Archive

Holic Online: Full Game Review

Posted Sun, Feb 01, 2009 by Sardu

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

Holic certainly has a thing for creepy bunnies.

Normally I wouldn’t attempt to describe a gaming experience with partially appropriated song lyrics (please don’t sue me Mick Jagger!), but in the case of 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 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 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 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 effort.

The 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.

Some 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 “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!

(3 / 5 Hammers)



Angry Blowfish
Reviews
Sun, Feb 01, 2009
Sardu
Images, Media
Sun, Feb 01, 2009
Sardu
CA-DW-garagrim-ironfist
Features
Fri, Jan 30, 2009
Sardu
Mount
Features, Previews
Sun, Jan 25, 2009
Sardu

News from around the 'Net