KurtzPel – When Karma Needs a Hand

Outside of the steady stream of licensed 3D fighting games such as Naruto or Dragon Ball, not to mention the underwhelming Jump Force, it’s not like you have many options to scratch your anime brawling itch. Luckily, South Korea once again comes to the rescue as KOG Games is about to release KurtzPel, an exciting class-based third-person arena brawler.

KOG isn’t new to the genre, having released a couple of action games before, albeit in somewhat different styles. Grand Chase and Elsword were both 2D side-scrolling brawlers and sizable successes. KurtzPel, on the other hand, marks the leap to full-fledged 3D arenas with complete freedom of movement, a dual-weapon system and aerial combos inspired by the aforementioned animes.

KurtzPel Preview Battle Start

Everybody Was Combo Fighting

The Early Access release of KurtzPel shows a no holds barred fighting system where you don’t have more than a couple of seconds of respite per match. Use this break wisely to gather your thoughts and rethink your strategy, since this is a game where player skill is of the utmost importance, against bashing the controls in the hope that some devastating blow appears out of nowhere. Practice makes perfect, as much as unlocking new abilities and items to make your character look good, but also to boost your stats.

KurtzPel begins with a personality test of sorts. If you’re wondering what this has to do with a fighting game… well, you’re correct to do so. Answering a few questions will steer you towards a specific type out of 16 possibilities, such as Observer, Hero, Shy or Leader. This test is based on the Myers-Briggs personality test that you can find online, but in KurtzPel you don’t get any kind of accurate report about who you are and what makes you tick; instead, your results will set you up with a prearranged character with a distinct stance, hairstyle and voice. However, you are not bound to the result and can change this before tweaking your character.

KurtzPel has one of the most in-depth character customization systems that I’ve ever seen in a fighting game. Scratch that – one of the most detailed systems in any online game. You can make your character tall, short, skinny or fat, change several aspects of your hair and dye parts of it, among other things. It’s not quite at the level of Black Desert Online as it doesn’t offer the complete freedom to customize facial features such as the nose and mouth, aspects that are sorely lacking, but you get more than enough to stand out from the crowd.

KurtzPel Preview Black Fang Battle

Eltheca is the hub town where you and other fellow Chasers unite. This label isn’t random; it is in fact inspired by one of KOG’s previous games, Grand Chase. Fans of this 2D brawler will immediately recognize some of the characters and it’s not unlikely that a tear or two will be shed. KurtzPel is set in a parallel universe of Grand Chase and while this may not mean a thing to most players, it’s a pleasant layer of fan service that should be celebrated.

One of the defining traits of KurtzPel is the Karma system. Karmas can be compared to the classes found in other games, determining the weapon and skills that your Chaser takes to the arena. Currently there are four Karmas available, with the first two being unlocked from the start: Longbow (Dance of Wind), Greatsword (Sword Taliah), Staff (Diabolic Witch) and Gauntlets (Blazing Fist). The next in line is the Dual Swords (Dual Souls) Karma, which is self-explanatory.

While you must pick a Karma to begin with, it won’t take long for you to unlock a second one. The big twist is that you can equip two Karmas and switch between them on-the-fly. The best players will even be able to create combos based on cunning Karma switching, but this requires quite a bit of training. Choosing a long-range Karma such as the Longbow and a melee-based Karma like the Greatsword results in a timeless combination that every fan of fighting games should be able to learn and master.

Additional skills can be unlocked when you acquire Karma shards. These can be obtained by your growing affinity with the NPCs in Eltheca, increasing the strategic options in the arena. When you choose a PvE mission, it is tied to a specific NPC and you can sometimes chat with him or her at the end of the dungeon. Picking the right keywords may increase your affinity level with Crim Plie or Lire Eruel, for example, paving the way for rewards such as specific skills or equipment.

KurtzPel Preview PvP Battle

Big Brawl in Little Eltheca

Being an instance-based dungeon brawler, KurtzPel is entirely comprised of either PvE boss battles or PvP clashes. In PvE you are tasked with missions that are related to an NPC and may be solo or two-player co-op, with a specific category of real-time missions only appearing at certain times. The only surefire thing is that you will be facing one threatening and usually larger than life boss…  well, apart from the Dark Elves Shay and Ney, who are very much normal sized but a tough challenge as well.

