"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.
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.
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.
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