Sometimes They Come Back: RF Online 1.5

“RF Online” are words that sow fear into my heart. 160 years ago, in 2006, I had yet to come to the realisation that “No!” was the only sensible answer to, “Would you like to review this MMO for meagre freelance pay?” So it was I took on the task of RF Online, a Korean MMO that put the “grrrrrrr” in “grind”. It is with… confusion, really, that I notice an open beta is beginning for a game called RF Online 1.5.

My experience with RF Online was pretty horrendous. Certainly the game was not without its defenders, but it’s important to note that they were all wrong and mad. The moment at which I realised I couldn’t cope with what I was facing occurred after I stepped through one of the game’s portals, turned a corner, and was greeted by the sight of hundreds of players, all standing absolutely still on a hillside. It was creepy. Really creepy.

What was actually happening was they were mining for ore, for the game’s eight-hourly three-way faction wars – ore to turn into guns, and the like, for their chosen side. But the game was so half-arsed, so utterly focused on the grind, that it hadn’t even bothered to implement animations for the pneumatic drills each player was holding perfectly stationary in front of them, on the never-damaged ground beneath them. There they stood, in their hundreds, watching a number increase in a box, and this – this was good enough for them. This was gaming. I couldn’t take it.

So, as I documented in my Eurogamer review at the time, I thought I should try to do something. Stood on the hillside as they were, I was afforded a tiered crowd from my position, facing them at the bottom. This was my amphitheatre, they were my unwitting audience. It went like this:

Me: Why are you all here?
Me: You’re standing still, doing nothing.
Me: I’m here to set you free.
Mathar: why?
Me: Look what you’ve become.
Me: Do you not want to run?
Me: To be free?
Hateman: preparing for the war?
Me: People, there’s a world outside of here.
Me: You no longer have to be slaves.
Me: This isn’t life.
Me: What are you fighting for?
Me: You have been enslaved.
Me: I weep for you all.
Cerebrus: wat the f u catting about???!??!?

It didn’t go down so well.

The game closed it’s EU and US servers in 2008.

And now the game is back. What surprises me most is the “1.5” in the title. Seven years later, surely by now they could just slap a “2” on it and let me assume things might be further moved on? Looking at some not-really-how-it-looks “footage” posted from the Korean version last year, they certainly haven’t graphically.

Indeed, the press release I’ve received only offers, “RF Online 1.5 is a revision of the original RF Online with added balancing and a new level cap at 105.” And of course it’s now free to play. The trailer released today is exactly the same trailer released last August, which never looks great.

So I thought I’d go back, see what’s changed.


About that.

The first thing I see as I emerge from the barren starting point (complete with its reams of text boxes with words split whenever the reach the right edge on every line) is a group of other players, standing utterly still, their pneumatic drills frozen in position, as they mine for ore. Before I can even think about asking how long they’ve been doing that for – maybe for seven years? – a message popped up saying that I was logging out. “Connection to the server has been lost, so the game will qui…” and I was staring at my desktop before I could finish reading it. So, fair enough.

You can get in on the free action heading over here!


  1. Brun says:

    Korean MMO that put the “grrrrrrr” in “grind”

    Redundant redundant statement.

    • Dowr says:

      Friend of mine: “Hey, want to try this MMO I’ve been playing?”
      Me: “What is it?”
      Friend: “Well, it’s a Korean MMO ca-”
      Me: “Dear god man, what are you doing!”

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  2. Dowr says:

    I remember picking this up during my MMO phase; never again.

  3. Chizu says:

    I’ll admit, I had some fun early on this this game, I only played it when it went f2p the first time, and quit when the grind sets in. I probably won’t go back.
    The thing with MMO’s is I only ever enjoy the start.
    I like starting out, seeing the world for the first time, getting to understand how things work, seeing things for the first time.
    And then I become immensely bored with no desire to continue.
    I’ve probably never spent more than 60hours at most on an MMO, the only exception to that is probably Ragnarok Online. For some reason.

