OK, where to begin... XD; I stayed up for ages after a long shift at work, and I've crammed so much into the limited play time for the alpha today. Hopefully, tomorrow's Alpha session will help clear things up.
Well, I created 3 characters, one for each class - Hunter, Ranger, and Force.
Without further ado, here they are:
(NOTE: These screenshots are from “Phantasy Star Online 2 Alpha Test 2″. Since this game is currently under development, the contents may not reflect the final version. Additionally, such contents may be improved upon in the future.)
Well, I can start with the character creation
! There is a mind-boggling array of options for crafting your character, and it can be as simple or as complex as you like. You can select a character template, and choose to adjust it as little or as much as you like. The standard PSO/PSU options are there - height, build, outfits, hairstyles, etc.
But PSO2 blows them out of the water with its sheer customisation. You can change the face any way you like, from its shape down to the size, position and angle of individual features! For example, I could precisely adjust the size and angle of Kurama's ears, eyes and nose, and I even adjusted her mouth to give her a more serious look. Additionally, you can add up to 2 decals to the face, and up to 3 individual accessories for the head (e.g. glasses, cyborg parts, headsets, and cat ears - yes, cat ears). Kurama has face paint and a scar on her jaw, while Faolan has a face tattoo and stubble. Kanshisha has an hi-tech eye-patch just like Solid Snake's in MGS4.
The body is also equally customisable, you can even change the length and thickness of the arms and legs, the skin tone (right down to the exact shade you want), and even the muscle tone can be precisely adjusted by a slider.
I'd say the only real downside of the character creator is that there can never be enough accessories and outfits!
But, this is only the 2nd Alpha build, and there is plenty of time for them to add to the creator.
OK, I'll try to talk a little about the gameplay
. Please bear in mind that I had a long day and I needed to take some time to get a handle on the Japanese options in the game.
There are two control options; joypad and mouse/keyboard. PSO2 is perfectly playable with either, though I feel the joypad is the optimal choice. You can actually use a combination of both control options if you like! There are two camera options that change the way the game plays. Basically, you have your standard camera which you'll be familiar with in PSO and PSU. Then there's a Gears of War style over-the-shoulder camera which allows you to play it like a third-person shooter. Obviously, this option can benefit Rangers as it allows them more freedom and precision with aiming. Lock-on isn't available in that mode, but that shouldn't be an issue unless you're really bad at aiming.
On first impressions, each of the three classes - Hunter, Ranger, and Force - plays differently. Hunters are the same as in PSU, though they do have the ability to string Photon Arts (special moves) together into a custom combo. For example, you can launch your target into the air and lay into them with a series of mid-air rushing attacks before slamming them back down into the ground. Certain weapons also have a power gauge that builds up through attacking, which can increase the power of the Photon Arts or even change their properties.
The Ranger class is the one that has changed the most, and you can play PSO2 like it's a third-person shooter (think Gears of War, but without the chainsaws and executions). The Photon Arts come in the form of special shots that use the PP gauge (mana/magic meter for those unfamiliar with PSO/PSU), and you can assign any of them to the gun as long as they're the right type. For example, the Ranger's starting Photon Art is a single high-powered shot, but you can add on another Photon Art in the form of a grenade launcher.
A bunch of monkeys pester Kanshisha.
Boom! Problem solved.
Not to be outdone by the other classes, the Forces have also improved their act. In PSU, they could only use techs that were bound to their wand/staff, leading to complaints that they had become too limited and were forced to carry a whole bunch of wands just so they could use a wide range of techs. PSO2 is different. You can still bind techs to wands/staves, BUT that's only to benefit from the ability to "charge" them.
Charging techs makes them more powerful, and you can deal more damage or heal better. You can still bind techs to the hotkey bar and use them, no matter what weapon is in your Force's hands, you just won't be able to charge them.
So it's a mix of the Force gameplay from PSO and PSU, with a little added oomph.
Combat for the classes is about the same as in PSU - you have the ability to lock on to an enemy and strafe it. You can also use a dodge move, which depends on the weapon you're holding. If you're using a melee weapon, you'll perform a quick side-step. If it's a gun, you'll do a combat roll. If you're a Force using a wand, you'll vanish into thin air and reappear a few feet away (with cool blurring effects). Each of those dodging manoeuvres is different; the side-step is the fastest and best suited to close combat, whereas the Force teleport is the slowest.
Oh yes, weapons can also have elemental properties. This time, there's no "special" or "heavy" attack like there was in PSO. Instead, you just get a chance of an elemental effect triggering when you attack an enemy. For example, look at the picture I posted under the Kanshisha spoiler. She's using a rifle with Fire attribute, which can inflict Burn on the target. So, you can imagine what it would be like to have a weapon with Ice or Lightning attribute!
I think I'd better start wrapping up as this post is getting long, and it's also getting late.
So far, I've only played in the Forest area, though I hope to see the other areas next time. From what I've seen, the areas really are randomly generated, with the layout changing every time, from open fields to narrow corridors with rivers rushing through them. You also get dynamic weather effects. I was just running through the forest on a nice and sunny day, then thunder crashed:
The weather can change anytime, it's not triggered by anything. I haven't noticed if it changes the gameplay in any way, but I'd need to play it more to be sure.
Finally, I leave you with a Rappy!
Anything I missed out, or anything you want to know, ask away! I'll be playing PSO2 again tomorrow.