The PvE mode may feel a little bare-bones, but it goes without saying that KurtzPel is first and foremost a PvP game. This addition feels like the devs going the extra mile to please a portion of players disappointed by the lack of a story mode. Their intention is laudable and if you are not too picky, you can have a lot of fun with it. Otherwise, you would miss on some stunning boss creatures, so even if you are a PvP player at heart, make sure to learn the combat basics in the story mode.

In this aspect, KurtzPel comes highly recommended, with bosses that are accomplished in every regard. Your foes come in different shapes and sizes, with a selection of attacks that will always require you to stay alert, either up close or at a distance. Some encounters double the danger, with a pair of bosses to defeat – while Dark Elf Karin stays safe in the distance using her magic-based skills, her oversized cougar Black Fang gets up close and personal, with fierce claw attacks to knock you down.

KurtzPel Preview Giant Stone Golem Battle

KurtzPel is a looker, there is no denying that, with the Unreal Engine 4 being put to great use. The anime design is clean and well-defined, with models that are far from being overloaded with needless details. The game truly shines when it comes to the dazzling visual effects, a spectacle of color and motion that often distracts you from your mission – arrows raining from the skies, dragon fire, tiny tornadoes… There is no shortage of things going on in each battle.

As soon as you set foot on the arena, you’ll immediately realize just how fast everyone moves and how your ability to use break skills is crucial to interrupt the enemy’s attacks, creating opportunities for your ally to strike. Each class has a unique Karma crystal, a powerful ability that works as a vital comeback mechanic – the meter grows as you successfully attack, but mostly as you take damage, a mechanic that isn’t to everyone’s tastes but that you’ll have to learn to work with to your advantage.

But fighting the AI-controlled bosses in KurtzPel is a walk in the park when compared to the real meat of the game, player versus player. I’m not overstating it when I say that I felt physically exhausted after a couple of deathmatches, such was the relentless pace, eye-watering projectile-based scuffles and brutal melee combat. Current PvP modes are 2v2 and include Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Conquest, with a custom match system where 3v3 is a new feature.

KurtzPel Preview Eltheca Hub Town

Deathmatch is exactly what you think it is: two teams of two players unleashing hell on one another, with the team that has scored the most points when the timer runs out winning the match. In Capture the Flag you must keep the flag in your possession for the longest possible, with the victory once again smiling to the team that has more points. Conquest is all about capturing and dominating the middle area of the map.

After some thinking, KOG ultimately settled on a free-to-play business model for KurtzPel, which means that the game must continuously generate enough revenue to support further development and updates. For this Early Access preview I received the Vanguard costume and weapon set, among other items that will be available as paid DLC. Besides looking good, these pieces of gear give your character a few stats boosts, and you can go to the Library to upgrade other equipment or unlock additional Karma crystal slots. Having two locked Karmas – which you can unlock through gameplay progress – stirred up some turmoil, but KOG has stated that this is meant for those players who wish to completely skip the PvE portion and dive in instantly in PvP. How this will work out for the game is still up for discussion, but the community will surely cry foul at the first sign of unbalanced clashes.

KurtzPel still needs fine-tuning to make all the Karmas feel balanced and fair. Nevertheless, that is precisely what the Early Access phase is for, with player feedback hopefully steering it in the right direction. It’s a game with high production values and an experienced and enthusiastic team. Unless something goes terribly wrong, KurtzPel is bound to give other games such as Dissidia Final Fantasy NT or Jump Force a butt-whooping to remember.

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10 Exciting MMOs That Are Yet to Be Released

There are some awfully good MMOs in the making right now. Some of them are nearing release, while others are probably going through their very own development hell, possibly never to be seen again. No matter what, I want to believe that the following games will eventually make their way into North America and Europe, even if some of them take a few more years of work. In no particular order, here is my list of 10 Exciting MMOs That Are Yet to Be Released.

And no, Phantasy Star Online 2 is not included here. The English version of that game is dead and buried, you need to let go.

