Revelation Online has garnered a lot of attention since entering closed beta in the West last November, and deservedly so. From a fire hose of nicely localized early level content to solid social, PvP, dungeon, and raid options, everything is packaged in a thoughtful, intuitive, and maybe even slightly hyperactive UI.
I recently spoke with Maikel van Dijk, part of My.com’s PR team for the game, who was kind enough to answer a number of my questions after the open beta went live earlier this month.
What Makes Revelation Online Different
Revelation Online is NetEase’s first effort to bring a self-developed title to a worldwide audience, but this massive publisher studio has operated Western IPs like World of Warcraft in China for years. They’ve clearly been paying attention to what works.
It’s hard to come up with a list of reasons or features to explain why Revelation Online is succeeding where so many free-to-play Asian MMO ports failed. An (by now) extensive localization effort, complete with emotive and transliterative (rather than just “translated”) storytelling, certainly helps. Riding on the quest rails will take you all the way to level 39 in an hours-long whirlwind of levels, systems, story, and player management,
“For me it’s more of a player-focused game than a marketing-driven game,” Maikel noted. “It’s in the simple things. If you find gear that’s better than what you’re wearing, you’ll have a little popup allowing you to equip it right away. There’s thought to it.” While many of these convenience features – auto-pathing to quest-givers and mobs, items easily organized by tier, color coded quests, and a UI that can’t wait to have you do something – anything - all of the time – can be found in other games, it’s how it all comes together and keeps you engaged for hours on end in a charming yet familiar world.
For all that, Revelation Online is still built as a free-to-play game from the ground up. Revelation Online answers the decade-old question of how to offer value for a la carte goods without devaluing non- or low-paying players’ time and efforts in a fairly modest way – lots of appearance items and a bit of nagging at logout to purchase premium goods and services.
I asked Maikel when we’d run into a paywall. On the face of the matter, the answer seemed to be that you’d get the functionality for free on just about everything, but you pay for faster progression and deeper customization. Maikel noted that another My.com published game, Warface, has different revenue solutions for each market, and these solutions have different solutions and premium features in almost every market. With Revelation Online being in open beta, the true answer might come in time.
One negative aspect of the game that didn’t wait was gold selling, and it’s certainly not unique to Revelation Online. From the moment you log into the game, you’re bombarded in region chat with websites offering paid in-game currency. “That’s why you’re not talking to someone on the producer level right now, they are simply too busy with that issue” Maikel explained.
“We’re happy with the security level of the game. But the money (Aurum) to in-game currency (Imperial coin) is closed for higher level characters – that was not an easy decision to make. As for goldsellers: for every smart person we put on it, they have a warehouse-full. They’ll always find ways. But we’re battling that and in time we’ll fix it.”
Your first task in Revelation Online is to choose a class. Even at early levels, playstyle varies greatly between the classes that I tried, though all classes have to master game fundamentals like dodge. Nonetheless, try as many as you're interested in.
Six classes are available at present: the tankish Vanguard, the crowd-controlling Swordmage, the direct damaging Occultist, the DPS-oriented Blademaster, and the healing-oriented Spirit Shaper. But for mid-range physical attacks, the gunslinger is your class, and was my choice for my first playthrough. Somewhat easier to play than other classes and with a leveling curve flatter than other classes (as is typical of ranged classes), the Gunslinger is a natural choice for players who prefer to go it alone but can eventually contribute solid DPS to groups as well.
One highly anticipated class didn't make the open beta list: the Assassin. A flashier, more badass version of the Blademaster, the Assassin has a darker, more ninja-like feel, especially while on a Final Fantasy-esque motorcycle mount (available through an in-game event). NetEase and My.com haven't announced a live date for the assassin, but when asked for a date, Maikel replied: “Definitely this year!”
