You may remember a while back I was really really looking forward to a Chinese RPG called Gu Jian Qi Tan 2: it’s still not due out for almost another three weeks at this point but the good news is Aurogon have done the decent thing and released a playable demo for everyone to while away the time with (or whinge about, if you care to check the official forums) while they wait for the real thing.
As with most sequels some things have changed and some have remained the same – the good news is that (at least from what the demo shows; which is a little caveat you should apply to everything I write in this post) the striking design seen in the first game is back in full force and as beautiful as ever! Looks will only get you so far though, and I was relieved to discover that the all-new cast seem to be as likeable as as Tu Su et al were.
The big changes are reserved for the battle system – the more traditional line-everyone-up-and-hit-things system has been completely ditched in favour of a true action system that’s more like… Phantasy Star Online (Blue Burst and up) I suppose than anything else. Battles are conducted in arenas that are separate from the regular walkabout areas with party members able to move freely around in real time without cost. Skills and spells use up the usual MP/TP gauges, and items are on a short cooldown timer to prevent spamming. All this running about and firing off skills means the player’s usually pretty busy, but all party members can be assigned their own general AI during battle so if you want someone to go all-out or hang back you can and if the player wants more fine control there’s nothing stopping anyone from switching between party members on the fly.
I must admit it’s not all sunshine and rainbows – the demo’s a bit rough, buggy and rather poorly optimised. But then again the first Gu Jian came out in such a state battles didn’t even have sound at launch, so while I’m sort-of thinking “This isn’t acceptable for a second game” there’s some comfort in looking back at how polished the original became over time and with the series being Aurogon’s only IP and also the start of a franchise (there’s a TV series and an MMO on the way) they simply can’t afford to leave this game languishing unloved and unpatched, especially as competitor Xuan Yuan Jian 6 comes out eight days before.
My personal hype level remains through the roof, August 18th simply can’t come fast enough - this is a great time to be an RPG fan!