With the decay of popular games such as World of Warcraft and Neverwinter, fans of the genre have been asking for a new MMORPG game to fall in love with for years. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has answered this call for some of the fans, and others are hoping that New World or the upcoming Riot MMORPG will be the next big game. In the meantime, Bluehole Studios, the developer of the popular Korean Action MMO, Tera, is releasing a new title, Elyon.
Elyon seems to be a great game for the fans of the eastern MMOs, but will it be good enough to bring in new players to the genre, or capture the audience of other popular MMOs? The fans who've been asking for a new exciting game for years? As one of those people, and after playing tens of hours in the second closed beta testing before launch, unfortunately, I have to say no.
If you like the atmosphere, the over-the-top anime style, the fast-paced action, and sometimes ridiculously immersion-breaking cosmetics of Tera, then you will love Elyon. Even if you are an old MMO fan who is looking for a new game to play, you might have a couple of fun hours in Elyon, but it's not the game to spend hundreds of hours in. It doesn't have the same feeling of immersion as other successful MMOs, it doesn't have the same feeling of community and belonging, and it makes some of the most common mistakes in modern MMOs.
After starting the game, I saw an interesting choice. The game offers five different graphic styles, that kinda look like the color filters on Instagram or photo editing applications and slightly change the overall color tone of the game. It's an interesting choice to give the players, and I haven't seen many games do this before. After that, we head into the character creation menu, and our journey begins.
There are six classes to choose from. Slayer, Warlord, Elementalist, Mystic, Assassin, and the Gunner. They fall into the classic holy trinity of tank, healer, and damage dealer, and they all have amazing animations and outfits in the character creation preview. There are also four races to choose from. Human, Elf, Orc, and something called Ein. The first three were typical fantasy races, but Ein was the first sign that Eylon is what I was afraid it would be. A non-immersive world with out-of-place looking creatures and outfits.
Eins are small bipedal sheep-like creatures, with humanoid hands and feet. I still don't know the lore of the world, but I feel like these are in the game just because they look "cute". All other races look epic and fantasy-themed, but a furry little sheep just doesn't fit. Even if there's a good enough reason lore-wise for them to be in the game, at this point this seemed like the same approach of other eastern MMOs: anything that looks cute, or funny, is a great source of microtransactions. I wouldn't be surprised if Eins were or became a premium race only playable by paying more.
As much as I wanted to embrace the silliness and play as an Ein, I still wanted to take the game seriously and I was hoping I would enjoy it. So I created a bad-ass-looking Orc Gunner, and I really liked the customizations and features of the character creation. I called my steampunk-styled gunslinger Damin and started the game. I was hyped for an interesting cinematic to find out more about the world and my character.
The cinematic was not bad, I was actually enjoying the art style until the "You are the chosen one" speech ruined the moment. These sorts of world-ending threats that only the player can stop are great story hooks for single-player games. But for massively multiplayer online games, it just doesn't make sense. In vanilla World of Warcraft, one of the most popular MMOs ever, we weren't heroes. We started as normal people who took up arms against the dangers that threatened our towns and villages, and eventually, with the help of each other, we defeated great evils and became heroes.
This gave the game a sense of community, immersion, and progression that most modern MMOs take for granted. WoW lost its charm for me when everyone became the champion of Azeroth, and when everyone had the unique artifact, Heart of Azeroth. When millions of players are the chosen ones, the phrase loses its significance. When I hear the line "The last hope to save the Inventus is you" in the opening cinematic of a new MMO, without knowing any of the lore, who I am, where is Inventus, or what is happening to it, and with the meta-knowledge that every other player is told the same prophecy, the world loses a portion of its immersion. Something that it does time and time again.
I start the game, the pacing of action and short dialogue cutscenes are actually good, and even from the beginning combat is fun. Elyon aims for fun action gameplay, and it delivers on it. But then I receive a notification. I received a loot box for participating in the beta testing, and in the loot box, I find a bunny outfit! I was expecting this, but not this early. Not just right out of the gate. I put on the outfit to see how bad it looks on my cool gunslinger orc, and it's even worst than I thought. I took a few screenshots, and then I didn't know how to get out of it. I didn't see it on my equipment menu to take it off, and I wasn't gonna play with this horrendous look for the rest of the game. So I started asking in the chat. This is an MMO after all, and I saw other people asking questions as well, but no answers.
That's actually most of my experience from the community playing Elyon. Tons of people asking for help, and only a few answering. MMOs are social games. They should appeal to both single and social players, but they should also encourage the social aspect of the game. Elyon doesn't do that. Even in late-game group dungeons, you just need to know your abilities and mash the buttons. No strategy, no tactics, and no communications. The game doesn't feel like an MMO, it feels like a single-player game with a few dozen sheeps running around in bunny outfits.
These out-of-place looks and cosmetics gave me the feeling that the game doesn't take itself seriously. I can't pay attention to the story and immerse myself in the world when in every dialogue cutscene another character with a strange custom passes through the screen. I would rather play Elyon solo, with no other players in the world. It seems to have a great world and the potential for a fun story and gameplay. Not only the MMO aspect doesn't add anything to the game, but it also lessens the experience.
After spending more than half an hour looking through every menu in the game (which is too many by the way, but more on that later), asking the chat, and looking on Reddit, I find out how I can unequip the outfit by accident. There's a small button in the equipment menu that allows you to switch between your actual gear and your outfits, and from there I was able to get out of the white bunny outfit and get back to my awesome leather long coat.
I get back to the game and follow the quests, and to be honest, the gameplay is fun. It reminded me of action games like Devil May Cry or God of War, but just not as good. That was because Elyon has the same quest system as most MMOs. Go somewhere, kill a bunch of enemies or collect a bunch of items, and come back. It's fun killing enemies and watching the animations of every ability, but I don't feel invested in the story. Another MMO element that only weakens the game experience is these quests. Elyon would've made a great single-player action game with a real storyline, but it's like the developers were obligated to implement as many MMO systems into the game as possible.
Talking of systems, there are a lot of them. Just opening the menu and seeing all the UI elements is intimidating. Elyon manages to make the mistake that most MMOs do after many years, right from the beginning; over creep of multiple systems. Crafting, upgrading, housing, artifact powers, rune stones, enchanting, sephirot tree, and many more systems are piled on top of each other from the start. Before a new player even learns the basics of the game, they are bombarded with complicated systems and tutorials one after the other. I didn't understand half of these systems and I've played complicated MMOs for years. I can't imagine what it would be like for a player new to the genre.
I do my best navigating through the overwhelming systems, do the quests, and level up to the point where I can join group dungeons. And again, the anime-style fights, seeing every character's abilities and moves, and defeating bosses seem fun to watch, but it's not as fun to play. I couldn't get into the story, because I can't take the game seriously when the game itself doesn't. I wasn't invested in the world, in the community, and in the systems, and if I want a good action game, there are a ton of better options than Elyon out there.
Nima reviewed Elyon on PC with a beta code provided by the publisher.