C9 is throwing down $10k in a PvP tournament... so how does the game play?
Welcome to Continent of the Ninth Seal, better known as C9! Currently in Beta, the action MMO brings to the table instanced PvE and PvP content in a fast-paced, battle-oriented format. Behind this Beta test lies a PvP tournament that awards the winner with $10,000 in real life... more than enough reason to get interested, right? I had the chance to give the content a new look; back in February, I tried out a shaman character. This time I thought I’d give more of a blow-by-blow experience for my Fighter character. Interested in learning more about a game that’s confident enough to throw down 10 grand to a skilled player? Read on!
Much of the story is unveiled in cutscenes such as this one inside the dungeons
An action MMO plays a bit differently than your regular MMORPG. The focus is mostly on fast-paced combat, good reflexes and showy moves, compared to the heavy stat-driven, story-focused purpose of regular MMORPGs. As you log into C9 for the first time, you are confronted with creating a new character in one of three classes: fighter, hunter and shaman. As I mentioned in my last review, these classes are also gender-specific: fighters and hunters will always be male, and shamans will be sha-women. I did enjoy my Shaman last time, although I used a boosted class at level 50… so this time I decided to go with a Fighter named Brawnee (creativity in names is not my strong suit). Judging by the opening cinematic however, the start is mostly the same for each class: you’re a new adventurer coming over the Meshurian Heights when you encounter a patrol with a fellow adventurer named Fortz. It seems a monster named Hanuman has been decimating the local troops!
The tutorial begins at this point, and directs you along with some helpful control prompts (WASD movement, space to jump, 2 is your key bound Dash ability out of combat). Fortz is there to provide a bit of background to the story and build a sense of camaraderie… but honestly, with his poorly wrapped text, annoying attitude and even the lackluster voiced introduction, the story clearly isn’t taking attention at this point. After scaring off Hanuman, you approach Waterford Village, catching up again with Fortz in time to pull his buns out of the fire. Soon after you meet Morris, the mayor of the village and the basic tutorial ends by depositing you in Waterford to seek your fortune.
The tutorial gives a decent introduction to how combat works. In short, all players get left-click and right-click attacks; on my fighter, left-click does a basic sword strike (which can be held down or rapidly clicked to deliver up to four strikes in a row), while the right-click uses a Shield Bash that takes a small number of MP but allows a chance to stun an enemy. These are supplemented by three factors: combos, actions and commands.
Bash, one of the most basic Fighter actions, unleashes a powerful fiery slash
Combos are your basic fighting-style combinations. They provide greater damage on subsequent hits, and may provide additional effects. For a fighter, some are simple using the left and right mouse buttons: 4x left, 3x right, 4x left, 3x right is the most basic combo but does a lot of damage if not interrupted. Others require the hotkey actions: for example, left x4, 1 (which gives four sword attacks and then the fiery bash skill with added damage). Most basic and advanced combos are written in the Help guide (F1), under (Controls à Class Controls)
Actions, as previously mentioned, are special abilities that can be assigned to your hot bar, using numbers 1 through 9 (K button to open the menu). While your basic attacks might make up the majority of your offense, actions are what really let you dish out some damage. A fighter receives Bash early on; a fiery attack that does quite a bit of damage. Later he’ll learn more advanced forms, turning Bash into several consecutive (and devastating) hits. Most Actions use MP, invoke a cooldown and are part of combos; amazingly useful for a boss, a strong enemy or a large group of foes.
Commands are somewhere between (or include) passives, right-click abilities and non-hot key items. They can be anything from Shield Bash, the basic right-click ability of a Fighter, to recovering MP after Dashing, to kicking enemies on the ground with the F key or blocking with a shield with a Q key. I find them rather awkwardly placed if they are activated, but good to keep in mind.
The dungeon map screen allows selection of a dungeon, its difficulty, and other options
The game runs on rails for the most part, with Waterford being a central area to gather quests, repair your equipment, sell worthless items, craft and communicate with other players. The action itself takes place in dungeon portals to the north and south part of town (both have the same areas available, so the difference is just for convenience). After receiving some basic quests, players will head to the Goblin Forest or Underground Goblin Altar. This is a good chance to get used to the presentation of C9’s instances; every instance has four difficulty levels that require passing the previous one first (in order, Normal, Hard, Expert and Master). As the difficulty level increases, so does enemy damage, health, attack frequency and numbers. The pathway also changes; on normal you might fight through one path with areas to the side blocked off; but in expert, the sides are open or required in order to progress. This means, of course, that higher difficulties give more experience due to the sheer number of monsters; but they also give better loot.
There are several important features to keep in mind as one does these dungeons. First, dungeons are fine by themselves, but quests make them even better. By picking up and completing quests players learn the story, sometimes get a helping hand from quest NPCs like Fortz or John, and get a huge boost with good gear rewards and experience early on. Later the daily quests from the quest boards outside instances will provide a small experience boost and random profession rewards upon completion… why not, if you’re going to slaughter the same monsters anyway? As some main quests are completed, new ones are revealed, advancing the story and providing better rewards. All quests below level 20 are easily done solo, although expert and master might give a sharp uptick in difficulty. Luckily, many of the quest rewards at low levels provide ample healing and mana potions, and frequently provide a fountain that restores hp, mp or both.
Waterford is the first central location, containing dungeon portals, trainers, and merchants
Within dungeons, there are several matters of luck and strategy. Every dungeon is littered with barrels, crates, sacks and pots; they can be destroyed to randomly throw out crafting loot. I’d estimate the chance of receiving something from these is around 10% for a single destructible item, up to 50% for a larger stack of perishables (note: not scientific). While these are worth destroying I would recommend waiting until an area is clear of enemies first. Not only will these non-enemy items break your combos, they might prevent you from hitting a foe about to get an attack off! Building upon the luck factor are random rare enemies and rare chests. I’ve only found several of these to date; I think they are more common on higher difficulties, but I’m not sure. They tend to have dropped rare (blue) quality item enhancements; some improve armor defense, others added a water property to weapons… which seemed utterly worthless, as I don’t use water spells. Bah. Finally, upon killing the final boss of a dungeon, a player receives 2 or more keys to open random treasure chests in a final mini-game. At low levels, these chests contain gold or common items. At higher difficulties they contain more gold, nothing, or uncommon items. Although it seems like an “Excellent” rating provides more keys, I’m not sure what the criterion for this is: whether it is speed, or a high combination or completion of kills? Either way, completing dungeons is a fantastic way to gain loot to use, vendor or sell at the trading office (commonly called an “Auction House” in most other games… way to be different, C9).