John McCarroll
E3: Perfect World's Trio of MMORPGs
All of them free-to-play.
06.05.09 - 8:23 PM

Perfect World Entertainment is a big name in China for free-to-play MMORPGs and they've spread some of their goodness to North America. Playable on the show floor was two of their released titles, Perfect World International and Ether Saga Online, as well as their newest title, currently in beta, Jade Dynasty. We had a chance to check out all three of them and they're some of the better looking FTP MMORPGs we've seen yet.

All three of Perfect World's titles are all running on the same Angelica engine in various different forms, so there are quite a few options that are common to the three games, all of which are targeting different demographics of gamers. All of the titles feature flying mounts, as well as a mounted combat system. Players are not bound to a single realm in any of the titles - they are free to change servers with their characters, as Perfect World wants players to be together, rather than putting up barriers to keep them apart. With all three titles being originally released in China, they are designed to run well on lower-spec machines, but all three have high quality settings for the machines that many North American players own. Each also has a dual-layered armor systems, allowing players to create a second set of aesthetics-only armor while keeping the statistics of their top-tier equipment.

Perfect World International is the more hardcore-focused title of the three, providing incredibly deep character customization and a focus on end-game and PvP. Players take control of a Winged Elf, Beast, or Human character that can be customized fully with standard options or can be customized with Real Money Transaction-purchased items. The game also allows players to sell their cash points (called Zen) to other players for in-game cash. In this way, players who do not want to use the RMT function of the game don't have to, but can still gain access to the premium items. Players can engage in massive PvP battles of ownership of zones, and guilds can fight in battles up to 80 versus 80 to take control of a zone. All players also have access to a Genie pet that allows them to shore up the weaknesses of their class. The genie also has access to its own skill tree. Perfect World International is currently available on the official website, linked below.

Ether Saga Online is Perfect World's second currently-active title. Based on the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, Ether Saga Online takes place before the novel. The gameplay is based around all players having access to a pet, regardless of which of the six classes they choose to play as. Each pet, which are captured monsters from the world, has one of nine types, each of which is weak and strong versus the other types of monsters. Players can capture as many monsters as they have inventory spaces free, so no one is limited to a particular stock of pets. Characters can also transform into different monsters, giving the player character a monster type for better fighting certain NPCs. Ether Saga Online is available now from Perfect World's website.

Jade Dynasty is currently in beta and was playable at Perfect World's booth. The title follows the story of five warring factions, all with different tactics to try and obtain the ultimate goal of human immortality. The game is designed for ease of play, and Perfect World has several systems in place to keep players from getting frustrated. All the quests in the game have the ability for players to auto-path at a click of the mouse button. However, as the player character maneuvers the environment, they will aggro monsters and the like and continue running, so the system is far from fire-and-forget.

Jade Dynasty also features three major types of assistance for convenient leveling. Players can meditate in-game to gain experience every minute if not moving. It's only a fraction of the experience that players would gain by questing or fighting monsters, but it's something that players can do while socializing. The second type of experience booster is the Dream function, which allows players to gain experience at a set rate when logged out, perfect for vacationing players. Dreaming is not available to players straight away, and they must complete certain objectives in the game to get access to dreams. Players also have access to a pet called an Invigorator, which helps players as an AI-controlled ally, but saps the player's energy while active.

While the game is very friendly for level-ups, players will group together in warring clans. Clans are small guilds of 12 members each which can fight and dungeon together. These clans can also join alliances of theoretically infinite number of clans. Alliances can enter dungeons as well, and while the regular monsters won't change, the end-bosses scale based on how many players are in the dungeon. There isn't a set limit to how many clans can enter a dungeon, so there can be battles with hundreds of players. Alliances will also fight for control of in-game areas for control of cities and other territories.

Currently in closed beta, Jade Dynasty is slated for release this month.