A little look at… Phantasy Star Online 2

So I’m rapidly approaching the 100 hour mark on PSO2 and yet I’ve somehow failed to write more than the odd news post about it. I thought at first that I should write about how the game plays or how to get started but there are already a host of websites that go into far more depth on the subject than I can (I particularly recommend this one and this one), so instead I thought it best I just blab on for a bit about how great the game is and how Sega have not only made a game worthy of being a sequel to Phantasy Star Online but also made a free to play game that doesn’t have a fatigue system/constantly harass free customers to pay/make free players feel like third rate losers.

Oh and costumes. Lots and lots of lovely costumes.

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While the Phantasy Star Universe series always felt… OK… online, it didn’t really capture me the way the original Phantasy Star Online did, although bar whinging about the dumb-as-bricks single player storyline I must admit I’m at a loss to explain why. It just felt off somehow, and while Ambition of the Illuminus fixed a lot of things I could never quite shake the strange feeling that the first PSU had left me with.

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This good-but-not-quite-what-I’m-after feeling continued through the Phantasy Star Portable and Zero games too, and when Sega announced that PSO2 would be a free to play PC title my curiosity was piqued – “Ah, so that’s how you kill a series!” I thought to myself. I was wrong. It’s nice to be wrong.

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PSO2 has just the right blend of old and new: a lot of enemies, places and equipment will feel a little familiar to veterans of the Dreamcast game (with some, like the Psycho Wand, going back even further than that!), but never so much that you think of them simply as redundant knockoffs. The completely new areas are also very well done and really nail the series’ trademark mix of fantasy and sci-fi - this is quite obviously a game created by a passionate team and something that Sega are taking seriously, giving them the time, money, and marketing it needs to thrive. Obviously there’s profit in it for them, but if they only wanted a bit of quick cash they’d have made it a free to play smartphone card game like everything else has become; a trend that not even the mighty Kiseki series has avoided.

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What else have we got? Regular updates with significant content, fun crossovers that cover everything from Border Break battles to Arle Nadja and Puella Magi Madoka Magica costumes, the return of the beloved Sato mag and even a special Burning Rangers event. The development team are responsive to criticism (such as the initially ridiculous XP requirements) and thanks to the client order/matter board systems there’s always something to be working towards without feeling roadblocked by a particular boss or quest.

The only thing left is to remark on Sega America/Europe’s incredibly strange decision to not localise the game. Considering the non-support that PSO: Blue Burst and PSU got overseas I’ll somewhat reluctantly admit that it might be for the best, but even so it’s frustrating to see the series back on top form and without any official non-Japanese support. Good thing fans are on the ball eh? Get yourself over here for signup guides, English patches and more – and have fun!

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