Phantasy Star Online 2 Review: This Addictive Game Finally Makes Its Way Out West!

Phantasy Star Online 2 has finally hit the west — was it worth the wait?

Eight years is a pretty long time to wait on a game. Especially when it was already released elsewhere in the world but that’s where we are with Phantasy Star Online 2. Originally released in Japan in 2012, this free to play MMORPG was extremely popular overseas, being released on pretty much every available platform in Japan but never seeing a release out west until now. I spent a good amount of time with the Xbox One version, running lots of missions, leveling my character, and getting that sweet loot that comes with the territory.

Reviewing a game that’s almost a decade old but just coming out here now, not counting the weird PC hacks to play in Japanese servers, is tricky and I’m gonna do my best to give it a fair shake while not cutting any extra slack since it’s still a new game to us. I will try and treat it as such.

Gameplay

I wanna start off by saying the combat in this game is super fun. Unlike most MMORPGs, it’s fast-paced and smooth as can be. Each area you explore usually ends with a boss fight as well so combat is definitely a major focus. The loop of the game is addicting and familiar, almost like a mixture of Monster Hunter and Diablo which isn’t surprising when you consider the first Phantasy Star Online was heavily inspired by Diablo way back on the Dreamcast.

Basically you have your ship, a hub area with shops, trainers, quest givers, and even a Casino. You can spend time exploring it and talking to people but it’s basically a place to prepare between expeditions. Those are the meat of the game. You can collect client orders, basically side quests, and combine them with the expeditions in order to maximize your XP gains. You then enter your smaller shuttle-like ship, called a Gateway Ship, and head to the mission.

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The expeditions are usually three areas with random layouts and random enemies that you kill, gather loot, and experience before taking out the boss and then heading back to the main hub. It’s all about gathering XP and loot like most action RPGs but the experience feels very satisfying and addictive. It helps that there are multiple different types of biomes that keep it fresh and even harder, missions that pop up now and then as events you can do with other people that offer great rewards.

The class system is pretty unique, you pick a class at the start but can change at any time to any class you want. No cost but they are level one until you level them up. You also get a subclass at a certain point used to supplement your main class. The each have their own abilities, called techniques, that can be used in combat. I opted for the Hunter class because it carried a big sword and I love being a warrior type whenever I can. They seem to have a class for pretty much any style you prefer.

The MMO elements are there but not in a major way. Instead of one big open world think more like Destiny, where you get an instance of an area that will have other people questing you can see and even fight beside. Usually about 12 max to an instance.

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You can play solo easily or with friends as well, even letting people randomly join your party if you need extra help. I mostly played solo and found it enjoyable that way, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only wya. Phantasy Star Online 2 encourages you to play the way you feel most comfortable. There seems to be a large enough community so you can always find people to play with or even join an alliance, the games guild system.

I will say that the game has a steep learning curve. It’s not that the game is difficult in the gameplay sense but there are so many systems at play and they aren’t very well explained for the most part so it can overwhelm you. If you can push through, figure it out for yourself and maybe even look info up online it makes it easier but it’s still confusing for the most part and the convoluted menus don’t help.

Graphics

This is a bit harder to go over for me. The game is eight years old and you can tell. Although the textures are supposedly updated the game still looks like an Xbox 360 game and even then not an extremely pretty one. The stylized graphics do help, it goes for an anime look, but if you find that unappealing it probably won’t help mitigate it. I’m not much of an anime guy myself but I didn’t find it too off-putting.

Where it lacks in graphics I will say it performed very well on my Xbox One X. The frame rate was very smooth during even the most intense action and the load times are very low and infrequent. Overall I would say it runs great on the console, although I can’t speak for the lower spec models of Xbox One I have trouble seeing the game being too taxing on them. That’s one benefit of an older game on new hardware.

Story

There is one. It exists. I personally barely touched it, preferring the meat of the game that was the expeditions. The story is mostly its own separate little missions you can choose to attempt or skip at any time. It isn’t forced on you but it is there. I would add I do enjoy the concept of the game, you’re basically a mercenary that’s trying to make new planets livable by fighting the dangerous creatures on them. It’s like Star Trek but if the Federation firmly believed in murdering indigenous creatures.

Free to play

The game is free to play so I feel obligated to talk about those elements. Outside of small ads on the loading screens it does not seem to push the monetization down your throat. It’s mostly cosmetics anyway, giving you tons of options to customize your own avatar as you see fit. There’s also the usual extras like storage space or extra character slots.

I never felt the need to buy one since I can always just switch classes if I want to try a new one out. There’s also a battle pass like pretty much every free game must have since Fortnite came up with the idea. It has decent cosmetic rewards to unlock and gives another option if you are into those kinds of things. Overall I would say it’s fair and doesn’t really affect the gameplay much.

Overview

Personally I find Phantasy Star Online 2 to be addictive and fun. In fact, I enjoy the loop more than many others in the same genre. The fact you can play solo or with others at your leisure is nice and there’s enough variety to keep you busy. The graphics aren’t exactly mind-blowing but I’m a gameplay guy anyway and can easily look past that. There’s decent depth here and I could see someone spending countless hours trying to make the perfect character. The confusing nature of the systems and the cumbersome menu can definitely damper your fun a bit but not enough to really hurt the game in a major way in my opinion. I say give it a try, after all, it’s free. What do you have to lose?

Score: A-

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GenreVerse Have you checked out LRM Online’s official podcast feed yet The Genreverse Podcast Network? This includes our premiere podcast The Daily CoGBreaking Geek Radio: The Podcast, GeekScholars Movie News, Nerd Flix & Chill, Marvel Multiverse Mondays, Anime-Versal Review Podcast, and our Star Wars dedicated podcast The Cantina. Check it out by listening below. It's also available on all your favorite podcast apps! Subscribe on: Apple PodcastsSpotify |  SoundCloud | Stitcher | Google Play

John Boone

Likes Xbox, Star Wars and old movies your dad probably likes. Opinions can be weird but are 100% real and never to stir stuff up.

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