Cosmetic options for your character are pretty standard for an RPG. That said, take a little extra time making your character something you’re comfortable with. In Revelation Online, unlike many free-to-play MMORPGs, you’ll be seeing a lot of your character up close during the game’s snappy quest dialogue sequences. I actually appreciated not having voiceover apart from a handful of UI prompts – it’s the kind of expensive AAA feature that slows down the pace of the game needlessly – but Maikel informed me that more voiceover is slated to come to the game soon.
The early leveling experience is fun, frantic, and almost too fast. The Eastern influence is rife – Maikel pointed out that within the first five levels you’re serving dinner made by the town’s raccoon – but after some initial schmaltz the tone gets more serious in a hurry.
Quest completions come like shotgun pellets to the face, as do level ups, but the game is punctuated with enough prompts and helps so that you’re never fully overwhelmed. Raiding, the concept of owning your own wings, and lore is somewhat force fed in the first 20 levels, but fortunately it’s fun and instructional too. Crafting, PvP etc. follow quite soon after.
All in all, it took me a little under 2 hours to pass through the first 20 levels, including an introductory dungeon experience. This was on schedule, according to Maikel. Yellow storyline quests easily take players to about level 20. A smattering of purple quests introduces key features. Daily (green) quests, side quests, the occasional dungeon or battleground, and an arena event called Trial of the Four Kings will take you to level 34.
But at level 39, the auto leveling train comes to a halt and you’ll have to make the decision consciously. Since dungeon content is bracketed, many players opt to pause leveling, gear up, and jump levels so they can be competitive in raiding and PvP at the top of each bracket. The current level cap is 69, and more level cap-targeted content is due this summer.
PvP and Battlegrounds
Staying at level 39 has another perk – avoiding open world PvP, which begins at level 40. Outside of safe zones, if you flag yourself, you’re fair game. “It’s good fun, but it’s niche.” Maikel explained. “For the people that want to be a bad guy, they can. But it can backfire. If the other guy doesn’t fight back, your slayer value (penalty) increases, until a point you might drop valuable when taken down by others. It’s really there to channel people into organized PvP.”
In terms of organized PvP, players can get their first taste of PvP in their 20s with a battleground. More battlegrounds and PvP options open up at later levels, especially in the context of guild involvement. This summer’s update will introduce various new battlegrounds, including an Arathi Basin-alike that’s sure to bring back memories.
Guilds and Housing
Guilds are a fundamental part of the game, and a gateway to higher-level raiding of fortresses (such as the pagoda you might have wondered about on the north part of the map) and higher level organized PvP, including the upcoming 100 vs 100 multi-guild battles. Guilds also have access to an instanced zone with, among other things, their own mining nodes. But there are other reasons and benefits to joining a guild.
Maikel explained: “There’s various reasons why guilds and especially social ties between players, in Revelation Online are more interesting than in most games. It has to do with creating more social ties for players. One of this what I call the soulmate system (it’s not in there under that name). You have a kind of intimacy level between players. By doing more quests together, that ranks up. Eventually you can sign a contract – some would call that marriage – but you want to be ‘married’ because you can unlock special abilties. One is to resurrect your partner, which comes in handy especially in PvP... It’s cute, and super useful.”
Another uniquely and upcoming sociable aspect of the game is housing. Being an Eastern-themed MMO, there has to be a gigantic beneficent turtle roaming the lands of Nuanor. In Revelation Online, this one has a massive Inn on his commodious back where players can carve out some space of their own. Over 160 items are already available to cozy up their apartment, some of which are interactive. If you happen to meet a neighbor you like in the lobby, you might invite them in for some spa time, for example. Player housing will also serve as a home to your companions as well.
With plenty of everything to keep players busy in the near term, NetEase and My.com are looking ahead to summer 2017 to introduce housing with the assassin class following. In April the team will focus on an update called “Stardust” which will introduce an interactive board game with many games to play within the game and a fully new battleground that will cater to the Player versus Player oriented crowds.
Our thanks to Maikel van Dijk of My.com for his insight into a promising open beta for Revelation Online.