Phantasy Star is an emblematic franchise that started with a single-player RPG for Sega's Master System console back in 1987. The younger audience, however, is probably more familiar with the Phantasy Star Online series, which debuted in 2000 for the Dreamcast and brought the multiplayer factor to the table. A few days ago, Sega just launched New Genesis, a revamped version of Phantasy Star Online 2, and we spent too many hours killing DOLLS in it!
2 Games in 1... You Better Have Free Space!
The first thing you need to know is that, at the moment, installing Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis requires around 100 gigabytes of free space. That's because the global version not only installs NGS but also the "old" version of Phantasy Star Online 2, which came out in North America on May 27, 2020. Although you can still access this old game, and even transfer your characters and some items to the new one, New Genesis is a standalone adventure where everyone started at level 1, so don't think this is just an expansion and old players will kick your butt as soon as you get out of the character creator. In fact, Phantasy Star Online has always been a PvE experience, so don't expect guild wars, battle ladders or any kind of arena!
Don't Mess With These DOLLS
In this first stage, we get to explore Aelio, the only available region. Situated on planet Halpha, this is basically a tutorial island where we meet the protagonists of the story and learn the core mechanics while we run around doing quests and farming items and weapons. One of our issues with the first part of New Genesis is how inconsistent the plot is and how little we learn about our mission and the enemies we're supposed to hate. Basically, our character is a "Meteorn" who falls from the sky and lands in Aelio shortly before some evil mechanic beasts known as DOLLS destroy the quiet town that just welcomed us, killing the leader of the village in the process—or so they want us to think. Now this kind man is missing, you have no other option than to feel guilty and join Aina's crusade to learn what happened to her father. Aina, a young ARKS aspirant, as well as Mannon, a mysterious Meteorn who somehow remembers her previous life, will be our two companions in this adventure, and soon the three of us are named as official ARKS soldiers under the command of Crawford, Central City's leader. Our goal? Defeating Dark Falz, a powerful DOLL that not only defeated Aina's father but almost brings humanity to extinction around a hundred years ago.
It's funny because nobody seems to know for sure what's the deal with these DOLLS, even though they've been fighting and investigating them for years. This lack of information may not be a big deal once we get the full game, but right now, it makes the whole thing feel meaningless.
Lack of Content at Launch?
Although the level cap is 20, the most important thing about characters is their Battle Power, which is calculated based on the level of your active class and sub-class, how many skill points you spent, and the quality of your gear. Your BP is what ultimately allows you to enter certain areas, regardless of your character level. That means farming exp is fine and dandy, but you also need to spend tons of money and resources to upgrade your equipment. Skill points, however, can be acquired in Cocoons (+1 SP per Cocoon) and Towers (+4 SP per Tower), which are training facilities that work as a platforming-based or combat-based time trial, and the best part of it is that, theoretically, you can get them regardless of your character level—good luck killing waves of strong enemies with a low-level character, though!
Something we did like is the PSE Burst dynamic, which most players will spam when power-leveling. The Photon Sensitive Effect Burst is a simple mechanic that spawns harder, rarer enemies in a specific area, increasing the chances of earning more exp and better items. With every new wave of enemies you defeat, the PSE level goes up by 1 level, until it finally bursts at level 5.
Sadly, in PSO2 New Genesis the loot is RNG-based and it depends on a lot of factors, so finding your perfect weapon for your class and playstyle—plus all the dupes you need to upgrade it—won't be easy. That being said, our own experience says it can be done if you're patient and don't mind following the same routine over and over again just to increase your Battle Power by a little... which could make the difference between being able to respond to Urgent Quests (the toughest bosses) or having to ignore all the red alert banners announcing them.
With several interchangeable classes and sub-classes, there's a lot you can do right now in PSO2: New Genesis, but that may not be enough if you hate grinding or don't really care for PvE. Luckily, SEGA already announced all upcoming expansions and new classes in a post-launch road map, so at least we have something to look forward to in the near future!
New Genesis is prettier and younger than PSO2, but that doesn't mean it's perfect, especially when it just released its first batch of content. It's hard to judge MMO games that are continually changing and expanding, and we're trying to be optimistic here, but we feel like NGS still needs that something to make it stand out.
If you like anime games, you'll love New Genesis characters and how gorgeous the landscapes are, but others will notice how the game forces you to play as a sexy waifu (please add more customization options for male characters, like facial hair and more muscular body types!) in a shounen world that lacks depth.
Here's hoping sega acknowledges everything wrong with New Genesis and fixes it in the future before all the hype goes away. If you want, you can download and play Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis for free right now on your Xbox One or PC; find it on Steam, Epic, and the Microsoft Store!