Outspark’s  href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/721"
target="_blank">Secret of the Solstice (SoS) is a
pleasant trip through nostalgic gameplay elements in many ways. The
overhead view, graphical style, and fast paced combat remind me of
great console adventure games like  style="font-style: italic;"
href="http://www.zelda.com/universe/game/zelda" target="_blank">The
Legend of Zelda and href="http://www.vc-reviews.com/games/megadrive/landstalker"
Even so, I’m not exactly sure how I feel about SoS as a MMOG after
weeks of playing around with it. Many of the best features in SoS seem
better suited for single player experiences.

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style="font-style: italic;">Our hero is seen here killing
gobs. Or blobs. Or are those fobs? style="font-style: italic;">

A Graphical
Style to Make the Early 1990s Jealous

If you have played  href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/212"
, then you already know what to expect in
the graphics for SoS. If you missed RO, let me catch you up to speed.
The world is colorful and almost cartoony. Characters are chibi-style
with small frames and large heads. Just imagine populating any MMOG
with bobble heads; it’s a bit like that only cuter. The bobble heads
aren’t a bad thing, though; they are a small part of the image on the
player’s screen, and the player character is more a vehicle to
participate in the action than a persona brought to life through pixels.

accentuate this point, SoS presents content from a top-down perspective
(three-quarter) centered on the player. Removing the over-the-shoulder
and first person cameras used in most MMOGs drives home the message
that this game is about the action on the entire screen rather than the
player’s view through the eyes of the avatar. It made me consider
bringing out the old Nintendo Entertainment System to rescue Princess
Zelda one more time.

Don’t mistake my description of the graphical style for saying the game
looks bad or that there is zero character customization
because neither assumption is true. It’s simply a matter of
focusing on the experience over the appearance. Along those lines,
enemies start out as gobs and blobs and fobs (you get the idea).
They’re not very distinct, but they fit the theme. Later,
the enemies are more striking, and the spell effects are
suitably flashy without being over the top. Trees are cute little puffy
things, and houses are as adorable as they can be without being
constructed of gingerbread.

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a level becomes very rare early as the level curve gets steep in a

Polish Your Resume in Case
You Need a New Job

SoS chooses the oft-used, rarely-appreciated technique for
class selection: all players start as Xenians, an unspecialized fighter
type. At level 10, players can move toward more traditional roles along
the path of the squire (warriors), apprentice (casters), neophytes
(rogues), or acolytes (healers). Were SoS a single player game, the
ability to play through multiple times with different skill sets would
be a blessing, but the whole “work your way up to a class” thing seems
a bit tired in MMOGs, especially when players truly don’t get to test a
class until achieving a certain level (see  href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/38304" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Deco Online
for a game that implements this class feature well). It is very
disheartening to reach level fifteen and THEN find out you don’t like
your class.

At the very least, SoS does
present players with a decent mix of skills from across archetypes that
should give insight into what the classes are like. The level curve
steepens significantly around level ten, so some classes may fare
better at solo play than others. I only tested the squire and
apprentice, and it was a chore to reach level ten in both of those
classes. After flying through the first 7-8 levels, I started to hit a
grinding wall and really lost motivation to continue leveling my
generic characters.

Be Prepared to Imbibe More
Than the Town Drunk

One misconception I had upon entering style="font-style: italic;">Secret of the Solstice
was that health potions were to be conserved as a rare commodity. On
the contrary, SoS functions like many adventure games in that potions
are the primary way to replenish health and magic. Combat is fast-paced
with monsters chasing players all about the fields and training onto
you when they leave the screen. Respawns are quick (even in the
beginner area), meaning you’ll likely have to pop a few potions to
survive unexpected spawns of aggro mobs.

The potion mechanic poses both a treat and a problem for my
gameplay style. It’s nice to not have to rely on other players to heal
me. It’s great to not feel compelled to roll a healer to increase my
chances of survival during solo play. At the same time, the potion
mechanic again makes me think the game would be awesome as a single
player adventure game, and players learn to spam their way through
content any time potions can be used so liberally. Reliance on potions
stalls the growth of strategy and careful gameplay styles, replacing
them with a target="_blank">zerg and spam mentality. Again,
this is fine for adventure games, but this is a MMOG.

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style="font-style: italic;">The graphics won't win any
awards, but the adventure-style gameplay is charming. style="font-style: italic;">

Do Your Chores or You Can’t
Go Outside

Early quests in SoS are far from epic. Players will perform
chores for various NPCs around the starter town during those mundane
Xenian levels. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but it’s a little more
realistic that you have to start by collecting packages or cleaning a
house than the games where the gods come down to little ol’ level one
you and ask you to defeat the ultimate evil. Higher level quests get
more exciting and feature some pretty cool dungeons. Sadly, most of it
was not memorable to me. Perhaps my experience with the whole game was
colored by other aspects, but the story seems completely and utterly

Grouping is fun when you find mature players, but the game
fosters the  target="_blank">Leroy Jenkins playstyle a little
too much for my taste. Yet again, I found myself wishing the difficulty
were scaled for me to play solo.

Parting Thoughts

If I were to describe Secret
of the Solstice
to my best friend in the most brutal terms
possible, I’d say it’s a charming title that should have been a dungeon
crawler adventure game but that tried to get in on the MMOG bandwagon
instead. Some of the best features in SoS scream for the game to play
offline in a single player experience. While all of those features are
still enjoyable in a MMOG, they make for a lackluster experience.
Without a doubt, Outspark will find an audience that is bananas over
this game, but I can’t help but feel confused by what it is trying to
be. I never got around to all of the bells and whistles (crafting and
such) offered in SoS because I was not motivated by the gameplay.

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(2.5 / 5

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016