Lost Ark

10 Exciting MMOs That Are Yet to Be Released - Lost Ark

Lost Ark is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most anticipated MMORPGs in recent history. Everything about it screams AAA quality, which is a nice change from the rushed, me-too MMOs that we have suffered through during the last five years of so. I don’t know if it’s my inner Diablo fan speaking, or if the huge scope of this MMORPG just seems to scratch my itch, but I think Lost Ark is going to please every MMO fan, even the most insensitive brutes among you.

Developed by Smilegate, the Korean studio that is now swimming in CrossFire money – still one of the top grossing titles worldwide, surprisingly beating Fortnite Battle Royale and PUBG on PC –, Lost Ark represents a huge investment and a solid bet for the South Korean studio.

Let’s just say things as they are – Lost Ark isn’t the Diablo MMORPG that everyone is dreaming of, but it sure is the closest thing that you can get, even considering the likes of the excellent Path of Exile. The diverse character classes offer such a vast array of combat choices that you will be hard-pressed to pick one and stick with it for days, and I’m not even counting with the Tripod system, which allows you to customize the skills in a unique way that suits your playstyle. Combat feels impactful and crunchy, and the amazing animations and skill effects are the cherry on top of this lip-smacking fantasy cake.

Even if graphics aren’t everything, I’m not the one to say that I don’t like my games with some impressive visuals. For a game that runs on the old-fashioned but heavily modified Unreal Engine 3, Lost Ark looks remarkable for our day and age. Just as with Black Desert Online, this is a game where I will often stop and take my time to look at the details in the environment – there is one island where you become microscopic and seeing every bug and blade of grass so huge makes quite an impact.

With the Korean open beta coming later this year, my only regret is that there is no western release officially announced, despite rumors and datamining that point to it.

Peria Chronicles

10 Exciting MMOs That Are Yet to Be Released - Peria Chronicles

Imagine the most beautiful anime game ever made, then mix with it a hefty dose of wacky creature design that would stand proudly among the best from Pokémon. That’s Peria Chronicles in a nutshell, but there is so much more to this game. In fact, it’s obvious that developer Thingsoft was shooting for the skies, as this beautiful anime sandbox MMORPG is now going through development hell, and it is likely that some features are being toned down or entirely removed.

But what is Peria Chronicles all about? It is, plain and simple, one of the most ambitious projects coming out of South Korea, backed up by the powerhouse that is Nexon. The goal is to create a community-driven world where players can build their own towns, manage the economy and social system that drives these towns, and even design their own quests, dungeons and NPCs. It’s a daunting task and Peria Chronicles’ design has often been compared to Minecraft, in the sense that you could build anything, design anything – but with wonderful graphics to go along.

They are not just bragging either; we’ve been shown a gigantic Tetris machine created in-game, as well as some impressive terraforming. This is obviously a nightmare to develop, and the similarly ambitious and canceled EverQuest Next surely agrees.

Then we have the combat phase. Your character finds and collects Kirana – let’s not call them Pokémon for copyright reasons – and uses them in battle. This was one of the aspects that needed a lot of extra work, based on feedback from the 2016 demo.

In theory, Peria Chronicles is like an MMORPG player’s dream. It looks like heaven, gives you almost full control to do what you want, and tasks you with being as creative as you can. In practice, it could turn out to be a broken, bugged, exploit-ridden mess of a game. If it is ever released, of course. This would definitely be my top contender for this list of 10 exciting MMOs that are yet to be released.

Lineage Eternal (Project TL)

10 Exciting MMOs That Are Yet to Be Released - Lineage Eternal Project TL

The Lineage series remains as NCSoft’s cash cow for several years, with the first game bringing the most revenue to the Korean publisher. It’s no surprise then that they want to keep the money rolling, first with a popular mobile release and now with the third official game in the series.

Lineage Eternal was announced in 2011 and has gone through some rough times, with development team changes and a renewed focus. The 2016 beta revealed a multi-character system that is now completely scrapped in favor of a more traditional character control approach. To be honest, this system seemed a bit weird, as you could only control/see one character at a time and swapped between them with the push of a button.

