Amongst the bigger paid MMORPG titles such as Blizzard's World of Warcraft and Square Enix's Final Fantasy XI, there's plenty of free titles out there. One of them is Perfect World (完美世界) from Chinese developers originally released back in 2005 in China before it hit the Western world in 2008.
I thought I'd give it a try since it looked interesting and fairly up-to-date.
After downloading a 3.15GB installation file, which took around an hour or so on my 8Mbit connection, you're ready to create your character and start the game - A very familiar affair. There's a number of races and the familiar classes in fantasy RPGs divided mainly into melee or magical types. I chose to start off as a Winged Elven, Archer.
As an elf, I had the ability to fly and it's interesting to see the sky isn't filled with other players - Probably because it's actually slower than walking at first. That said, travelling between towns is instantaneous via teleports. The interface feels a bit rough because menus are scattered here and odd letters are used for shortcuts even though you can customise them yourself.
As with WoW, you can solo most quests - Kill so many monsters to exterminate or get quest items from them, run around collecting materials etc. You could say it's just more level grinding but at least the quests and environments change often enough to keep it varied. That is... until you reach around level 20 when the extermination quests get a little ridiculous as monsters get harder to kill, numbers almost doubling and drop rates become lower. Most experience comes from completing the quests itself so usually you might be able to find someone who wants to party. However, it's a pity most people tend to prefer soloing which makes it feel like an offline game but with some chatter going on around you.
There are instances where only members of a squad can enter but unlike the end game battles in WoW or FFXI, they're very small scale at 5 people instead of WoW's 15 player or FFXI's 40 player dungeon where much more coordination is needed and in turn creates more satisfying team victories. Most people tend to rely on high levels to finish it for them which is probably another reason why people just go soloing.
Besides all the fighting there's the usual crafting skills that you can level and the option to start your own guild (or "faction" as it's known here). PvP occurrs when dueling or when you reach 30 - then you'll die a lot because other players can attack you whenever they want and a lot of them seem to enjoy doing so. Fortunately you don't lose your hard earned experience points like you do if you were killed by a monster.
It's also fun to see you get a little fairy (referred to as a "genie" in the game) that you can spend your experience or skill points on too and in addition to that, you can also get a mount to travel around on later too. If you're really up for it... You can get married with another player and get a title over your head to say you're someone's husband or wife.
One particular feature I found useful was the game allows you to list all the NPCs available so you can then either let your character run automatically there (or at least try) or you can follow the marker yourself. It comes in very handy when you don't know where you should be going or what quests to do next and saves you looking up a guide.
While I found myself having to spend some time devoted to collecting items to sell in FFXI to make money, WoW was an easier experience and it appears to be the same in Perfect World. You'll probably be surprised to hear people offering items at the millions but once you start playing, you'll find there's enough loot from the monsters to save you thousands of coins in no time - If you have the patience to leave your bizarr up in the form of a cat or shout in the trade channel.
That said, most of the more exquisite items cost real world money to obtain - Including a single use item that lets you message all players at once to do things such as gather a party. On the "Lost City" server chat appears to filled with more profanity and hostility, most likely because it's a lot more accessible being a free game.
Depending on the race you choose, you start off at a different location very much like WoW. In fact, the game itself resembles the game very much with the soft lighting and some items that look exactly the same. However, it's not quite as rich in textures - All the more reason why it shouldn't be running on what feels like a low framerate on modern multi-core PCs that can run the likes of Fallout 3 at 50fps and higher.
Character models look almost as well done as the 2D illustrations used for the promotion of the game and there are giant animated smilies you can use in chat, similar to the ones you'll find on Chinese message boards.
Another odd thing I found was that both the sound effects and music were both muted when playing. You have to delve into the options to turn them on and initially, there is no music until you reach the first city. Music is also very oriental sounding which really doesn't suit the elven environments of nature.
Well, at least it seems to support surround sound.
If you're looking for something free, where you can solo and is similar to WoW minus the polished richer presentation and large scale 15 player team co-ordinated end game battles, Perfect World can be pretty fun to play. There isn't much of a community because you can solo so easily but it certainly has a lot more going for it in terms of gameplay time for a free MMORPG than a few others I played such as RAN.
Needless to say, it's far from being a "Perfect World".
Time Played 7 days
- NPC and quest locator.
- Instant travel between areas.
- Plenty of quests to do.
- Free to play.
- Rough interface.
- Music that doesn't match the atmosphere.
- Shouting out to the local area costs real life money.
- Soloing most of the time.
- No large scale team battles.
- Being killed by other players a lot after level 30.