Furthering my efforts to try out free MMORPGs, I recently dove into another of my listed to-try titles – Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis. As I understood about what I had read of the game, New Genesis, released in 2021, was an upgraded and graphically-enhanced version of 2012’s Phantasy Star Online 2. Having only a passing familiarity with the Phantasy Star series generally, the one expectation I had upon starting was that I’d be in for a good dose of science-fiction fantasy tinged with anime stylings and lively action. Save for a lackluster story, that was my experience with it in a nutshell.
As far as what Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis has going for it in the story department, it can quickly be summed up as: alien character falls from space onto the planet Halpha and must help its populace and military force, ARKS, defend the planet against in unwelcome incursion of organic-robotic enemies called DOLLS. Upon literally landing in the game world, players – named “Meteorn” by the locals — are immediately met by a resident of the nearby Aelion Town, with whom they battle a few DOLLS and are shown around town. After taking on a few small tasks (and learning how the game works generally), the player is quickly accepted as part of Aelion Town’s “family.” So, when the DOLLS launch a massive surprise attack against the town, the player is ready to help. The attack results in heavy losses for the town, and the player is then guided to Halpha’s largest city, Central City, which serves as the game’s main hub, where they formally join ARKS and begin their adventure.
To a degree, my time with PSO2:NG was similar to that which I spent with Skyforge. Everything was fine. I did run into some graphical problems — namely assets not rendering, which, I think, were related mostly to me running the game on our old Xbox One – but I was able to play the game without issue. The game offered several different classes and a few different races, and I chose to be a human fighter, a class with a melee focus. And was she ever a fighter! I said that I expect combat to be lively, and it certainly was. In fact, it was almost too frenetic! In more than few battles, my fighter got completely lost in all the action. I was a little over-zealous in trying out my melee skills initially, and, upon meeting a few tougher enemies, I quickly realized that button mashing was not going to get me very far. Still, the game was mostly generous to my unskilled ways, and I managed to hold my own. Combat and movement felt very fluid, and I liked having a variety of different fighting skills in tow.
PSO2:NG’s story didn’t have much of a hook, that much I already noted, I did enjoy spending time with its cast of NPCs. Its voice acting wasn’t stellar, but its characters were charming, fun, and had personalities beyond being “quest giver number [x].” That said, I was not very attached to my own (non-voiced) character, and that might have been due to the game’s finicky character creator. I ended up mostly with a stock character save for different hair because I couldn’t figure out how to make changes work or make them stick. That’s all on me, of course, but having a bad time with the character creator fed into me feeling iffy about my character to begin with, and that’s not a great feeling to have going into a new game.
While my time with PSO2:NG was enjoyable, I didn’t feel incredibly compelled to return to it after one session. It’s a good game with decent combat in a pretty setting, but its lack of a driving narrative stood as a definitive void. There’s likely much more to that game than what I experienced in just a few hours, but, first impressions in a game like this are paramount. There simply has to be motivation to continue. Even my own curiosity in wondering how things would go for the few remaining folks in Aelion Town wasn’t enough to keep playing.
In something of an odd turn, after playing Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis, the game made me think about trying out another, entirely different game…Final Fantasy XIV. I can’t explain why – maybe it was one of the NPCs? The game’s music? My own distractions? — but, I did go ahead and download the FFXIV demo. The potential of me getting into that, however, will be a story for another day.
All images, including lede, were taken by author during Xbox One gameplay of Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis (© Online Entertainment R&D).