One of the latest in the ever expanding MMORPG genre is Gamasoft and Youxilandís RYL: Path of the Emperor, a traditional and skill-based title that allows for players to rise through the ranks and rule the lands. Set in the territory known as The Almighty Ground, the game starts you in the middle of a struggle between several factions, any of which you can side with: the Kartefant Nation (Human), Merkhadia nations (AkíKan), or Godís Pirates (a group of Human and AkíKan that seek peaceful coexistence). The troubled history of both peoples is coming to the surface as an influential AkíKan leader goes missing in search of the landís power. Your journey begins as the looming threat of strife grips the land, allowing for not only disaster but also for one to rise to power.
Your character can be either Human or AkíKan. As a Human you have the choice of one of the initial classes: fighter, acolyte, rogue, and mage. AkíKan players can choose to be either a combatant or an officiator. As a quick aside, gender is limited in the AkíKan, with males being combatants and females being officiators; the Humans have no such restriction. Each initial class evolves when you reach level 10, branching off into one of several paths: Human fighters can become warriors or defenders; acolytes can become clerics or priests; rogues can become assassins or archers; and mages can become sorcerers or enchanters. AkíKan combatants can become attackers, templars, or gunners; officiators can become rune officiators, life officiators, or shadow officiators. The higher classes arenít drastically different, but they're dissimilar enough to keep you on your toes.
Aside from combat and spell differences, one of the crucial aspects of the different classes is the automatic points that get allocated to two of the character attributes of strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, and wisdom. Each weapon and piece of armor in the game requires certain levels of different attributes, which means that it might be much easier to get armor than it would be to get a weapon if youíre a class specializing in defending. This also creates the problem of trying to deal with the chaos of attempting to manage all of the point allocations so you can have a well-rounded character. In a show of style, Humans actually have three layers of clothing (shirt, tunic, and armor), and each set requires different attribute specifications. The AkíKan have other unique traits, like a standard weapon always wielded, that must be taken into account when allocating points. This also means that you can have a character unique in look from the other players, since you've probably allocated points in a relatively unique way. Along with the class-given points, there are also points given at level-up, and these are for further tailoring your character to your tastes as using them on your focused attributes will cost extra and is rarely worthwhile.
The give-and-take of leveling-up is pretty convoluted, possibly more than it needs to be, but it can also add an extra layer of intrigue for those who find that the current crop of titles doesn't offer enough character customization.
RYL does go along with the standards of the genre in many respects, only slightly altering things here and there. For example, you learn spells and abilities through the purchasing of books, as opposed to just unlocking them from leveling up. The trick here is that you need to purchase six books of the same level for the ability to advance, and that NPC characters will not offer levels beyond the second. Purchasing higher level books requires using the player stores - if there is one thing this game loves, itís the player stores. At any point a player can open up a store, selling whatever wares they have. This isnít always a bad thing, but the problem is that all sellers tend to congregate in the same place in town, causing a mess of players sitting, dancing and dueling dueling, along with names of stores stickied over their heads, all of which creates both confusion and massive lag. Since towns are few and far between, The Almighty Groundís main market area will cause massive navigational headaches as all of the gameís shortcomings come to bear on you at that one point - weíll get to those in a minute. The main quandary I had about the spells is why they wouldnít advance based on usage; the game goes for an evolutionary feel, so naturally evolving abilities would seem to make more sense than having to buy book after book.
The big selling point of RYL is that itís supposed to be a massive player-versus-player, skill-based title. On the PvP front, the game allows for guilds to operate their own stores and fortresses, along with joint storage and allocation of goods, as well as the ability to make enemies of other guilds, causing open warfare if parties should spot each other. I witnessed two guilds at odds with one another over a spawning spot, but it unfortunately ended when a GM (Game Master) stepped in to address the issue - I want to see some PvP bloodshed, people, come on. Guilds can storm the fortresses of other guilds, make alliances, and so forth. There is also the inner workings of guilds, like Guild Masters naming successors and fame ranking playing a part in who takes the lead if no successor is named. The difference between RYL and other titles is that someone must be level 30 or above to join a guild - well, that and the un-intuitiveness of having to create a logo and stick it in a player-created folder within the gameís directory on your hard drive, which is pretty unique, too.
Aside from player relations, the other focus is on the aforementioned skill-based approach. What this means is that you can switch from the standard mouse control scheme (click on an enemy for your character to attack), to a keyboard and mouse control scheme, the later allows for greater control and offers moves like side stepping along with the ability to control how fast to attack; it also uses a first-person shooter style control layout, and moves the camera to a closer viewpoint. The change is done in a flashy manner, like the spells, in text and pop-ups that look like they belong in a console RPG. That is one of the things the game really has going for it - its style. Spells are big and colorful, really dramatic, and the art style (architecture, armor, etc.) is super slick. If the developers were trying to come up with a unique approach to make the gameís aesthetics stick out, they found it.
The main problem with RYL is that the game just doesnít seem finished. Aside from spawning in the middle of solid objects, or water, youíll notice anomalies all over the place: people walking through objects, areas not loading with the rest of the zone, and your character attacking NPCs when they talk to them because the game doesnít differentiate between talking and fighting (the NPCs do not retaliate, though). Then there are the basic design flaws, including a severe lack of quests (youíll get quests unplayable to you until you level up several more times); the fact that there is no auto-lock once you attack an enemy, which causes you to constantly deselect enemies after casting a spell or using a special ability in the middle of a fight; the fact that itís difficult to even select enemies, with very small spots on their bodies triggering the targeting system (standing face-to-face with an enemy and literally clicking all over their body a dozen times to get a lock is just infuriating); and pathfinding so sloppy that youíll have to often switch to keyboard and mouse controls just to ensure that your character gets to where you need to go.
RYL also suffers from not being all that interesting. Aside from the bombastic spells and solid art design, the game offers little more than generic enemies and a nonexistent story with no personality. Par the course for the genre, youíll be fighting mean squirrels, little goblin-like creatures, mushrooms, etc., as well as their larger counterparts that are only different in being slightly bigger but much harder to kill. Iím really tired of these enemies by now, particularly with the game embracing the grind so early on - meaning youíll be killing lots and lots of enemies to go from level 10 to 11. And the story, which covers about ten pages in the manual, becomes a nonissue right off the bat. There are NPCs who talk about past and unfolding events every now and then, and there are players who embrace their sides, but thatís it; itís not even addressed enough to even be considered superficial,. All of the bitterness and factions warring against each other that you read about in the manual are left to be addressed, one can only assume, at some point later on. Itís pretty disappointing, which is a shame because it could offer a fairly rich experience.
RYL: Path of the Emperor has good class and spell selection and offers nice quiet moments when youíre in the frontier and away from the lag-infested cities, but the experience just doesnít deliver. The game is really representative of the genre itself in that it has a whole lot of promise, and actually implements many great ideas, but does so in such a basic way and so haphazardly, from either inexperience or bitting off more than they could chew, that the whole suffers. In all honesty, I think this game does have potential and could be a great second tier MMO (which isnít a bad thing) with a few patches, but as of right now it doesnít offer you nearly enough to sway you away from the bigger titles like Dark Age of Camelot, World of Warcraft, and EverQuest II.