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July 4, 2007
Sword of the New World: Granado Espada - Preview

By Jason Van Horn

I'm a mostly solitary gamer, drudging off into the wilderness to kill some wild game, or partaking in the lone fetch quest, but there always comes a time in a young gamer's life when you just need some friends to help you out, or you seek the comfort of someone in general. I've had my fair share of "LFF Chapter 1" or "Anyone doing a task force" requests go unanswered, leaving me alone and unable to do a quest, cause otherwise I'd die quickly. Luckily, for those players like me who just can't find someone all the time, along comes Sword of the New World, and now you'll always have somebody to lean on for help.

One of the big draws for Sword of the New World (SOTNW from here on) is the fact that unless you deem otherwise, you'll always have a helping hand in the form of two other players who will always be at your beck and call, fighting for whatever it is you want, or just tidying up the place. In SOTNW you don't so much play as a character, but rather an entire family, with the opening having four slots for you. Once you have your characters created, you can form them up into a group of three to partake in adventuring in the world, doing quests, battling creatures, and whatever else you run across.

The beauty of the multi character system is that it can be as hands off as you want it to be, meaning that if you want to individually click each member and assign them enemies to attack, then by all means do so. If you want everyone to follow the lead of one single character, they'll do that too. If you want to mix it up and in general do bulk group assignments and use them individually for other tasks…well you get the point.

By switching to group mode, characters move in a "V" shape, heading to wherever you indicated them to move with a left mouse click, because you see, unlike other MMORPGs where the camera is generally low and behind the character, this one is much more from a Diablo top-down perspective, where you move characters with the click of a button. If all you did was click, your team would go there and then just stand. However, by holding down a button and left clicking, your team would go to where you clicked, but they would fight every single creature that dared cross their path. Much like the "move and fight all" click, you can pinpoint an area, and use the group function to gather all the dropped items from around that area. The "move and fight all" technique worked well, but sometimes a little too well, because there are so many enemies spawning in the field and running rampant, it can usually take a little longer than expected to clear a path enough to continue on unabated.

But before you do any fighting, it all starts off with a journey across the sea, where you must determine your last name, the first name of your family, their sexes, clothing, and ultimately most import their character class. Character classes are pretty typical of the genre, as you've got your tanks, your nukers, and your magic users. The character classes include Fighter, Wizard, Scout, Musketeer, and Elementalist. Though it is entirely possible to go through the game with a team of three Fighters if you wanted, much like teaming with regular players a sense of balance is key. Given that a Fighter, Musketeer and Elementalist team we found worked well. By mixing it up, we had a Fighter for when the action got too up close, a Musketeer for some long distance shooting, and Elementalist so we had some magic in the equation. Each character can get different stances based on their class, which in the beginning is just two as you have to level up and work for the other ones, but generally they improve one set feature while putting others at a disadvantage, such as letting you have a higher attack power, but really slowing you down since you are steadying your aim to increase the power.

Once you reach the mainland, you'll come across your first hub town, where you'll find all the standbys of a MMORPG, such as shops and people to give you quests. Quests come in two forms so far: instances and field quests. All the quests you'll get from NPC characters scattered about the game world, and you'll know they have something for you thanks to the exclamation marks over their head. The field quests are ones that take place in the game world, just as if you were exploring it normally. The field quests in the early portion of the game mostly dealt with killing so many creatures out on the field to delivering something to somebody stationed somewhere else. The field quests are what they are, which is a staple of the genre, meaning though maybe not the most involving, they will get you some much needed experience points to help your character out.

The instances are much more epic and help flesh the world of SOTNW out even more. One early instance has you helping a young explorer out by heading to a mysterious dungeon to find an injured girl. You'd think you have to find a way out of this instance, but instead all you need to concern yourself with is staying alive for the time duration, which is easier said than done when you have enemies flooding at you on all sides. You'll end up fighting the guy you just helped later on if you choose that way, and should you beat him in this instance fight, you'll be able to gather his card to use him as a team member out in the field for battles. The most engaging of the early instances had you providing backup for some soldiers as they carved their way towards a forted place, and the instance ends when you help do away with the more powerful boss at the end.

Death is handled well in the game, which is a good thing considering that with all the enemies spawning on you at all times while out in the field, you'll probably die on a fairly consistent basis. If you should die in the field, the character will of course drop while the others left alive continue the fight, but thankfully after a time the downed member will slowly recover as long as someone is still alive, and then pop back into the fray, though still at reduced health so they aren't exactly in the clear yet. By allowing this type of healing mechanic, it ensures you won't have to keep going back to town to gather someone, just because you aren't used to controlling more than one character at once. If all your family members die, though, it's like most games of the genre where you'll warp to a safe zone, typically near a town or city.

In some MMORPGs, it's not uncommon to die because you stumbled into an area where you didn't know the strength of the monsters waiting there. With SOTNW you should never die because of this lack of information, as the entrance to each different zone in the game world will tell you what the recommended character levels are, so you'll know whether you should risk going into that area at all. Still, just because you know what to expect, don't assume you'll never die, because when you get swarmed and don't heal for a while, death can loom its ugly head and take you down quickly.

There are some early things that need tweaking in the beta, including loading screens that haven't been translated at all into English, dialogue moments where odd character symbols are used when there is no reason for them, and there is some badly translated dialogue, including one early catchy phrase "Feel lucky." We'd certainly "feel lucky" if those problems got fixed throughout the beta process, but thankfully at least the gameplay itself is solid neglecting those translation errors. Regardless, with its tri-member teams, gorgeous and lush graphics that feature an anime styling meets the rustic new world, and amazingly orchestrated music that hits the design period perfectly, Sword of the New World: Granado Espada is certainly a game to be on the lookout for as it makes its way through the beta phase of its development.


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