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Game Review: LaTale

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Game Review: LaTale

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Developed by Actoz Soft and published by OGPlanet
Note this is a review of the OGPlanet version of LaTale (North America)
Score 4/5

Introduction

Alright. It took me forever to find a new game to review. I was flipping through all the different kinds of games on different publishers' websites and I eventually saw this. The screenshots resembled some sidescroller action game and it was interesting enough for me to pick. Eventually I got around to playing and reviewing this game.

Let me tell you something before we begin. Someone lost something when they designed the game, it's completely insane! Mind you I'm the kind of person that thinks overly energetic Asian animation characters can be relaxing to watch, and this game is just many pieces of loose hardware rattling around in a head. The art is so "loud", kawaii and bright (which I really love, by the way) and there's usually lots of action possible in the maps with enemies. Is it a fun game? Well..

Gameplay

You're going to compare this game to MapleStory. I'm not even going to pretend it's a new kind of MMORPG game, but MapleStory makes for a good standard to help review this game.

This was a game so solid and well done I almost wanted to give it a 5/5 score, but there's just too many flaws holding it back. Try and imagine what it would be like if MapleStory was more like Super Smash Bros. Brawl's adventure mode.

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Making a character

Making a character has enough options to prevent that clones problem you get with other MMORPGs (like Trickster Online), so you can start out being recognizable. The artwork is very well done on the characters, much better than MapleStory. There's actually a comic book style opening sequence to explain the controls and you can go through the training map (or skip). Already this game is superior to most since it clearly explains the controls as you go along in the game. It's not overwhelming at all unlike other games (such as Perfect World).

You can also pick a class right there and then from Warriors, Knights, Wizards, Explorers, and Engineers. Now so far there's only a single upgrade into two more specific classes for each basic class (except Engineers who go straight to Meisters) at lv80, but the skill system is such that you can customize surprisingly far. It's kind of like World of Warcraft talent trees only this one divides them into weapons and class specific plus several extra trees for crafting and events. It works pretty well and you even get a free reskill at level 80 when you change jobs. You can also buy skill reset books from many item-selling NPCs. It's hard to mess up in this game if you try to be good.

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Item crafting

Item crafting is also easy and accessible. You can pick up most of what you need in the first town! For crafting though, you have to do some quests from an NPC to unlock, and you can only pick one kind of crafting (weapons, armor, etc.). And believe me, there are many many quests to do in order to level really fast. You won't run out of quests for a good long while, if ever. The rewards from them are even better. Do the quests, don't just walk somewhere and randomly grind like you might in other games since the quests are so rewarding. The quests don't get hard to do or run out like in MapleStory either. The game world is also big enough for there to be changes in scenery so you're not playing on the same 3 maps over and over. You can solo, but it's easier in a party. It's good that you can get up to 2.5x the EXP in a full party so that you want to party.

Now, apart from LaTale being way more on action, you'll also notice there is PVP. It's one of the best PVP systems I've ever played in an MMORPG game ever. Like I said, you know Super Smash Brothers Brawl's online play? Remove the constant lagging and you're pretty much halfway there. It even goes up to 8 players in a single battle map. There's also co-op enemy-slaying coliseum quests to do. If you're feeling a little bored, one of the really heated PVP matches will do just the thing. "But I'll have to be near the max level to have any fun~!" is one of the biggest problems plaguing PVP. Get over the fact that your opponent is level 84 when you're level 20 since in PVP everyone has the stats as if they were the same level. In PVP, you have your own gamer skills and your gear you can enchant. Even though I lost, I managed to score some kills 4 to 5 times on them. Like I said, these are fun, fast, and full of action. MapleStory doesn't even come at all close if you want PVP, and I mean real fun PVP. People keep inserting their bland tastes in music over their PVP videos on YouTube, and it's better for you to just give it a try anyway.

To top it off, there's difficult dungeon instances where you can team and attempt to defeat thousands of enemies. Unfortunately, you have to actually form a full party to stand a chance or be a really high level. I hope they implement queues for the dungeon instances like in World of Warcraft.

