Skyforge: I Want to Believe

It’s been a while since there have been any upcoming MMOs I’ve been really excited about. Guild Wars 2 was probably the last, since I didn’t know much about The Secret World until it had already launched.

A city in SkyforgeOf the upcoming crop, there are some that I have some curiosity about, but only one that has properly intrigued me: Skyforge, a science fantasy free to play title due for release soonish.

The previews for Skyforge are hitting a lot of the right notes for me — free to play from the start, action combat, gorgeous graphics, unique setting, multiclassing — but there are also some serious causes for concern that keep me from getting properly excited.

God mode:

The setting for Skyforge seems pretty interesting, though I haven’t seen a lot of info about its lore, leading me to believe it may not be a priority for the developers. It’s science fantasy rather than the traditional high fantasy of other MMOs; it is set in a world full of magic and mystery, but also advanced technology.

Some zones in Skyforge are the sort of pastoral wildernesses you see in most MMOs, but others are grandiose sci-fi metropolises that look like something straight out of Star Wars. It’s a pretty interesting mix, and as anyone who has read my books knows, I’m rather keen on the science fantasy/magitech angle.

The concept of godhood is important in Skyforge. The main threat in the game comes in the form of invasions by evil gods seeking to claim the world as their own, and players take on the role of immortals who will eventually ascend to godhood.

An outdoor zone in SkyforgeI initially thought this was a fairly meaningless title meant to cater to players’ egos, but from the sounds of it, becoming a god will actually have an impact on gameplay, as well. There’s mention of players being able to literally enter god mode, granting them fantastic powers, such as the ability to change classes even in combat.

That brings me to what is currently the thing I find most compelling about Skyforge: its unusual progression model and potential for multi-classing.

It sounds a bit like a combination of the systems in The Secret World and Rift. Skyforge does not have levels in the traditional sense, though it does have pseudo-levels like TSW, and you can unlock every class in the game on a single character, switching between them at will.

If you know me, you know I’ve never liked being pigeon-holed into a single class or role, so this is very appealing to me. It is a little disappointing that you can’t blend the abilities of different classes, and more disappointing that classes are unlocked in tiers, so some will require significant grinding to unlock, but still much preferable to a traditional class system.

As for the classes themselves, the ones I’ve seen so far seem fairly generic — berserker, paladin, cryomancer, etc. — but there will supposedly be about a dozen total, with more released after launch, so there’s plenty of room for some more original class concepts, especially considering the potential opened up by the combination of sci-fi and fantasy elements.

A screenshot of the berserker class in SkyforgeThe classes also seem more powerful, spectacular, and pleasantly over-the-top than their equivalents in other MMOs. I generally have no interest in warrior-style classes, but after seeing the berserker trailer, in which said class ran around sawing giants in half with a chainsaw-greatsword, I have a strong urge to make an exception to my “no warriors” rule.

In doing research for this post, I have also discovered that Skyforge will apparently lack the traditional holy trinity, which is also compelling. There are no direct healing classes, though there are supposedly classes that provide support other ways, and there may be tanks — it’s not entirely clear.

One issue with Skyforge is that it hasn’t been getting a lot publicity for whatever reason, so it’s hard to find reliable information on it. Another tidbit that has popped up in my research for this post is that content will supposedly scale up to your character’s level, much like in Guild Wars 2, which is also welcome news.

So taken altogether, that’s very nearly my MMO wishlist summed up in a single title, minus only a strong commitment to story. But yet there are some things about Skyforge that give me serious pause.

A poor pedigree:

Most of my concerns about Skyforge are based on who’s developing it: the same team behind Allods Online.

A screenshot from SkyforgeAllods Online. Those are two words to send a chill down the spine of any MMO player.

Now, I have not played Allods myself, and for what it’s worth, I have heard it’s actually a pretty solid WoW clone, as these things go, in terms of general game mechanics.

However, it was for a very long time the poster child for how not to do free to play — these days Star Wars: The Old Republic may have taken that crown. Much of the negative views of free to play in the west have their roots in Allods. It took ruthless monetization and pay to win to mind-bogging heights.

Now, many postulate that a lot of that was the doing of the publisher, not the developers, so there may still be hope for Skyforge, since it will have a different publisher.

There’s more than past history that makes me a little weary of Skyforge, though. There’s also the fact that the Allods team is based in Russia, and due to recent world events, I’m leery of playing a Russian game.

Between their militaristic aggression and brutal anti-gay laws, it’s safe to say Russia isn’t my favourite country right now. I generally make it a point not to judge a country by the actions of its government, but by all reports, those policies are pretty popular among the Russian people.

Two player characters do battle in SkyforgeOn the other hand, it doesn’t seem fair to assume the worst of the Allods people. Just because their country currently has a surplus of homophobic thugs doesn’t necessarily mean they’re counted among that number.

But there’s also the concern of access to Skyforge being threatened should relations between Russia and the West further devolve. I don’t exactly think World War Three is going to break out anytime soon, but economic sanctions — imposed by the West against Russia, or by Russia against the West — don’t seem entirely outside the bounds of possibility right now. I’d hate to sink hundreds of hours into an MMO character only to lose access to it because Putin and Obama can’t play nice.

Perhaps I’m being too paranoid, but such things do leave me reticent to embrace Skyforge as I otherwise might.

And finally there’s the concern I have about most upcoming games: Will it have a decent story? Story is incredibly important to me, and I tend to lose interest in MMOs before long if they can’t hook me with their story.

Skyforge’s unusual setting seems quite compelling, but most discussions of the game’s story to date have boiled down to, “You god. You smash other gods. Rawr.” That’s not terribly encouraging.

* * *

A screenshot from SkyforgeSkyforge definitely looks interesting, but I’m not quite ready to jump on the hype train yet.

I will say, though, that I find it a bit surprising Skyforge isn’t getting more buzz. On paper, it seems very ambitious, and it’s doing a lot of unusual things that seem like they should be causing a stir.

Curious.

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