Last month, I decided to give SoulWorker a go for MMOMG as it was relatively new and seemed to be fairly popular on Twitch. A number of YouTubers had positive first impressions of the game, generating a moderate amount of hype. My opinion of the game was quite similar at first, but playing just beyond the content presented in those videos, my perspective changed entirely. SoulWorker now has the distinction of being the first (and for now only) title both myself and my viewers abandoned early... and in only 10 hours!
Before I get into why, let me quickly get the basics out of the way first. SoulWorker is a class-based, action combat MMORPG with heavy instancing in the form of "hub towns" and dungeons (similar to that of Vindictus). It features an anime art style with cel-shaded graphics and a post-apocalyptic setting with supernaturally-enhanced player characters fighting against a monstrous army. Classes are actually predefined characters, meaning they are gender-locked and have very few visual customization options.
Minor IssuesWhile I'm not a huge fan of premade characters, I knew this going in and accepted that the game had a linear story with very predefined responses, much like RPGs of old. Speaking of story, SoulWorker is packed to the brim with dialogue - so much that it borders on being a visual novel at times. Between the action combat of SoulWorker in particular and the ever-growing mentality of players in general to skip quest dialogue, I'm puzzled by the sheer amount of text found in this game.
I guess the writers decided that quantity is better than quality, as a lot of the dialogue is repetitive yet strangely contradictory. The NPCs in town love to remind you about how many people died so that you could survive and that the right thing to do is use your power to defend others. Upon returning from the quest you were guilt-tripped into completing, the town then berates you for risking your neck. At least that's how things go with Haru, maybe the dialogue with other characters makes more sense. I have to wonder if perhaps it's just something lost in translation, as a handful of skills have some interesting (by which I mean unhelpful and confusing) names and descriptions. It's not the worst game localization ever, but it could certainly use a little cleaning up.
Major IssuesWhile a lot of my previous complaints are fairly small and excusable, the real problem with SoulWorker is the ridiculously low experience gain after level 10. Even before that, you're not likely to make much progress without the double XP book buff active, but the difference becomes very noticeable afterward. The bulk of your XP gain comes from quests, but you run out of those early into level 11, forcing you to grind dungeons until you hit level 12.
That may not seem like a big deal on the surface, until you realize that running a dungeon on Normal difficulty by yourself with no XP buff grants you only 3.5% progress. Hard difficulty offers nothing but extra challenge, so you're left with Manic which is considerably tougher, but still doesn't up the XP rate that much by itself.
The only real way to progress in SoulWorker is to run dungeons in a group on Manic difficulty with the double XP buff active. That's easier said than done - let's go over each piece of those requirements individually, shall we?
- In A Group: When hub towns are heavily instanced and chat is flooded with gold farmer spam (which is annoyingly much more difficult to block than in most games), your best option is to find a good guild ASAP or bring enough friends from the start.
- On Manic Difficulty: Not only do you need to "git gud", but your friends do too. Failure to dodge big enemy attacks (which is an interesting topic of its own, as timing has been proven to be inconsistent) can lead to you being stunlocked and/or KO'd, requiring you to use costly consumables to stay in the fight.
- With The Double XP Buff Active: Assuming you're not burning through potion-style consumables, you'll still need to constantly buff your XP gain. Why? I imagine the fact that Gameforge literally stacked everything against the players on NA and EU compared to JP servers has something to do with it. While those XP buff items are given out occasionally, you will eventually run out (way before level cap) and have to purchase them from the cash shop. By my math, you'll spend enough cash in just one month on XP books alone to easily cover six months of subscription/premium service to any other MMORPG title.
Can you say "pay-to-win cash grab"? I knew you could! The cost to play on NA/EU is so steep that it's probably cheaper to physically relocate to Japan and play on their servers instead!
As for all those YouTube videos singing SoulWorker's praises, you'll notice two important things: The majority of them were sponsored videos and they don't cover more than 10 hours of gameplay. I'm led to believe that Gameforge specifically asked content creators to check the game out for "only a few hours", where the game actually resembles something enjoyable. Had these content creators gone just over the horizon, they'd have found the digital paywall equivalent to the Great Wall of China.
Having quit SoulWorker so early into last month, we had ample time to try something else. Expect another post soon about SoulWorker's replacement, Tale of Toast!
Also coming soon: Why we (as gamers) should pull the hype train's brakes before it's too late!