Previews

RF Online

Is this PC game mech-ing MMO magic? Well, it's certainly got fantasy, sci-fi and big robots...

The Asian gaming territories are home to many MMOs, but most never reach the West because the nature of the game is so tailored for a specific audience, they'd just never work outside of Korean gaming cafés.

Occasionally though, such as with RF Online, a game is deemed deep enough to head West. So it is then that Codemasters is set to bring the war-torn planet of Novus, complete with its threeway war, to these shores very soon.

The premise is that three factions are fighting for control of a powerful mining centre, the occupier of which gets to carve the finest weapons and armour for use in its fight for survival.

Probably the most balanced of the three races you can fight as, certainly in terms of ease of play, is the Cora Holy Alliance. Sexy elves mostly, with a casual attitude towards clothing and a penchant for waving glowing rods of magic about, they may not have much raw force on the battlefields, but give them a chance to power-up a spell and you're in for all manner of animated spiritual attacks.

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The Accretians, meanwhile, have the upper hand in terms of ruthless weaponry. If you're the sort of gamer who likes to smash things good, this homicidal race of alien robots will be right up your street. Then there's the Bellato, who may look like midget traders that wouldn't say boo to a ghost, but once they reach level 30 they can strap themselves into all manner of customisable battle mechs.

STAT ATTACK
That level 30 access point applies to all races. There's nothing in the way of classes for each race at first, but life begins at 30 in RF Online, as that's the point when the battlebots get their giant siege weapons, the dwarves get their mechs and the elfish nearly-nudes get to mess with summoning powerful pet creatures to aid them on the battlefield.

The demonstration we saw was packed with numbers, stat manipulation and windows, none of which was helped by still being in Korean (that, obviously, will change before launch). The impression is an MMO that takes the visual loveliness of most Asian-market RPGs, mixes it with PlanetSide-scale combat and then hardcores things to the max - which is no bad thing. Plus, we suspect that what looks complex from the outside is far less so once you get the hang of things.

Mostly, RF Online just looks like being a lot of manic fun. Sure, there's an Asian flavour, but Codemasters has been granted access to modify each European server to meet local gameplay needs. Will we Westerners take to it? Well, you can't go wrong with battle mechs. Or indeed, nearly naked magic elves.

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