I'm a big fan of Manga and Anime, so it comes as no surprise that I was quite enthused going into Elsword, the Korean action 2D MMORPG. I was able to experience the game in two ways, one as a lower level character to see natural progression, and then another as a high level character. Did my sidescrolling experience match up to my expectations?
Put simply, yes. There are quite a few 2D successful action MMOs on the market. From Maple Story to Grand Chase, they all offer a similar 2D experience, but they branch off as far as actual gameplay goes. For example, I view Maple Story as a game that's much slower paced. Elsword, on the other, hand is a fairly fast paced game. Not long after the initial tutorial, are you venturing off to different maps to take on hoards of brightly colored beasts and some towering bosses.
That's what makes Elsword a great experience right from the beginning — there is so little downtime that you'll find yourself pulling off combos in no time. Each class, of which there are five, are pretty varied. From the bow wielding elf Rena and sword slashing Elsword, to the noble, pet throwing Eve — each of them have a unique attack style that translates into their combat.
The combat is where the game truly shines, thanks to its combo-based system with quick attacks. You have two buttons relegated to your weak and strong attacks, and then four buttons for your specials. Your weak attack powers up your magic bar, which then lets you unleash your more powerful attacks or special attacks.
The special attacks are worth mentioning because not only do they do a great amount of damage, they are extremely cool to look at. Upon activation, a border will surround your screen and make the game look like an actual still from a manga, all while your flashy attack animations fly by. Sweetness!
While the default control style is mouse/keyboard, you can plug in a PC-compatible gamepad and map your buttons to it as well, which given the game's beat 'em up nature, actually make it a much more enjoyable experience with a gamepad. Be aware though that you'll still need to use your keyboard and mouse for chatting, navigating through menus, accepting quests, etc., so if you don't fancy hopping back and forth between those two, you might as well just stick to the default control scheme.
Each of the classes/characters have their own skill tree which progressively makes you a force to be reckoned with. At later levels, you're able to expand your class even further, depending on how you want to specialize it. It's important to map out your skill points however as resetting them can be a pain, but more on that later.
While Elsword can easily be played as a solo experience, it's a much better time to be had when you have others to take along with you. Not only are you able to tackle given quests at a higher difficulty level, the rewards are usually better, and let's face it, it's just plain more fun to slash up monsters with others tagging along.
You do have the option to raise and bring pets along with you as well. The raising and taking care of these pets is actually quite sophisticated, since they involve getting stronger and eventually evolving. Taking care of it doesn't really require much aside from battling enemies in dungeons which keeps it happy, and feeding it when its hungry. Your pet is able to buff and attack as well, which makes it a worthy companion.