RYL: Path of the Emperor was originally known as ‘Risk Your Life’, an MMO with heavy PVP influence developed by Gamasoft (a Korean company) and published here in the United States by PlanetWide Games.  Korean-developed PVP-MMOs are not uncommon, in fact the largest MMO in the world (by player base) is Lineage.  The twist that RYL:POTE brings to the table is the fact that they are sponsoring a $1,000,000 skill-based tournament over the next year (which began on July 1).  Each month, twelve players will be selected to participate in the semi-final battles.  In December and April, the sixty players in each group will get a free copy of the upcoming expansion to the game and will battle to see who the best PVPers are.  The top 30 from each of the two tournaments will then be flown to E3 2006 for the RYL Finals, where they will battle until one person stands supreme, wins the title of Emperor and is given a million dollar cash prize (4 installments of $250,000 per year). 


With all that in mind, does RYL have what it takes to stand up against some of the heavyweights in the industry, especially World of Warcraft, Everquest 2 and City of Heroes?  Or is it sentenced to the fact of so many also-ran MMOs, including the likes of Planetside, Asheron’s Call 2, EVE Online, and others that limp along with a small number of players? 


Given that this is a PC title, and everyone’s computer is different, this review begins with an outline of the minimum and recommended specs, followed by the actual specs of the review machine.


System Minimum  System Recommended My System
Pentium 2-400 MHz Pentium 4  Athlon XP+ 2000
128 MB Ram  512 MB Ram  1 GB Ram
Nvidia Riva TNT  GF2 MX400  Radeon 9800


With the test system specs, the game is able to run at 1280×9 with all effects turned on fully.  The game runs flawlessly at these settings without any graphics hitches at all. 

With the low requirements this game touts, the graphics are obviously not going to be on par with Everquest 2 or even World of Warcraft.  Still, the graphics are quite nice, especially with everything turned up all the way.  Grass moves independantly from trees, the world changes in a day/night cycle, and characters do appear different.  However, the character creation is somewhat limited and you cannot zoom in on your character’s face to see more detail to really tell the difference between the different character faces and hair styles.  Still, this is probably a nod to the lower system requirements than anything else.  Visually, at least, the world feels alive and lush with everything from oceans to rivers and tress and even mountains visible.  Objects in the distance look hazy, especially along the horizon and there’s a nice lens-flare effect when you look into the sun.  It’s nothing state of the art for 2005, but it’s nothing to sneeze at either.  On the downside, there are some clipping issues, such as running through a set of stairs, or moving to sit down and seeing the shadows of your character’s swords while the swords themselves appear to be embedded into the ground, or the age-old issue of NPCs spawning partially below the ground’s surface.  Also, there’s some rather odd character animations.   Imagine you’re decked out in full combat armor and get bored…so you decide to drop and do pushups!  Or, knowing how wonderfully flexible plate armor is, you decide to rotate your arm at the shoulder.  It’s more the little things visually that don’t quite jibe with the whole and sometimes when everything else is good, it’s the little things that draw your eye.  Of course, it also dosen’t help that every character seems to be breathing hard no matter what, even when standing still.  After all, does it really require that your entire body from the knees up flex and move when you inhale and exhale?  The sound unfortunately dosen’t measure up to the graphics at all.  Footsteps sound like footsteps no matter what your character is actually walking on.  The little bit of music in the game is all synth-orchestra which really adds nothing to the atmosphere at all.  Fighting any monster with any weapon sounds about the same, especially as quick as the battles tend to be.  There’s just really nothing that stands out in the sound or music in the game.  You could just as easily mute the entire thing and play Winamp in the background and never miss anything at all.

While the controls themselves aren’t bad, it’s the fact that you’re limited to either mouse-based click-to-move control (akin to Diablo 2) or WASD with minimal mouse movement, requiring frequent use of the ‘tab’ key to make the cursor appear, that quite frankly kills the game.


While it’s been pointed out in RYL’s forums that nearly every FPS ships with WASD as a default, the counter-point to that is that every game on the market now also ships with the ability to customize your configuration.  Take this into account along with the fact that it’s quoted on the boards that the ability to customize controls isn’t a high priority right now, and it brings to mind thoughts of ‘The Vision’ again.  In other words, you’ll play it our way, or you won’t play it at all.  Considering this game is being released in 2005, not 1998, there’s not really any excuse for not allowing keyboard customization.  Also, there’s no gamma settings in-game, and it really feels like a second-class effort from Planetwide Games, Gamasoft and YouxiLand.   While it’s definitely possible to get used to the controls, players should not be forced to do so if they don’t want to.