With the new team and focus, Project TL is shaping up to be a very different game. Even the game engine was changed, from a proprietary engine to Unreal Engine 4. The revamp retains some of the ideas from the previous iteration – environmental destruction, dynamic weather, large-scale battles, physics… but it looks like the design was streamlined, to say the least.

Seven years have passed since its announcement and the new Lineage is still some time away from a closed beta. Again.

Kingdom Under Fire 2

10 Exciting MMOs That Are Yet to Be Released - Kingdom Under Fire 2

There is no way of knowing what is happening at Blueside’s headquarters. They have this ambitious, one-of-a-kind action MMORPG and yet, a decade has passed since its announcement and there is no western release in sight.

I remember playing Kingdom Under Fire 2 in 2014 during the first Asian beta test and I was impressed with the scope of the battles and mostly with the way that your character sliced and diced through hundreds of troops and creatures. There was something unique to it, a clever mix of action and strategy that was rarely seen.

Your character, carefully picked from a batch of five (Elementalist, Ranger, Gunslinger, Spellsword and Berserker), would not just take active part in battles with a deeply satisfying action MMORPG feel, they would also be the one to command troops and outline the tactical approach when the clashes became more demanding. There was a clever real-time strategy hook to Kingdom Under Fire 2, providing a delicate balance that very few online games ever dared to try.

In all honesty, I would prefer such a game instead of the deluge of Battle Royale copycats that we are getting every other week. And yet, developer Blueside is utterly failing to give us a proper update for quite some time. The last we heard from them was over a year ago, unconvincingly reassuring us (again) that the western release was happening and that is was planned for late 2017 or early 2018 on PC and PlayStation 4.

Sure, guys.

Kurtzpel

10 Exciting MMOs That Are Yet to Be Released - Kurtzpel

Kurtzpel is probably a mystery to a lot of you, but it deserves more recognition as it isn’t without potential. First, it is developed by KOG Studio, who you should know as the creators of Grand Chase and Elsword, two cherished MMO games. Secondly, it looks and feels like the spiritual sequel of both games, taking some characters from the former and the style of the latter, mixing it all up in a third-person blend that is colorful, frantic and thrilling.

The focus of Kurtzpel is clearly on PvP, while leaving PvE as something of an afterthought. It’s not that they are ignoring a story mode – there is one and you can play the boss battles in co-op with a friend – but they are evidently aiming for the competitive side of things. Kurtzpel runs on the always reliable Unreal Engine 4, but the team tweaked it to make it more suited to the cel-shaded anime graphics of the game.

KOG Studio aims to create a fighting experience that ditches character levels and stats almost entirely; their goal is to provide action combat mechanics where timing, situation assessment and swift reactions are vital to succeed.

An alpha or beta is purportedly coming before the end of 2018, but it should be exclusive to Korean territories.

Age of Wushu 2

10 Exciting MMOs That Are Yet to Be Released - Age of Wushu 2

If you like your martial arts games with a side dish of fantasy, then you probably enjoyed Age of Wushu. There was something compelling about this Wuxia-inspired MMORPG, with several systems contributing to a game of commendable depth. Combat was also interesting, being more tactical than most, while still featuring some of those outlandish moves that you are used to see in Chinese films. But there was room for improvement, and a sequel was the right thing to do…

… After the mandatory mobile version Age of Wushu Dynasty, of course, which was released in 2016.

Snail Games started development on Age of Wushu 2 in 2014, but in the meantime, it looks like Dark and Light became the priority. The latest news point to a 2018 reveal, but the lack of recent news is disheartening. This is quite a shame, as for Age of Wushu 2 we were promised a sandbox game with a focus on survival elements – dynamic weather, resource gathering, day and night cycle, non-target combat and even the ability to build your own school, a.k.a. faction. All of this powered by the Unreal Engine 4.

Fantasy martial arts games are always a big question mark when it comes to North America and Europe. However, Blade & Soul seems to be doing fine for itself, so I wouldn’t mind a bit of quality competition.

