Divines of the East

Divines of the East, a new browser-based MMORPG from Game321 has just entered closed beta. Its 2D side-scrolling and turn-based combat takes place in an ancient world inhabited by the legendary creatures of Chinese and Japanese mythology.

Player characters come in three different classes, all of which can be played by male or female characters. Sword Saints use swords in melee combat and have powerful physical attacks. The Eidolon’s long-ranged magic attacks are the strongest attacks in the game, but Eidolon’s also bear the burden of having the worst defenses in the game. Finally, Leaf Elves are also a ranged magical class, but they have support spells that can strengthen and heal allies or weaken enemies.

The game is very story-heavy, especially during the drawn-out beginner missions. Most of what you’ll do for your first 25 character levels is run back and forth between various locations and talk to people. The game starts you off speaking to your mother who has just given birth to you. She is surprised that you can speak at birth, but then she points out that she has been pregnant for 16 years. When you go speak to your father, he greets you then says he’d always thought his wife’s big belly was due to flatulence. The writing can definitely be funny and there’s a long story being told if you pay attention to it. However, you will spend significantly more time reading and running than you will in combat.

Very early in the game, you will meet a little flame spirit who becomes your servant. Your servant is a permanent fixture in your party and can be upgraded in many ways. There are over 64 different appearances that your servant can transform into that need to be unlocked in order. The different servant forms all increase your characters stats in different ways. Your servant will follow you everywhere and help fight in battle.

The game offers a lot of assistance to its players. Mostly, this is welcome and very useful for navigating the game’s many interfaces. Moving to the next location on your quest can be done automatically by clicking on the target in your quest menu. This is convenient, especially with how much backtracking you’ll have to do. You can even use the various menus to manage your character while they head to the next quest destination. The auto-move is entirely optional though and you can explore the world at your own pace.

Unfortunately, nearly all of the combat is automated. All of the characters in your party, including your player character and their servant, will attack monsters on their own. The only influence you can have in the middle of combat is to change which skills your character has equipped, change which monster your party is targeting, and trigger a special rage ability that your servant builds up over the course of many combats. The monsters and battle animations look cool, but it’s hard to feel like you are engaged in combat when you have almost no control over it.

The game has many standard MMORPG features that are unlocked piece-by-piece by leveling up. The features unlock at a good pace. I actually appreciate that many features are locked at the beginning of the game, because there’s so much to do that it might feel overwhelming if it didn’t come bit by bit. Some of these features are a PVP arena, mounts, many ways to upgrade equipment, two opposing factions to side with, player guilds, territory battles, collecting resources and using them to craft new items, and growing a herb garden.

The standard RPG staples of quests and dungeons are available from the beginning of the game. The main story progresses very quickly at the beginning, you will run back and forth a lot, but you will most certainly grow to level 25 or higher in just a couple of hours. During all this time, you’ll do a whole lot of talking to NPCs but only enter three dungeons and a handful of extra battles. Since getting far enough in the game to start picking up side quests, I have seen a lot more combat. This is only a little rewarding though, as the combat is so simple and mindless. In fact, between auto-moving to your quest destinations and automated battle, basically the only thing you are doing is pressing “Next” to advance dialogue with NPCs. As you can imagine, that gets pretty boring.

The game has a unique art style that works really well. The character design is awesome — every character and monster looks interesting. The cartoony visuals feature gorgeous vivid colors and the black outlines look like brushstrokes that really fit the oriental theme. The backgrounds and character portraits (during dialogue) are hand-painted and simply beautiful.

If the busy UI you’ll see in the screenshots is any indication, there are a lot of different things you can do in this game, including many I haven’t mentioned. This is never too overwhelming, as the game eases you into it with the beginner missions and by locking certain features until you reach a certain level. The game also includes an awesome “Helper” feature that lists broad goals you can purse like gaining EXP, earning silver, becoming more power, or finding equipment. After you select one of the broad categories, the Helper will show you a bunch of level-appropriate tasks you can perform to achieve your goal. Every task has a convenient “Go now” button that will send you right to the proper menu to proceed with your task. The Helper is an awesome feature that I would love to see implemented in other games.

Divines of the East is a free-to-play game and that means there are ways to pay money to get more stuff in-game. You are given three resources to shop with: silver, coupons, and gold. Silver and coupons are earned regularly in-game through successful combat and completing quests. Gold is the premium currency and is primarily earned by purchasing it with real money. There is a small amount of gold you can claim on a daily basis, so you can do everything in the game without paying, it’s just going to take you a lot longer. Divines of the East also offers players a paid VIP status that grants a host of bonuses such as free teleportation to quest targets and more item slots.

When it comes down to it, automated battles mean that Divines of the East is primarily about managing your character instead of making strategic decisions mid-combat. Managing your character’s stats, equipment, servant, party members, resources (silver, coupons, and gold), and collectibles (crafting) is a big task with lots of details and nuances. If you enjoy RPGs that let you micromanage every aspect of your party, this might be a very good game for you. However, if you are like me and want to be able to command your characters’ attacks, you will likely get bored very fast.

Official Website: http://divines.game321.com

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