Noah's Heart first impressions preview - "Puts the 'massive' in 'MMORPG'"
When you wake up in an unknown place with no memory of your past, do you try to learn more about the Midnight Order, or do you use your time to make sense of where you are and how you got there? Do you befriend the locals and help out with menial tasks, or do you soar past the clouds on your jetpack and celebrate the freedom of not having any past baggage to weigh you down?
Noah's Heart is an expansive MMORPG that features vast lands and a lush open world you can totally and willingly get lost in, with the top-notch customisation that you'd expect from the developers of Dragon Raja. But while Archosaur Games' massive undertaking has been in development for many, many years now, does it deserve your precious time and effort on mobile?Table of contents:
NOAH'S HEART STORY AND VISUALSThe main narrative of Noah's Heart is a bit of a challenge to follow, as players step into the shoes of an adventuring amnesiac who simply follows along with the NPCs he or she meets in the nearest town. There's a digital guide named Ave following you around as well, but you'll essentially have no idea what she's for or what you're supposed to do, creating a bit of a divide between the player and the game.
This lack of immersion somehow makes it a little harder for me to fully invest my emotions into the title despite its immersive and interactive elements - add that to the fact that some dialogue lines are lost in translation and it can be disconcerting to power forward when your motivation isn't clear.
Still, the visuals make up for the lack of story depth (at least, for the moment), as the world of Noah's Heart really does look absolutely gorgeous. The breathtaking landscape invites you to come hither and explore lands as far as the eye can see - and if you zoom out and check your World Map, it really is a "world" map in the truest sense, because you can explore the whole planet if you wish.
As for the character design, the game combines 3D elements during gameplay with 2D character art in the menu, and both look stunning. The deep customisation feature of your avatar - which you'll have to accomplish right from the get-go - is one of the biggest strengths of the game, as you can personalise everything from your face shape to your body size. Your outfits, however, will have to be bought or crafted at the tailor, which is a little disappointing for me - but I'll get to that later on.
NOAH'S HEART GAMEPLAY AND CONTROLSTypical of the genre, you'll have plenty of options to level up your character whether it's about your gear, your skills, or your Phantoms. This is where the gacha element of the game comes in - Phantoms you pull from the Summons pool have their own unique backstories, affinity levels, elements, passive abilities and active skills that can benefit you in combat. You can only pick one of them to "Possess", which means you can acquire that Phantom's abilities and stat boost for yourself.
You can't actually see these Phantoms when you're roaming around, which is a shame, in my opinion, since they all look so darn cool. You can, however, pick three of them from your roster to accompany you in dungeons and adventure explorations, where you can finally see them in action.
Combat is a manually operated affair - while you can auto-navigate your way around the world thanks to the auto path-finding feature and the map teleport feature, you'll have to manually control your character during real-time battles. This is actually pretty refreshing, as the combat is absolutely exhilarating. You'll be asked to pick one of five classes at the very beginning of the game, but it honestly won't matter further down the road as you can swap out different weapons and even acquire the skills and elements of your Phantoms.
When you're not in combat, you can also launch yourself into the sky and climb vantage points to enjoy breathtaking views of the world around you. You can also use your grappling hook to reach seemingly unreachable areas, as well as ride your mount and gallop around the plains to speed up travel. There's a hint of an airship and a few vehicles you can apparently unlock, but I honestly think I've barely scratched the surface of this expansive title since there are just so many things to see and do.
WHAT'S THE APPEAL?In that sense, Noah's Heart can be pretty overwhelming if you're not sure what you're in for, as it will demand hours and hours of your time and effort. The elemental attributes of combat alone - along with the rune system of your gear and so on - need your undivided attention if you want to excel in this game. Plus, it's not a single-player journey - it's an MMORPG, and an open-world one to boot.
And because there are just too many things to do, I think it's best to enjoy this game slowly and at your own pace. You'll really need to stop and smell the roses, so to speak, to enjoy the massive world the game has to offer.
For instance, I was walking around town on my way to complete a quest when I passed by a cat on the roadside. Thinking it looked curious, I stopped to talk to the feline furball, and somehow it seemed like it wanted me to give it something I currently didn't have at the moment because the conversation kept looping. It's these kinds of eccentricities that take me back to old-school RPGs where you can stumble upon hidden quests for valuable loot or unlock cool gear, and I have a feeling that, whatever this kitty quest is, it's going to be a fun ride when it's finally time for me to accept it.
One thing I wasn't particularly thrilled about when I played the game during its beta phase is how clunky the transitions are - at least, during this stage. You'll abrupt go from one scene to the next, so things feel very disjointed - not to mention not all lines are fully voiced as of yet.
I'm also not too big a fan of the fact that the gacha system is for Phantoms only. They all look so cool, but it's just a shame I can't use them - I'm stuck with my boring ol' character. I would've liked it if the gacha pool somehow included outfits I could customise my character with, but at the moment, fashion features look like they require a lot of premium currencies, which - given the beta nature of the game - I can't comment on at the moment.
I also would've appreciated a master list of the Phantoms I could get, just so I know which ones to aim for. At the moment, it doesn't seem like there's a glossary or gallery of all the available Phantoms.
Overall, Noah's Heart is a pretty epic undertaking that might just be the next big thing when kinks are ironed out after the CBT. The background music is lovely too, so lounging around mid-quest can be enjoyable in itself - just be wary of getting overwhelmed by all of the things you can or need to do. Give it a go if you're ready to invest hours and hours of your time into the title, as well as huge chunks of data from your mobile device.