 

As far as the game world itself goes, you have two races, the typical humans and the hulking Ak’Kan.  As with many games, humans are humans, and you have male or female.  One interesting thing is that for the Ak’Kan, the males are relegated to warrior-type duties, and all magic-based classes for them are female.  With the two races you have three factions.  You’ve got the human Empire of Kartefant or the Ak’Kan from Merkhadia.  There’s a third faction, called “God’s Pirates”, who are a band of humans and Ak’Kans who wish for peace between the races but only succeed in causing more strife.  For each server, you are limited to one nationality, although you can change it for any server by deleting all of your characters and starting new.  One nice thing about this is that you can store gear in what’s called a Dragon TransVault to save for the new characters coming along.  So if you see something that you can’t use, but you might want to start a new character later, you can put it in this shared storage space.


Humans have four classes to start with, but each class can branch at level 10.  You have your standard fighter, which branches into a warrior (all about the damage) and defender (tank); acolyte, which splits into clerics (more attack-based) and priests (more healing and buffing); rogues, which split into either assassins or archers and mages, which split into sorcerers (direct damage) or enchanter (buff and debuffs).  The Ak’Kan have Combatants, which are always male and split into Attackers (much like human Warriors), Templars (again, tanks), and Gunners (much like archers, but actually use guns instead of bows).  There’s also Officiators, which are always female, and split into Run Officiators (elemental magic, direct damage), Life Officiators (healing and buffing) and Shadow Officators (assassins, again).


Combat is basically simple.  You left click to attack.  Left click and hold to constantly attack.  You choose your quick-slotted special attack by pressing 1-0, with two banks (keyed to z and x), then right click to set it off.  Some abilities are charged, which means you press and hold the right mouse button until you’re ready to set it off.  You can also use items in this fashion.  You’re given three inventory sections, although you have to keep it organized on your own, the game dosen’t have an autosort feature. 


Unlike any other MMO, you can’t con a monster to see how tough it is.  Instead, you look at the area map and hit the ‘monsters’ tab.  This will show the relative toughness of the monsters in an area compared to yours.  This will give you a better idea of where to hunt without having to hope you don’t run into a special mob in the middle.  Granted, those exist also, but are helpfully labeled in blue instead of purple to show the difference.


You’re given skill slots as you level up (one slot per level) and you can only have as many skills as you have slots.  The higher you level a skill up, though, the more slots that it takes.  You can erase your skills at any time, though, which allows you a bit of flexibility as long as you have the skill books to relearn other skills as you go along. 


Being that the game is all about PVP, there’s very little involve as far as crafting goes.  In fact, it all comes down to weapons and armor.  At level 20, you can combine two weapons of the same type and class (all items are given a class rating from F to AAA) and move some stats from one to the other, boosting the remaining weapon.  At level 40, you can actually upgrade a weapon and after six such upgrades, you put in sockets much like Diablo 2 where you can socket gems.  You can also use the gems you find in your battles to create potions.  Also, the only way to make an item of higher quality than rank B is to upgrade the items, so the best items in the game are only going to be made, not dropped from monsters.


All in all, the game is very fast paced, and there’s very little downtime, at least at the lower levels.  Going from near-death to full is usually no more than 30 to 60 seconds time spent sitting, although obviously you want to make sure you’re in a safe zone first.


One drawback though is the economy.  Basically, money is extremely easy to get, which means that there’s a lot of inflation.  I found one item three times before level 12 which sold to the shop for 50k gold.  Some of the higher level items were going in the channel for upwards of 2 million gold.  Most of your money, though, will come from selling items, not from monster drops.


Of course, beyond all this is the fact that there’s nothing in the game but the grind.  Grind to the next level.  Grind to be able to kill the monster that killed you earlier.  Grind to get into the next weapon or armor.  Grind grind grind.  Wasn’t this a lesson learned after Everquest?

To be honest, this game is really only aimed at one subset of MMO players:  the hardcore pvpers that loved what Shadowbane should have been.  Unfortunately, most of them are already playing World of Warcraft and Guild Wars.  Considering that the game is made by a Korean developer, it probably has a hearty helping of those hardcore players interested in it.  The fact that they’re giving away a million dollars probably dosen’t hurt matters any, either.  The game does have a monthly fee of $12.95, although numerous specials are being run currently (buy one month, get one month free, buy three months and get four free, and buy a year and get a free mp3 player).  Also, if the money’s tight, Planetwide is offering the chance to answer surveys to waive the monthly fee, although they haven’t started the actual surveys as yet. 


The value isn’t great for this game, but if you’re really just into the PVP and not into all ‘that other stuff’, it might be more worthwhile for you.

n/a