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Enemies love to get in the way of item collection

Apart from all the above you can go digging or mining, sell things at the "flea market" and they just recently implemented an auction house only a couple of days ago. This game could really benefit from these helper features and I hope they improve by adding more.

Now for the flaws. These flaws annoy me because this could have been better than a good MMORPG. Firstly, the game has some differences from MMORPG convention that aren't explained clearly by the NPCs even though the basics are nicely covered. Lots of the NPC dialog is rough and somewhat confusing due to bad translation too. But then there are the water balloons! You'll get your event inventory cluttered with these things and the needles you need are sold in the cash shop. Tossing them isn't as annoying as it might seem, but it's still bad form.

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Remember this game?

Now the controls, they are stiff.. Castlevania stiff. This isn't too bad as you can get used to anticipating the controls just like you did back in the original Castlevania games.. But then there's the lag. The game lags often due to bad synchronization design. It's too tight on realtime so you'll realize there's a 1-2 second freeze every few moments in your internet connection or however your internet is. In MapleStory, it's all nicely smoothed out so you don't realize anything. And oh no, you don't freeze. Sometimes you keep moving and the controls get even stiffer. It's really hard to have a nice perfect game, but usually it's only a little jerky though. Sometimes it's so bad the game is unplayable if your internet hates you. This has got to stop if LaTale wants to become more popular, they need to loosen up their movement system over the network. On the bright side, it's much harder to hack than MapleStory since movement was handled locally in that game. It's still much better than Super Smash Brothers Brawl, even if you lag a little you can compensate in PVP. In Brawl, you could grab a cup of coffee in the time it takes for you to pull a special move.

Picking up items is really horrible too. In a game where you're making chunky salsa out of enemies, it really kills the fun when you have to press V, hold SHIFT and press SPACE to pick up all the drops from a single enemy let alone the 20 you just killed. We don't care, just make v the pickup key and let us run through the drops mashing the v key so we don't become vulnerable while trying to get the important items we need for quests.

But! It does make up a little for having built-in gamepad support. It will let you configure the buttons on any game controller you plug into your machine (XBOX, PS3, Logitech, etc.). There's also a macro system that I can't seem to figure out, but it says you can make two combos and assign them to some button.

With all these comparisons to MapleStory, there is one thing you will notice immediately that is much better in LaTale. The leveling curve in LaTale is much much faster than MapleStory, and it's pretty fast for MMORPGs in general. Of course I haven't seen a leveling curve as bad as MapleStory. Overall, here is a game that follows MapleStory's formula, and then becomes something superior.

Graphics

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Good old sprites

These are some of the best hand-drawn sprites in a 2D game I've ever seen. Everyone moves so fluidly and the scenes are equally appealing. The characters are also less bobble-head looking than MapleStory and you can actually look cool. I don't feel like a Bratz character with a broadsword, I actually feel like the slaughter-happy anime character I always wanted to be. There's even sets of fashion items you can buy with the in-game currency so you can customize a little without dropping your PayPal. The interface is also really crisp-looking and generally there isn't a problem with the graphics.

Sound

The sounds are just OK. Nothing special, nothing horrible.

But the music is something else. It starts out just like any generic Korean MMORPG with that weird pop techno stuff, but it really surprises me sometimes. I'll walk out onto a new map and the music will be.. good!? Sometimes the music will really rock and get you in the mood for hacking away at things. Other times, the music will be overly whimsical or it will go back to generic MMORPG tunes again. There's some good tracks in this one though.

Summary

OK, this game is perfect if you're a fan of classic platforming. It really does feel like Castlevania Smash Maple Online. If you're sick of how slow the leveling is in MapleStory, or you're looking for something different in an MMORPG, this is just the thing. If you're a fan of Nippon Ichi games, this is also a good play. Just like how Trickster Online was fixed, they might even fix that horrible lag issue for this game. Despite its flaws, it's generally a must-try.

Click here to go give the game a shot!

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April 2014

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