RF Online: New Wave Multiplayer?

spend a few days getting metal to build a giant robot to go stomp all over the bastard enemy

Feature by Josh Wilson | 15 Feb 2006

There is little room for doubt these days; online games are the way things are going. Increasingly, Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) are storming their way into regular people's homes. MMORPG began with EverQuest which had only a few hundred thousand users. More recently World of Warcraft has blown the market open (relatively speaking), with a huge user base (four million plus users). I know of several people who have been sacrificing the lion's share of their spare time to this pay-monthly demon, so something is getting better.

The vast majority of MMORPG's today, like WoW and EQ are fantasy based. Allowing users to 'live' in a virtual world (think Dungeons and Dragons). These games allow you the option of living out a quiet life; making and selling pottery, earning to buy a house (if that peels your virtual banana) or going on quests to find rare treasures and kill evil beasts disrupting the virtual ecology. You can also fight other players, but they have to agree to fight first. These interactions with 'real' people provide a feeling of community and the character development and continual expansion of the game add appeal. But the fact remains that to stop some cunt killing you, three days (real days) must be sacrificed to harvest wheat to get enough dough to buy a knife to skin pigs to make some tosser-repelling armour.

So why am I writing about another one of these games? Well, RF online promises to open up the game to a new audience. It aims to do this by taking away most of the tedious poo; instead of concentrating on making a guild and working together to kill that (computer) dragon of doom. RF online is all about beating ten bells of shit out of your enemy. Instead of spending a week making enough money to buy a house, you spend a few days getting metal to build a giant robot to go stomp all over the bastard (real) enemy. Much more satisfying.

This is just the tip of yonder ice berg though. In RF there are three different races; the magical Cora Holy Alliance, the heavily armed Accretian Empire and the big robot – not compensating much - Bellato Union. They are all at war; out to control as much of the Novus galaxy as possible. Players will choose a faction and develop a character to fight, laying down their lives if needs to be, to help their side win. Each faction has different player classes to choose from, each with their own abilities; archers, wizards, mechanics, pilots, scouts, artillery etc. As you use each class and their various skills you become more competent, and can eventually become a multi-class player who can kick sphincter in a variety of ways.

As RF centers around combat, the control system is more advanced than regular MMORPG. The game promises to be epic, with battles taking place every eight hours. Anyone who wants to can come along to fight for their side, however they can. Which brings us to, arguably, the coolest part of the game. As you progress, through battles and quests, you gain an experience rating - gaining more experience for killing better players or taking nodes (checkpoints in each battle). When you become horribly good at the game, you get the chance to be elected as Commander for a battle. This allows you to lay out the strategy for everyone else on your side. This, for me at least, is more of an incentive to play, rather than gaining the virtual ability to pour pints.

All in all, RF online sounds like a MMORPG for a wider audience. Whether or not it takes off depends on user take-up – but with a million users in Asia already. It's looking promising.

Released Feb 10 for PC. Price 17.99. By Codemasters. http://www.codemasters.co.uk/rfonline/news.php