    • Wedge says:

      Ragnarok Online has an oddly unique charm, being made well before most of the other MMO’s out there. It’s incredibly unbalanced and broken and full of bots, but nevertheless feels unique and different from most things that came after. I always felt the fixed-iso perspective and sprite-based gameplay made it feel more interactive and actiony than most MMOs. And it helps the soundtrack is one of the greatest ever.

      • apocraphyn says:

        Indeed, the isometric, 2D sprite populated world of Ragnarok Online was rather charming. I had a lot of fun with it, several years back.

        You served me well, Exxx the “Assassin Cross”.

      • Raiyne says:

        Ragnarok Online was the bomb. I discovered it early in my MMO phase of adolescence, I think I was like 12 when the US beta was getting released. It was my 2nd MMO after Dragon Raga (which was pretty cool itself, despite the grind). The world seemed so alive and engaging, and the soundtrack was awesome.

        Then I discovered private servers. So that lasted me for quite a few years. :D

  4. Kits says:

    I was quite fond of the concept behind this game, but the grindgrindgrind for everything..especially levelling skills, drove me to insanity rather fast. It was such a shame. It was really pretty, and things like the dwarf race and their mechs were rather cool.

  5. arienette says:

    I played this briefly back in the day, biggest memory was the appalling chat filter. Sentences would be banned for no discernible reason and a simple conversation could turn in to an epic battle of wits.

    • zeroskill says:

      I wanted to write something like “Well, that sounds a bit like RPS’s comment section” but then I decided not to.

      Oh snap. Did I just write that out loud?

    • Alphadrop says:

      Reason for that was they used babelfish to translate the Korean profanity filter and just plonked it in instead of actually researching English naughty words.

  6. pupsikaso says:

    I remember this game, too. And being a veteran of Lineage2 I can say the grind for this game is simply stupid. Don’t even bother with it.

  7. MOKKA says:

    I always love how utterly absurd MMOs can be.

  8. Thurgret says:

    This also sums up my experience with EVE.

    (okay, that’s unfair. I’m sorry. I subscribed to EVE for three months, but it just wasn’t very compelling)

    • Randomer says:

      Most MMOs have an (arguably) interesting single player experience for the days when you don’t have it in you for multiplayer/PvP time. That single player experience continues ’til basically the end game content.

      In EVE, the single player experience ends as soon as you need to pass into 0.4 space.

  9. The Random One says:

    The Lowtax principle: any sufficiently snarky MMO reviewer is indistinguishable from a troll.

  10. Lev Astov says:

    I tried RF Online when it was in beta. I stopped when it suffered a video crash so hard my video card freaked out and never worked well again. No other game suffered the same visual glitches RF did, but they all got a bit more crashy after that.

  11. Wodge says:

    Last time I was back home, HMV had a copy of it for sale for 15 Queen Pounds (apologies for the lack of GBP symbol, I am on a US internationl keyboard, and all they have is a #)

  12. strangeloup says:

    I had some kind of boxed beta… thing for the original version, years ago. As well as the game disc and some stickers and guff, it had a music CD with half a dozen tracks, some of which were really rather lovely.

    Shame the game was a grindy bag of shite really.

    • Pony Canyon says:

      Yea, some of the tracks are indeed quite lovely. I still have them in my Grooveshark rotation and they come up from time to time.

  13. serioussgtstu says:

    I want everyone to bring a giant drill to the RPS panel at Rezzed this year.

  14. Strangerator says:

    I think some people enjoy so-called “grind” in MMOs. Grind is essentially any low-risk, low-reward activity, and some people like this. It’s like a low-paying job that isn’t very mentally taxing. The problem I see in MMOs is that, in an effort to become universally accessible, the entire game becomes low-risk, low-reward (thus, a grind). But people play Farmville in droves. Maybe some people want to escape high stress and/or conflict ridden jobs (RL) by finding their entertainment mining ore, asteroids, or killing droves of mindless monsters for guaranteed level ups.

