Does the game live up to the buzz? Well, closed beta began on the 14th, and I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to check it out. Follow along after the jump for a look at Battle of the Immortals.
Welcome to Battle of the Immortals! How does this thing work?
Let's start with the basics: character creation, the introduction, and gameplay. Character creation is pretty quick -- choose your character's class, sex, birthday/star sign, avatar, hair and face. Hair and face appearance are selected from a handful of options such as "romantic", "average", and "exotic." You'll have five classes to choose from: Berserker, Slayer, Champion, Magus, and Heretic. Once you're in the game, the first twenty levels are all about becoming familiar with Battle of the Immortals -- a tutorial of sorts, so that's where we'll begin as well.
Your welcome message also lets you know that Valkyrie is waiting for you. Valkyrie is the first NPC you'll encounter, so run over and talk to her -- no, take your hand off of those WASD keys, this game is click to move. Valkyrie sends you off on a desert chase adventure: hunting down ancient relics, killing desert creatures such as giant scorpions, and the standard fetching and carrying for NPCs.
While questing, you'll come across a few ups and downs. Battle of the Immortals features auto-walk. Just click the name of your goal in the quest information, and off you go. In the case of NPCs, this feature is almost a necessity -- BoI had a pretty huge response to closed beta and ended up opening a second server. Because of this, the hordes of players surrounding most NPCs make it difficult to click on them directly. Fighting mobs is pretty much a snap since they don't do much damage, so the various kill-ten-rats quests aren't bad at all.
While you have to reach higher levels to access things such as mounts (level 25) and Soul Gear (level 45), pets are available right away. The method of accessing pets is extremely simple: every creature you kill has a chance of being tameable. If it is, you'll see a small icon indicating so. Just click on that, and you'll have your pet. You'll want to keep an eye on your pet's stats. They level up and take damage just like we do, so be sure to heal your pet as needed by feeding it. When your pet levels, s/he'll be assigned points that you can distribute among the stats -- you'll get a reminder in the form of a flashing pet icon at the bottom of your screen. Can't decide which awesome creature you want as a pet? No problem. You can have up to three pets at a time to cycle through at will. You can stow and summon pets, as well as permanently releasing them if you'd like to make room for a new one. The pet system overall is very well done. It's diverse and fun, while still remaining clear enough to not be confusing. The constant possibility of adding a fancy new pet from nearly any mob throughout the game adds a great element. Kudos to PWE for implementing this system!
Life begins at level 20
One you hit level 20, new areas open up and the game suddenly goes way beyond "Go here, kill fifteen of those creatures". It's very easy to get overwhelmed here, and the knowledge that the much-touted soul gear and mounts are available at higher levels makes it pretty tempting to power through everything as fast as you can to get to the shiny stuff.
Don't do that. You're going to wind up horribly confused, because the game only holds your hand for so long. What's more, you are going to miss out on a lot that really makes Battle of the Immortals shine. Soul Gear and a nifty mount system are great, but they are not where BoI begins and ends. You're going to find yourself in Atlantis Square, a city packed with NPCs, and they all have some very informative things to say. Just slow down and spend some time wandering around and chatting with them. The tab key is the preset hotkey for your area map, and if you open that you'll find a list of all the NPCs in the city. The list carries the auto-run feature, so simply click on the one you want to visit, and off you go. You'll find an NPC that hands out daily freebies, a skill trainer that can buff up your current skills and offer more, and you'll learn that Soul Gear isn't the only cool gear out there!
Perfect World Entertainment has found a perfect balance in this game. It's extensive -- much more so than you'd expect to find with 2.5d free-to-play -- without being overly complicated. You need to pay attention to your surroundings, because this is definitely not a blind hack and slash game. Taking your time and learning as you go will show you a truly impressive game.
One last caveat if you are planning to check out Battle of the Immortals. This is currently in closed beta, which means that you will find little glitches here and there. While there's nothing game breaking, or even really game hindering, it's there. Throw out a bug report on the forums if you come across anything, and have fun!