Ascent: Infinite Realm

10 Exciting MMOs That Are Yet to Be Released - Ascent Infinite Realm

TERA set the bar really high for developer Bluehole; it was a tough act to follow on one of the better MMORPGs still running nowadays. While they managed to fool everyone with the unexpected release of PUBG and sparked the latest trend – Battle Royale –, everyone was expecting their next move in the MMORPG genre.

Late 2017, Bluehole reveals Ascent: Infinite Realm, an incredibly ambitious steampunk MMORPG with a heavy focus on aerial combat and an impressive disregard for frame rate. Yes, because the announcement trailer was torn apart due to the frame drops and lack of optimization – players are always quick to destroy a game based on what is obviously a very raw, early version of a game.

Still, the ambition was there, the aerial battles look like Cloud Pirates but way more chaotic, and absolutely needed a lot of work, as the airships felt weightless, physics be damned. While on foot, Ascent: Infinite Realm doesn’t seem to evolve on the acclaimed TERA action combat system, instead feeling dull and unexciting. Maybe the fun begins when you reach the endgame and its Realm versus Realm PvP, right?

I’m being too critical of Ascent: Infinite Realm, but I admit that we have been treated to a very early, very rough build. Showing this game so soon probably harmed it in more ways than one, and it clearly needed more time to fully shine. I’m guessing that Bluehole still has a lot of work to do before a proper, polished version is ready for beta.

Moonlight Blade

10 Exciting MMOs That Are Yet to Be Released - Moonlight Blade

Moonlight Blade is one of several fantasy martial arts games coming from Eastern developers. This one hails from China, more specifically from Tencent, the gigantic corporation that seems to have a tight grip on everything, from League of Legends’ Riot Games to Path of Exile’s Grinding Gear Games.

As for Moonlight Blade, it’s been around for a while in Korea and China, featuring a world that is said to be 18 times larger than Skyrim. While it won’t win any awards for originality, Moonlight Blade looks good, sometimes truly great, and those flying skills have to be seen to be believed.

After a couple of years of uncertainty, Nexon has unofficially confirmed – twice – that Moonlight Blade is indeed getting an English release. Even if this isn’t in anyone’s top MMORPG list, it is definitely worth looking into.

Dual Universe

10 Exciting MMOs That Are Yet to Be Released - Dual Universe

Is Dual Universe trying to go where No Man’s Sky has gone before? This is the kind of game that seems too good to be true, and we know what usually happens with that, right? However, maybe  French developer Novaquark really knows what they are doing.

The way that it is shaping up, this sci-fi MMORPG could turn out to be the perfect mix of Minecraft and EVE Online. There is a scale to Dual Universe, an ambition that seems unrivaled and a game that will only prosper if one thing happens – a big… no, a galactic player base is willing to populate the game and build the civilization that this single-shard sandbox MMORPG needs and hopefully deserves.

Dual Universe is an intimidating game. It could fail in so many ways, and it could also never be feature-complete, judging by the scope of it. With a roadmap to be strictly followed and a release planned for the second half of 2020, maybe we will in fact get to explore this brave new world. We only have to build it first.

Ashes of Creation

10 Exciting MMOs That Are Yet to Be Released - Ashes of Creation

Ashes of Creation may look like your classic high fantasy MMORPG, but there is much more to it, at least in theory. The idea of an experience where every player will live something entirely different is extremely appealing. Depending on the actions of the players, the population size and other aspects, the dynamic game world will change and unlock new quests. The AI is also said to be adaptive, with the same creature reacting differently according to the player.

It almost sounds too good, right? In fact, it reminds me a lot of this game called EverQuest Next, which also had some revolutionary plans for its AI and world building, and where is it now? Exactly, canceled without ever showing a hint of what was promised, unless we include the failed Landmark in the equation.

You can easily tell that I am a little wary of Ashes of Creation, and selling a $375.00 Founder’s Pack makes me question if everyone is rich except for me. With a monthly subscription fee of $15, it really needs to be special to motivate players to stick around for long. The release is scheduled to happen before 2020, but this game has a lot to prove if it plans on living up to its developer’s claims.

These are 10 exciting MMOs that are yet to be released, most likely a couple of years away from launch, or even beta. However, it’s hard to forget about them and the incredible potential that they hold. If you had to pick only one game from this list, what would it be?

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