A3: Still Alive Review – Nostalgic MMORPG Design

    Title: A3: Still Alive
    Developer: Netmarble
    Release Date: November 10, 2020
    Reviewed On: iOS
    Publisher: Netmarble
    Genre: Mobile MMORPG

MMORPGs can either be an amazingly fresh experience or more of the same with little to no innovation. However, there hasn’t been much that could bring me back to the days of enjoyment I had with the genre in the mid-2000s. Netmarble’s mobile MMORPG, A3: Still Alive, brings back elements of the genre missed in modern titles and seamlessly threw in a game mode I never thought would work – a battle royale.

A3: Still Alive takes place in a dark fantasy setting where you’re on a quest to stop an evil deity that’s practically destroyed the world. Just like every other story with a character who has amazing powers to having nothing, your group tries to stop the diety and fails. A priestess on your team can somehow send you back in time before everyone’s demise and tasks you with putting a stop to the evil deity before it takes over again.

Along the way, you’ll kill a ton of monsters and bad guys, collect armor and weapons to power up your character, and help random NPCs. While this is a standard presentation of almost MMORPG, there’s something almost reminiscent of the old days of the genre that’s present here.

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I’ve been looking for an MMO with proper waypoints if I decide not to have auto-navigate on. That way, I’m free to explore if I want but still, know where I’m going if I want to get back on my active quest. While explained in a bit of an odd manner to activate the waypoint, it was still easy enough to get the hang of.

Other games do have waypoints, but this is the first mobile MMORPG I’ve played in a while with a simple arrow telling you what direction to run in for your next quest, which I greatly appreciated. I can run around, level up, explore without having to worry about micromanaging every little thing I need to do. Simple design choices like this can make a world of difference for any game.

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When it comes to the game’s mechanics, it’s simple mobile MMORPG battles with a list of skills you can choose from along with a basic attack. The systems are more reminiscent of a hack and slash. Battle animations look good, but nothing too out of the ordinary with other games in the genre. Massively out of the ordinary is the well-implemented use of gacha party characters called Soul Linkers and a seamlessly integrated battle royale mode.

Soul Linkers are gacha pulled characters that battle alongside you and have their own activatable ability to help during fights. Each Soul Linker comes in different rarities per the gacha mechanic. They have their own stats, passives, and abilities that you can level up and manage. It works because it never feels like a chore to use, like in other gacha games. It adds another dynamic to how you approach battles because you have to decide between a DPS heavy Soul Linker or crowd control focused one.

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There’s also a seamlessly woven in battle royale mode where you can earn different items and materials needed for the main story. 30 players are placed in this underground cave arena and must fight their way and survive to claim the throne in the middle. Unlike a typical battle royale, you can pick from several weapons with different basic attacks and various abilities.

This mode controls like the main game; however, you can aim your basic attacks with any weapon. It definitely helps when you’re trying to deal damage while keeping the most distance from your opponent as possible. There are also monsters within the area that you can kill to earn XP to upgrade your abilities and find loot. The battle royale was an unexpected but surely welcome addition to help break up the gameplay. The great thing is, you’re not forced to participate if you don’t want to. You can still play the main game without it.

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Some of the other PVE content is pretty insane and hectic, but I love it. You and what appears to be 150 other players drop into an area and defend areas from hordes of monsters and try to destroy a major boss.

Even in normal monster areas in the overworld of the campaign, I always saw a decent amount of people running around killing monsters and exploring. It brought me back to my time in Maplestory, and I absolutely loved it. The world felt alive, not because of the environment, but because the game actually allowed me to play with many people at once.

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A3: Still Alive is quite a blend of innovation, nostalgia, and good game design that resembles classic PC MMORPGs. Even through its basic fantasy setting, the content and solid gameplay offer reasons to stay invested in this world. The plot won’t have you emotionally invested, but there’s so much quality here in terms of solid connection across the multiple modes and systems that I should be present in all games of this genre. Netmarble definitely delivered in giving something to both new and old MMORPG fans.

Score:
8/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Brock Jensen

Saebyeolbe is the Tom Brady of Overwatch. MOBILE GAMERS ARE STILL GAMERS. Send me stuff [email protected]