Thursday, April 19, 2012

NEStalgia: 8bit meets MMO

This is an article I wrote for a contest and was published. I've already spoke of NEStalgia in guide posts and in passing, but here is an actual over-view of the game.

Article published here.

For video game fanatics who miss the classic games of the past, NEStalgia is the online game for you.
A mix of Dragon Warrior and MMOs, NEStalgia is an 8-bit online RPG filled with older RPG references while having its own original content. From fighting a classic slime monster, helping random town-folks with their stupid problems, to saving the world for reasons you are not quite sure about yet, you’ll find the many classic gaming clich├ęs with a modern appeal. The difficulty tries to emulate the olden times as well, so expect to grind a fair amount. Expect turn-based combat, random encounters, and a choice of playing on a PvP (Player Vs Player) server or PvE (Player Vs Environment) server.

The game is currently hosted on BYOND (Build Your Own Net Dream), a website and community that is devoted to people creating games, and sharing them to the public. NEStalgia is free to play, but you can unlock additional content by becoming a subscriber. 

Now, I know there are some people that when they hear you pay to unlock additional content, that the paying people will somehow be stronger or better than free players (I was one of those skeptics at first as well). This is not true; the developer has made an effort so that subscriber does not automatically mean you are superior or should be better in any way. The main only benefits a subscriber has are: 

  • Access to four other classes, which are neither better nor worse than the “free” four.
  •  A special “shared” storage that allows a player to easily hand off items to their other characters, including “soul bound” items (items that, once equipped, cannot be normally traded to other players or characters). Note that the sharing of soul-bound items is rumored to be discontinued in a future update as well. 
  • Special portals that a subscriber can use to warp to different towns with ease (for a healthy amount of gold).
  •  Use of color dyes or masks to change a player’s appearance. This also extends to “Appearance Rods” that can transform you into animals or monsters (such as a slime, bunny, or cat).
  • Special “crystals” that can mimic utility spells normally learned by certain classes. One example, the “Recall” spell, which returns you to the last town you entered, or “Outside,” a spell that lets you exit a dungeon or cave.
  • Able to create your own guild. You can still join a guild without being a subscriber, though!
The benefits mainly are superficial, time-saving, or general perks that do not have a real impact on balance; other than different class’s abilities, anything a subscriber can do, a free user can too.
You have a choice of 4 different classes from the start; Soldier, Ranger, Cleric, and Wizard, aka the “free” classes. Despite them not being paid for, they happen to be the most specialized classes in the field. 

  • Soldier is the best physical tank in the game, and has the highest base attack power. However, it is quite vulnerable to magical attacks.
  • Cleric is your specialized heal-and-support character with capabilities to becoming a decent fighter.
  • Wizard is your typical frail, multi-targeting caster with some small buffs and debuff spells.
  • Ranger is a mix of the three, having a fair amount of heal spells (but not as many or potent as a cleric), able to cast multi-target spells (but only one element type compared to the three elements a wizard has), and can put into becoming a tank or fair physical attacker. It also happens to be the second fastest class in the game (naturally anyway).
If you become a subscriber, you have access to four other classes, Ninja, Merchant, Warlock, or Conjurer. 
  • Ninja, the fastest class in the game and comparable to a monk or martial artist type, is very strong physically, but has low hp and mp, and can only wear light to medium armor equipment. It also has some supportive skills, such as slowing down an enemy, or burst damage that occurs in 5 turns.
  • Merchants can have its party gain more gold per battle and increases its own item drop chances. It also is the second strongest class in the game (possible to become stronger than Soldier depending builds), decent tanking abilities, and has pretty average speed. It also can take magical damage better than a Soldier would, but still is a bit vulnerable to them. It also has a small array of supportive moves, such as able to check an enemy’s stats in battle, confusing enemies, or self healing.
  • Warlocks attack by using skills that cost them their health. Most of their attacks will heal them as they cast, but they also are capable of healing their party mates. While they have a bit of a magey stat and equipment build, they can become decent tanks since their attacks heal the damage off them. Two iconic abilities they can use involve sending the damage it takes back at all enemies, and sacrificing itself to revive its allies.
  • Conjurers are similar to sages; they have healing and offensive magic. However, it’s in a different style compared to clerics or wizard; their spells are base over time. When cast, their target will either be healed or damaged by a certain amount each turn for three turns, freeing them to do anything else they may need to do for awhile. If specialized, they can become quite powerful, offensively or healing. However, they also have the lowest hp and defense in the game, and their spells are fairly expensive, so they aren’t some sort of omnipotent caster class.
Characters are also very unique, in that you use a skill tree to form what sort of build your character will be. While you can obtain skills from the tree, rest assured you also come with certain skills automatically. For instance, no cleric can be without a basic heal spell, or wizard without a basic attack spell. You also can allocate up to 9 seeds to boost certain aspects of you character (more intelligence on wizard for spell power, extra healing power for clerics, and so on), and use a variety of different equipment to not just be a cookie-cutter type of character.

Example of a Skill tree
 As mentioned before, the game’s battles are turn-based. For those who might not actually know what “turn-based” is… Really? It means that you and your party picks its actions at start of battle, and then the battle plays out, often using a (r)andom (n)umber (g)enerator. As with most RPGs, you have typical battles you fight in random encounters found on the world map or in dungeons or caves, and you also have boss battles, both mini or main types. Often with boss battles, you will need the help of party mates, but it’s not entirely impossible to solo most the game, though it’s a heck of a challenge. You can have a party of up to three other players, though coming soon, you will be able to catch and use monsters as part of you party to help you out. You know, just in case your friends aren’t on, or otherwise can’t find any party-mates.

Also, PvP tournaments are held on all servers every now and then. Unfortunately, at the time of this post, tournaments are mostly halted due to an automatic tournament system in the works. However, I hear that the auto-tournament system is nearly completed, so scheduled tournaments will become a staple in game. The benefit of participating or even simply observing the tournament is being able to win colosseum badges. These badges have a small store of equipment meant for pvp battles, but also some special dyes or masks for subscribers. This is especially beneficial for those on a PvP server, but also good for anyone’s future tournament endeavors. 

While playing the game, you also get an opportunity to talk to the game creator and his staff. SilkWizard, the creator of the game, takes suggestions and feedback in the game forums, often giving a personal response. He and his staff also go in game often. I’d estimate at least once a day, but not necessarily every day. Usually, they’ll give a response to questions, unless they may be busy at the time, but that’s what the forums are for.

NEStalgia is still a game in progress. At the time of this article, the max level is 32, there are only 8 classes, and there are only two servers. However, updates that are on the way include the already mentioned monster companion system to help party-starved players obtain full parties, and the content expansion is planned to be worked on afterwards. In the content expansion, the max level will be boosted to 45, new places to explore, and rumors of being able to buy your own boat. The game will not likely be “complete” for years, but will be on-going. In the works is a standalone client, so one does not need to download BYOND’s program in order to play. There are special events that are planned around the year (such as Easter and 4th of July specials) to give you a change of pace from the main story line. With monster companions coming soon, one could also spend their time “catching them all” and training all the possible monsters, if that is your thing. 

Why not give it a try? If you like 8 bit rpgs, and playing with people online, this game may be for you. If you do not want to play it… I only have this to say to you.


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