    A revolutionary MMO would eliminate grind by making everything carry risk and require skill and sharp mental focus. Even something like mining, you could place the ore veins in monster-populated areas, or perhaps add in risks of cave-ins or gas explosions. Combat should never feel grindy, and combat experience should be hard-won. No experience should be given to fighting something beneath your level. Penalties for death should be severe, causing loss of experience and/or equipment. Most activities would need to heavily incorporate player skill. No rewards should ever be doled out for something that comes easily to players. Advancement in such a game would actually be something to be proud of, instead of the current default “sprint to level cap to begin end-game.” Problem is, most MMOs have taught players to feel entitled to reach level caps if they grind through the prescribed theme-park path, and don’t you dare penalize death. Current MMOs are dispensories of “feelings of achievement” rather than gamespaces where actual achievements are possible. It’s hard for me to feel accomplished if I know what I am doing carries no risk of failure… I feel like a McDonald’s employee punching the clock until I get promoted to floor manager. It will happen eventually if I “grind it out.”

    • aliksy says:

      There’s some middle ground you excluded.

      Someone just needs to make an MMO with gameplay somewhere between Zelda and Dark Souls, and I’d play that. Ok, maybe. Someone needs to make an online game with gameplay somewhere between Zelda and Dark Souls, with a multiplayer structure like Dark Souls and/or Minecraft.

      • Strangerator says:

        Yeah, I don’t think the amount of dying in Dark Souls would jive well with what I’m thinking of in terms of how much death should suck. Haven’t played the game but from what I understand part of it is getting killed left and right. I’d have it set up to where you had to really prepare yourself to even go and tackle a single monster, and where the idea is not to die in the first place. So you maybe read in-game books or talk to NPCs for clues as to best approaches, or even better you would need to get hints from other players.

        MMOs need to have more activities than just combat, so I’d make crafting dauntingly complex with a ton of hidden nuances… all under the theme of replacing grind with challenge.

    • diestormlie says:

      Have you heard of an MMO called Firefall? It makes Mining Risky my making the mining dependent on a Call-Down Device which riles up the local wildlife to attack it and you. So you Spending your time Mining Shooting things.

  15. FakeAssName says:

    As a former RF online addict, I contest that the game is not as bad as this article depicts.

    It is however horrible for about a half million other reasons.

    It also never closed down, after codemasters lost / dropped the contract it switched over to being hosted on an engrish service run by the developer.

  16. The Magic says:

    Was that really 2006? I mean… I guess it makes sense that I was only 16 at the time but… time couldn’t have passed this much? It only feels like yes…terday…



    (Edit. I loved that article so much. You’re the best Mr. Walker.)

  17. VengefulGiblets says:

    Were you present for EverQuest in the first few months? Do you remember the hell levels? RF Online was like that for the entire game. In fact, it was worse. That’s in addition to everything else that was wrong with the game.

    RF should stay dead.

  18. Moraven says:

    I think I have the box somewhere still…This and Lineage 2 beta, just no, Korean MMO grind I could not do. I could not even level cap in EQ, but had a blast with it. The faction warfare could be fun, if you could grind long enough to have anything useful.

  19. Nicodemus Rexx says:

    Well John, It sounds like your computer smelled what the rock was cooking and endeavored to save you from it.

    By “rock” I mean: ore… Get it??

    And by “Get it” I mean: I’m going to shut up now.

  20. Highstorm says:

    Weird timing. I just found this game yesterday, as I was looking for a different game. I paused when I saw it and chuckled, feeling the sting of buyer’s remorse having a second go.

  21. tehfish says:

    Ahhhh, Korean MMOs…

    I once tried Ragnarok online. Being at the time broke, i was looking at the hacked free servers for it…
    The fact that not one of them offered less than 10x the exp/item-droprate (some at 100x even) of the official servers tells you all you need to know about the sheer grind-factor of the game o.O

  22. wu wei says:

    For some reason, the image of all those miners reminds me of REAMDE.