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Holic Online Preview

Posted Sun, Jan 25, 2009 by Sardu

After the relatively painless experience of getting started in Lunia earlier this month, I was perhaps a bit too optimistic about trying more free-to-play games on for size. While the Lunia download and install process was quick, easy and had me in-game within a short period of time, I had to jump through more than a few hoops before getting as far with Holic. It seems Dalmarus isn’t the only one to get bit by the bad install bug as January winds to a close, which leads me to wonder if quality F2P games are truly gaining ground after all.

The Koshare are one of two playable races in Holic.

At one point or another, we’ve all experienced the joys of getting a new MMOG installed, only to have our excitement for jumping into the game shattered by the dreaded Mega Patch of Doom. Since the game server was down for a client update during the install process, I knew going in that a patch of some sort would be involved before I could launch Holic, though I didn’t expect a patch that took 3 times longer than the initial setup process considering the client itself is only around 1gig.

The Holic hoop proved to be a bit more frustrating than simple patching woes though, and this one comes with a small warning to any Firefox users out there who may be considering taking the game for a virtual spin. Though the patcher and game client will ultimately open in a separate window, players will log in and launch Holic directly from the main game portal at Netgame, which is ultimately where you’ll end up even if attempting to launch the game via a desktop shortcut. Sounds simple enough though, right?

Rather than being greeted by the familiar glow of a game patcher when pressing the big, shiny “Game Start” button, I was instead directed to another page that informed me Firefox users need to install a plug-in first. Whether it’s due to a patch that’s not compatible with the latest version of FF or not is hard to say, but unfortunately no matter what I’ve tried Holic simply won’t run in anything other than Internet Explorer, which is a shame considering most FF users intentionally opt out of using IE. Either way, it’s never a good sign when you find yourself trying to figure out how to contact customer service before seeing your first in-game frame.

Resigned to play Holic in IE, and finding myself with some extra time on my hands while the mega-patch worked it’s magic on my hard drive, it seemed like a good opportunity to read through some game guides and familiarize myself with what Holic is all about. While basic, the offered guides are simple enough for a younger audience, or one unfamiliar with common MMOG control schemes to understand, though many of the translations are a bit rough around the edges. This is also a running theme that carries over into the game itself, but thankfully the odd phrases and excessive use of exclamations don’t mar the overall experience.

Every MMO should have a Human Cannon.

It’s unfortunate that getting started in Holic requires the kind of hoop jumping exercises that only Evil Knievel could truly appreciate - Perhaps it was due to the lowered expectations carried over from the install process, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found once Holic was finally up and running a few hours later.

On the surface, Holic could be described as World of Warcraft Extra Lite – apparently the influence of Blizzard’s unstoppable MMOG beast is farther reaching than I’d realized, as many aspects of Holic’s core gameplay are strikingly similar, right down to the yellow question marks that float above quest NPCs. Mind you most quests boil down to the “kill ten rats” variety, although in Holic’s case I suppose that should be “kill ten giant killer mushrooms and fluffy bunnies”. That said, Holic does have a few cool mechanics hidden up its virtual sleeves that shouldn’t be overlooked, as they help distinguish the game from the crowd in some meaningful ways.

Call it what you will, but I have an odd attraction to some of the more absurd things that make their way into MMOGs, as they can help transform an ordinary experience into something truly memorable. For example, the first time I realized that WoW’s Darkmoon Faire had a cannon you could launch your characters out of, I ended up spending an entire afternoon littering Elwynn Forest with skeletons from my many failed attempts at a proper landing. I’ve also been known to spend entire weekends from dusk till dawn participating in Guild Wars’ Roller Beetle Racing, but that’s beside the point.

While the Darkmoon cannon may have been a sideshow attraction, Holic took the same concept and transformed it into one of the cooler forms of travel I’ve seen in an MMOG. After completing some initial quests and getting a feel for the game, players will make their way to Lunatia Town, which serves as a main city hub and is also notably where the awesome Human Cannon resides. Not only is this my new favorite form of travel, but the Human Cannon makes getting out into the numerous overland zones a breeze – a simple interface lets you select your destination, and then off you go!

Holic is home to some strange truly strange creatures.

The main starting zone, Feather Plain, is home to an odd assortment of creatures like the above mentioned killer mushrooms and deranged bunnies. Even if most gameplay ultimately boils down to grinding, at least you’ll be fighting mob types that clearly deviate from the norm. Chalk another point up for Holic’s charm in this department.

Upon reaching level 10 as your main class, players are offered a quest that allows them to pick up a second class from the list of primary occupations – warrior, mage, monk, hunter, rogue or priest. Rather than a Guild Wars style dual class system where you have access to skills from both professions simultaneously, the system in Holic will allow you to switch between the two classes at will. Upon doing so, everything about your character will switch, including equipped items and having to level your second class up from level one. Character stats will also reflect whichever class is currently active, but thanks to earning double XP on the lower one, it’s not all that hard to keep the two roughly even.

This system offers a lot of flexibility when grouping, since your tank can easily double as a healer in a pinch for example. Thanks to being able to swap out secondary classes at any time via the initial quest NPC, it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to say that the game caters to all the alt-a-Holics out there. (I know, bad pun, but I couldn’t resist)

While overland mobs are typically easy for the solo player to manage, Holic offers numerous dungeons that require groups, at least if you hope to obtain some of the better drops in the game from the various bosses. Speaking of dungeons, another aspect of Holic that helps distinguish it from the crowded F2P market are the user-created quests and dungeons. I only had the chance to tinker around with the system, so haven’t managed to create any dungeons of my own as of yet, but doing so is at the top of my list before diving into writing a full review.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to scampering around the Holy Land of Holic some more, unlocking my first customizable pets and figuring out what those bizarre purple grub-dragons I see people riding around actually are.

Angry Blowfish
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