Twin Saga’s structure makes it ideal for a stress-free RPG experience that people of any demographic can play together. What’s more despite its imperfections Twin Saga is capable of bestowing the fantasy of imitating an overpowered anime hero, and it’s at times where sustained combat can be found that the gameplay really shines and leaves you craving the next thrill.
Newly launched following an open beta period begun in September 2016, Twin Saga is the latest “anime-themed” free-to-play MMORPG from publisher Aeria Games and developer X-Legend. I personally came into this game with the perspective of someone who’d spent half his life as a self-described anime fan and hundreds of hours on the everlasting World of Warcraft through the years, which is a tough hurdle for any competitor to measure up to. What I encountered was an accessible MMO that was surprisingly refreshing on many counts, notwithstanding its share of odd quirks.
As games of this type go Twin Saga is a story-driven game, with an overarching main quest ushering you from one area to the next to get you familiar with the vibrantly colorful fantasy world of Aetherion. Twin Saga is named for the defining conflict between the goddesses Marisa and Amaris, who once kept the world in balanced harmony only for Amaris to betray and attack Marisa over disagreements about the worth of humanity. Amaris is victorious and poses a dire threat to the world if left unchecked, which is where your avatar comes in. Within five minutes of gameplay it’s revealed you aren’t just another orphaned, starry-eyed adventurer but in fact the chosen host for Marisa herself, who charges you with the task of traveling the world to recover her lost “tears” in order to restore her power and stop Amaris for good.
The core gameplay at the heart of Twin Saga is solid, and beyond what I was expecting. The controls are very basic and intuitive, to the point that you can play competently with nothing more than a mouse by clicking on the game’s environment and your action bar commands. The ideal method is definitely the keyboard though, which supports movement through the arrow keys or the WASD keys by default. Abilities and attacks are executed through action bars bound to numbers or whatever keys you prefer, making it a simple matter to set up optimal rotations for devastating combos. The flow of combat feels fast-paced and dynamic, taking after a bonafide action RPG in a way that actually reminded me more of Kingdom Hearts than World of Warcraft. It helps that abilities are plentiful and on relatively low cooldowns, so the player is constantly given options to do something when engaged with foes. Passively watching auto attacks while you wait for your finisher isn’t fun, and Twin Saga knows it.
Battle also receives some extra flavor courtesy of “ultimate moves”, which expend a resource you build up using your normal abilities. Every class has three to choose from, and whichever one you pick a flashy flourish of an attack is guaranteed. Throughout your adventure you’ll also acquire “senshi”, servants of Marisa that will basically join you as supplemental party members. These provide passive buffs and unique attacks and can get stronger as you progress, just like your own character. I my experience I found these to be more a symbol of my accomplishment than a vital asset to my adventuring, but they’re a nice touch.
Of much greater interest is the game’s very liberal class system, which allows you to switch between any available class at any time of your choosing without any cost or the hassle of starting a new character from scratch. Twin Saga accomplishes this by giving each class its own leveling system independent of your character’s level, thereby assuring that you won’t be too under powered when you have the urge to experiment. New classes are easy to break into; I tried switching from my default Swordmaster class to a Mage, and a few minutes of basic gameplay were all I needed to improve and unlock an equivalent set of class skills to use. Beyond simple freedom Twin Saga actually incentivizes you to experiment, as there are class skills you can learn that remain available even after you change a class. Given enough time investment, Twin Saga makes it possible to adapt your character to fully suit your personal play style.
Regrettably, while the fundamentals of the game are sound the basic questing often leaves much to be desired. You’ll go from point A to point B and meet a handful of new faces, after which your tasks alternate between killing a select number of monsters or gathering something before you proceed. That’s to be expected from a game like this, but Twin Saga demands nearly nothing from you on this count. Items for fetch quests are often within plain sight and don’t even demand exploring to find, rendering them little more than speed bumps rather than anything that leads you to explore the world and perhaps discover more to do. As for the “trash” monsters in the world, the game has a curious setup where they spawn constantly and seldom come after you unless you attack first. I was also surprised to observe just how little damage my character took in combat, even from boss fights. I actively tried pulling as many monsters as I could at one time while in the Mage class, and my health didn’t even approach 50%. What challenge there is lies dungeons and the difficulty they offer.
The weakest point of the game is storytelling itself, which is unfortunate considering how heavy the game is on dialogue. Notwithstanding the high stakes of its premise Twin Saga is a very lighthearted game, surrounding your avatar with characters that are more often than not eccentric or silly for a laugh. Nowhere is this more present than your own patron deity, who’s stuck in a child’s body without her powers and subject to the mood swings that come with immaturity. Colloquial and casual dialogue is everywhere, most (in)famously where you learn of a Cleric that died defending a place vital to your mission only for Marisa to quip that she must not have been too good at her job. I admit that after a few hours, I found myself clicking through dialogue boxes half the time just to get on with it. The game’s fairly frequent and well-rendered cut scenes are typically worth paying attention to though, and the game’s use of Japanese voice acting with subtitles does a lot to contribute to the game feeling like a fantasy anime you’re living – albeit a very weird one.
Beyond the standard business of questing and getting stronger, Twin Saga offers other diversions that have become common in the genre. Reaching level 20 unlocks professions and your “Terracottage”, basically your own personal hub where you can gather your friends and try your hand at item crafting in peace. Those interested in the PvP scene can challenge other players to a one-on-one duel, or participate in 3v3 arena combat for rewards where two teams must struggle for control of a key objective. My personal favorite supplemental content would be the game’s “Adventures”, which amount to bite-sized choose-your-own-adventure quests where the story splits off in different directions depending on your response. Players have the option to come back to try an Adventure again at any time, which removes any fear of picking “wrong” answers or missing the road less traveled.
Ultimately, Twin Saga is a game that wants to be welcoming and manages this to a fault. The game’s colorful, cel-shaded art style and chibi character designs give it the look and feel of a RPG a kid might try out on a Nintendo 3DS, and the game’s irreverent sense of humor would admittedly go over better with the younger crowd. The lack of challenge may be an issue for some, but on the other hand the game’s structure makes it ideal for a stress-free RPG experience that people of any demographic can play together. What’s more despite its imperfections Twin Saga is capable of bestowing the fantasy of imitating an overpowered anime hero, and it’s at times where sustained combat can be found that the gameplay really shines and leaves you craving the next thrill.
Visit the Aeria Games’ site for info on how to download and play Twin Saga.