A3: Still Alive, the upcoming mobile MMORPG, might still be in pre registration but thanks to Netmarble we delved into this new world to find out what lies in store before it all goes dark.
What is A3: Still Alive
Launching globally on iOS and Android 10 November 2020, A3: Still alive is the latest massively mobile RPG from the team at Netmarble. Originally launched as a full desktop title in Korean markets back in 2002, this dark fantasy adventure is about to bring something very different to small screen gaming. While it’s easy to write off A3: Still Alive as just another on the go attempt at cashing in on the MMO marketplace, A3: Still Alive attempts to weave together a top tier open world MMORPG with battle royale concepts to make something more than just a dark fantasy Fortnite competitor.
First, The Lore!
Set in a world beset by demons, anybody grabbing their own choice of handset will find themselves in a particularly grim situation. With mankind utterly overrun by overwhelming powerful demon forces and the only hope for survival blocked by the fierce dragon Helkein, there seems only one solution. Unfortunately, that doesn’t go so well for the prophetess Radienne and her followers. Instead, you end up flung back into the past, tasked with thwarting an oncoming demon invasion before it takes hold and devours mankind once more. So, no pressure.
Dark Aesthetics For An Apocalyptic Time
As you’d expect from this sort of apocalyptic fantasy, A3 is a decidedly moody take on the might and magic that weaves through this type of MMORPG. The very obvious eastern influence and linage of, well, Lineage and other Korean MMOs is obvious here. Gorgeous weapons, ornate armor, hyper-stylized anatomically correct avatars, and picture-perfect skin all await anybody logging in to pick a class when the game goes live next month. Visually, A3 is clearly a Korean MMO. It sidesteps the cartoon violence of Netmarble’s own Marvel Strike Force and crafts a realistic world that aligns itself much closer to Black Desert Mobile or Lineage 2: Revolution.
When exploring this new environment, players will wield the power behind one of five classes and much like other mobile MMOs of this ilk, each of the classes appears to be gender locked. While we can confirm this for certain when we get in the game, there are still plenty of customization options on show for the Berserker, Templar, Wizard, Assassin, and Archer. Creating a custom avatar still allows new adventurers to modify plenty of facial features, eyes, nose, hair, and other features, which feel oddly redundant when playing on the small screen. Despite my mixed feelings on the character creation, every one of these fearsome warriors brings their own gameplay mechanics to the action allowing every Archer to fit each player’s preferences.
Combat Progression & Soulinkers
Each of the classes can unleash their own style of combat, and Netmarble barreled through some opening levels with the Berserker to show off how combat works in A3. A3 hosts a range of basic attacks, movement, and special skills littered across the bottom of the screen, making A3 a familiar prospect for anybody that’s ever dropped into Black Desert Online. While you’re busy bashing your way through each of the game’s regions there are a plethora of story quests and other events, such as region quests, surprise quests, and support quests, that will allow each adventurer to earn fame and status within each area of this new land.
Of course, each region of A3 gets progressively more difficult to wade through as you level up, meaning you’ll need to upgrade your own skill as you go. Skill points that are awarded along with XP should allow players to simply progress the abilities on their action bar that are useful rather than being tied to a pre-defined progression tree. That’s not all, however. Stepping away from the more common progression path, A3: Still Alive introduces an AI companion. Something more than a pet, this Soulinker can be a game-changing addition to your armour or weapons, providing an extra hand in the fight against the demon hordes.
We got a chance to watch a Berserker throw down with a support Soulinker activated in the battlefield and the difference these companions can make seems appreciable. Coming in support, defence, and attack types Soulinkers don’t just auto-attack anything that moves. These add ons come with their own active skill that can be used in the heat of combat. In addition to this, a range of passive skills and differnt stats makes each type of Soulinker companion particularly effective against different bosses in A3, meaning a mix of Soulinkers is always useful to have on hand.
Operating much like a standard player character, Soulinkers come with their own stats, gear, passive and active skills, level, and progression tree. Gear for Soulinkers is individual to this type of companion, so you won’t be sharing your old cast offs, and the four skill slots we noted on each Soulinker can be upgraded using their own currency, called Topaz. Levelling up each Soulinker’s base character level, again, is completely separate from the main player avatar, yet still seems to act as a glorified weapon consuming lower level Soulinkers. Whether this means that the Soulinker concept turns into a massive gacha styled money sink really comes down to the way that Netmarble reward players for their time in-game and during our first look, Netmarble were adamant that the game does offer up the opportunity to pick up Soulinkers, gear, and more for free.
Battle Royale Mode
One way of grabbing loot, lies outside A3’s primary quest arc, in the battle royale game mode. This game system is available right from the off. At level one players can plunge into a free for all match with up to thirty other players, or team up with two other adventurers to take on the rest of the map. By farming your way through hordes of monsters, and other players, you’ll level up and increase your power over the course of a match, unlocking new weapon skills and maxing out at level 20. As time progresses, each map pushes players towards a final confrontation and the player with the most progression is likely to come out on top. While this all sounds fairly functional for a battle royale mode, the concept is meaningful in A3. Battle royale encounters allow players in A3 to level up in the open world. XP is earned through a battle royale match and the attached battle pass looks like it will provide extra loot that will reward successful competitors beyond the realms of this game mode.
After Netmarble dredged the battle royale dungeon and cleared out all competition before us, we got some time to dissect our hour with A3: Still Alive and we’re certainly intrigued. Netmarble looks like they’ve done a fantastic job at cramming A3 onto a mobile format. The graphics certainly benefit from their small screen setting and the core concepts seem to set this MMO apart from other more anime-esque concepts. There’s just no point taking on Genshin Impact at this point and Netmarble clearly aren’t trying. Instead, they’ve taken a core concept that will hopefully have a slightly darker edge than games like Lineage 2: Revolution and put a very familiar yet robust mobile framework around it. Where A3 is likely to live or die looks to be how Netmarble choose to monetize and market the battle royale and Soulinker systems. These could be innovative twists on existing systems but only if handled right. We’re still waiting on access to give you more than our first impressions. Until then, grab your character name and pre-register over at the official A3: Still Alive website.