Review: Phantasy Star Online 2 (Computer)

Phantasy Star Online 2: Member Review

Computer 2,648 views 1 like 5 comments
Reviewed by Dominik Dudek, posted Feb 24, 2015
There are many people who dismiss F2P MMO's as Free to Pay MMO's because most of them are structured to exploit the F2P nature of a MMO to make the most profit. But in which category does PSO2 belong to? Stick with me to find out.
Feb 24, 2015
  • Release Date (JP): July 4, 2012
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Phantasy Star Crew
  • Genres: MMOARPGTPS
  • Also For: PlayStation Vita
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
A MMO where the word "Fabulous" is written in all caps.
Dominik Dudek
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Introduction

The localization of PSO2 is a sad story for every western fan of the franchise.
The game was supposed to release in 2013 in US and EU but got delayed over and over and over. Now there is even a fully translated English version for other Asia countries although that one being region locked.
At this point many Fans gave up. Some are even creating a private server that is fully in English and has a customer support, a luxury that foreign players don't on have on the Japanese servers.
But before we were looking forward to that project, many fans decided to play the game on the Japanese server which is currently celebrating the third anniversary and second PS Vita Version anniversary.
After I lost my account with 600+ hours on it I had to start over from scratch which reminded me of many goods and bads that this MMO has. So let's dive right into it shall we?

Gameplay

The Gameplay ... How do I put it? After playing this game the gameplay used in Final Fantasy Type-0 looks like a joke to me.
It is simple enough for somebody to pick up and have fun with it and complex enough for the more hardcore fanbase to have long debates online on whenever "Skill A" is better than "Skill B" DPS wise.

First of all you have your basic 3 hit combo. You can hold down the button to perform it or you can time your button presses to deal 30% more damage. It's a small thing but timing your button presses is what makes you good at this game.
Then we have Photon Arts, that you can perform between the hits of the basic combo. These are the heavy hitting attacks that consume PP (Photon Points).
Speaking of PP, unlike the previous games where PP was a stat that rises with each level up, it is now a static stat at 100 PP. Each hit of a combo fills up PP and Photon Arts consume PP. This keeps every battle engaging since you try to dish out the most damage you can, while keeping your eye on your PP and focusing on the timing of your button presses to deal even more damage. It's really clever and makes the gameplay really fun. By the time you master your play style you'll be playing a rhythm game.

However this game is a farm fest like Diablo which might turn off a lot of people.
You'll be visiting random generated dungeons, kill hundreds of monsters, collect all the loot, go back to the city, sort out the good from the bad, go to another dungeon and repeat the whole process.
It's very fun and addicting especially when playing with a group of friends but I can see why people wouldn't like that.

Currently there are 8 classes released.
Hunter - a tanky purely melee class utilizing Swords, Partizans and Wired Lances
Fighter - a squishy "Risk vs. reward" melee class utilizing Twin Daggers, Knuckles and Dual Sabers
Ranger - a squishy long range class utilizing in Assault Rifles and Launchers
Gunner - a stylish short range class utilizing Twin Machineguns
Force - a Squishy mage class utilizing Rods and Talises
Techer - a Support class utilizing Staffs
Braver - a melee and Ranged class utilizing Katanas and Bullet Bows
Bouncer - a melee and mage class utilizing Dual Blades and Jet Boots

So there is lot's of variety when it comes to classes but what's even better is that each feels completely different in terms of gameplay.
Also the class system is really great as it allows you to choose a subclass. Subclasses give you 20% of the class's stats and the access to all skill tree skills.
This is huge since you can play anything and still doing good at it. You can be a Ranger who also specializes in melee combat or Hunter who can cast spells.

What's also unique about this MMO is that this game has a TPS mode (Third Person Shooter)
Made specifically for the Ranger class, TPS is a great addition for PC gamers who play with a mouse and keyboard. The game takes hit detection REAAALLYYY serious (I mean like Monster hunter frame count dodging serious) so you always feel good about perfectly timed dodge rolls or being able to shoot a boss in a weak point that is otherwise untargetable. And the best part about this is that the hit detection doesn't run on a server so you'll never get hit/missed because of lag.
It's really satisfying to see a MMO do that because it feels less of a MMO and more like a fully fledged game that way. This is also the reason why I can't find that much enjoyment in other MMO's.

Check out this video of a dude killing that boss without getting hit once (he looses HP because of a skill)​

Outside of farming the hell out of creeps there are various activities for the player to vary things up.
Each player has his own Mini Room where you can place furniture and make a really comfy place to hand out with your friends.
On special events like Christmas or Valentines day you can visit concerts given by the virtual Idol Quna, who is voiced by an actual voice actress and singer Eri Kitamura.
They are actually pretty great to watch. And since it's sega there had to be a Hatsune Miku concert

Quna's latest Conctert​

Also this game Character creator is the best thing I've seen in a very long time. And Sega knows that too. Their benchmark demo comes with the full Character creator for you to spend time with during the download of the game.
You can reshape your character how ever you want having breast sliders that not only change the size but also the form (VERY IMPORTANT! :P ).
It really makes other games with character customization look old comparatively. You can spend at least a half an hour pushing sliders back and forth to individualize yourself.

