I'm not sure how I ended up in this position, hammering the D key on my computer in a desperate attempt to keep my ship's starboard cannons turned towards a giant crab attacking me from the rear. I can’t help wondering: if I had shelled out more money for a better crew, would I have even found myself in this predicament? When I started Florensia, this certainly wasn't what I was expecting.
There's hardly a shortage of anime-style RPGs out there, nor is there a shortage of anime-style free-to-play MMORPGs. So something has to be pretty special to break through the crowd.
Set in fantasy world in which magic destroyed most land masses, leaving only three islands in a vast worldwide ocean, Florensia describes itself as a "free-to-play next-gen MMO" and offers a mix both character- and ship-based questing and combat. It's currently in open beta testing.
This game has a lot to it, too: ship building, naval combat, crew hiring and training, land quests, trading, the list goes on. With these come a copious amount of tutorials that, in the initial stages, can seem very overwhelming as each action results in a number of dense text boxes popping up with instructions.
Character creation and customisation allow you to choose from a range of spiky haircuts and wide-eyed androgynous faces, as well as eye and hair colours. However, the customisation available isn't yet wide enough to fully individualise yourself and, especially in the early stages, you'll encounter dozens of identical characters out questing.
A strong determining factor in your character's appearance will be the armour and items it equips - the availability of these items, not to mention skills and quests, is greatly restricted by your choice of class. Upon starting the game, there are four different classes: Explorer, Mercenary, Noble and Saint, which expands to include eight 'second classes' once you reach level 41.
The explorer is a ranged gun user, Mercenaries are the warrior class, Nobles are the magic-using class, while Saints act as healers. Once at level 40, each class allows access to one of two 'second classes' upon completion of a quest chain. Each of these classes has its own skill tree and, somewhat irritatingly, the skills must be purchased and learned from in-game vendors before they can be levelled up.
Each class starts with a different distribution of the same basic seven stats: Strength for physical attacks, Dexterity for hit rates and dodging, Constitution for hit points, Intelligence for magic attacks, Wisdom for mana, Will for critical strikes rate, and Luck for effects damage. With each progressive level players earn three points to distribute amongst the stats.
The game also divides your character's levelling into two parts, a land level and sea level. What this means is that any quest you complete and any experience you earn on land only benefits your land level, and vice versa for your sea level.
While the land levels are fairly standard point-and-click MMO fare, the sea levels promise something a bit more. Players have to construct their own ships from a variety of parts, install cannons, load the ship with ammunition, hire a crew and learn the challenging ship controls. Florensia's ship controls consist of balancing the use of wind to accelerate and keeping it within the limits of control.