Mo was kind enough to grant me an extra early access beta key. I had a bit of a rough start trying to get the game up and running (had to download the game client twice, and very slowly at that), but so far I'm really impressed. I didn't get to play very long last night before the server abruptly went down for maintenance, but here is a brief summary.
The gameplay has some similarities to your typical MMO, but on the whole it's quite a bit different because it's more of an action RPG. You control every attack, block, dodge, and movement in real-time, and whether you hit or miss is based on whether your weapon actually makes contact, not on a dice roll. All combat is done inside dungeon instances... there is no open world. Normally this would be a downer for me, but the fast pace of the combat and the tools that Nexon implemented make it incredibly easy to pick up a group and have fun quickly. Since everyone in the instance is in your party, there is no kill stealing and no ninja looting. There's also no need to spawn camp.
The graphics are absolutely gorgeous for a single-player title, let alone an MMO. The armor is bump-mapped and reflected to all hell and looks amazing. The character animations are very smooth, even down to facial expression. Hair and clothing moves pretty realistically. Framerate was perfect even on max settings - the engine seems very well-optimized. The production values overall are impressive as well, as evidenced by the polished but simple look of the UI and the cool credits cutscene that plays after the prologue, which made me feel like I was in a movie.
Even what little story has been presented so far was pretty interesting to me, and this is coming from someone who got quickly bored with Dragon Age and Mass Effect. I never thought I'd feel sorry for a giant spider, especially even as it tried to kill me. I'm sure it isn't anything entirely original, but there are some fresh ideas that have me curious to see more.
So far the main downside I see is the lack of character options. There are only two available in the beta, and it looks like there will be about five or six on release. They aren't classes in the typical sense though; they're pretty specific and each have their own style of fighting (dual wield, sword & shield, etc.). This could be good or bad depending on your perspective, but personally I prefer more traditional character archetypes.
The pay model is supposed to be F2P with a shop for extra items and customization, but it looks like if you want to play more than a handful of hours per month you'll have to pay a little, since each dungeon run costs "tokens" which appear to be buyable. There might be some in-game way to acquire more tokens though - they seem like they might be trade-able between players. I'll have to investigate further. Even a few hours of gameplay a month is hard to beat for free, though, especially with a game of this quality. No question I'll be playing this one on release.
What do you think of it so far, Mo? Have you been able to play yet?