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Here's a small glimpse of what the character creator looks like​

Presentation

Let's be real. the graphics are really dated. The game is meant to be played on a 720p resolution. Everything starting with 1080p suffers from tiny menus.
However it's not uncommon for a MMO to have dated graphics as being too demanding would limit the player base which isn't what you want in your MMO.

Aesthetically this game is pretty decent too. It captures the Futuristic sci-fi setting pretty well however and I have to address it in the presentation department, the Cutscenes are awful.
Someone seems to have thought it would be a good idea to do all cut scenes using ingame animations that you can buy in the game.
Which limits the cinematic experience extremely. The Battle scenes look awkward with sounds missing and the choreography not connecting. Camera is rarely placed in a very engaging position and overall these cutscenes are painful to watch.
Which is a shame because in Phantasy Star Nova, a game that released last year, the cutscenes are great! Which is what Phantasy Star Online 2's cutscenes aren't.

Story

The story starts off quite simple however the main gimmick of the story ruins everything.
You are a new Arks member who is doing his final test together with Afin, who is very cowardly but keeps going because of his missing sister.
During the test you both encounter Darkers on a planet that is classified as "clean". You get saved by Zeno, a veteran Arks member, and pass the test.
This is where the story starts to get a little stupid to follow.
You meet Xion who seems to be visible to only you and tells you that you have the power to fight against destiny by going back to the past and changing events. Sounds simple right?
So you go back in time to the day you and Afin have the final test and you decide to take a different route. this time you discover a unconscious woman, Matoi. You take her home to the Arks Ship and then the time lines somehow fuse in each other and build a timeline where both events happen at the same time, you getting saved by Zeno and you saving Matoi. It's never explained how that works and I guess the writers didn't give a damn either. You're supposed to roll with it.
The story does take it's time introducing you to even more characters which really drags on in the first episode. In terms of pacing it really takes too long before the story unfolds itself. An Issue that I didn't had with the story of Episode 2 and 3. They're better paced have better camera shots, some really good character development and really interesting story. Just the way it's presented is blah.

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Sound

The game Sounds pretty good. It uses a very dynamic soundtrack that switches between fast paced and quiet time on the fly. It fits every dungeon that you are traversing and gives each one it's own character which is quite nice.
Fans of the series might also notice some nice tidbits of older soundtracks used in the newer ones which is great fanservice. However I do have to say that after playing too much I would simply stop playing the game and make at least an hour break because this game does not have enough quiet time and gives me head ache. The Lobby / City area used to have that, quiet time music, however they change the BGM so often that no one can blame you for not knowing what the actual lobby theme is.
The Soundtrack is good but I would recommend using your own playlist while playing the game.

Payment Method

This game is F2P.
You can purchase features permanently like second skill tree for switching gameplay styles or a bigger inventory but you can also buy Premium membership that gives you access to most of the features like having a bigger room, being able to trade with other people.
However there is no pay to win. Theoretically anyway. When you are premium you can buy rare weapons that are normally untradeable however Phantasy Star Crew figured out how to make a pay to win aspect less punishing for free players. Premium players have to buy trading passes of the same rarity as the item that they want to purchase. To buy these trading passes you need to exchange a rare weapon of the same rarity as the trading pass you want to buy. So you can't simply go premium and buy rare weapons without loosing a rare weapon in return. This is pretty great in my opinion.

And then there is fashion. Yes, fashion. The game is named by many "Phantasy Waifu Online 2" for a good reason.
If we look at like every patch notes ever we will notice the following:
80% new fashion related items, 20% new content.
And that's the economy of that MMO, Fashion. Buying more costumes requires real money however every player who has a player shop can sell costumes on the market for in game money and free players can buy these. It's a very very unusual economy for a MMO and I personally love it as the main trading goods are essentially cosmetics and no weapons. I never knew how big of a fashion queen sleeps inside of me before playing this game. You can really go nuts in this MMO in individualizing your character.

Also there are lots of collaboration fasion with other franchises like Attack on Titan, Freedom Wars and even Sony's Toro and Kuro mascots.

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I never felt like the game forced me to spend money to keep enjoying it and when I decided to do that it was fully my own decision.
Even player who don't spend a penny in that game can be profitable for Sega. This game has a lot of ads in loading screens or on the TV's in the background which heavily increases brand awareness.
I found out so many great franchises like the Yakuza series simply by playing this MMO which is so stupid that Sega never localized that MMO because it would be perfect free advertisement for their products.

Lasting Replay

That's pretty subjective. I've spend over 800 hours in the past year. Do with that information whatever you want.

PS Vita Port report

The port is mediocre imo.
I knew many people in the guild, that I was part of, who played exclusively on the Vita but the port really isn't all that good.
The graphics are even worse than on PC, the framerate tries it's best to stay at a constant 30 however only barely making it and the limited input methods make it kinda hard to communicate.
The port is not terrible. It certainly is playable but If I had to chose I would choose PC version over the Vita version any time.
Verdict
Pros
+ Great gameplay
+ Great learning curve
+ Good payment method
+ Passion for fashion
Cons
- Cutscenes are awful
- Story takes very long to unfold
- Vita port isn't ideal
7 Presentation
10 Gameplay
9 Lasting Appeal
8.7
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
PSO2 is a fantastic MMO and it is really a shame that Sega never kept their promise and localized it 2 years ago. Luckily we PC gamers can play that game with English patches on the Japanese server. Vita owners have to play in Japanese unfortunately.
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