps make it interesting despite that. The game uses a pretty standard inventory system, with a max of 40 unique items, and 99 unique items in your storage.

Combat is probably one of the most important features in an RPG game. The World offers simple but challenging combat, although a few little annoyances are spread throughout it. As mentioned earlier, the basic attack is just a single command used when close to enemies. This would help explain the lack of a ranged class, which would not work well with this system, as every attack would need to be a skill. Skills are quite simple, generally giving damage bonuses and hitting multiple times, some having elements applied to them. The element system adds some strategy to your equipment and training areas, allowing you to focus on areas your skills work best on. A major flaw with the combat system however is based around these skills. All skills freeze targets in place until the end of the animation, including the player from monster skills. This can leave you pretty much helpless against a large group of enemies constantly using skills. There is also no way to dodge attacks, even if it has a long animation that seems avoidable. These negatives do work both against the player and monsters, however, so some may argue they allow for more strategy.

The game has multiple interesting features. The grunties are raised in towns, and can be used in many different ways. They have been shown to be kept as simple pets, raised to being combat partners, or mounts. In the PS2 games, they can also become NPCs once fully grown, trading items with you. Another unique feature is the built in BBS system. This allows easy communication to all other players, and an easy place for news and updates to be found. Another interesting system is the member addresses. Just knowing someones name isn’t enough to send private messages to them, you have to get their address, which only they can give you. This feature helps prevent harassment, and could possibly be a way to allow multiple players to have the same name.

All this said, there’s a few things I think could make The World really shine. A major thing would be randomized equipment. This would take up extra inventory slots, as equipment would no longer be stackable, but it would give more interesting choices to equipment and more strategy to the game. It would also make grinding and exploring more interesting, allowing more impressive finds. Another fix would be a faster pace for battle, possibly with attack combos, or multiple ways to attack, tied to different buttons (like horizontal and vertical slashes, jumping, etc). I also think not all skills should lock a target in place, some should be avoidable. Normal attacks should also be avoidable if the animation is slow enough, there have been many times I have personally tried dodging under an enemies arm to avoid an attack, only to have them magically spin in place to face me.

That covers The World R:1, which, if actually developed, could definitely prove to be an amazing MMORPG, although it would need some rebalancing, that is a normal process of game development. Up next I will be covering The World R:2, the upgraded version of the VRMMO from later parts of the franchise, which had a major overhaul.

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