My first thoughts on booting up Elsword was how similar the Korean-made MMO felt to MapleStory. Both titles are side-scrolling beat-’em-ups, and both titles feature a colorful, brightly-detailed world, an enjoyable soundtrack, and a whole lot of entertaining action. Unfortunately, it also shares MapleStory faults, which it adds to a few glaring problems of its own. Before I start going on about the game’s faults, however, I’d like to address what it does right.
Elsword’s positively brimming with flair, for one, equipped with a top-notch combat system. Battles with both monsters and other characters are fluid and fast-paced, and each pf the nine classes feels and plays with its own unique style. For example, I chose to start the game with a swordsman named Raven, a melee powerhouse who excels at positioning and close-quarters combat; Raven is furthermore equipped with a unique ability called Awakening, which grants him a Nasod core which grows larger whenever he deals damage, takes damage, or uses special abilities. that grants him a At level fifteen, I chose to advance to the Sword Taker class, which allows Raven to attack with lightning speed, and grants him access to a series of powerful sword-based combos, at the expense of letting his Nasod-based abilities wither somewhat. Though I didn’t get that far, I could have advanced again – into a Blade Master, at level 35.
Unfortunately, the process of leveling up isn’t exactly a simple one. See, Elsword shares a problem that’s distressingly common amongst MMORPGs of its ilk – it happens to be a completely unapologetic grindfest. While some of you may not necessarily see that as a problem, it meant that eventually, it became far too repetitive, forcing me to constantly re-run already completed segments of the game simply to advance my character. Though the game tosses in a few unique touches – a pet system that allows you to get buffs in battle, secret dungeons, and invasion – all of that ultimately falls flat when pitted against the sheer volume of repetition.
The game’s setting and character furthermore are somewhat marred by the lack of customization options and the consistently poor writing, which often reads as though the team that localized Elsword translated the in-game text, but not much else. As for customization, there are a lot of options for players to forge their own unique playstyle, and that’s great – I just would have liked to see more visual options outside of the in-game shop (which we’ll talk about in a moment. It was quite common to see carbon copies of my character running around, with only some gear to differentiate us from one another; it would have been nice if I could have changed my base appearance a touch.
Monotony, customization, and localization are the least of Elsword’s problems, however. The MMO is pay-to-win in the worst way possible, allowing players to purchase game-changing gear and equipment from the in-game store at a premium. This causes a severe imbalance in PVP, which is already saddled with a less-than-stellar matchmaking system. Given the strong offerings elsewhere, it’s unfortunate that Elsword falls into this all-too-common trap of the genre.
Ultimately, while Elsword has a great deal of style, that style lacks substance. What we’ve got here is another grind-heavy action MMO marred by too much repetition and a thorough abuse of the F2P business model. If you want a side-scrolling Action RPG, there are better choices on the market.