Cabal Online

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Cabal Online: The Revolution of Action
Platform: PC
Production: ESTsoft Corp / Games Masters
I was one of the fortunate first hundreds to join the closed beta stage for Cabal Online. I don't know, there is just something about betas that attracts me, but it's especially the fact that I get to experience something first-hand before the game world starts getting crowded.

Unfortunately, even the closed beta was cut short for North-American users because of overpopulation. The number of users ended up in four times the server capacity. I mean, if it's a closed beta, you should be controlling how many people you're allowing in, right? Well, apparently not, so I only got to play for a couple of weeks (especially because downloading the client through a torrent took me days), but it was enough to get a good grasp of the game mechanics and overall feel of the game.

Cabal Online is a very popular third-person Korean MMORPG that is now being released in English. If you have played any MMO before, you will feel comfortable with the interface right away. If you haven't played any MMO before, you will adjust quickly, since the game itself teaches you what to do via quests right from the beginning.

Character creation is a fairly easy point and click process. The interface gives you a good description of each of the available six classes (battle styles). You have Warrior (pure melee), Wizard (pure caster), Blader (which is basically the class that can dual-wield weapons), Force Archer (ranged combat), Force Blader (a mix of magic combat with sword skills) and the one I picked, Force Shielder (blade and magic shield combat).

There are enough customization options for face and hair, but the character creation screen doesn't really explain which stats are the most important for each class, so you're not wasting your points distributing them into the wrong stats.

Although I didn't try the others, I really enjoyed playing a Force Shielder. It’s pretty cool how you have to "summon" your shield before you head to combat, since you carry around a magic crystal instead of an actual shield.

The most unique aspect of Cabal compared to other MMOs is that you don't just push a button and your character auto-attacks. Combat requires you to use your regular attack and special skills, so you have to constantly be pressing those hotkeys. Skills are purchased from trainers, but you are only allowed a limited number of them for each category. If you decide you don't Want a certain skill, you can forget it to make room for another.

Aside from skill combat, there is a complex combo system that requires you to first activate it and then time your special skill attacks for the combo to keep going. If you miss to use a skill when the meter tells you to, the combo breaks. I never got the hang of it. The good news is, you don't get experience just upon a kill: every hit earns you some experience points, and the higher the hit, the more experience you get.
Moving around is as simple as point and click. The game's GPS system already has all NPCs marked on the map with icons and a legend, it will show you Warp Gate locations when you discover them, and it will mark quest-related locations for where you must go or who you must talk to next. There is also a handy feature that marks areas in a color-coded scale according to the difficulty of monsters, so you know not to venture to the red zones. The GPS system includes maps for all the world areas.

During the beta stage, there were three worlds open, Bloody Ice, Green Despair and Desert Scream, but there are eight in total. Each has its own very unique landscape, NPCs and monsters, and you will see how the classes vary from town to town, so apparently everyone has their own starting point set according to the battle style they chose at character creation. To navigate from world to world, there is a room with doors that teleport you to where you want to go. In this room there is also another door that takes you to dungeons.

Dungeons offer you the choice to adventure by yourself or in a party, and many quests require you to go in to one of them and clear every monster inside within a time limit. These are a blast to complete, since they put your skills to the test (especially promotion quests, which you do every 10 levels for class advancement), and as soon as you enter you are accompanied by some very cool rock music.

Other interesting features include an in-game lottery, crafting and item upgrading, which is very similar to the one in Thang. PVP combat is also an option especially on a large scale. Aside from Guild wars, Cabal introduces Planetary wars where a series of new dungeons are waiting to be discovered.

I found Cabal to be a very sharp and beautiful game, especially the detail on the characters and their equipment. The animations are really nice and I spent quite a bit of time experimenting with all the emote commands to see how they moved. They're very fluid and realistic, and I was particularly amused by my character's cheerful dance.

In the end, Cabal Online showed great potential during the beta stage. The originality of the classes and combat system made it stand out, and I'm sure that with time it will be competing with mainstream titles, especially because you don't need a powerful system to run it. Give it a try and see how you like it.

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