Forsaken World is a pair of really comfortable socks wrapped in a really pretty box, that box that really sturdy and easy to open. At its core, it’s something familiar – socks, maybe, or a just a run-of-the-mill quest grind. The packaging, the stuff around it, is so damned appealing, that you can't help but think that maybe there's some more to be found in it than just warm feet and less stinky shoes.
These socks are free, too. In the past, it was common to dismiss free-to-play games as second-rate, ugly affairs; if Lord of the Rings Online didn't kill that sentiment, Forsaken World should. This thing is polished and smooth; it runs without a hitch. The cash shop looms over it like a dark cloud, of course, but it is more than possible to enjoy the game without paying a dime. “Pay to win” is not something you'll have to deal with here.
The first thing that jumps out about this game, the one that really hooked me in, is the graphics. They're not state-of-the-art, and they won't knock anybody out with their texture resolutions. They may not be cutting-edge, but they are gorgeous. It is a bright, water-colored world – and what a world it is! Most of the joy in this game comes from simply seeing what area the developers will have you running about next; right from the get-go, the world is entrancing and invigorating. The world design, truly, is inspired – and the resulting rich world permeates and enriches the entire experience
Another thing Forsaken World has going for it – and this is almost meta, so excuse me if this is a little nebulous for a game review – is that a ton of people play it. You spend the first ten or so levels working towards the metropolis known as Freedom Harbor – this “working towards your first big city” trope is pretty common in MMORPGs, and a lot of times getting there is sort of underwhelming. In Forsaken World's case, it is an awesome experience. On my Stoneman's long march from his cave-of-birth to the city, I only really saw characters that look like me, or just the occasional nondescript Dwarf or Kindred. Upon arrival to Freedom Harbor though, I was bombarded with a whole plethora of characters and quests and systems – it really felt immersive; like I'd just wandered out of the backwoods.
Actually, it might have been a little too immersive – I felt overwhelmed. Forsaken World boasts a relatively small number of classes and races, but it more than makes up for it with all the other system under its hood. Crafting, instances, guilds, and player-versus-player all feel fully fleshed out. The pet system is equally robust. All these extraneous systems can be a little hard to get a full understanding of – there's a lack of documentation, and some spotty translation doesn't help – but they're certainly a lot more than just filler. The game's primary leveling curve might pretty redundant, just quest after quest, but there's enough going on elsewhere to stave off burn-out. You can even go to the carnival!
All these bells and whistles don't entirely make up for the fact that the game's core – the leveling grind – is lacking. You'll spend most of your ascent to the higher levels running from quest giver to quest giver, although the quests do have a certain amount of creativity to them; they're not all of the “kill ten rats” variety. The grind's slow, systematic pain is lessened a little, as I said before, by the pure beauty of the world. Killing ten rats or killing One Big Rat can stay interesting a little longer. if there's a giant canyon of sparkling river to ogle.
"…there's always something new and different to do…"
It becomes obvious, as you progress, that the developers crammed a bunch of fun distractions in because the core of the game is sort of boring. The combat system is adequate, and some classes – especially Bard, with its inspired Chord system – have interesting quirks, but it isn't something that screams, “Play me!”. The extra systems help to keep you interested, and there's always something new and different to do, whether it be a raid for better gear or praying for an experience boost. The guild system, likewise, is a big draw, but unfortunately my relatively short time with the game didn't afford me a chance to dig too much into that. I do know, however, that you can eventually get a giant floating moon-like guild base. Regardless, all these hatching pets and crafting crafters don't completely atone for the sins of the bland combat and grind. One wonders if the developers should have cut some of the extra stuff and focused on refining and diversifying the core game.
I haven't yet touched on what are usually two of my favorite aspects: sound and story. The reason is simple: they are simply “there.” The story is muddled and hard to follow – a problem compounded by both a lack of attention and some shoddy translation. The things quest-givers say to you border between surreal and hysterical – but they're never very compelling. The sound is the same way – it certainly isn't ugly, but I won't be humming any of it. The sound is the real shame: the game produces some striking vistas, and having a powerful score to accompany them would only make things better. The story has plenty of room to benefit and further enrich the setting – and it very well may – but the localization leaves it too goofy to be of any real consequence.
Overall, I found Forsaken World to be an excellent game – the fact that it was released as a free-to-play game only serves to show us how much clout that model holds now. This is an AAA title, a big gun; it goes up against recent hits like Rift and holds its own. In many ways, in fact, Forsaken World's beautiful environments and distinctive art style give it a leg up on many of the games coming out nowadays. It has the systems and polish to back up the good looks – it has grind, sure, and that's boring, but truthfully it comes with the territory. What we as gamers need to look for is not grind or a lack thereof – it's uniqueness and well-crafted, inspiring worlds; robust systems and easy access to them.
The grind, then, perhaps, is a necessary evil at this point in the MMORPG timeline – one day, maybe developers will eradicate grind and make everything really fun and exciting. Or maybe not. Either way, games like Forsaken World will be around with their pretty pictures and never-ending distractions. It gives players a vivid world that teems with both players and NPCs – it will suck you in and make you feel like you're part of it, even if only in fleeting moments. Sometimes, that's all that matters – and maybe a nice pair of socks, too.