PAX Prime 2012: Phantasy Star Online 2 hands-on preview
Phantasy Star Online was a cult classic. While the servers are no longer up, fans still hold this unique online hack and slasher close to their hearts. While the efforts at SEGA to keep the series alive with Phantasy Star Universe were noble, the game just wasn't what fans were used to. Thankfully, SEGA is bringing back Phantasy Star Online that will not only appeal to a new audience thanks to its gorgeous graphics and updated gameplay mechanics, but also to fans of the original as it goes back to its roots.
I was able to play through a co-operative mission with three other people as we ran through a lush green map filled with all sorts of dangerous wildlife that we had to take care of. I played as a CASTer but my role wasn't solely dedicated to just that. I was able to switch between three weapons on the fly, giving me the ability to adapt to the situation, rather than being stuck using the same weapon through the entire map.
We eventually ended up underground and had to fight a giant sized dragon that put up a really tough fight. PSO2 will heavily encourage players to team up and take on missions as a group, rather than playing solo. For players who either don't feel comfortable with teaming up with other players can opt to 'hire' NPC mercenaries that will assist in battle.
Pulling off sweet looking combos was incredibly intuitive as a circle would always display around your character, indicating when to follow up with another strike, dealing even more damage. It worked for every sort of weapon, even my long range gun. What's better is that each weapon has a secondary mode, so for instance my gun was able to transform into a short sword, allowing me to get close to my opponent and deal some quick strikes.
Quite possibly the best news of all is that you're no longer tied down to the class that you initially pick. In between missions, you'll be able to switch classes to your liking, and level them all up individually. This will give players the freedom to truly play how they like, and not have to worry about creating extra characters just for the sake of being able to play a different class.
I know already said that the game looked gorgeous, but that doesn't give it justice. The characters all have a great amount of detail, and the environment is simply stunning. From the lush green first area filled with various flora to the dark and fiery underground area, it showed that there was a lot of care put into the looks of the game.
Phantasy Start Online 2 will be available on PC early 2013, and is yet another among the many Free to Play titles that won't require you to spend a single penny if you choose not to.