MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) have been around for quite some time now. Even the most-subscribed MMO today, World of Warcraft, has been out for almost 12 years. Incidentally, World of Warcraft is most likely the game that caused a surge in MMO popularity, and the game which many modern MMOs continue to base their games off of, in regards to the social system, trade, quest progression and many other small subtle aspects.
However, it certainly wasn’t the first MMO to be released around that time period. Just two years earlier, a company called Gravity released Ragnarok Online in Korea. You could classify them both as MMORPGs but beyond that, you’ll find that the two games are utterly dissimilar with Ragnarok’s primary focus being on small, tight-knight communities, world boss hunting, guild versus guild, player economy… the list goes on.
Fast-forward to 14 years later, and enter a game called Tree of Savior, a spiritual successor to Ragnarok Online. Though the developer has changed, the game has been created by the same individual behind Ragnarok; Kim Hakkyu.
One the more notable aspects of Tree of Savior is the fact that the game is isometric and plays at fixed camera angle. The graphics are stylistic and has a catchy soundtrack to back it up. However, it is not this alone that sets this game apart from others.
The primary focus of any MMORPG is to level, and grinding is the name of the game in Tree of Savior. For those unfamiliar with the term, grinding is typically associated with the act of constantly killing monsters that respawn in a particularly high-density area. Find a grind group and you’ll see that most of these groups stay in the same area for hours killing the same monsters, with people coming and going. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, how about farming for items? Hunting a specific monster in the hopes that it will yield a rare material is another one of the classic Korean MMO experiences. Mind numbingly boring, with a sense of elation when it finally does drop… or disappointment, when you give in and buy it from the marketplace.
These would be gameplay aspects that any modern MMO would stray far, far away from in the fear of alienating their fanbase. But Tree of Savior doesn’t care. After all, these were the classic ways of gaining experience and items in the old days of Ragnarok Online, and most of the fan base understands this.
That’s not to say that Tree of Savior is archaic and has learned nothing from modern MMO design. There is a main quest line that will have you travel through a sprawling world of multiple interconnected maps, filled with their own monsters, NPCs, and unique collectables. There are also instanced dungeons and missions which are a boon to experience gain, coupled with the modern convenience of an automatic party finder which matches you up with other players. In fact, if you play your cards right you won’t even have to grind at all until you’ve reached a much higher level.
Quite possibly the most unique part of the gameplay is the class system. The four base Tree of Savior classes (Swordsman, Archer, Wizard and Cleric) are the starting point of any character. However, as you level you’ll reach milestones in your class rank which allows you to rank up and choose between taking on a new class to learn or increasing the rank and specializing in an existing class. This allows for a high degree of customization and as you gain a higher rank, more classes become available to you that increase your options for building a unique character. The system is so open-ended that you’ll see many players posting their job builds in an effort to gain some sort of verification that they aren’t ruining their character with poor class choices.
Unfortunately, the game is far from being flawless and comes with its own set of problems. The market and trade system are almost unnecessarily restrictive while poor optimization tends to slow down the game when there are too many players on your screen performing attacks (during a world boss hunt for example). It also suffers from odd glitches/server issues that are anywhere from mildly annoying to utterly frustrating. As a trademark of most MMORPGs, you’ll find many bots in the lower level zones and in the cities advertising real money trading. The silver lining here is that the developer is listening to players and is taking steps to address these issues.
With that said, at its heart Tree of Savior is still a unique game that hearkens back to the older days of MMORPGs. It would be a lie to say that the game will have universal appeal, but there’s something oddly nostalgic about sitting with a party, chatting between monster respawns, and walking through the city perusing the multitude of player shops all vying for your business.
The game will be free to play with a cash shop. Purchasing a 30-day token from their shop will offer multiple benefits such as market privileges and increase experience gain though this is hardly needed to enjoy the game. At this time, Tree of Savior is in early access but will open for release for all players on April 28th. You can play now if you purchase one of their three founder packs from Steam.