Hello again, dear readers! I'm happy to report that I escaped my sister's wrath for stealing her computer last week and mine is back in working order! All is right with the world! Well, except for war, global warming, starvation, genocide... alright, so maybe we've still got some work to do. But, in the meantime, let's look forward to a more peaceful future! At least, that's if the upcoming free-to-play MMO Black Prophecy doesn't have anything to say about it.
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For the final frontier, this place seems awfully crowded.
          A friend of mine was kind enough to direct me to a beta key for Black Prophecy, a 3d space shooter in the vein of Star Fox and Ace Combat. It's already out in Europe, but doesn't have a set US release yet.

          Black Prophecy's plot revolves around two rival factions of humans: the Genides, a race of genetically perfected humans, and the Tyi, a race of cybernetically augmented humans.  You start as a Sapiens - a normal, unaugmented human - pilot and colonist heading for the newly discovered planet of Triamon. After some tutorials, a plot begins to unfold that ends up with both the Tyi and Genides offer to provide you with their respective augmentations in exchange for your services as a fighter pilot. I went with the Genides, mainly because I like the suit you get a lot better than the Tyi one (Genide stuff tends to have lots of blues, whites, and greys, where Tyi stuff tends to have more blacks, reds, and yellows). I'd really like to talk more about the plot, but there are spoilers afoot and I don't want to ruin them, but it's well thought out and does a much better job of pulling you into the world than many MMOs I've seen.

          As you might expect, this game contains a lot of shooting at stuff, and I'm happy to report that the combat absolutely shines. Computer controlled enemies have pretty good AI; they fly in formations and can take you down even if you're several levels above them if you don't keep on your toes. There are also several PvP options from wandering around and finding pilots from the opposing side and formally challenging people to matches, although since it is in beta there aren't a ton of people to fight with.
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Can you tell I like the lasers?
      The graphics also contribute nicely to the experience; the stellar backgrounds are, well, stellar, the weapon effects look great, ships are nicely detailed, explosions are fiery and satisfying, and the screen even gets a blurred static effect when you're under heavy fire to reflect your systems failing. In short, it's not perfect, but I've paid for games that don't look this good. It also doesn't have the best interface ever, but considering how terrible most other space MMOs' interfaces are, it's certainly not bad (EVE online, anyone?).

     The advancement system is pretty much exactly like your typical MMO: shoot stuff for a little bit of experience points, complete quests for more. Gain enough points to level up and you get some skill points to allocate. You can use points on skills with particular types of weapon (Energy, Mechanical, and Explosive), Shields, Hulls, Engines, and even Tactical abilities that let you use new flight maneuvers by pressing button combos. All of these give you access to better equipment as you progress. It's also worth mentioning that equipment changes are not purely statistical; obviously different guns have different effects, but even changes to your wings and cockpit yield cosmetic changes to your ship. I wouldn't recommend changing out your wings unless you have two of the same kind, since you can swap them individually and will end up looking all asymmetrical - actually, a lot like something from EVE Online!    

     Of course, the game is far from perfect and has a lot of minor flaws that need to be worked out (that is why they call it beta, after all). There are a lot of times where the displayed text and the voice-overs don't match up, and it gets kind of annoying. You'll hear messages from other pilots, which is sometimes necessary and helpful in the middle of the action, but even when you're fighting a couple of weak NPC goons you'll get a ton of meaningless messages that really need to be reduced (if I hear someone say they're back in sniper mode one more time...). While some of the missions are really, really good, there are also a bunch that just follow your typical collect x number of something, kill x number of a particular enemy, or take something from x location to y location stereotypes. Also, the extensive use of the word "frak" will probably start to grate on your nerves after a while (it's the developers' choice of replacement word so that no one actually swears). One other thing worth pointing out is that the PvP areas can get laggy to the point of unplayable when there's a lot of traffic on the server, but again it is a beta and hopefully won't be as bad when there are more servers in the full release.

                                            Score: 8/10
     *This is subject to change, as I'll be doing a more extensive review when the full version is publicly released and I've had a little more time to experiment with PvP and find out what the community is like.

     This has been the Freeware Fanatic, saying in all fairness, this game actually isn't much like EVE Online. Yeah, it's a space game with good graphics and weird-looking ships, but that's about it. In EVE, you navigate mountains of spreadsheets, keep track of way more skills than there should be, and wait hours to see a few minutes of your ship shooting at stuff, not even directly controlling it. In Black Prophecy, you actually have fun.

      Also, you pay for EVE. Huh.

 


Comments

Kahvi Gedanken
05/20/2011 09:04

Frankly, you're being a little harsh on EVE online considering the game this sounds like it has the most similarities to is actually Space Cowboy Online.. erm.. Air Rivals.. erm.. Whatever they decide to call it now.

EVE is more RTS like in how it handles things. SCO, erm, AR, erm.. whatever, has the more action look that you might want to check out to provide a closer analogy to what you have just reviewed.

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The Freeware Fanatic
05/23/2011 13:21

Actually, I completely agree with your statement. Black Prophecy reminded me a lot of Air Rivals, which I played a while back and really enjoyed. I made the EVE comparison because I see a lot of other people asking if the two are alike and wanted to clear that up. I also wasn't a big fan of EVE, in case you couldn't tell.

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