Phantasy Star Universe
Good Knight, time moves forwards. However, in the arse-backwards development cycle of Phantasy Star Universe, it feels as if Sega have put together not only one of the most disappointing MMOs ever released, but taken us back to the heady days of lacklustre 56k gaming on the Dreamcast.
If you've had the chance to play the first two Phantasy Star Online games, you'll have some inkling of what PSU has in store; you walk into an area densely packed with monsters, hammer one or two buttons to beat them to death, walk out with a bit of money, then head back home to synthesise yourself a new weapon, The problem is that the gameplay hasn't changed since then. Unlike EverQuest II, there's no epic storyline. Unlike World of Warcraft, there's no gigantic world, raiding or varied content In fact, compare it to any other MMO out there and they'll probably be a better alternative.
The online (Network) mode is made up of several 'planets' and 'colonies', which roughly translate in lazy-MMO slang into 'hubs' which you can buy stuff in or use to travel to missions. These missions are usually a two-dimensional hack-and-slash affairs, and no matter how hard Sega pretends, the gigantic universe boils down to a few planets, with a few enemies, along with missions that are a monotonous slog.
Battles are simplistic real-time bashfests that are won by strafing around enemies, shooting, hitting, dodging obvious attacks and healing yourself. While most MMOs have a huge menagerie of creatures per zone, each 'planet' in PSU has its own small stable. Beasties rush you and you beat them, and then do it again and again in a slightly different order - and across each mission there's little change. It's all the same things being thrown at you in bigger, higher-level waves until you level enough to move on. That's alright though; Phantasy Star Universe is only made up of four worlds of painful, repetitive content.
As if to add insult to injury, the game looks, feels and reacts like a wonky console port. Attempting to play it without a game pad is nigh-on impossible, and even doing so is a process of trial and error as you work out what each button does, and exit to reconfigure - there's no way to do this in game, and the defaults are awful.
When you do get going, the menus have an awkward limp to them - and there's no mouse support. It's a messy, unintuitive shambles that would've looked amateurish years ago - let alone in this day and age.
It's hard to understand why Sega released Phantasy Star Universe, except to pick up the few desperate fanboys. There's no storyline to Network mode, and no real point to missions beyond endless monstermashing and key-hunting, with the occasional boring boss battle. Regardless of having a monthly fee, the game lags even while going solo, with apparently dodged attacks knocking you over and other players sliding around like they're on ice. The entire package is a pointless cycle of fighting, buying, making and selling that has no rhyme or reason; unless you're talking about the Story mode, which is an embarrassment of an RPG.
Even the crisp, high-resolution graphics can't save this ridiculous failure of an MMO. Phantasy Star Universe is nothing more than the laggy, repetitive transvestite cousin of Zelda. Avoid this like a Paris Hilton'-borne strain of bird flu.