Should I be excited about… Karma: Online?
Karma Online: Prisoners of the Dead is an online FPS developed and published by Korean creators Joymax. The game is set in an alternative history World War 2 where the Germans have conquered Europe and have now set their eyes on Russian soil. Rather predictably the story itself is of no significance to the game play, the bread and butter of the titles fun stems from its FPS mechanics.
In this instance the game mechanics are in a vein similar to Counterstrike and Team Fortress in that players have access to various character classes and weapons, whilst having RPG elements similar to both Modern Warfare and World of Warcraft. Players can gain experience through various standard actions while playing, like killing an enemy player or completing objectives. Once a player has reached a suitable level they may advance along a talent tree that unlocks many character specific traits or bonuses.
The game has several combat modes typical of online FPS’s such as team deathmatch, demolition run and capture the flag as well as the ubiquitous zombie modes that always seem to be a fan favourite. The maps that these modes are played on seem to be fairly well designed with a well structured flow and balance that resembles Team Fortress’s maps more than the likes of Modern Warfare’s efforts (No bad thing in my opinion). You won’t find anyone spawning behind you down alleys that you have just cleared.
The gun play is equally satisfying; weapons have a suitable kick and weight behind their shots. Personally this has always felt like the hardest aspect of an FPS to get “right”. That unquantifiable feature that makes an FPS shooter feel correct is clearly in play here. My shots and their effect on enemy players “felt” correct.
During my time playing I had several moments where I found myself celebrating a well placed or planned shot. Nailing a headshot through a small hole in the terrain as an enemy passed by gave a suitable rush of adrenaline and glow of satisfaction. That feeling is the sole reason why I play online shooters against human players. Experiencing that familiar surge of excitement is most definitely a good sign.
The evidence clearly states that the basic aspects of the game are firmly in place, with the added RPG elements Karma Online could be a successful game. However their remains one stain against the games positive aspects and that is the visuals. They are undoubtedly dated, and I am sure will prove to be a large barrier for people to overcome. I would often forget about the visuals only to see an extremely low polygon model with equally small texture map flatly painted on its surface and I would immediately become aware of how dated the visuals were. Despite being very competent in delivering an enjoyable FPS experience Karma Online will have a hard time differentiating itself from the vast collection of similar games on the market. Similar games that have vastly more powerful engines running their visuals.
*Karma Online is currently in beta and to date has no fixed release date.*