reviews\ Apr 11, 2006 at 8:00 pm

RF Online - PC - Review

The Core is the center of the universe, as far as three races are concerned. Controlling the Core – a valuable mine – means controlling the needed resources to create better armor, weapons and the other equipment needed to fight not only the monsters dotting the landscape, but also other players in the Core.

In many ways, that is the ‘core’ of RF Online, a sci-fi meets fantasy massively multiplayer title from Codemasters (and CCR Incorporated). However, if you really want to break down the overall experience, despite the fancy colors and some ‘new’ concepts, the word that best describes RF Online is ‘grind.’

From the beginning, you are giving missions to eliminate ’x’ amount of this mob or that. Finding the mobs can be challenging. The mapboard is dissected into longitude and latitude numbers and letters and if you use a site like you can locate the coordinates of the monsters without having to dash through mobs that will not only aggro on you regardless of the level difference, but can one-shot you.

However, that is getting ahead of the game mechanics. To put the game mechanics and style into perspective, RF Online was created and released in Korea a couple of years ago and has a big following in the Asian landscape. As such, the game sports the anime graphic style that is similar to Lineage II – elves with big ears, and smaller humanoid characters that factor in cuteness with big eyes.  

Players begin by choosing one of three races. There are five servers (with three character slots per server) in operation, and you can only pick one race per server. The races are the Accretia (technology-based cyborgs), the Bellato Union (smaller elvish-looking race with big eyes) and the Cora (taller more ethereal-looking elves that are strong in magic). There are four total classes available – the warrior (melee), ranger, spiritualist and specialist. Only the specialist class can craft. The Bellato are renowned for using mechs. You can do some cursory character model customization, but it is not as deep as more current games. Most of the character customization will come about after you begin leveling and get monster drops, and will be in the form of weapons used or armor.

Both weapons and armor (and mechs, though it is tied to the game’s currency as well – as in you will need a lot of it), are level specific. You may find a weapon that will effectively double your damage output, but you might not be able to use it for several levels. Some of the weapons and armor come with buffs on them. A ‘vampire’ weapon may have a 5% chance to return health to you upon a successful attack – by way of example.

As you level, you will receive telepathic communiqués that will give you another mission. You actually do not have to go looking for them. However, you may wish to learn about the portals scattered in various outposts and headquarters of the races that will shoot you out to another area. Running to them is not recommended as this can often track you through ‘ace’ monsters (read that as ‘bring friends’) that will make short work of a solo fighter.

At level 10, you are given the mission that is a bit of a coming-of-age quest, but later on you get to delve into the nuances of the class system. Defining your class really starts to happen at level 30. If you go Cora Ranger, for example, at level 30 you can define your class by going either archer or hunter. With each class change (there is another at 40) you acquire class specific skills.

Very much a point-and-click game, you move and attack this way. Where the game takes a bit of a different turn is in the way it handles experience and combat. As a ranger class, you get some skills that may speed up the reset for your attacks or launch a series of attacks within a few short seconds. Each time you use a skill, you can level it up a bit. This leads to more skills on that particular skill tree. And each time you attack a mob, not kill it – merely attack it, you get experience points. While it makes leveling easier, it does not necessarily make it faster. To avoid downtime (the ban of all grinds in MMOs) you can purchase potions that will replenish your health and your force (mana, to power special skills). Each has a small reset timer, but you can take on some bigger mobs with a few dozen pots and spam the heals to win.

At level 25 it is time to enter the battle for the Core. This is the PvP zone of the game, and essentially the races collect at the appointed time (it is on an eight-hour timer), duke it out in a massive crazy burst in which each side tries to destroy the Chip (think of it as a flag) of the other races. The race at the end with their Chip intact is the winner, and controls the Core. Controlling the Core yields the richest ores and that equates into a wealth of coin. After the timer for controlling the Core ends, rinse and repeat. There are not level restrictions in the PvP zone, so if you go in there, during the battle for the Core, you can be taken down by any level character.

The economics of the game seem, at the onset, not all that hard. With each kill you gain drops that can be cashed in. The money accumulates relatively fast – and then you go to buy something and realize that you are holding pennies when the price you are being asked to pay runs much higher (the equivalent of hundreds or thousands of dollars).

The specialist is the crafter/miner of the classes. Like the leveling system, you need to actually use the skills to advance them. Because most mobs drop the materials needed to craft, you can start early but do not expect much success as a younger player. You will need to buy the kits that hold the recipes for the various items you can craft. Each recipe comes with a list of ingredients and some are dropped by mobs at certain levels.

In addition to melee and ranged attacks, there are also special force attacks. These require players to seek training from a force master. Banks can also be utilized and characters on the same account share the bank. If you have a spiritualist and find a particularly tasty bow or shotgun, or machine gun, for your ranged class, just drop it in the bank and swap out characters to pick it up. A specialist in the house can make armor and weapons for other characters and get them to other characters through the banking system.

Graphically, RF Online (when you load the game up, a title screen proclaims Romance & Fantasy – can see the latter, but not the former) is a solid title, even though it is working off an engine that is a couple of years old. There are monsters that run the gamut from kangaroo-looking things with monocles (flem) to mobs that resemble prehistoric raptors, or other fantastical creatures. The landscapes are solid, but not that exceptional. The audio is repetitive and can be a tad annoying after a while.

There is a learning curve when it comes to the control scheme and hot commands. While not straying too far from what is somewhat stock for the industry, finding the right commands can be trying (Ok, no manual with the game, so that presented a bit of a problem). For example, to speak in broadcast within the game, you type in /map followed by your message. ‘Map’ is not exactly the word that would typically come to mind.

Overall, RF Online is a game that is long on grind, but has a very good player community. Finding a group is not that hard to do and asking for help is usually greeted with an answer.  The game does, though, have a lot of repetition and the end game is merely battle after countless battle to control the Core. And there is just something odd about seeing an elf, usually associated with medieval fantasy, running about with a machine gun.

The niche for this game may be the more hardcore player, not the one that is looking to jump into an MMO for the first time.

Review Scoring Details for RF Online

Gameplay: 6.7
The game is a grind – there is no simple way to state that softly. You are given quests at each level that will require you to be higher in level to complete them. The learning curve is short for the experienced MMO gamer, and mostly deals with the control scheme.

Graphics: 8.0
The monsters are inventive, and while there are some clipping problems, the game’s graphics are a nice blend of anime styles. The game has some resemblance to Lineage II, but that is not a bad thing.

Sound: 6.5
Repetitive and not all that special to begin with.

Difficulty: Medium/Hard
There is a bit of a learning curve, but it mostly comes in understanding the interface. The concepts of the game can be grasped relatively quickly.

Concept: 7.8
Experience per successful attack is a nice thing. The game has a few ideas that bring on some nice tactical elements (like leveling skills through usage – not new, but well implemented) and allow players to create characters that are not so much cookie-cutter classes.

Multiplayer: 8.4
Regardless of the server, the community does have its share of spammers (those who riddle the chat channels with nonsense or insults), but generally speaking, the community in this game is helpful and friendly.

Overall: 6.8
This is a title that is fit for the Asian style of gaming, which means it is long on grind. The missions seem a little disjointed in terms of receiving them and being able to accomplish them, but this may be an attempt to force players into groups. The game, though does have some unique concepts and graphical treatments that make it intriguing and entertaining. Recommended for the more hardcore MMOer, RF Online may not have the depth of play offered by other titles in the genre, but it does a decent job. The end game, at this stage, is a repetitive battle for the Core.

Above Average

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