Skyforge E3 Preview: An Accessible and Effective MMO

Skyforge brings a wide-open class system to the free-to-play MMO.

MMOs, amirite? There are so many of them, most free-to-play these days, and sifting through the glut is like trying to browse new releases on Steam on a Greenlight day. There’s not enough time in the day to download and try each one. I know I just kinda play what I stumble into, which is what happened at E3, where I found myself with my hands on a mouse and keyboard handling Skyforge, a title from Russian devs Allods Team in partnership with Obsidian on this side of the world.

Finding an MMO I enjoy, as I mentioned above, is just about fortune most of the time, and it was on my side last week apparently, because I found Skyforge to be novel to play. On top of that, the way it functions as a theme park MMO and organizes its content seems to be, well, ideal even for the more antisocial types (like me, usually). Let’s go through it all.

One of the big hooks for Skyforge is that you are not locked into your initial class choice – you can change it whenever you want. Maybe you won’t want to do that while you’re fighting mobs but you definitely can stop in the middle of a dungeon and switch classes if you want to do that. But there is a catch.

When you use your XP resources on one class, you will not be able to reclaim them on another. Essentially, you’ll have to “grow” each class you want to use by playing with it. Changing classes doesn’t reset you to level 1, though, and I was assured that even with a completely vanilla class you should be able to handle level-appropriate content if you’re decently proficient with the game, you’ll just have to go through it with fewer abilities.

Allods built it that way because the name of the game in Skyforge is accessibility. It starts with the ability to change classes, and continues with the combat structure itself, which is built upon a literal rotation of weapons, each having its own abilities suited for various scenarios, like you might have an auto-cannon type of thing and also a mortar. Each weapon is fueled by energy a la SWTOR, and so when one runs out you switch to another. And each of these only have a few abilities, so it’s not overwhelming and you won’t have a massive quickbar or six to keep track of.

The animations are fun and the abilities varied enough to hold visual interest in the proceedings, and actually playing feels more action-y than RPG-y even while you can tell there’s some math going on beneath the surface. It’s the rare RPG disguised as action that actually feels pretty good.

But where Skyforge will succeed or fail as an F2P MMO is in how it works between dungeons, and it sounds like Allods has good ideas going there. There will be combat areas for all types — solo, groups of various sizes for PvE and PvP — and you won’t have to LFG for any of the group stuff because the group areas are cordoned off from the hubs and simply entering them will put you into matchmaking. And since all players will be on one server and there isn’t any holy trinity or other role requirements for the content, so in theory that matchmaking should be pretty quick for many areas if Skyforge manages to cultivate a good-sized playerbase.

That’s a big if, of course, given the landscape right now. Devs put out these things assuming they’ll have thousands or millions of players, and you kinda have to, but I’m always skeptical. But that’s why it’s free-to-play, so folks can sneak in the door without much of an investment (just bandwidth and hard drive space).

If there are folks around, though, I think Skyforge can be a pretty good time. We’ll have a better idea once it goes into beta later on in the year.

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