Where did I put that Zombie?
Karma Online: Prisoners Of The Dead is a free-to-play online FPS being developed by Dragonfly that will be available on the Joymax Gaming Portal, home to the massive, long running Silk Road Online. The game is set in an alternate World War II setting and will see the players taking on the role of either Axis or Allies troops across a number of different game modes. So far, you may be thinking that you have seen all of this before. But Karma Online: PotD has a few tricks up it’s authentic WWII sleeve that may well make it stand out from the rest.
Perhaps the most interesting of these tricks would be the one given away by the title – Prisoners of the Dead. Yep, they have Zombies. The Zombie mode will pit each team against the shambling hordes of Zombies, as well as each other, offering an interesting three-way battle in which each team must kill as many Zombies as they can whilst trying to prevent the other team from doing the same. It is also available with PvP turned off, allowing new players to become accustomed to the controls and the fast pace of the game.
Which is something I could have done with during my time in the pre-open beta. To say that the game is quick-paced would be an understatement. Jumping straight in at the deep-end, I launched into a team deathmatch with a bunch of other players. From my spawning point, I ran around a corner and got shot. Once bitten, twice shy. The second time I slowly approached the same corner and poked myself around to see what was going on … and got shot again. The third time, I took a different route and managed to last a few more seconds before being unceremoniously killed. It took a little while to get used to, and to learn the map we were playing on, but once that little hiccup had been overcome, I was making head-shots and leaping through windows like a pro.
Well, that’s how I remember it. After playing a fair few games and even leveling my character a bit, I decided to check out the tutorial. As it stands right now, the tutorial is fairly basic and serves only to give the player an overview of which buttons do what and how to move etc. It is, however, worth going through as the player is rewarded with some in-game cash and skill points that can be used for improving their character and buying new equipment.
The whole leveling and development of the players’ character within the game is also very interesting. To begin with, the player must buy a character from each faction with their start-up capital. In the beta there were only a limited number of different characters for each faction, with the more expensive ones offering more complete skill trees in which to spend skill points. The player then has the option of buying different weapons and equipment, as they unlock them through leveling up. This allows the player to create different load-outs for their characters depending on their chosen battlefield role. The selection of guns and equipment was a bit sparse when I was playing, but as it was only in beta I would imagine that many, many more items will become available to buy once the game goes live. In a slightly RPG style twist, characters are limited by weight as to what equipment and weapons they can include in their load-out, with the more expensive characters having a higher capacity and thus able to carry more equipment. This strategy ensures that players think carefully about which weapons to take on the battlefield, as the bigger, more powerful weapons are generally heavier and thus leave less room for such essentials as first-aid kits or body armour.
There is no denying that the gameplay is a hell of a lot of fun, with standard modes such as free-for-all and team deathmatch, and the more exotic modes such as the demolition mode in which one team has to plant an explosive at one of two vulnerable spots whilst the other must defend those spots and wipe out the opposition. The game moves incredibly quickly and doesn’t give the player any chance to get bored. The weapons all feel good and I didn’t experience any lag at all whilst playing. But, for all of this fun, I do have a couple of concerns.
The first is perhaps the most glaring, and that is the games visuals. I understand that it is in pre-open beta, but the game really didn’t look good. The textures were seriously dated and the general colour scheme was dull. There is plenty of time for this to be improved upon before the games launch though, so I am not overly worried. The same can be said for the menu, which is my second concern.
As it stood within the beta, the menu screen seemed a bit confusing and muddled. Twice I accidentally quit the game when simply trying to find my way back from the character development screen to the matches screen. And for those of you who have been paying attention, you will notice that I have not mentioned playing the Zombie mode. That was because I never found it. Admittedly, I only had a couple of days before the pre-open beta closed, but I searched high and low for a Zombie, to no avail. To be honest, I am not even sure if the mode was there at the time. Either way, the interface could really do with an overhaul before launch, just so idiots like me can find their way around a bit easier.
My third, and final, concern is how the microtransactions will be managed. Beside the initial cash injection at the beginning of the game, players get some cash after each match. But it is not a lot of money and given that some of the better characters can cost quite a substantial sum, it would take the average player days to save up enough from just playing without having to fork out real world money. A balance will have to be struck to keep the “free” players interested whilst also preventing those who do want to spend real world money from being too powerful. We will have to wait and see how the microtransactions work out.
But this is the joy of playing a game in beta. Sure, the game looks visually unimpressive at the moment, and I couldn’t find any Zombies. But the game plays really well and there is time for the menu and graphics to be tweaked, whilst I am sure that the Zombie mode will turn up before launch. When the pre-open beta closed, I actually missed the game, which is a sign that it was certainly doing something right.
Karma Online: Prisoners of the Dead open beta begins on August 2nd 2011. Head over to http://www.joymax.com/karma/ to sign up for an account.