The latest edition to The MMO Gamer’s writing staff, Nate James, brings us a review of the recently launched MMORTS SAGA. Hit the jump to find his final verdict on this free-to-play title.
Within the gaming industry as a whole there is a single word that inspires the combination of both fear and awe within legions of gamers and developers alike. The single utterance of it could send shrieking girlfriends at your throat with freshly done nails ablaze.
We all, especially at this publication, know this word as MMO. It’s an acronym which gets tacked on to various things these days and is probably more commonly associated with RPGs than MTSs. Thus enters SAGA, a newly arrived MMORTS. Delving deeper, however, finds very little massive about it aside from its booster pack price tags and mundane graphics.
To be fair, I don’t play many MMORTS games. I play plenty of MMOs; plenty of RTS’s, but never a combination of such insidious affiliation as the two combined.
To be quite honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Would it be a multiplayer game without the single player campaign or an entire new experience all together? SAGA not only combines these two but adds a CCG (Collectible Card Game) element as well. I particularly like collectible card games so I was incredibly excited to fire it up.
Excitement Doesn’t Always Equal Satisfaction
The first real problem I encountered was the graphics. SAGA‘s graphics really hovered between something made in 2002 and 2003 with drab textures and character models that really don’t stand up too well on their own let alone mashed together in a cacophony of color palettes.
An attempt to salvage this was made by random color bursts of blacks, orange and purple all was for naught. The art direction seemed particularly uninspired with factions cunningly named as “Machine”, “Magic”, “Light”, “War” and “Nature.” City architecture looked hastily thrown together and was about as pleasant to look at as a 50 year old stripper at Sizzler.
Perhaps with all of the content updates they simply didn’t have time to hand craft these units to the degree I would have liked, but the cool factor really takes a nose dive when I’m forced to overlook admiring my city of slaves..erm..citizens.
See with your Hands, not your Eyes.
Previous grumblings aside might make me look like a “graphics whore”. Let me assure you, I am nobody’s bitch. I still play old skool games on a regular basis and I know that the true RTS fan will weigh game play over graphics any day of the week. That being said, I was extremely disappointed with the lack of unique builds that each race featured.
SAGA first lets you choose one of the five factions so start off your journey. After selecting a faction and city layout, you’re able to choose a banner which all of your units carry as a sigil of your dominance. On a positive note, you get to customize this banner with various symbols and color variations, which is nice as far as banners go.
The way SAGA handles city management along with the action essential to any RTS is similar to a browser-based MMO’s. You have a management screen where you take care of the day to day actions of your slaving whelps and an action screen where you choose quest lines to plunder and pillage.
You’re only allowed to take a limited number of units on each quest (though this can total up to 50+) and should any of your disposable militia die, then it is up to you to revive them in the temple on your management screen. But don’t expect your clergy as an act of graciousness, this will cost you a resource called God Favor.
While we spend so much time in the management screen, it would be nice to see a little animation and movement in my city. I’m told I have a set amount of citizens and militia but never get the satisfaction of actually seeing them in my settlements.
Another critique, and maybe this is a critique to the genre itself, is that if you run out of resources, there really isn’t much you can do to entertain yourself aside from waiting (a long time) for them to come back. In MMORPG’s, when you get tired of questing, you can go do an instance, or pvp. If you’re tired of PvP, you’re welcome to go do other various mini-games such as fishing or leveling up various crafting skills.
Even if you run out of money, you’re able to run around and explore more of the world. Saga, and perhaps the bulk of MMORTS’s in general only have two things to do: Gather resources and Quest. If you happen to run out of resources, it’s quite likely that you can’t quest any more and you might have to wait a day or two to quest despite your desire to do so. This is really a major flaw.
If you do find yourself with enough resources to raise an army and keep your peasants happy, the quest chains that SAGA has to offer is very expansive and truly earns the MMO part if its genre tag from the sheer amount of time you’ll use mastering all of them. Quests vary from easy to hard depending on how many times you replay them which makes SAGA a real challenge for all skill levels alike.
One might expect that each factions, having evolved from different species and religious affiliations, might set up their cities in different arrays thus differentiating themselves from their opponents and making us squeal in delight. However, this simply is not so.
If you’ve played one race, you’re quite apt to be able to play them all. On a positive note, this makes the learning curve extremely low after you’ve played for more than 2 or 3 hours and might be a great introduction to RTS’s for those who simply don’t have the time to master every play style.
Another shocker is that humans quite commonly associate themselves with every faction regardless of whether you think they should or not. As you start off with the Nature faction, who I was told was primarily made up of elves, I ended up playing with human cavalry, archers and pikemen.
The only real elves I got were bowman. This was disappointing to say the least. However, this quickly changes once you start opening booster packs and can add digital creations to your armies.
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