Rising from the far east.
If you think World of Warcraft has lured America’s youth into a massively multiplayer otherworld, you simply have no idea what it’s like in Korea. Years before anyone had even heard of WoW, the Korean game Lineage had over 7 million active subscribers, turning relatively unknown developer NCsoft into a billion-dollar monster. PC Bangs, essentially gaming-friendly internet cafés (“bang” is Korean for “room”), dot the landscape, and have become one of the main social gathering places for Korean teenagers. Gaming has gone global, though, and with World of Warcraft invading Korea and China, it’s only fair that the trade route goes both ways.
[image1]Enter Soul of the Ultimate Nation (or SUN) from Webzen. With beta testing already underway in Korea, this MMO is planning to invade Europe and North America later this year.
SUN tries to break from the pack by putting an epic story back into the MMORPG, though it’s typical of Korean MMOs in that it’s a little confusing. The realm of Blandis is ruled by the nefarious Emperor Schwarz, but he hasn’t always been evil. Betrayed by his brother Oswald and left to die in the bottom of a deep ravine, he breathes in the land’s “ether” and is resurrected by what sounds like the Dark Side of the Schwarz. As the land is consumed and corrupted, you must ally with the sexy rebel leader Indus and see this story through to its conclusion.
Instead of creating a character, SUN takes a console game approach by giving you a strict choice of four: The Dragon Knight, Berserker, Elementalist, and Valkyrie. Each plays an important role in the fight against Schwarz, a plot that gains momentum during the game’s various quests. You can have up to five characters on a server.
[image2]Much like Guild Wars, the cities are truly massively multiplayer while everything else in the game is “instanced,” meaning exploration and combat occurs in small, private groups. Unlike Guild Wars, though, SUN gives its players a great deal of control over the instances. You can set the size and difficulty of the area, determine who is allowed in, how loot is distributed, and whether PvP combat will be allowed. It’s almost like setting up your own hosted map of Battlefield 2 or Halo, but with swords and axes instead of guns and grenades.
The battle system seems mostly point and click, hack and slash, but with plenty of Korean influence in the art style, expect enormous upgradeable swords, over-the-top armor with plenty of horns and spines, and thongs and chain-mail bikinis for the girls. Korea sure is kinky.
At any rate, you won’t have to wait long as SUN plans to rise September 2006.