Holic Online: Full Game Review

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games cost no money
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games sell you clothes
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games are just too grindy
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Holic is all of those

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certainly has a thing for creepy bunnies.

Normally I wouldn’t attempt to describe a gaming experience
with partially appropriated song lyrics ( style="font-style: italic;">please don’t
sue me Mick Jagger!), but in
the case of href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1842"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Holic Online,
it seems fitting. The free-to-play MMOG from Netgame certainly has some
features that deviate from the norm in interesting ways, as highlighted
in my recent href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/61955" target="_blank">preview,
but the coolness factor wears off once you realize some of those
features are dazzling camouflage attempting to hide a thinly veiled
quest grind oriented game. In a sense, distilling the whole of my
experience with Holic down to a few rhyming lines works, as the game is
all about surface rather than substance. I may also simply be trying to
get Holic’s in-game music to stop running through my head,
but I’ll get to that aspect of the game in a moment.

Once upon a time, I spent countless hours playing a little game called href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/38"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest.
One of the ironies of that title was that I spent proportionately less
time questing than doing just about anything else. As many players
would tell you, the social aspects of EQ were what glued the experience
together, since bread-crumbing quests hadn’t become an
industry norm at that point. When you style="font-style: italic;">did
embark on a quest, it was a meaty experience that could last for days,
or in some cases even weeks.

In contrast, questing in Holic gives players the appearance that
there’s always something to do in the game, though it only
ultimately serves the base functions of giving you a reason to grind
specific mobs, or lead you to the next hub full of NPCs who want you to
kill the same mobs in a different order. While there are some FedEx
quests with the additional twist of being on a timer, simply sticking
to questing in Holic can be a rather bland experience once the initial
charm of seeing giant killer bunnies and blowfish wears off.

While completing the “kill ten Hare Horrors” quests
will help you advance through levels a bit more quickly, for solo
players you’ll really start to feel the grind by the time you
reach the early teens. Thankfully, there are some pretty cool carrots
waiting for you at level 20 that make some of the grind well worth the

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Human Cannon makes travel in Holic a blast - literally.

Chief among them would be the ability to create your own quests and
dungeons. When I finished off my initial preview, this is one aspect of
Holic I was most excited to go back to and check out. While my
imagination at that point may have been bigger than the list of
customization options, the idea of creating dungeons that the rest of
the server could enjoy is still something I’d love to see in
more MMOGs.

After surviving some of the nuttiness to be found at Nut Ranch,
you’ll only be a few hops away from Lunatia Town, which is
the primary city hub for Holic. Mind you, the temptation to be shot out
of the Human Cannon kept pulling me in before I ever made it to the NPC
who serves as your window to amateur dungeon building, but gaining the
ability to ride some of Holic’s comical mounts at level 20
helps a bit with the return trip. My personal favorite is a bizarre
purple grub-dragon, which is essentially a giant bouncing purple ball
with a goat’s head stuck on top. Did I mention that Holic has
its charming elements? The Hopi is certainly one of them!

Dungeon creation boils down to a slick interface that allows you to
tweak certain pre-defined elements, such as level range, mob type and
loot. While these dungeons share a lot in common with normal gameplay
thanks to a limited amount of overall options, they’re wildly
popular with players. In fact, most of the people I spoke to consider
the user created dungeons to be the best way to experience the game
once you reach the initial level requirements. On average, drops and
experience tend to be better than what’s found in overland
zones, and otherwise it’s a great way to experience the game
as a group.

Another important milestone in character advancement would be the
ability to have attack pets. These come in all shapes and sizes, but I
do have a certain fondness for the clanky little bucket crab you obtain
after completing the initial unlock quest.

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of Holic's charm wears thin once the grind sets in.

If some of the more absurd graphical aspects of Holic tend to be what
kept drawing me back into the game, the audio components had me wanting
to run in the opposite direction once I got there. Mind you,
environmental sounds fit the visual style of the game fairly well, such
as the “ style="font-style: italic;">Boing Boing”
sound made by my Hopi bouncing down the road. The in-game music is
another story entirely – think of the overly chipper Sims
theme playing in an endless loop. At first, the notion of bopping
mushroom beasts over the head against an audio backdrop more suited to
an episode of Sesame Street was certainly fun, but pretty quickly I
found myself bopping the off button on my speakers instead.

While Holic clearly isn’t attempting to offer the kind of
depth found in triple-A MMOGs, I can see how it might be attractive for
a younger audience. There’s enough odd visual elements to
keep you entertained so long as you can overlook the fact that the
majority of gameplay boils down to grinding mobs. Between groups, the
grind can definitely bring the overall experience down, but
that’s nothing getting shot out of the Human Cannon
can’t fix!

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/ 5

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