Something that’s becoming more common in many MMORPGs is combat that doesn’t involve you auto-attacking and standing in place for three seconds while you cast a spell. Games like Neverwinter and Tera are fairly popular examples of this, but Continent of the Ninth Seal (C9) was actually my first experience with it. It all started when a friend of mine told me to download it, and I figured I’d humor him for a bit. I didn’t expect to play long because I wasn’t in the mood to get involved in another big MMORPG, but C9 was different. The differences might not be a good thing to most people, but for gamers that are getting tired of the World of Warcraft style, C9 might interest you.
The most important question for any game is made apparent quite quickly with C9: it’s extremely fun. The character creation leaves a lot to be desired, with a small number of playable classes that are all gender-locked. If you want to be a witchblade, you’re going to be a female. If you want to be a fighter, you’re playing as a man. Fortunately, you unlock a class specialization at level 20, which opens up a massive amount of playable classes. The only problem with having what is essentially a class change at level 20 is that it’s hard to be sure if you’ve made the right choice. I started as a witchblade because they were part dual-weaponry and part magic, but once I got to the class change, I was dismayed to learn that the options are much less magic focused. I rerolled a shaman and, after smacking enemies with my staff for a little while, I was afraid there just might not be an explosive magic class for me to play. Then I class changed into an Elementalist and found that I could fly and throw spirit bombs. The game picked up pretty quickly from there.
It’s hard to find any complaints with the gameplay. There’s very little in terms of meaningful questing or complex storytelling, but playing C9 is like playing Dynasty Warriors with even more psychotically awesome buttons. The quests are all inane things like “kill x amount of y” or “clear this map on this difficulty,” but it really doesn’t matter what the quests say. Essentially, you choose the dungeon that is your level and your clear through it. The game is designed such that by the time you clear a dungeon through Normal, Hard, Expert, and Master, you should have completed all of the quests you have. It makes leveling up extremely easy, but not quite as rewarding as other MMORPGs. Still, all the reward you need will come from how much fun you have clearing through the dungeons with cataclysmic power. Speaking of impressive looking things, the game itself is gorgeous. It takes some serious hardware to run the game on max settings, but if your rig can handle it, you’ll be treated to graphics that few other titles can match. Fortunately, there are plenty of visual options that allow you to run the game on lower settings, and most computers should be able to handle it well.
The sheer amount of options is a constant theme with C9, and it’s not always a good thing. There are plenty of things to focus on, which will keep you busy, but not necessarily entertained. For example, the crafting is such that each player and class can craft their own equipment by default. However, the different pieces of equipment all require different materials to create, meaning that you either have to have a lot of friends or a lot of high-level alts to keep your crafted gear on par with your level. Crafting is done in town, so you can only do it when you’re not in a dungeon. The game adopts an instanced world similar to Guild Wars, where you can see and interact with all of the other players. However, once you enter a dungeon, you’re in your own world with only players that are in your party.
As fun as C9 is, there are a few problems that can impact your enjoyment of it. The saddest part is perhaps how easily fixable the problems are. Like the gender-locked classes, they are things that simply should not exist in this day and age. For example, you can’t have your inventory open while running, which means you can’t multitask through your backpack whilst running to a vendor or class trainer. The game has a stamina system in place that detracts from your stamina every time you run through a dungeon. This means that eventually, if you play too much, you will be unable to enter any more dungeons. This is likely to keep people from playing the game with complete disregard to your life outside the game, but the stamina still lasted long enough for me to play consistently over the weekend. The fact that you have to rerun the same dungeons over and over can make the game a bit repetitive, but you tend to take different routes in each difficulty, so there are slight changes. The differences can be quite enjoyable as the game tries to adopt elements from other games. For example, I ran into a platforming type of room with booby traps at one point, but I flew over it all quite easily.
There’s no denying that C9 is an extremely fun game, but it doesn’t quite fit the traditional MMORPG mold. There are plenty of small options that can keep the game interesting, such as collecting map fragments to unlock new areas or cashing in Hell Pieces to reach more difficult zones, but it doesn’t add enough to keep the repetitive button mashing and dungeon crawling from growing stale. And while the option to party up and play with other people is there, C9 feels much more like a single-player game that others can randomly join in on than a real multiplayer game, sort of like Demon’s Souls. Still, if you’re looking to kill some time and feel like a demigod as you annihilate dozens of enemies with cataclysmic powers, it’s hard to find an experience more satisfying than Continent of the Ninth Seal.