Games also have their milestones. Perhaps, we don’t know the exact game that ushers in a new age in the game industry. Still, when we see some games, we see the word Retro cross our mind to remind those good old days. And Fantasy Tales Online is one of them.
You meet those pixelized characters, little figures with a little customization in the head, at creation phase in the very beginning. Once you are entering the world, the side-scrolling style and pixelized graphics only make the retro self-explanatory. You click to move alongside the grey-tile paths criss-cross the grassland and finish a wide range of missions that fall into the usual category of role-playing and combat.
There is no ready quest line as presented in most games. Instead, you only have a couple of missions to take at the same time, which must be finished to move on to unlock more. Mission numbers are just contrary to overwhelming, and mission types deviate hardly from the common. After several clicks in the book shelf in the library, you are sent out to browse the town. There, you enter an old man’s house and help him to retrieve his axe (under a bucket) in the basement, kill x amounts of thieves in the wild and dark elves in a cave, pass word for the doctor to several infected men in the town, and explore the first dungeon within a party, and so on and so forth.
Quests hardly innovate, but grinds a little bit. You can only take the mission first and then finish to get the reward – so even if you kill the boss thief when you are on the mission of killing 10 thieves, you have to do it again after the kill-boss-thief quest is taken, if you want to get the rewarded xp and copper. Besides, it costs plenty of time to find way to a destination and return to and fro to deliver a quest once it’s finished. The other side of the coin is, though, that you don’t grind mindless but need to keep in mind the location of structure in the town in order to save time in later missions.
Not all structures or areas are open for players of all levels. You can grind in some areas only when you are in the required level bracket; and you can only train or learn a new skill when your certain stats reach a certain point, for instance. And there is no alternative path to level up other than taking quests and grinding a bit.
The bulk of gameplay still lies in combat, rendered with the health bar. You select from four classes, Brute, Assassin, Alchemist and Medic, which pose influences on skills, combat style and weapons. Combat is little animated, scaling from easy in solo to challenging in dungeons. Once you provoke to fight, the battle is somewhat automatic only if the enemy is within the attack range. It takes several strikes to end an enemy in the single-player grind, but requires teamwork of a party from the first dungeon. It’s supposed to allow players explore caves/dungeons alone, though promising a disastrous result, but it just doesn’t work out – you have to be in a party; otherwise, you simply stay in the starting point and can’t move on to unlock those temporarily invisible areas.
On the whole, the game is set in a comfortable pace for you to take quests and sail through levels, with graphics and play style quite reminiscent. But it misses something that makes the game breathing – the first is an intriguing story to thread quests with a plot and direction; and then it’s the variety and richness of contents as well as user-friendly tips necessary in quick sum-up of basic mechanics.
Fantasy Tales Online is made for three major platforms including Win, Mac and Linux. It is currently in alpha test. Players who want to preview the game can just register, download and play. For now, only a Java webstarter is available, with the download version promised to come soon.