Bordering on a miracle, Sega have confirmed an English version of Phantasy Star Online 2 after seven years of their teaser site saying it was coming soon. Sonic Team’s free-to-play action RPG has been a Japanese online gaming staple for yonks, but the publisher have been deathly silent about an English release for years. Announced to much surprise during the Microsoft E3 presser, it’s headed to Windows 10 on PC next spring, in America. Just not Europe, until further notice, Sega say. Below, a new trailer, and some thoughts as an active player currently using an unofficial translation.
Being a European PSO2 regular, I don’t see an official release of the game changing much for me, unless Sega decide to crack down on the Arks-Layer fan translation. It’s a fun, if largely vacuous, game – an over-the-top anime Diablo or Destiny, with scads of loot, a powerful character creator, and lots of very different classes to play. Even with a full translation, it’s mostly incomprehensible story-wise. One recent story arc was set on modern-day Earth, shooting and looting in Las Vegas and Tokyo, and then it went high fantasy for a while, complete with elves, orcs and goblins. Now it’s back to fighting robots in space. There’s also time travel involved.
While pre-rendered, the trailer above is mostly truthful. The characters shown are the default models used for each class in the character editor, and the events shown do (mostly) happen in-game. Yes, you get to fight the Battleship Yamato while piloting mechs, or hop between rooftops to battle an ancient Japanese kaiju. It just looks a bit rougher in reality. This is me and a handful of random players tackling the a Buster Battle, a high fantasy hybrid tower defence/boss raid thingy. The meat and potatoes of the game is more Diablo-esque hack n’ slashing and looting as you go.
While the Japanese version has drawn in enough foreign players to fill an entire server (Ship 2, Ur, to be precise), I’m curious how big a crowd this’ll draw when it launches in English. Graphically, the game hasn’t improved much since it first launched seven years ago, with chunky polygons and some fuzzy textures befitting a game aimed at mid-spec 2012 Japanese PCs. Expansions are regular, and thanks to a recent rework and some rolling canon, it’s a bit more accessible to newcomers now, but still a baffling wall of numbers at first. For me, it’s a familiar comfort blanket of a game. For newcomers, it might come off as a little old, weird and janky. Still, I’m glad more people will get to try it.
Phantasy Star Online 2 officially hits Windows 10 stateside next spring. Europe? Whenever Sega feel like it – keep an eye on the official page here. Unofficially, there’s plenty of helpful English-speaking players to be found on Ship 2.
See our E3 2019 tag for more news, previews, opinions, and increasingly surreal liveblogs.