We jumped into the VIP Beta Access for Continent of the Ninth to bring you this beta preview!
In the works for years, NHN’s Continent of the Ninth Seal (C9) has finally entered a Beta with VIP access… but many Western players may be shrugging and saying “So what? Another Korean F2P… been there, done that.” But NHN, now merged with Webzen, is truly looking to release a competitive title in the F2P market; and C9 looks to be just the product to shake up the industry. Sound too good to be true? Read on and I’ll spell out exactly what the game can offer that makes it unique.
Action MMORPGs. While not the largest sub-genre, they’ve become more popular in recent years. In particular, Rusty Hearts from Perfect World Entertainment and Dragon Nest from EyeDentity have appeared on the scene to entice players with a smooth blend of arcade-style action button-mashing, classic RPG leveling and skills, and the social context and incentive to work together in order to achieve goals. At first glance, C9 offers much the same; in fact, my editor introduced it to me as an “FPS-action-MMORPG” (note: he was, thankfully, wrong on the FPS part). What he meant was that C9 also does not have auto-attacks or targeting like many traditional MMOs. But then neither do other titles in this sub-genre. So what makes C9 different?
First and foremost, the graphics are fantastic. I’m not normally a graphics-oriented person; until this last year, my machine regularly ran on average graphics settings as I didn’t want to sacrifice performance for pretty pictures. With a much overdue upgrade though, I can now push my graphics to the max… and it makes a difference. C9 plays like a subscription game… honestly, that’s the best comparison I can think of. The world is fleshed out and vibrant: the camera angle has full 360-degree 3D capabilities in all areas (a main complaint of mine in Rusty Hearts, as the only time you could adjust the camera angle was in town); the graphics come across slick and smooth in combat (another issue of mine in previous games, as it feels as though there is a small pause between each hit); and each quest gives a nice cutscene… which (for those who enjoy slaughter more than plot) can be skipped each time. They are NOT perfect, of course: if I had to complain, I’d bring up the lack of character expression (in one cut scene a small girl has her face in her hands, “crying”… but her eyes are wide open and quite dry), and the character emotes and stances are relatively normal no matter what character you’re looking at. But they are still measurable degrees above most F2P games.
After the graphics, most players will quickly notice the gameplay. I’ll admit, C9 can be a bit overwhelming upon the first entrance. Most of the skills read in percentages; “First hit is 42 damage + 87%; second is 42 damage +95%”… these amounts can lead a player to confusion and frustration. Luckily, C9 provides a quite decent help guide. Not only does the help guide explain features such as combos (essential for rankings at the end of an instance and for killing enemies), it provides a video of the actual abilities in action. So when a player reads something like “Left- click 4x, right click (Mana Piece),” you get an actual visual of the combo effect and what to expect. It might sound silly, but it makes getting used to combos, how to preform them, and what they’ll affect MUCH easier.
The gameplay itself reminded me very much of Rusty Hearts (which is not a problem, as I enjoyed that game quite a bit in Beta). Most of the story seemed located in a central hub, with several different outlets leading to instanced dungeons. A player will be able to access merchants, trade skill teacher, skill teachers, and quest-givers in the town; and then take all those skills and quests and jump into instanced combat at differing tiers of difficulty (basically: normal, hard, expert, and master). As the level of difficulty increases, players face new areas and objectives, as well as stronger and more varied enemy types… with greater rewards to compensate! To give some idea, Normal dungeons are simple; oftentimes I could run through with no issue, alone or with quest NPCs (usually the first time a player visits a dungeon there will be NPCs on a story mission helping as well). Hard made the going a bit slower… and Expert made me actually slow down and chug some health potions from time to time. Then again, the rewards from Normal instances were basically just advancing the plot and selling vendor trash; from Expert dungeons, I received actual upgrades… at the cost of my consumables, which I burned through while going solo!
But solo is not the only way to progress in C9; in fact, I’d say it’s the worst way. The game also has guilds to bring together various players; guild members can learn skills to aid them in travels, but the main benefit is having a steady stream of players available for difficult quests that are nigh-impossible solo. Players can form groups for the instanced dungeons, which is where the true “MMO” aspect of the game comes into being. That said, much of the game can be experienced solo; going into dungeons at hard or normal level won’t stop you from seeing the area, but going in with a friend or three at expert and master will open up new quests and storylines.