Sunday, September 29, 2013
Now in 2013, the game has had a second re-launch called Seal Online: Blades of Destiny, which retains all the features from the previous Seal Online while throwing in a new Black Dragon Raid and Battle Pets. It doesn't sound like much that would make new and old veterans interested in playing, and to be perfectly honest: It really isn't. This is because Seal Online is a game that has been past its prime for years now. Just about everything in Seal Online has been done in other MMORPGs and has been done better.
For starters: Initial character customization is non-existent. Players will only have a choice between creating a character that’s either male or female, and a choice between a few hair styles. That’s it. Players have no choice of eye colors, mouths, outfits or anything else in terms of looks.
The initial class choices available include warrior, knight, mage, jester, priest, craftsmen and hunter. But players can also choose to start out as a beginner in order to get a feel for the combat first.
For every class except beginner class, there are two different sub-classes to choose from at LV150, such as warriors becoming either berserkers or swordmasters. For most of the classes available, however, they only add merger changes in play style. When leveling up and unlocking new skills, a handful of skill paths will open up. Rather than having multiple skill trees to allow players to choose their own personalized skill paths, skill trees end up being too straight forward, essentially making class function exactly the same in high level play.
Each class has at least two stats that they MUST prioritize, which also kills any sort of personalization. I fail to see a point in giving players the freedom to allocate stat points however they want if certain equipment sets require players to have a high enough amount of their priority stats in order to use. It means that players won’t have much room to create their own unique stat builds and will have to rely on cookie cutter builds that players have already came up with years ago.
Other than stat customization, visual customization is lackluster especially when starting out. There’s no way to make yourself look distinguishable from other newbies, and if you want to stand out, you’ll either have to play long enough to get some epic level gear, or you’ll have to hit up the item mall and purchase some costume items with real cash.
Seal Online is a game that refuses to keep up with the times. Because of this, the control scheme will feel uncomfortable in the hands of modern gamers. Instead of updating the game with standardized WASD movement, Seal Online uses a traditional point & click movement with the mouse. It’s insanely tedious having to click on every single spot in order to move around, and it certainly doesn’t help that your character moves slower than a slug.
One feature that was very innovative for its time was the game’s combo system. Players can build up a meter by fighting enemies using normal attacks with the left mouse button. Once the meter is at least half full, players can unleash combos using the A-S-D keys to inflict heavy damage. The combo system, for its time, was very entertaining as it allowed players to become more engaged in combat, rather than simply clicking hotkeys over and over.
The combo system is also very finicky with its inputs, as some combo inputs require players to press two or three keys at a time. While it may not sound like an issue, not all keyboards are okay with multiple keystrokes at a time, so performing certain combos may be impossible unless you have a decent keyboard.
Gameplay and Features
As mentioned before: Seal Online’s core combat uses a combo system that allows players to rack up damage from performing multiple attacks in a row, but combo inputs are pre-determined and did not allow for any experimentation. Most players can rely on performing their highest combo available for maximum damage, and even though they may seem a bit long winded and difficult to perform, a few practice rounds on a training dummy and they’ll become second nature.
However, since the game still uses a point & click system, trying to continue your combo from one single enemy to the next is a huge pain, as you can only switch off the moment your first enemy dies. Miss the opportunity to switch off and you’ll have to start your combo all over again.
Outside of performing combos (which, for the most part, only benefit Warriors and Knights), active skills are available and allow players to perform a flashy array of different techniques, with active skills for burst damage, buffs, heals, de-buffs and plenty of other usual and expected skills found in MMORPGs today. Outside of combos, the core combat is pretty standard, as the traditional MMORPG trinity of Heal/Tank/DPS during party play holds up the way it should here. However, whenever you’re not playing in a party, it becomes a painful test of patience, as even the lowest level mobs can deal serious damage. Players will constantly have to use potions in order to stay alive, making even the simplest of battles feel drawn out and tedious.
The quest system in Seal Online is fairly generic. Well over 90% of the quests available are your typical kill and fetch types, which can take hours to complete due to the game’s sluggish pacing.
For players that wish to get around the world much faster, they’ll have to obtain a mount and there’s only two ways of doing this: Players can either obtain a pet, which not only give players stat boosts upon reaching certain levels, but can be turned into a mount upon reaching level 5, but this can take weeks to obtain. The other option is to either purchase a temporary mount from the cash shop, which is a fairly cheap tactic considering how slow everything is.
Outside of quests and combat, Seal Online doesn't offer anything too unique or special about its overall gameplay that hasn't been done better in other MMORPGs today. Even adding new features like battle pets do not do much to give the game any lasting appeal.
Graphics and Presentation
For its time, Seal Online had quite a unique cel-shaded style that made the game look somewhat like a living cartoon. By today’s visual standards, however, the game has not aged well at all. Character models look decent enough, but environments look very cheap and poorly designed. The maps are all strangely connected to each other by portals rather than visible paths, making the entire world of Seal Online feel unnatural as if it was chopped up into small pieces. Seal Online was one of the earliest games that I could remember featuring an active day & night cycle, which is still kind of neat to see in motion, but does very little for the game overall, especially when they could have easily given a purpose to day & night cycles such as special monsters only appearing during the night, or special quests only being available during the day.
There is some bit of charm left in Seal Online, as has the game contains some outrageous monsters, including radishes with headphones, tree men with afros and even mutant sheep dressed up in gimp costumes.
One aspect of Seal Online’s presentation that HAS held up nicely over the years would have to be its original soundtrack. Produced by a legendary composing team named SoundTeMP, Seal Online’s music contains an excellent mix between funk, classical, melodic and ambient tunes that are easy on the ears, good for relaxation and/or puts players in the mood for adventure.
Seal Online maintains a high amount of community features including friends lists, guilds, chatrooms and even dating system where players can gain special items and buffs for players that play together as a couple. However, most players don’t use this system in an attempt to find true love, but rather just to abuse the freebies players can get from them. Overall, the community in Seal Online is pretty average and there’s nothing too good or too bad about it.
As much joy as this MMORPG has brought me back in the day, Seal Online doesn't have a lot going for it by today’s standards. With dated visuals and dated gameplay mechanics, there’s only so much that can be done to improve the game with a couple of measly new features such as pets or raids. It’s a nice trip down memory lane for those that have played it in the past, but a very incompatible experience for modern gamers. At this point, it can be considering the gaming equivalent of an endangered species that’s desperate to survive, but in the end, the only thing a man could ask of it is simply states: “WHY?”
Sorry, Seal Online. I loved you, but you've overstayed your welcome.